Undiscovered Future World
Tour Review

by Deb Wills, July 2000

This article appeared in the July 15, 2000 Issue #38 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)


Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.


It's been a while since a new in-depth tour has been available at Epcot. Previously, interested guests could pay an additional $40 plus to spend  several hours learning about the Art, Architecture and Culture of World Showcase, in the Hidden Treasures Tour or spend several hours with a Disney horticulturist in Gardens of the World. Neither of  these tours, however, has touched much on Future World. Undiscovered Future World takes you in and around the public and "backstage" areas of Epcot's Future World.

I took the tour on Saturday, July 8th, just several days after it became available for the public.  We gathered at 8:45 a.m. Saturday morning at Epcot's Guest Relations. I met Disney Cast Member Glen, one of the designers of the tour. Glen is very excited about the new opportunity Undiscovered Future World presents for Guests and after taking the tour, I can certainly understand why. 

Every tour has a guide and ours was Kelly from Epcot's Guest Relations. We began at the Entrance Turnstiles, just as guests do every day when they are about to enter Epcot. Kelly made sure we were facing Spaceship Earth and then began by discussing Walt Disney's ideas about Epcot. In Walt's original plans, Epcot was to be a self-contained community with people from all over the world, living and working together. 

 Originally called Epcot Center, today's Epcot celebrates Human Achievements and has two defined areas, Future World and World Showcase. Future World tells the story of current and future technological advancements. World Showcase celebrates the achievements of the world's people, art and cultures. 

Our next stop was Spaceship Earth. We stood underneath this massive geosphere learning lots of interesting facts. Science fiction writer Ray  Bradbury and a host of other consultants worked with the Disney Imagineers to develop Spaceship Earth. The geosphere is 165 feet in diameter and weighs 16 million pounds. If Spaceship Earth were a golf ball, the golfer would need to be one mile tall! 

As we walked to our next destination, Kelly talked about her many jobs at Guest Services. She has had the opportunity to provide VIP guest service  to both 'N SYNC and Michael Eisner's family. I could certainly see why Kelly received these super assignments as she has a great deal of poise and presence. Who knows, she might even be headed for Disney's Ambassador Program. 

On to Innoventions East. Innoventions originally came to Epcot as part of the 1994 Epcot renovation. It replaced Communicore, which was the original hub area for Epcot. Communicore was the home to Epcot Computer Central and the World Key Information System.  Innoventions is a World's Fair of Technologies. 

The Disney Company has partnered with top vendors to put the latest in cutting edge technologies on display for Epcot Guests. Innoventions underwent its first major upgrade in time for the start of the Millennium Celebration.  We toured the House of Innoventions - the Home that is ready for the Millennium. It's a far cry from what futurists envisioned 20 years ago but it is very high tech, nonetheless. The Kitchen of the Future has a Flash Bake Oven, instead of a microwave; the refrigerator door has a monitor that is directly connected to the Internet, with a bar code reader  so that your inventory is kept for you. From virtual display clocks to interactive games, to a jacket equipped with a telephone and computer, to robotics and even the Independence 3000 - an incredible personal travel device for the disabled, you'll find it all in the House of Innoventions! 

The first Disney house of the Future, Kelly explained, actually debuted in Disneyland in 1957. Sponsored by MIT and Monsanto, this early futuristic home raised many eyebrows with its demo of the Electric Toothbrush and the Microwave Oven. 

A tour of Future World would not be complete without a stop at the Innovention Fountains. As part of the opening ceremony for Epcot, each of the countries represented in World Showcase brought water from their homelands to pour into the Fountains as a symbol of the peace and community. 

There were also four young Disney employees from Brazil on the tour. They were lots of fun and I enjoyed being with them. At their request, we  went into Ice Station Cool and enjoyed all the samples including the Brazilian Diet Coke! I even ran into one of them, Jacqui, the next day  in World Showcase and we chatted more about Disney. 

Immediately upon exiting Ice Station Cool, we turned right into the building to look at a photographic history of Walt Disney. Large 2'x3' black and white photographs show the beginnings of Walt's use of the Multiplane camera system, as well as him showing the world his dreams for Epcot in Florida. It's a very informative photo display that you should try to see. 

