Five Best Underrated Attractions at Epcot
An open secret about Epcot is that it’s top-heavy. No, I’m not talking about the giant golf ball. I mean the rides, which are a strange combination of incredible and underrated. For every ride that has a long wait and a glowing reputation, there are two more that people just don’t appreciate enough. Today, let’s overlook Test Track, Frozen Ever After, Mission: Space, Spaceship Earth, and Soarin’ Around the World for now. Instead, let’s discuss the best of the rest. Here’s a ranking of the non-E Ticket attractions at Epcot.
5) Journey into Imagination with Figment
Few Disney rides around the world are as divisive as Journey into Imagination. In 1983, roughly 18 months after Epcot opened, Disney debuted the Imagination! Pavilion and its signature attraction, Journey into Imagination. Guests quickly fell in love with the journeys of the Dreamfinder and his little dragon pet, Figment.
In 1999, Disney did some plussing, which is to say that they built a new ride, Journey into YOUR Imagination. It lacked the charm and wit of the original, and it unfortunately replaced the Dreamfinder with Dr. Nigel Channing. Figment was barely in the ride, also. Fans openly revolved, forcing Disney to shutter Journey into Imagination V2.0 after only two years.
The current version is 15 years old now, and let’s be honest that it’s never been popular. Sure, kids still love Figment, but this ride skews to four-year-olds. People over that age have a wide range of opinions about Journey into Imagination with Figment. A lot of those are negative. For my part, I find the ride a pleasant enough distraction, but it’s still a worst case scenario result from Disney Imagineering. Rumors persist that Disney will reboot this ride yet again. If they bring back the Dreamcatcher, it’s a smart move. Journey into Imagination just isn’t the same without him.
Here’s video from the original if you remember it and want a reminder of its greatness.
4) Turtle Talk with Crush
Okay, I love this attraction, so I’m going to explain what’s so wonderful about it and then explain why it’s not ranked higher.
Turtle Talk with Crush is basically an improvisational comedy routine disguised as a Disney attraction. Thanks to groundbreaking animation techniques, the giant projection monitor can mimic the appearance of Crush, the beloved century-old sea turtle from Finding Nemo. Using a staple of pre-written jokes and recurring gags plus a bit of creativity, Crush interacts with the various children in the audience.
The entertainment value of these conversations is tremendous. Turtle Talk with Crush is one of the warmest, most engaging attractions at Walt Disney World. The only reason why I’m not ranking it higher is because I vacillated on whether I should even include it on the list. After all, everything else here is a ride, and this one isn’t. Adding Turtle Talk leads to questions about the movies at some of the World Showcase pavilions and other stuff, but I see them as different. The intention of Turtle Talk with Crush is to put a smile on the face of a child. That makes it worthy of consideration as an underappreciated Epcot attraction.
3) Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros
Donald Duck may suffer countless indignities in any cartoon he’s in, but the cantankerous duck has still picked up some friends along the way. No, I’m not speaking of Mickey Mouse or even girlfriend Daisy Duck. I mean José Carioca and Panchito Pistoles, who join Donald in The Three Caballeros.
Together, the three creatures – a parrot, a duck, and a rooster – starred in a 1944 film that was unusual for the era. It was part live action and part animation. The Three Caballeros even co-starred Aurora Miranda, whom you probably don’t know, but you have heard of her sister, Carmen Miranda. The movie isn’t universally renowned as a Disney classic, but it’s charming enough.
The ride based on the film is easy to describe. It’s basically the Mexico Pavilion’s knockoff of It’s a Small World. You ride a boat for about seven minutes. Along the way, you take in the sights of some amazing recreations of Mexican lifestyle scenes. Disney uses puppets to display some of the sequences. They also have projection monitors on the path, many of which involve Donald Duck suffering through random cartoon violence.
I’ve previously mentioned that the lines for Gran Fiesta Tour are almost always short. That’s maddening to me because it’s such an entertaining ride. It feels like classic Disney in terms of structure AND it has Donald Duck sightings interspersed throughout the attraction. I love it.
2) Living with the Land
This ride isn’t one that describes well. It exists in two halves, and one of them is comically dated. The other is a celebration of botany. If you’re unfamiliar with the ride, here’s how that breaks down. The first six minutes of this attraction is a series of set pieces that wouldn’t have felt especially current in 1987. It’s a dark ride that shows forests, and farms and the dangers that inclement weather poses to each one. Perhaps the highlight of this portion of the attraction is that you can see diners at The Garden Grill at times. This doesn’t sound great so far, does it?
Well, the next eight minutes of the attraction more than makes up for it. During the second phase of Living with the Land, you enter a scientific area and not a fake one. This is the same place where Imagineers try to innovate, finding new ways to harvest foods. You’re on a boat that takes you through a series of botany breakthroughs, many of which have the end-goal of reducing world hunger.
Almost as impressively, Disney also stocks many of their restaurants with the ingredients on display at Living with the Land. Farm-to-table is a popular and important trend in the food industry. Disney has honed the process such that it’s Epcot attraction-to-Epcot restaurant. Yes, food from Living with the Land is served at The Garden Grill, Sunshine Seasons, and Coral Reef.
I’m frankly in awe of this attraction and everything that it represents. Every time I ride it, I learn a bit more about the future of produce. It may not sound sexy, but it’s as educational and innovative as anything at Walt Disney World. That’s precisely the goal that Walt Disney had for Epcot. Living with the Land is the best current embodiment of his wishes.
1) The Seas with Nemo and Friends
The best underrated ride at Epcot isn’t important like the one in second place, and it lacks the creativity of the attraction in fifth place. What it does have, however, is the fun of the third and fourth entries, and a special bit of charm to boot.
The Seas with Nemo and Friends is one of the easiest FastPasses to get at Epcot. This fact always amuses me since it’s also one of the best dark rides at Walt Disney World. It’s structurally similar to Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid in that it simply re-tells a beloved Disney story. Whereas the Ariel ride at Magic Kingdom is a strict retelling, The Seas with Nemo and Friends takes a bit of artistic license, telling a slightly different tale wherein Nemo gets lost yet again.
The bright colors and the breathtaking representations of an underwater existence exemplify the dark ride done well. And it’s also a breezy ride in the darkness, making it a wonderful escape on a hot day. I consider this one of the best dark rides at Disney, and I say that as someone who would rank Finding Nemo toward the bottom of the Pixar movie catalog. I actually enjoy the attraction more than the movie it honors.
The Seas with Nemo and Friends rarely has a wait of more than 15 minutes. In fact, it’s half that amount on a regular basis. When you have a FastPass, you basically walk up to the Clamobile and enjoy a marvelous trip through the Finding Nemo universe. While most of the attractions listed here are underrated, great rides, this one is definitely the best.
As for the best of the E Ticket attractions at Epcot, stay tuned until next week!