Our visit to Epcot nears its conclusion now that we’ve gone over how to set up our day(s) and made our way through World Showcase and back down to the Imagination Pavilion. With all of the changes at Epcot, from construction walls limiting access through Future World, to the standby lines being the only option for most guests, to closed attractions, eateries, and more, chances are that your next visit to Epcot will be quite a bit different than what you would have experienced most days over the last six or seven years. A lot of these differences are subtle, but they can make a big impact in how you move about the Park or organize your day. Others, like a lack of FastPass+ to bypass long afternoon waits at major attractions, will likely have a bigger impact.
This is where we’ve been:
- Mark, the creator of the RideMax touring optimization software that we’re using to help guide us on our day, introduced us to the software. The app got our in-park wait at Frozen Ever After down to three minutes and then over to barbecue for lunch, so I’d say we did pretty well for ourselves. Oh, the wonders of technology. My touring plan would probably have us sitting next to crying children on Mission: SPACE three times in a row followed by eating the rubble of the Electric Umbrella demolition. That still might have tasted better than some of the things that the quick service had served over the years. We look forward to its replacement, Locally-Sourced, Sustainable Wind Power Covering.
- Part two followed with what to expect from the arrival experience before we headed off to Frozen Ever After. We also covered the thought process behind a number of decisions that you may find yourself making as you plot your day(s) at Epcot. RideMax made a lot of those decisions easier by letting us know how long we could expect each attraction we were interested in experiencing to take. As we continue with the plan, note how the software includes the walking time, attraction duration, and expected wait in a concise box.
- We continued in World Showcase with Gran Fiesta Tour and a walk up through the Italy Pavilion.
- Part Four followed with lunch at Regal Eagle Barbecue, a pleasant Skyliner gondola ride over France, a stop at the Canada Far & Wide Circle-Vision 360 film, and a return to Future World for the Imagination Pavilion attractions, including a very awkward stop at the Disney Visa Photo Spot.
We did get a bit off-track with the surprise announcement that Disney would start releasing Rise of the Resistance boarding groups at 7am instead of at Park open. There’s always some seemingly-minor change that throws our world upside down. Or, at least, that’s the website’s business model. Fortunately, we were able to address that change in just under 40,000 words. I don’t know about you, but I am looking forward to a post where Star Wars does not come up again.
Since we’ve already added the attractions that we’d like to do into what is now our optimized RideMax plan, we can continue to the next step, Awesome Planet, unabated. While it’s rare that I would lie to you, it’s possible that “like to do” and “Awesome Planet” don’t belong in the same sentence, at least as far as this curmudgeon is concerned. But part of our overarching goal is to experience all of the Future World attractions and really show off the software’s capabilities.
On the other hand, it’s possible that attending a show that wouldn’t fill to capacity even if they were handing out free holiday Starbucks cups stuffed with hundred dollars bills isn’t impressing anybody. However, “Awesome” is in the title, and you may be more inspired by the distant scent of an assortment of Glade PlugIns and the occasional spray of musty air in your face than I am. So, it’s on the itinerary. And, based on its PR budget, it could even make the list of top theme park attractions in a publication that neither of us has ever heard of before. If Paddlefish at Disney Springs can be named the best seafood restaurant in Orlando, anything is possible with a check that’s big enough.
The following screenshot shows where we’re at according to our RideMax plan. So far, we’ve made a few on-the-fly adjustments here and there as things caught our eye in World Showcase and the gondola ride took longer than seeing the Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along:
It’s 3:03pm, so you could argue that we are 16 minutes behind schedule. Considering we’re four hours into the day, and you can never really say with certainty how long you’ll wait for the next show to start at attractions like Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival, things should largely line up as we visit each of the Land Pavilion attractions.
