Magical Blogorail: Best Live Entertainment – Epcot

Disney has always plussed the guest experience with a wonderful variety of live entertainment around the parks. Epcot is perhaps unique in that it offers colorful selections from around the real world around the World Showcase!

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Orange Loop. Today we are sharing some of the best live entertainment at the Disney Parks.


I’d like to share some of the live entertainment acts that I have seen around Epcot over the years. Just like the other attractions in the parks, these acts have come and gone in an ever-changing line-up of talent.

Live Entertainment Morocco

MO’ROCKIN

This was a 6-person Moroccan musical act that played in the Morocco Pavilion. The group was often accompanied by a belly dancer. Unfortunately, Disney decided to discontinue this act and it played for the last time on September 27th, 2014.

Live Entertainment Extra

Sometimes this version of Mo’Rockin would be playing in the Morocco Pavilion.

Live Entertainment Off Kilter

Off Kilter

Off Kilter is a high-energy Celtic rock band founded by Jamie Holton, bagpiper, in 1996. The band is a unique blend of traditional Celtic tunes and songs with a rock twist, popular covers arranged with a Celtic rock feel, and original songs. Instruments consist of bagpipes, Irish whistles, electric guitar, bass, fiddle, drums and vocals. The band played for 18 years as one of the most popular bands at Walt Disney World in Florida (Canadian Pavilion, Epcot), and currently tours the country performing at many different venues.

Live Entertainment Quartet

Quartet

I wish I could remember which country these four entertainers represented! They were quite good.

So, I’ve shared acts that aren’t in Epcot anymore. I include them to show the variety of acts that have been offered over the years.

The official lineup now is as follows:

  • British Revolution (English groups cover band)
  • JAMMitors (Percussion group)
  • Jeweled Dragon Acrobats (Chinese acrobatics)

Live Entertainment Acrobats

  • Mariachi Cobre (Mexican band)
  • Matsuriza (Japanese drumming)
  • Rose & Crown Pub Musician (Piano)
  • Voices of Liberty (American vocal group)
  • Wies N Buam (German Oomph band)

This is by no means an exhaustive list. You can check out this official Disney site for show times and other entertainment offered.

I hope this whets your appetite for live entertainment at Epcot!

For more must see live entertainment at Disney,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


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Magical Blogorail: Discover Future World – Universe of Energy

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Green Loop. Today we are taking a closer look at the fun you can find in Future World at Epcot.


UNIVERSE OF ENERGY

Universe of Energy 1

Ellen. The Science Guy. A Game Show. Dinosaurs. And Air-conditioning. How could you not like this attraction?

Unlike many of the rides in Future World this one has a very large capacity which means you will experience one of the shortest wait times in Disney theme park history. So if you see a low wait time on the board for this attraction, please don’t think it’s because it isn’t good!

Universe of Energy 4     Universe of Energy 3     Universe of Energy 5

And it’s in a pretty building

The pavilion is located in the eastern half of Future World at Epcot. It contains just the one attraction, its second since its 1982 opening. The current attraction, entitled Ellen’s Energy Adventure, stars Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye. It features a combination of four separate large-format film presentations and a slow-moving dark ride.

You begin by standing in an outer theater while you watch Ellen in an eight-minute film in which she falls asleep and dreams that she is in an energy-themed version of Jeopardy!, playing against an old rival Judy Peterson (portrayed by Jamie Lee Curtis) and Albert Einstein. After round one, Ellen is losing badly. Enter Bill Nye to save the day with science information! Next you enter the main show area and take a seat in large ride vehicles. Another screen is used to show a four-minute film which sets Ellen up for the adventure about energy. She is taken back into the distance past. Then you are on the move into a dinosaur diorama:

Univers of Energy 7

Next is a 12-minute film giving an in-depth look at various current and future energy resources across the United States. Last is a final two-minute film presenting the end of Ellen’s dream in which she uses her new knowledge about energy in Round 2 to unseat Judy as Jeopardy! champion.

This is also one of the longest rides in Future World so sit back and relax and rest your tired feet in air-conditioned comfort! Some find the content a bit dated but the information is still relevant today.

When you exit, be sure to check out the views:

Universe of Energy 6          Universe of Energy 2

Sometimes the oldest attractions can be the best, and while this energy adventure may not necessarily be the best, it certainly is worth the time! Did I mention it’s air-conditioned?