We left Innoventions and found ourselves standing on several concentric circles. This happens to be the Inventors Circle. Inside and outside these concentric circles are smaller circles representing some of mankind's greatest inventions, such as the printing press and the Internet. The Inventors Circle was added to Future World sometime in the last few years, but even though Kelly made several phone calls, she wasn't able to determine exactly when. I bet almost every visitor misses the Inventors Circle, as your eyes tend to focus on the massive pavilion in  front of you -- The Land. 

The Living Seas was our next stop and we entered a Cast Only area. We sat in the dimly lit VIP Lounge. This room has rich blue carpeting and very beautiful wood furnishings. The room is used for Press Events, Business Meetings, and even as a Green Room for visiting VIPs, such as 'N SYNC. We all oohed and aahed over the clear glass piano that was in the lounge. The highlight, however, was that the lounge had several large glass viewing areas into the aquarium of the Living Seas. We all sat and just marveled at our surroundings! 

The next pavilion in our tour was The Land, an  impressive pavilion that covers six acres, houses  three unique attractions, has a unique sit-down  restaurant and a fast food court. As you enter  the building, look up at the ceiling where five  balloons hang. The middle one represents Earth.  The four surrounding balloons represent the seasons:  Yellow for summer, Orange for Fall, Blue for Winter,  Green for Spring. Under the Earth balloon are clouds and a lightning bolt. As it rains, the water goes  into the fountain below and then recycles through  the pavilion. 

At this point we took a 25 minute break...everyone  scattered and I looked around the pavilion more, exploring areas I had not seen before. 

We  reconvened and went outside to the Imagination  Pavilion fountains where Kelly told us the history of the Imagineers (Imagination and Engineering). A monorail went past, which prompting Kelly to  explain how Walt originally saw a monorail train  in Germany, in the form of a loaf of bread. He  came back and told his Imagineers to develop a  similar monorail that was futuristic in design -  thus the WDW Monorail was born! Approximately  50 million passengers a year travel on the WDW Monorail. 

 We crossed back over to Future World East and the Universe of Energy Pavilion. The topiaries  outside the building are from New York's  Rockefeller Center. At one time they had a  Flower Festival and upon its completion the  topiaries were moved to WDW. Next was the highlight of the tour for me! We were able to enter the Diorama (area where the Audio- Animatronic dinosaurs are) and look at them up close for about 5 minutes.   Kelly told us how the ride  vehicles in the Universe of Energy work, but I  could hardly listen. I was only 6 inches from the  dinosaurs! 

There are 36 Audio-Animatronic animals in the diorama which is 515 feet long. It took three  artists 6,000 hours to paint the background.  Walt's original diorama was in the Ford Pavilion at  the 1964 World's Fair. Funny thing was, not only  was I the only one who visited the 1964 New York  World's Fair, but most of the folks on the tour  hadn't even born yet!! LOL! 

The Met Life Wonders of Life Pavilion was next.  This building is a Health World's Fair. In  addition to the 3 main attractions (Body Wars,  Cranium Command and the Making of Me), there is a wonderful hands-on area that attracts and  engages both children and adults.  

There is one character who occasionally makes  appearances in Wonders of Life, Sport Goofy!  His appearance led into the discussion of how  originally there were to be NO Disney characters  in Epcot. Mickey Mouse was at the Grand Opening and he was not to be seen or heard from again.  

Visitors to Epcot, however, had something else in  mind...they wanted to see Mickey Mouse and other  characters and didn't understand why there were  none to be found. Disney listened to its guests  and began character appearances throughout the park. 

As we made our way through the side of Future World, we looked up to see the demolition of the Horizons building. Several months ago, during a visit to  WDW, I saw that the building was being disassembled and was upset about this poor "show" for guests of Epcot! Walt would have never wanted guests to see any construction being done. Well, he'd really be  upset if he saw it now, because not only are we  seeing Horizons being taken apart, but the crane  and wrecking ball are there breaking the building  down during regular park hours! It's unfortunate  that the Disney Company, one of the masters of  illusion, could not find a way to keep Guests from  seeing this. Yes, there is a wall up; but it's  only about 8 feet high and you can't miss the  hanging metal and cables in what was once  Horizons. OK, let's move on. 

In 2003, Disney plans to unveil a new attraction in the Horizons area called Mission Space. Working in close concert with the Compaq Computer Company and the folks at NASA (including shuttle astronaut Story Musgrave), Mission Space will enable guests to experience the feeling of liftoff and  weightlessness! There will be pods seating 4  persons and each will be assigned a job. This will  be the first Disney attraction built specifically  with a FASTPASS design in mind. 