This is how waits are looking:
Our only real issue should be minimizing waits at both Soarin’ and Test Track as much as possible without having to backtrack from something like Spaceship Earth at the front of the Park, then back to Soarin’, and then walk all the way around the giant hole in the middle of Future World for Mission: SPACE and Test Track. Ordinarily, we’d probably try to put Soarin’ as late in the day as possible to minimize waits, but if it means an extra 20 minutes of walking back and forth to save 15 minutes in line, it’s probably not worth it. We’ll see how things shake out.
We hadn’t had a tremendous amount of luck timing the various shows that run continuously. Typically, you want to see one or two minutes on the countdown timer. That will give you a moment to ease over to the attraction and potentially angle your way into a better spot. Awesome Planet’s timer currently reads zero minutes to next show, which means we’ll need to hustle a bit to make it.
Fortunately, we didn’t miss the next show, and even got to enjoy standing on our dot for a minute before it was time to enter the theater. It’s probably also nice that the benches are designated for seating, though it doesn’t offer the best views of the wall carpet that adorns the waiting area. I wouldn’t wait 15 minutes for Awesome Planet, but I probably would for a guided tour of that carpet.
One other note on the timing of continuous shows. If you do time one “wrong,” and just miss the previous show, you may elect to skip that step and return to it later. If Awesome Planet’s timer reads 15 minutes to next show, we’d probably bypass it in favor of the next attraction on the list. Otherwise, we’d be twiddling our thumbs for 15 minutes doing nothing as we wait for a show that we would always be able to get into. We did something similar in the Imagination Pavilion by visiting the Visa Character Spot during part of the time we would have waited for the next Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival. We could also elect to take a load off and sit on one of those benches awaiting the next show. With RideMax giving us the full 14 minutes to wait, we have either option at our disposal and the plan should come still come together.
Awesome Planet is hosted in yet another of Epcot’s comfortable theaters with cushioned seats with backs. I feel like that’s the selling point of a lot of Epcot’s attractions at the moment. “Well, it’s air-conditioned. We might as well.”
I don’t know if this is a minority opinion now that more people have had the opportunity to see the show, which is narrated by Ty Burrell as he sort of reprises his realtor character from what I remember of Modern Family. The presentation “feels” like random ten to fifteen second clips of stock footage shot around 2017 with Phil Dunphy letting us in on some secrets about the planet that we already inhabit, like it has water and bridges. Who knew? The show then ends with about 90 seconds about how we’re all about to die if we don’t pledge to become carbon neutral by sometime around 2095. As Ty/Phil tries to sell us on this awesome planet, he never quotes a price or offers much info on comps beyond the fact that Venus is uninhabitable. Well, with that attitude, it probably is.
Wear and tear on the planet is probably also coming into play during the doom and gloom phase of the show, though the narrator didn’t indicate that the damage would result in a price break. I think we’re watching a boat capsizing as people die during a hurricane. This is when Awesome Planet really immerses you in the show with that shot of musty air, with the velocity of an eye pressure check, to represent hurricane-force winds. If that sounds depressing, don’t worry, because the next natural disaster clip is coming up in six or seven seconds.
Awesome Planet isn’t much different than Circle of Life, the show that it replaced. That probably wasn’t great either, but I always enjoyed the irony of the lengthy lecture from Pumba about how nature needs to be protected at all costs as we sat in a large, resource-guzzling theme park monstropolis that was only possible after Disney basically filled in nature with 39 square miles of concrete and then went on to build a city-state on top of it.
We ended up passing on the potential purchase of Awesome Planet, but also didn’t get tricked into adding any more Disney Vacation Club points at Saratoga Springs to our portfolio, so the ten minutes ended up being easy on the pocketbook, at least. I’m also fairly certain that what they’re trying to sell us is burning to a crisp here in CGI that’s so bad that Soarin’ Around the World doesn’t even believe what it’s seeing. But 2020 may never be encapsulated quite as well as in this single image. I may even see myself down there. Add some distortion, a slight curve, and the Taj Mahal rendered by sixth graders on a Windows XP machine, and Soarin’ may be a buyer after all.