For more about Future World, check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Green | Discover Future World Loop:

Disney’s Top Five Best Decisions of All Time

Recently I listed what I thought Disney’s Top Five Worst Decisions were and so in the interest of fairness I now present my Top 5 List of Disney’s best decisions:

BEST   DECISION   NUMBER   FIVE

Live-action Versions of Animated Classics

Jungle Book Posters

So although these aren’t my cup of tea the general Disney fan/public has embraced these ‘remakes’ with a passion! Cinderella did very well and the latest, The Jungle Book, also did a brisk business. And the upcoming Beauty and the Beast practically has people frothing at the mouth in anticipation.

While these are obvious attempts at recycling ideas and extending profits from established franchises, one can’t argue that they are beautifully done. My main complaint is that they haven’t strayed much from the original animated source material so there aren’t any surprises or new interpretations.

Maybe the live-action Beauty and the Beast will break out of this provincial approach and break new ground.

BEST   DECISION   NUMBER   FOUR

Promoting John Lasseter

John Lasseter

I just love this guy! From his early antics on the Pixar DVD releases to his many appearances to promote new productions in both Pixar and Disney studios, you can just feel his enthusiasm for both animation and the Disney legacy.

With Walt gone and no more Disney family members stepping up to fill the void, Lasseter is the next best thing. That doesn’t sound too complimentary until you realize whose shoes he is basically filling!

I hope to see him grow with the company for many years to come, but do wonder just who could fill his shoes when the time comes for him to step down?

BEST   DECISION   NUMBER   THREE

World Showcase Ethnic Casting

World Showcase CM

The best part of World Showcase in Epcot at Walt Disney World is the Cast Member interaction. And the fact that each pavilion has CM’s from the actual country being presented is a brilliant stroke of casting!

And so many benefit! Young people from around the world get to have an experience that they will never forget. The guests get to meet them and learn first hand about the culture and activities of all eleven countries represented in World Showcase. And those of us who are not American get to visit the country of our origin (if represented) and unite with a fellow countryman.

It’s win-win all around and I hope Disney never abandons this decision!

BEST   DECISION   NUMBER   TWO

Acquiring Marvel/Lucas Film

Marvel Comics Logo     Lucas Film Logo

As I stated in my post about the worst decisions Disney has made they should never have acquired Pixar. I feel it ruined the creativity of that company. But as it comes to Marvel Comics and Lucasfilm Ltd. I think Disney has only helped to grow these companies.

Largely by leaving them alone, Disney has given the people at Marvel full support to continue to develop the MU in a very interesting and profitable way. The acquisition of Lucasfilm Ltd. is too new to really tell how things are going to turn out, but if the first Star Wars film under the Disney banner is any indication, it’s not going to badly.

Maybe Disney has learned that putting up the money and just a little creative input is the way to acquisition success?

BEST   DECISION   NUMBER   ONE

Keeping Vintage Attractions

Carousel of Progress Signage

This is a highly debatable decision but I put it in the number one spot for a reason. Walt was all about nostalgia. And nothing sparks nostalgia like the original attractions that were in the parks when they opened. Or that came soon after.

Rides from the 1964/65 New York World’s Fair like The Carousel of Progress and It’s a Small World still interest park goers today just as they did in the past. And the fact that Disney fans mourn each time a beloved attraction is demolished confirms this as truth!

While other parks continue to focus on thrill rides Disney wisely nurtures its attraction heritage of dark rides and corny shows. Hey, if it works…

Conclusion: For every bad decision there is a good decision. And given the success of the multi-billion dollar business that is Disney, one would have to believe that the good decisions are outweighing the bad!

Magical Blogorail: Visiting Four Parks in Just One Day!

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Blue Loop. Today we are looking at strategies to tackle all four Walt Disney World parks in just one day!


SET   REALISTIC   GOALS

Can you visit every attraction and see every show in all four Walt Disney World parks in just one day? Um, no. Could you do it in a week? Still no. Could you do it in a month? OK, yes, probably in a month. But who can spend that much time at Disney at one go!

So let’s go back to the unrealistic premise of visiting all four parks in just one day and see what realistic goals we could set to achieve this:

GOAL   NUMBER   ONE

Take advantage of Extra Magic Hours

Check the park schedules to see which park is opening early and which park is opening late. Compare these times to the regular operating hours of the other parks on your day of choice to maximize your chances of visiting all four parks.

Four Parks

You may need to start a little earlier and be willing to put in a grueling day, and probably stay out past your usual bedtime. But you’re on vacation so… who needs sleep?

