Caity Weaver and Rich Juzwiak, Gawker’s chief restaurant critics, recently ate, drank, and gasped their way through every international pavilion and theme park attraction at Walt Disney World’s Epcot. This is their review.
Rich: The thing about Epcot is that it wants to be smart, but it has to be dumb in order to appeal to as wide a group as possible. This park has been “Think of the children!”-proofed. Almost every ride comes with an annoying educational pretense. The park takes infuriatingly brief approaches to giant topics like energy, the senses, the history of communication, and, in the case of this ride, agriculture. About six million years of growing shit was compressed into about five minutes of Living With the Land, which is described on a sign outside of it as “a boat ride to a better understanding of the land.” A boat ride to bed is more like it.
Caity: Epcot is the worst kind of educational fun: The kind that is neither fun nor educational. In theory, it exists to show that science doesn’t have to be boring! In fact Epcot’s perfunctory, failed attempts to inject fun into science are exactly the kind of thing that make people think science is boring. Give me a terrifying lightning storm riverboat adventure or an in-depth, scientific explanation of how the prairies were formed—not a tepid boat ride through a supermarket and a picture of Nebraska.
That being said, Living With the Land does possess the single most important quality of any amusement park ride: It affords you an opportunity to spend a few minutes sitting down. That’s really all Disney World is—people lining up for hours, for a chance to sit down.
Rich: And it works! You might as well go on the ride that’s a few feet away—it’s not like there’s that much more fun to be had. All of it rests at the level of Just Short of a Waste of Time.
Caity: The name of this ride doesn’t even attempt to make it sound interesting. It might as well be called “The Land Is a Place.”
The first time you said “Living With the Land” out loud to me, I reflexively made a Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper reference, and then kept accidentally referring to it as “Livin’ With the Land” for the remainder of our 96 hours at Epcot.
Here is one thing you might find while livin’ with the land: a chicken and a mailbox. (I snapped with picture from my seat with no flash, per the rules of Living With the Land.)
Rich: After the animatronic-based intro confirming that yes, people have lived with the land, the boat slowly careens through a real, live greenhouse and a piped-in narrator brags about Disney’s adventures in sustainability and growing insane things like a Monkey Puzzle Tree in sand. I liked that part because I got to put on sunglasses, which reminded me of putting on 3D glasses, which reminded me of going to the movies, and every movie I’ve ever seen is better than Living With the Land.
Caity: When our boat turned, at 1 mph, into the outdoor sand portion of the tour, I turned to you and bragged “I’m gonna try to touch that sand,” even though an automated voice at the beginning of the ride had warned us to keep our hands and arms inside the boat at all times. What can I say? I’m a bad girl and it feels good to be bad and I love it.
The INSTANT I extended my fingers toward the sandy prize, a female voice (out of nowhere, that I could see—I’m fairly certain it was a person watching on hidden surveillance cameras) hollered at me to keep my hands and arms inside the boat at all times. I was so worried I was going to get kicked out of the park that I made a point to gesticulate wildly for the rest of the ride so that, if confronted, I could argue “Hey, that’s just the way I talk—with my hands! Check the surveillance video.”
What can I say (with my hands)? It’s not easy bein’ a bad girl but someone has to do it and I guess it’s me because I’m a bad girl and I love it.
Rich: In addition to the fear of being under constant surveillance, I was deeply disturbed by the tanks of farmed fish that we ambled past, and even more so by the fucking tank of alligators. WHY ON EARTH IS EPCOT FARMING ALLIGATOR?
Caity: The strangest part of the ride, to me, was the very end, when our boat sailed by a screen flashing pictures of people wearing the same colors as foods. (Except for the black woman who was the same color as her food, which appeared to be coffee beans.)
No particular context was given to this room.
Ride Report Card
Rich: We are the land, Caity. I give this ride a D+.
Caity: I give it a solid C (for Epcot). You really do get to spend so much time sitting down. Anywhere else, it would be an F. Anywhere else, any Epcot ride would be an F.
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Images via Rich Juzwiak and Caity Weaver.