That’s better. CGI elephants to make it more believable, what may or may not be a burning hill now looking like it’s sinking into the ground like the Titanic, and feet dangling down from the top. We may make a great ride out of this show yet.
We were done with Awesome Planet at 3:21pm.
I’ll bring back up our RideMax steps:
That basically puts us back on target as we’re only about three minutes behind our expected arrival at Soarin’. This was the only part of the plan that I felt a little dubious about. Ordinarily, I’d try to put Soarin’ as late in the day as possible, as wait times typically go down the later in the day that it gets.
But as we rode the escalator down, it looked like Living with the Land would be about a 15-minute wait in a pretty unpleasant containment area with narrow rows and a higher proportion of people leaning against things than I currently like to see.
By going to Soarin’ first, we can hope that these people clear out.
The queue for Soarin’ is pretty wild as it runs around through the exit area, back out into the entrance area, and then breaks into two separate lines in what were previously the regular standby and FastPass+ queues.
And the line may extend all the way out here into the Sunshine Seasons walkway and next to some of the more polite trash receptacles that I’ve seen. I actually apologized to them for not having any waste on my person at the time. They were asking so nicely. I couldn’t help but feel bad.
Soarin’ was posting 35 minutes at 3:22pm. A cast member up front will either send you through the queue to the right, underneath the standby entrance wait time, or the left, underneath the current time of day.
And there’s also a third lane for VIP Tours, Disability Access, and Club 33 members with FastPass+ access.
But the line thing ended up being odd. The wider line on the right, which is usually reserved for standby, was nearly full. Our line, as you can see in front of us, isn’t anywhere near as backed up.
We made it all the way here before running into resistance. We’ll be assigned to our theater just ahead on the right.
It didn’t “feel” like they were pulling two or three times the number of people from the other line to account for the fact that there were far more people in it, but that may have been the case.
We certainly weren’t moving very fast given the fact that there were relatively few people in front of us. But that always seems to be the case at Soarin’ and its many hallways.
It ended up being 25 minutes until we were watching the pre-show, which isn’t bad at all. I was a bit surprised to see the pre-show considering most aren’t currently shown, typically because those rooms have been turned into part of the queue instead. I also assumed that it had something to do with the fact that the current safety measures aren’t reflected in the videos. No face masks or separation between parties, obviously. “Soarin’ to tower” is just about as old as I am. And my hairline is about two weeks away from being the same as that poor guy with his Mickey Ears. But it’s always nice to see Patrick. And according to Dr. Seeker over at the Dino Institute, the future may really be in the past. Hopefully we’ll be donning our flight goggles and caps mask-free sooner rather than later.
“It’s the Eiffel Tower!” I mean, kind of.
As I’ve mentioned several times since the Parks reopened, keeping your distance from people is typically easy in the queues with the markers on the ground clearly indicating where you should stand. Occasionally, you’ll still be in front of a group that seems to think they’ll board faster if they’re standing on top of you, but it’s a lot easier to say, “I think you’re supposed to stand behind the lines,” than it is to turn around and say, “Why don’t you back off, standby slime?” without the markers on the ground to back you up.
Distancing is more difficult at attraction exits, and particularly those with multiple theaters or rooms. Soarin’ has three theaters and everyone always seems to exit around the same time.
If you’re uncomfortable, you can typically stand off to the side and wait for most people to pass at a distance. Soarin’ may be the worst exit scenario with its long, narrow walkway, and the fact that so many people are exiting together. As you press forward, 50 or more people could shuffle out of each of two rooms and onto the same path.
These attractions typically have the most congested exits:
- Avatar Flight of Passage – Multiple theaters, stairwells, and a long walkway.
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run – Lots of cockpits, the potential for stairs, and long walkways.
- Soarin’: Multiple theaters and a long, narrow walkway.
- Star Tours: To a much lesser extent because there are only typically ten or twelve people per theater, but there are six simulators and one walkway.