GOAL   NUMBER   TWO

Reduce traveling times

If possible, in line with Goal Number One, try to move from park to park in a circular pattern. If you start with The Magic Kingdom, then travel clockwise on the Resort Monorail line to the Transportation and Ticket Center, switch to the Epcot Monorail line and ride it to Epcot. Your next park will then be Disney’s Hollywood Studios which you can reach by boat from Epcot. Lastly, you will have to take a bus to arrive at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Of course, if you have a car, it may be quicker to drive between the parks. But keep in mind that traffic, far-away parking spaces, and tram delays could reduce your time in the parks.

WDW Map

Of course, you may need to go counter-clockwise if park times dictate that, but obviously you will want to avoid randomly bouncing from park to park like a ball in a pinball machine as this will eat away at your goal of visiting all four parks in just one day!

GOAL   NUMBER   THREE

Choose in advance what you will do in each park

Vacation Proverb: He who looks at everything experiences nothing. The Moral? Keep your head down and get’er done!

Eyes Eyes Eyes

Assuming you can start your day at 9 am and have to end your day at 10 pm (possibly later) that would mean you will have approximately just three hours in each park with one hour (at least) being eaten up by travel.

So advance planning is a must! Ask yourself – What is the best thing about each park? Here are my suggestions:

The Magic Kingdom – Children’s Attractions/Shopping

Epcot – World Showcase

Disney’s Hollywood Studios – Thrill Rides

Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Kilimanjaro Safaris and Maharajah Jungle Trek

Your tastes may be different, so check out the attractions in each park and see what each park does best, in your opinion, and focus on only that during your visit to the park in question.

GOAL   NUMBER   FOUR

Don’t rush!

As mentioned in Goal Number Three, you will have only about three hours in each park. But to see what you want you can vary the amount of time spent in each park. This way, you won’t have to be like the White Rabbit, rushing from ride to attraction to park!

Rushing

For example, following my suggestions in Goal Number Three, you may want to spend four hours in The Magic Kingdom (especially if you have children), the full three-hour allotment in Epcot, only two hours in Disney’s Hollywood Studios (as there are really only three main thrill rides available) and again the full three-hour allotment for Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Leaving DAK until last is also wise for if you are running out of time, as there is arguably less to see and do in this park.

GOAL   NUMBER   FIVE

Blow off the next day!

Relax! Don’t plan anything for the morning of the next day. Get up a little later, sleep-in…

Beautiful Sleeper

… and then have a nice brunch. Chill at the Resort and hit the pool in the early afternoon. Plan a nice dinner at a themed restaurant (maybe a character affair) to make up for the rushed food options you had to endure during your park marathon.

I think if you follow these five realistic goals, you will be able to visit all four parks in just one day, and survive to tell about it! Of course, I use the term ‘survive’ loosely.

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For more strategies to tackle four parks in just one day, check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Blue | 4 Parks 1 Day Loop:

 

Magical Blogorail: Flower and Garden Festival

A Look Beyond the Flowers and Seminars

FGF Beauty and the Beast Topiary

And beyond the awesome topiaries too!

Welcome to the next stop on Magical Blogorail Red. Today we are discussing the Flower and Garden Festival held each year in Epcot at Walt Disney World.

My wife and I have only attended this event once, back in 2010. Karen had always wanted to see the flower displays and topiaries but I was unsure if the extra trip was necessary, being as Epcot always had such beautiful floral displays anyway.

I was pleasantly surprised at how much more beautiful the park was, and had to agree that it was indeed worth visiting during the festival. But I’m not here to highlight the flowers, topiaries, seminars, or exclusive merchandise. I always like to see what’s off the beaten path! And when we wandered off that path, here is what we found:

EPCOT 56

Butterfly Tent

Each year, just beside and slightly behind the Canada Pavilion, Disney sets up a butterfly tent where you can enjoy interacting with many different species, including the Floral Gigantes pictured above!

EPCOT 66

Disney also likes to use these special events, such as the FGF, to promote the latest movie or franchise offering. This particular year, the festival featured the new Fairy series based on Tinker Bell’s early life and adventures:

EPCOT 70 +

Welcome to the Pixie Hollow Fairy Garden

This garden area featured many little fairy houses and sitting and play areas. There had been a contest to design a fairy house, and the winner had her entry featured for all to see at the festival. There was also a small area to promote The Princess and the Frog movie, but it wasn’t very impressive:

EPCOT 101 +

Simple flat cut-outs of some of the characters

The theme of the 2010 Flower and Garden Festival was Celebrate the Great Outdoors, and I thought I’d finish my post with an aerial view, taken from the Monorail, of the topiaries just inside the main entrance. These change every year to reflect that year’s theme:

EPCOT 165

So if you’re intending to visit the 2015 Flower and Garden Festival, be sure to veer off the beaten path and see what else you can discover!

Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is DISTherapy.

Here is the map of our Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:

1st Stop – Disney Mamas – What’s New at the 2015 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

2nd Stop – Home is Where the Mouse Is –  How to Make the Most of Your Day at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

3rd Stop – Rolling with the Magic – Topiary Displays at the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival

4th Stop – Cool Nouns by Lee Beatens (you are here)

Final Stop – DISTherapy – Best Eats & Drinks

MB-Red-Logo[1]

High Disney Expectations Can Make or Break Your Vacation

You’ve dreamed of it for years. You’ve planned it out for months. You’ve been packing for days. Now it is time. Your trip to a Disney Theme Park is about to begin!

GalleryV1_Website-23

Will it live up to your expectations? (Photo from Disney PhotoPass CD)

Disney is probably one of the most talked about, and hyped, vacation destinations of all time. We all know someone who has been. We have all seen advertisements for the latest promotions. In one way or another, we have all built up a bias as to what we expect.

Is this true of you?

If so, perhaps you were influenced by the Internet. It is filled with Trip Reports. This is when a person visits one of the Disney Theme Parks and then takes the time to tell the world how it all went. They list what they liked. And they list what they didn’t like.

One Trip Report that was posted on the MSN homepage did just that. But what stood out to me was one assessment about a certain attraction. It is called Soarin’, and is found in EPCOT at Walt Disney World. This ride simulates hang gliding over California. They said, basically, that it was a disappointment because their children thought that they would be really flying. When it turned out to be only a simulation, they called it lame.

And therein lies the problem with basing our perception of a Disney Park on what other people experienced: their experience was tainted by expectation. Would we fail to enjoy Soarin’ too because it is a simulation, and not the real thing? Possibly. And yet Soarin’ remains one of EPCOT’s most popular rides. So who is right? It is impossible to say.

What we can say is that we are more likely to enjoy our visit to The Happiest Place on Earth if we just go and take it for what it is, and not what someone else expected it to be. A Disney Park offers something for everyone. Yes, you may not enjoy Soarin’, but you will definitely enjoy some other ride. Overall, you will have things that you liked, and things that you didn’t like. Just like everyone else.

Does this mean that we shouldn’t read Trip Reports? Of course not! These can sometimes be informative, and provide a basic guideline for planning our trip. But should they be used to make a final decision about a ride, attraction, or Park? By no means.

I had just one expectation when I planned to visit Walt Disney World back in 2005. I expected to have fun. And I did! Some things weren’t what I thought they’d be. Other things were. Did this make or ruin my trip? No!

The point: Don’t expect your expectations to turn out the way you expected! But of course, that’s just my opinion.

EPCOT Pavilions – A Canadian Perspective

Only eleven countries have the privilege of being represented in EPCOT at Walt Disney World. And as you probably already know, they are:

Mexico; Norway; China; Germany; Italy; American Adventure; Japan; Morocco; France; United Kingdom; and, of course, Canada. It’s this last country that this article will focus on.

 217+   EPCOT 11 +

To begin with, I was surprised to find a Canada Pavilion at EPCOT. It’s all-too common for most of the world to see my country as nothing more than an additional State of the U.S.A. and not as the truly unique and beautiful place that it is. So I was doubly pleased to see that Canada was one of the first countries encountered as you walk around The World Showcase, Mexico being the other, if you go in a clockwise direction.

Canada isn’t one of the biggest Pavilions, but it does have a lot of content packed into its compact footprint. For example, you will find:

  • A Mountain (Above)
  • A river ending in a waterfall (Also Above)
  • A reproduction of the Butchart Gardens from Victoria, BC (Below)
  • A model of the Victorian-style Chateau Laurier hotel found in Ottawa

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And these are just the physical features of the Canada Pavilion. In these things, this Canadian proclaims that the Imagineers have done a nice job of representing his country. Anyone who visits Canada leaves declaring the beauty and scope of our land, and this is well displayed in EPCOT.

But what of the other features of the Canada Pavilion? They are:

  • A totem pole and Indian canoe
  • An old Trading Post
  • A large French influence
  • Mounties

Here we have the same problem that the other ten Pavilions exhibit: Outdated representation.

