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: From one icon to the next, we made our way to Epcot’s crown jewel, the thing that people think of when they think of Epcot: the giant, ever-looming, silver golf ball. Even now, 1,000 miles away, I can feel its presence.
Caity: What I remember about Spaceship Earth, more than anything, is its distinct smell. Imagine a rental car, built out of air conditioners, sitting in a brand new museum. That’s what it smelled like.
Rich: I thought it smelled like the flora that cluster at its base. I think they were Rental Car Air Conditioner New Museum bushes.
Caity: People are often surprised to learn that Spaceship Earth contains a ride. Even Spaceship Earth seems surprised, since the ride is totally unrelated to it—just one thing inside another big thing. The most thrilling part of the attraction comes at the very beginning, when you step off a rotating platform and into one of about a half dozen ride cars that are perpetually moving around the track in a slow semicircle. It’s a little disorienting to step from one moving thing onto another moving thing. I highly recommend it.
Rich: You ascend slowly into darkness, but instead of a stomach-churning drop a la Space Mountain (the most brilliant ride ever devised), you get a mind-numbing lesson on the history of human communication that’s compressed into 10 minutes. For not the last time at Epcot, smell was a highlight. Here was the smell of the ancient Library of Alexandria burning. I don’t know how they produced the scent of wood burning without actually burning wood. More trademark Disney magic, I guess.
Caity: I could not believe how lifelike the features and movements of the animatronic figures were. I would say they are about 85% of the way to being indistinguishable from humans. Ten years from now, I predict it will be truly terrifying, and children will no longer be allowed to ride. Animatronic figures traveling on slow-moving ride cars, watching us.
Rich: Ten years from now we’ll all be part machine anyway (fingers crossed).
Caity: Ten years from now, I’ll be employed as a black scientist.
Rich: After moving so slowly through the history of communication that this ride could accurately be called a ball crawl, you take a short trip through space and then your little cart descends just as slowly as you ascended but backward. A male voice that’s slightly less soothing than that of the majestic Judi Dench (who narrates most of the ride), comes through the cart’s speaker: “In preparation for return to earth, your time machine is rotating backward. Please remain seated.” Good thing. I had no idea what was going on and almost leapt out of the moving vehicle, as I am prone to do whenever anything starts going backward. One of my quirks, I guess.
Caity: I loved that part, where we traveled through a black chamber filled with pinpricks of light. I immediately turned around in my seat—no seat belts provided on this ride, divas—to see how scary it would feel if we were facing frontward. The answer: A little scary! The curve is very steep (which is why the cars travel backward—so you don’t fall out) and the pull of gravity is very strong. I couldn’t linger in peril too long, though; an insane video had started playing on our car’s tiny TV screen, illustrated with photos of me and Rich taken earlier during the ride.
When the machine prompted us to pose shortly after boarding, I figured it was for an after-the-fact photo souvenir. But no. Disney made me the star….of Rich’s own future. Here’s a screencap:
Ride Report Card
Rich: I give this ride a B for providing my nose with a range of experiences and for suggesting that you and I will never break up.
Caity: I give it an A-. I loved everything about it except the fact that the second time we went on it (because we had time to kill and enjoyed the burning smell of Alexandria so much), the ride completely stopped for about ten minutes, right as we pulled into ancient Egypt. Even though the pharaoh looked cool as hell, I grew bored after a while listening to him yell in Egyptian. Even worse, because of the malfunction, the video at the end of the ride played without our pictures. I come to Epcot to see my picture on an outer space cartoon, not to not-learn about ancient Egypt.
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Images via Rich Juzwiak and Caity Weaver.