I could offer some advice on theaters or simulators to request to be closest to the exit. On Flight of Passage, you could ask to be on the lowest row in the theater closest to the exit. At Smugglers Run, you could request to be in Alpha. For Star Tours, you could request the simulator closest to the gift shop. But obviously, not everyone can be put there, and making such a request would likely put more burden on the loading procedure, since you’d likely have to stand to the side and wait for your request to be accommodated. On some attractions, like Big Thunder Mountain, they’ve replaced yelling, “Please fill in all of the available space!!!!!!” every fifteen seconds, to “No row requests!!!!!!” since people typically request the back row for the wildest ride or the first row because they’re confused or mostly want to stare at the engine as it plows along much more slowly.
Most attractions are designed to release a lot of people at one time – that’s how you keep capacity up. On Kilimanjaro Safaris, everyone exits their row at the same time and then congregates on the platform as they make sure they have all of their belongings. At Muppet*Vision, a couple hundred people will exit the theater at the same time. At Living with the Land, everyone will exit their boat at the same time. On Pirates of the Caribbean, everyone has to either march up the non-moving walkway or get on the slowly-moving walkway at the same time. So just about everywhere other than being in line, you’re going to have some trouble keeping your distance from people. That’s obviously more true on busier days.
Disney continues to do just about everything they reasonably can to make your visit “safe.” Just this week, they banned eating and drinking while waiting in queues, which had been my biggest gripe since July. If you see people acting irresponsibly out in the open, it’s easy enough to keep your distance from them. There isn’t a whole lot you can do when you’re half way through the queue and every member of the eight-person group in front of you has their masks down while eating Mickey Ice Cream Bars or pretending to nurse Diet Cokes. So that being less common now will certainly be nice. They’ve also harshened language on signage, added more cast to enforce the mask rules, adjusted queues to add more barriers, and more over the past weeks and months.
But Disney World is still the epitome of the Three C’s – Closed spaces, Crowded places, and Close-contact settings. For the most part, you have to be personally diligent and hope for the best. So far, they would tell you that they haven’t traced any cases or outbreaks to the theme parks, but that’s sort of like me saying I haven’t climbed Mount Everest. I’m not trying, there’s no money, and if you tried to get me to, I would do everything in my power to not.
Actively trying to stay away from as many people as possible while exiting Soarin’, as I would do under any circumstances, resulted in this scene. It’s probably fine, but it is worth reiterating that there will be times when physical-distancing will be difficult or impossible. Shopping is particularly troublesome as the stores are obviously filled with stuff and most people are not going to wait for you to move before hurrying over to pick up something that they aren’t going to buy.
We were done with Soarin’ right at 4pm, or 37 minutes after getting in line. RideMax had the wait at 43 minutes. I was happy to see that the line for Living with the Land was no longer backed up to the plastic barriers and narrow rows.
We arrived at 4:02pm and boarded three minutes later. So doing Soarin’ first and Living with the Land after seemed like the smarter call.
You may remember that the boats have similar plastic barriers in between the rows as Kilimanjaro Safaris, so Disney is able to load each row and increase capacity.
There isn’t a plastic cover in front of the first row of the first boat or the second boat attached behind it. Typically, I find that the plastic impacts photos more than your actual view, and most people are looking off to the sides of the boat/vehicle, anyway. But you could potentially request the front row of the first or second boat without causing too much of a problem:
According to the sign, we have a Variety Trial going on here. I’m not sure who won, but I felt like the plaintiff made a more compelling case. I’ll be here all night. We were back out front at 4:25pm, for a total experience time of 23 minutes.
Pulling up the next few steps in our RideMax plan:
It has us at Sunshine Seasons at 4:40pm, or in about 15 minutes, and then over to The Seas with Nemo about 45 minutes after that. So we are just about right on track – probably impressively so.
We should finish up the day with the next post.