Test Track was next and we went in a side door to  watch the cars being loaded and unloaded. Kelly  talked about the attraction's sophisticated  computerized system. Exiting the Test Track  area we walked under the outside ride track and listened to the screams of delight and the screeching tires from above. 

We walked past the new Test Track Maintenance Building and into Epcot Cast Services. We had a brief glimpse at costuming and food service, as well as the Company D employee logo store.  One of the neatest things I saw in the Cast Building is a hallway called Pride Hall. Here,  members from various work units at Epcot have  painted murals that represent their teams. Some  of the artwork was incredible. There was even a larger-than-life size painting of Figment! I was  happy to hear Figment's voice in the background  music system in this hallway as the soundtrack  from the former attraction with Figment and  Dreamfinder was playing. 

A member of the International Ambassador group,  Laura from China, came out to talk to us briefly  about the Ambassador program and her experiences.  She seemed genuinely moved by her opportunity to  spend a year in the United States and also to be  able to tell others about her life in China. Right  now, the Ambassador program has 70 participants  from 30 different countries.  

We walked outside again and crossed Perimeter Road,  which encircles all of the park and provides access for any and all needed systems and deliveries. Walking further back, we got an up-close and personal look at the Tapestry of Nations Floats.  Tapestry of Nations is a beautiful parade that  takes place twice a night in World Showcase.  It debuted in October at the start of the  Millennium Celebration and will continue into  2001. There are 150 performers in the parade  with 15 Drum Floats. The Drums represent the  heartbeat of individuals and each other; the Universe is the heart beat of the clock. There are 30  assistants whose sole purpose is to help the  performers get ready for the parade. Some of  the puppets weigh between 8-18 pounds. 

Our last stop on the tour took us to the back  side of China where the IllumiNations barges are stored. Illuminations 2000: Reflections of Earth, takes place nightly around World Showcase Lagoon.  Each time I see this show I enjoy it more and more. Our tour was now over! 

There were 2 special  offers made which I understand are NOT permanent  or regular parts of the tour (so please keep that in mind). First, each member of the tour and  their party could have lunch right after the  tour at China's Nine Dragons restaurant at 20% off. Lastly, persons who took the tour could have access to a private IllumiNations viewing area for that  evening only. I wish I had been able to take  advantage of this special offer but I already  had other plans that evening. 

The tour cost $45 a person, and you must be at  least 16 years old. Kelly assured me that the tour is fully accessible for persons in wheelchairs. The  four-hour tour is offered Tuesdays, Fridays, and  Saturdays at 9:00 a.m. American Express card users, Disney Vacation Club members, and annual pass holders get a 15 percent discount. Admission to the park is required  for the tour, and that fee isn't included in  the cost of the tour.  

For more information  or reservations, call (407) WDW-TOUR.

I enjoyed the tour greatly and found it very  informative.  I thought we saw a good mix of  inside and outside pavilions and were given the  opportunity to enjoy some very unique behind the scenes experiences. If you have never taken a behind the scenes tour at Disney you will enjoy  the mix of Walt Disney history blended with learning more about Future World.  

As someone who has taken  many of the special tours, a lot of the generic information is repeated in each one of them and so I would have rather that time been spent on  actual Future World discussions.  I recommend this tour to anyone who enjoys  Future World, would like to learn more about the history of Epcot, and see things you wouldn't  normally have the opportunity to as a regular  touring guest. 

The Epcot Guest Services Staff is very energetic and enthusiastic about this  tour and they should be! It's a winner!  


Other Tour Reviews:


Animal
Kingdom

Backstage Safari

newWild Africa Trek

Wild by Design

Epcot

Around the World --on a Segway

Nature-Inspired Design Segway Tour

Simply Segway Experience

Behind the Seeds

Divequest

Dolphins in Depth

Epcot Seas Aqua Tour

Gardens of the World - Seasonal

Undiscovered Future World

Magic
Kingdom

Family Magic
Tour

Keys to the
Kingdom


Magic Behind the Steam Trains

Disney's Hollywood Studios

Inspiration: Through Walt's Eyes

Other Tours

BackStage Magic

Holiday D-Lights -
Seasonal

Yuletide Fantasy
Seasonal

VIP Services

Wilderness Back Trail Adventure



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Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.