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.
Caity: You have to line up obscenely early for the IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth nightly fireworks show, not because you actually have to, but because Epcot expends so much effort making you believe you have to, that it creates a ripple panic effect through the park, and you end up actually having to. The show doesn’t even start until 9:00 p.m., but all the seats in the choicest viewing areas around the lagoon have been claimed by 8:05. Announcements about the upcoming show play on a constant loop starting 30 minutes prior.
As you approach the magic fireworks hour, people begin walking in the quick, purposeful strides that fall somewhere between lockstep and running. Motorized scooters illuminate the ground in front of them with their cyclops eyes. Storms of bubbles float by on the breeze, fired out of light-up bubble guns that can be purchased from traveling carts. The automatic announcements stress over and over again that lights around the park will dim shortly before the show begins.
Rich: The amber glow of Epcot after dark is maybe even more dazzling than the pyrotechnics. It is as lovely as it is hazardous. Imagine glaucoma, the end.
All the anticipation made me have to pee, so I had you save our seats on the north side of the World Showcase Lagoon while I went to a nearby bathroom. It was a one-urinal/one-stall deal, and fascinatingly enough, someone had thrown up all over the floor of the stall, which meant it was out of commission because vomit does not fit in Disney’s idealized world under any circumstances. (A worker came in, looked at the pile of puke and then locked the door from the inside out.) This meant I had to wait in line for 10 minutes to pee, inhaling the urine smell of other dicks on top of the barf scent the entire time. I also had to listen to the child ahead of me who was no older than 5 scream, “Mamá! MaMÁ!” every time the door opened and he saw his waiting mother outside. From both of these experiences, I got to understand a little better what women (with their perennially long bathroom lines) go through.
Caity: And then, finally, one thousand years after you first staked out your spot—when your great, great, great, great grandchildren’s bones have turned to dust; when the last Dalmatian ever dies in captivity—the show begins. “We hope you enjoy our story tonight,” booms an unseen narrator, from hidden speakers on every corner of the Epcot globe. “Reflections...of Earth!” With a short hoosh! blow, he extinguishes all the lights around the lagoon. Even the Epcot ball! That part was cool.
Rich: A boat we had taken from one end of the World Showcase Lagoon to the other earlier that day informed us that during this show “2,800 rockets set off in 12 minutes.” They must shoot off like 1,400 immediately and then the other 1,400 after 12 minutes. A lot of downtime between those ‘works.
Caity: Agreed. Given the scale and Disney’s penchant for spectacle, I was expecting this to be the most incredible fireworks show of my life. It didn’t even come close to the 4th of July I saw a mountain catch on fire. The clear, star-filled night sky was much more dazzling than the spinning globe of video screens that appeared in the middle of the lagoon; much more magical than the lasers.
Rich: There was also a fireball repeatedly deployed at water level, and that was just...confusing. I want fireworks that work; I wasn’t there to be burped at.
Caity: I want fireworks that fire-werk.
Rich: Captain EO was more thrilling. IllumiNations: Reflections Sensations Temptations Feelings of Earth didn’t even provide a 4D experience by way of underseat stimulation. Tickle my ass or GTFO.
Caity: Not sure if this is part of your joke, but I once made this mistake in real life, so just to warn you: The fourth dimension is not a thing. Or it’s, like, a concept in very high level physics.
Caity: RIDICULOUS. I thought Epcot is about EDUCATION. Epcot should be like a MATH CLASS, not like GETTIN’ HIGH BEHIND THE GYM.
Ride Report Card
Rich: Getting high maybe would have made IllumiNations: Passions Generations All My Children of Earth actually worthwhile. As it stands, this one’s a C.
Caity: This is a great fireworks show for people who aren’t that impressed by fireworks, but who love screens and small fountains. A dog might like it. I ain’t no dog and I waited too long for it to begin. IllumiNations: Reflections of F!
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Images via Rich Juzwiak and Caity Weaver.