Started off the morning heading for EPCOT. Walked through the Riverside to the bus stop a little before 8:00am and we arrived at EPCOT just prior to its 9am opening. Passed by the long merchandise line that stretched to Spaceship Earth and headed for Wonders of Life to visit the Chase Lounge and get a wristband for Illuminations. Hung out in the lounge a bit then wandered through Innoventions East and West on our way to the Land. Grabbed Fastpasses for Soarin and then went on Living with the Land. Next up Imagination then into World Showcase. Strolled past Canada and the United Kingdom. Some of the group stopped to play Agent P in France and I continued on to the Liberty Inn for lunch. They toured EPCOT the rest of the afternoon and I doubled back to World Showplace for the 1pm Imagineering Panel. At 2pm I bailed out of the panel a bit early and headed for the line for the 3pm Anniversary Moment at the American Gardens Theatre. Had great seats for the event thanks to Deb Wills from Allears.net who saved me a spot. Watched the show then ran for cover in front of the American Adventure once it had concluded because the rain began to fall. Once the storm blew through hiked back to World Showplace for the 4:30 Marty Sklar presentation. After his talk it was off to the Boardwalk and the Grille for dinner. Then back to EPCOT via Friendship Launch for the evening. Caught a little of Sugar Ray at the Eat to the Beat Concert then made my way around World Showcase to the viewing area for Illuminations. Watched the show and the 30th Anniversary tag then joined the masses heading for the bus stop.
Thoughts & Observations:
- There seems to always be a little extra in the air when you arrive at a park for its anniversary. Over the years I have been lucky enough to attend a couple. Today I was excited to be able to be there for EPCOTs 30th. The park had three special events planned as well as a tag for Illuminations and I decided to spend my entire day at EPCOT.
- As you entered the park this morning there were cast members passing out commemorative buttons and guide maps to everyone. I thought the guide maps were great. The one side was the current map and then the fold out featured a time line with several maps from over the years (I have pictures in the update).
- I was surprised at how long the merchandise line was. It stretch past Spaceship Earth when we entered, and I heard it made its way back toward the entrance. Anyone wait in the long line? Curious how long it took to get through? I did not since I figured the limited items would be gone and most of the others I had seen the other day or did not want to purchase.
- First stop was the Chase Lounge to get wristbands for Illuminations, we skipped the concert bands. I thought this made sense so I would not have to worry about a location to watch the show, no clue how the crowd would be this evening.
- Spent the morning roaming Future World, nothing too exciting to report. Then headed out to World Showcase for lunch, again nothing jumped out to me.
- I got in line a little after noon for the 1:00pm Designing the Future: Past and Present that was being presented by D23 at the World ShowPlace. There was no real information released on this so I did not know what to expect. It turned out to be a panel of Imagineers who were involved with the building/opening of EPCOT. There were no pictures allowed of the event and I had to leave before it wrapped up because I wanted to get a decent spot for the 30th Anniversary Celebration. They basically went down the line talking to each member of the panel who described what they did and a memory or two. There was not that much back and fourth. On the panel were:
- Tim MacAllister - Imagineer who was a site painted for EPCOT. He talked about working on the Land
- Mike Pechin - Imagineer who was a member of the audio animatronics team. He had an interesting observation that at the time the calmest person was usually the most panicked. He also asked for a true EPCOT fan and gave away an original EPCOT license plate to a woman with a figment tatoo.
- Tom Rodowsky - Imagineer who was the color coordinator for EPCOT. he was also an opening team member of the Magic Kingdom and he talked about John Hench and had a couple stories of his visits to sign off on colors
- Don Lewis - Imagineer who was an audio engineer for EPCOT. He said they had 986 soundtracks to record. The most fun was the Kitchen Kabaret.
- Gary Landrum - Imagineer who has worked for the company for 35 years. He was a cast member of the Big Thunder opening team. He took part in ride system endurance testing. He told a great story about how he took a book on EPCOT around and received signatures from those involved, including Marty Sklar, before the opening of the park. Another interesting tidbit he said there was one fax machine on property when EPCOT opened.
- I missed the name of the last person (if you were there and know please let me know I would like to update this). He worked for Buena Vista Construction and talked about some of the challenges of building the park. He said six months before opening the park looked like a war zone still.