The totem pole, Indian canoe, and the Trading Post have long vanished from the common landscape of Canada. Any French influences are mostly restricted, at least overtly, to Ottawa and Quebec. Mounties are rarely, if ever seen, in the red uniforms associated with them. And I have never seen a man in a kilt in my entire life in Canada!

I remember sitting in the Norway Pavilion one day just across from the old Viking Ship, before it was removed. A mother walked by with her two children, and upon seeing the stereotypical ship, said to them: “Oh look, kids: A Viking Ship! We all have one of those in our back yards, don’t we?” The sarcasm told me she was Norwegian and didn’t care for such a representation of her country.

EPCOT 53 +

That being so, I can say in Disney’s defense, that without such stereotypical representations of a country’s heritage, how would one stand out from another? Today, we all have skyscrapers, cars, and modernization. EPCOT could thusly consist of just one Pavilion called Everycountry! How boring would that be?

The Canada Pavilion has a wonderful shopping area filled with traditionally Canadian wares. But for the most part, only expensive items are stocked, which the average Canadian wouldn’t buy everyday. Le Cellier Steakhouse does serve an authentic Canadian cuisine. I recommend the beer. And that brings us to the 360 degree Circle-Vision film ‘O Canada’. Recently redone, with Martin Short as emcee, this too gives a nice overview of both old and new, or modern, Canada.

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So, as a Canadian, do I approve of how my country is represented by Disney at EPCOT?

I’d have to say ‘Yes!’

But I wonder if this is the case with you, the readers from the other countries represented in The World Showcase? Does Germany, United Kingdom, or even The American Adventure live up to how you would like to be represented?

Why not engage in discussion in our comments section and let us, and Disney, know!

What To Do FIRST at Walt Disney World

On our first trip to Walt Disney World, we wanted to do everything! So my wife and I booked 15 nights at Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort and we commenced visiting every attraction and show the Parks had to offer. We didn’t care what we did first because we were going to do it all!

But now that we are seasoned Guests, we tend to take things a little slower. A lot slower actually. We tend to look for the singular moments, the moments that we love to experience over and over again on each and every trip.

So let me share with you the first thing we do upon arrival and upon entering each and every Park:

ARRIVALS

PhotoPass WDW Sign

Drive slowly. Yes, there’s nothing like seeing that big Walt Disney World sign as you approach in your vehicle! And being as you’re not supposed to stop to take pictures, driving slowly allows you to take a mental picture instead. The same thing applies when pulling into your Resort. Don’t rush things, just relax and soak it all in!

THE MAGIC KINGDOM

PhotoPass MK

This is a no-brainer! We always board the Walt Disney World Railroad for a trip around the Magic Kingdom. This helps us to get in the Disney mood and see everything all at once. We always do the complete circuit, boarding and disembarking at the Main Street Station. No matter what you choose to do from there, you’re covered in Pixie Dust and flying high!

EPCOT

PhotoPass Epcot

Well, it’s right there in front of you, so you can’t really miss it. And you shouldn’t! Spaceship Earth is one of Disney’s most magical icons and should be a part of any day at EPCOT. We ride it first for many reasons. It’s an awesome experience. It’s a long attraction, so gives the most bang for your waiting time. And the interactive elements, during and after the ride, are not to be missed. I think it gives a good all around preview of what you can expect from the rest of the attractions in EPCOT.

But don’t forget to visit World Showcase!

DISNEY’S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS

PhotoPass DHS

We don’t run to an attraction in this Park. But instead we take a leisurely walk through the streets and shops of vintage Hollywood. Almost always we run into some Streetmosphere characters and have a lot of fun. Some complain that DHS is short on thrill rides and attractions in comparison with the other Parks, but I think that was the point in its design. You are supposed to soak up the atmosphere, and that’s just what we do first!

DISNEY’S ANIMAL KINGDOM

 PhotoPass DAK

Again we head to the icon of the Park. We walk straight to the Tree Of Life and dally in the queue area. It’s not for nothing that this is one of the longest queue lines in the Parks. You walk past and under the roots of this magnificent piece of art and architecture, and if you’re like me, you take hundreds of photographs! Have you spotted each and every creature yet? Probably not, so we go there first and try to find another one. And the It’s Tough To Be A Bug show at the end is a magical bonus!

Now, what do we do next? That varies each and every trip! But what do YOU do first?

Every picture in this post is from the WDW PhotoPass CD