- As the presentation stretched into the 2pm hour I ran out the door before it concluded since I wanted to find a spot for next event at the American Gardens Theatre starting at 3:00pm. It was the 30th Anniversary Ceremony. It was originally described as a moment so we were all expecting a short and to the point event. Instead we got an over 40 minute event that featured live entertainment and three speeches by corporate cast members. The speeches seemed to drag on for me and not really say much. I would have much rather had them be a little shorter. Including the Mariachi Cobre and Voices of Liberty and singling out the original members that are still part of the cast was great. They also had cast members representing the EPCOT Cast that came out for the finale and that was a nice touch too. In the update I included some video clips of the performances but skipped the speeches, I am sure you can find those online if you really want, if not email me and I can post if there is a demand.
- The Ceremony ended just as it started to drizzle and by the time I made my way toward the exit it had started to rain, so I ran for cover at the American Adventure, where quite a few other guests had already taken shelter. My game plan at this point was to wait for a let up in the rain and try to make it back to World Showplace for the 4:30 presentation (it was now pushing 4:00pm). As luck would have it the cell blew through quickly and I made it to the event with time to spare.
- While I was in the presentation some other members of my group attended a special performance of the Voices of Liberty at 4:30 that featured a second set of singers joining in for the finale. I posted a video of it in the update. I thought this was a nice addition for the anniversary. My understanding is they did the same thing for the 5:15pm performance too.
- The last presentation of the day was Epcot: How it Changed the World which took place at World ShowPlace at 4:30 and 6:30. Marty Sklar gave the presentation. Maybe it is a sign I have been to quite a few of these but I felt that most of what he presented, if not all, I had seen or heard before. I still enjoyed hearing it and any time you can listen to a Disney Legend is it great! Did anyone attend the 6:30 presentation, curious if it was the same as the 4:30. I only did the first one then went to meet my group for dinner.
- Again no pictures for this presentation so here are a couple items that popped to mind...
- The presentation featured several clips and pictures including the David Brinkley Clip about urban planning, a brief history of some of the early Imagineers, the famous photo from 1967 of the ground clearing where the Magic Kingdom would be built.
- Some stats. Orlando Airport featured 4 airlines and 7 flights (I want to say this was in 1970 but I missed the year), now 846 daily flights 35.5 million passengers a year.
- Some detail on the creation of the EPCOT film, Walts last, which he wrote.
- At one point he was discussing the EPCOT logo and made a little news saying he thought they should throw out the current logo and go back to the original.
- One picture that stood out to me was the construction of France. It featured the eiffel tower with both the American and French flags on top.
- Next up the EPCOT that Never was including a look at concept art for unbuilt pavilions: Costa Rica, Israel, Africa, Iran, and Denmark. He noted that quite a bit of artwork was acquired for Africa and much of it went to the Smithsonian.
- He wrapped up with a discussion on music in the parks. He noted that there really had not been much new music in the parks since the late 60s and EPCOT gave them a chance to create new music and songs again.
- After the presentation there was a Question and Answer session and the Disney Fans asked their usual assortment of random and sometime inappropriate questions.. you never know what you are going to get from an open mic. Here is a sampling of the questions:
- Where is the Future of EPCOT going?
- What about Walt Disney for the American Adventure narrator?
- What was your most memorable moment? Answer - Working with Walt
- What was the inspiration for Dreamfinder?
- When will Test Track reopen? Answer - No clue (it has been released as 12/6/12 now)
- Is there a video of the opening day ceremony? (I thought this was a great one and he said he had not seen it.. I would really like to see it if it exists)
- What would you change about EPCOT? Answer - Investigate the original concept of entering in the middle of the park vs having to go all the way through Future World to reach World Showcase. It was done the way it is because of the sponsors.
- Favorite EPCOT spot? Answer - Does not really have one.
- Ate dinner at the Big River Grille and Brewing Works at the Boardwalk. Again for one reason or another I had never eaten there. Its burgers are ranked among the best at WDW so I had to give that a try this trip. It was a huge burger and I thought it was good. The bun was a little small for the size of it and you got chips with it. I still like Beaches and Cream a bit more. But this was a good burger and a relaxing place to eat. I thought the indoor dining area was a bit cramped (and due to the rain everyone was inside).
- Once back at EPCOT stopped by the Eat to the Beat concert which featured Sugar Ray this evening. I stayed for most of the set taking some pictures and video. Going in I could not name a song of his and leaving still cannot remember ever listening to one. He put on a lively show and those in attendance were having a good time, but I enjoy the older bands a bit more since I at least know some of their big hits.
- I closed out the evening with Illuminations Reflections of Earth and the special 30th Anniversary Finale. The best way to describe the finale was incredible! After the show it launched into a several minute tribute to the music of EPCOT and concluded with a ground shaking finale. If you are fan of the Holiday Tag finale this went a step beyond that. I have not seen the New Years one but I am guessing this was on par with that. I included a video at the end of the update, but it really does not do it justice.
Pedometer Information for the day: