Hi all... just speeding to get this little report of my impressions of the festivities celebrated at EPCOT Center, yesterday Oct 1, 2007, as I am getting ready to go to Hong Kong and catch their FAB Halloween event later this weekend.
Yesterday was G-Fan's birthday as well, so I could not leave him alone on his day, so...I packed the poor soul into the car (against his will) at 7:45am, and arrived at EPCOT Center at 8:10am. yes, I am *that* close to WDW. As we entered the park, we got commemorative anniversary guidemaps and buttons. Plus, as an added treat, I noticed classic EPCOT attraction songs were playing over the speakers... nice touch! KUDOS!
First order of the day was to get G-Fan's Birthday Button on his manly chest. By 6pm, the button came off as he was sick and tired of the constant "Happy Birthday!!" greetings he got from countless CMs and other unknown guests as we traveled thru EPCOT. Yet, the idea of wearing the button was to get a free dessert at Tutti Italia, but that didn't happen... Hmmm...
Anyways... upon arriving at EPCOT, this was my first experience of the new Bin Ladden Security check points in front of the ticket windows and next to the Monorail station. While at that unGodly hour, it was quick and fast that we made it thru.. I find their positioning to be odd at the very least, and just like the MK's.. they make you have to walk unnecesary long walks around bushes and other silly barricades to get to them. Not a customer friendly procedure. The positive aspect of it, is being able to walk up to any given turnstyle without the line backing up due to the bag check.
We entered the park around 8:20am, and it appeared the entire CM brigade had arrived bright an early. I headed towards the Gateway shop below Spaceship Earth to get the limited edition Figment doll and tee shirt. There, I ran into Dave Smith from the Disney Archives. Nice fella.
While shopping, and in typical WDW fashion, the store was understaffed, with only three registers. The CMs were doing the best they could but when every guest has to have their CM discount applied and then..have the CM prepare their "deliverears" forms filled and bags properly tagged, the lines slow down to a tortoise pace. Not good. G-Fan, the ever wonderful mate he is.. decided on his own to hold place for me in the Pin station line where... again, hundreds of guests/CMs were in line to buy the limited edition "EPCOT 25th" pin sets. After waiting for about 20 mins in line to pay for my purchases, I then joined G-Fan in line for the pins... but alas! short staffing and confusion all over, the queue for the pins would only move 3 feet every 5 minutes... and we were still 300+ guests away from the Pin Station. Like magic, a dear friend of mine appeared and she quickly informed me the pins were also available at Mouse Gear and there were no lines.. I immediately ran there, and of course.. after doing a very short line, the elderly CM's working the register appeared totally confused and overwhelmed and sent me to yet another line.. where I was informed the pins were available at the location I had just come from.
This is the kind of total cluelessness and inefficiencies that put me off in regards to WDW, the Cast and their apparent lack of good training. Add to that another problem... new hires working register on EPCOT's most hectic morning ever. So while I got my purchases accomplished, it was a most trying experience. (Note: Later in the day I found out most 25th anniversary pins were also available at other pin carts around the park, which would have eliminated the need to waste time at the main pin station by the Fountains. I wish Disney had done a better job informing us collectors of this situation before hand, as it would have reduced the confusion and chaos many guests/CMs endured).
Moments before the rededication ceremony at 10:01am, I joined another high-profile poster from this board and along with my G-Fan, we watched the ceremony. It was a very simple affair, a bit too heavy on the "Year of Million Screams" and mercifully.. Meg-less. One of the two Male WDW 2007 Ambassadors (the cuter one) opened the ceremony, then past the microphone to some asian gal I had no clue who she was.. Later in the ceremony, CMs of Future World and World Showcase joined in... and Marty Sklar gave the affair a bit of credibility. Fireworks over the CommuniCore buildings and some streamers flying brought the ceremony to a close.
All in all, it was a nice, simple ceremony, but a bit too commercial for me. Yet, it was nice to see Disney doing something about this milestone, even if it felt like a "..Now shut up fans!" kind of a deal.
Speaking of CommuniCore (Innoventions for those of you in pampers), I noticed the new Innoventions signs and they are truly awful. Totally uninspired and simply blah. If I was a sponsor there, I would pull my product in shame and disgust.
The Highlight of the day for me would have been Marty Sklar's presentations. Many agree it was worth the time attending. Sadly, I had to compromise with G-Fan and left the park for a few hours, missing Mr. Sklar's presentations, so I won't discuss further.
However, for me, the best part of the day was attending the 25th gallery they have set up next to the Coke Club. It brought me back in time, and close to tears.. much to G-Fan's embarrasment. The gallery presents many artifacts, drawings, mockups, costumes etc from back when EPCOT opened and thru the years since. It was FABULOUS! ..and it will be there for 90 days only so try try try to catch this if you visit EPCOT before the end of the year, PLEASE!
We also had dinner at the new Tutti Italia. Wonderful food but overpriced. Not sure I will return there until I get a pay raise, or an important ocasion...like getting a pay raise of course. But if you are in the Dinning plan and do not care to spend over $70 bucks for a small meal for two, then be my guest and try this place.
Speaking of food... I also had the chance to enjoy some of the Wine and Food Festival offerings... Mind you, I do not care for this event much.. but this year, I was totally surprised by the new decorations and the fact they did not recycle the Flower fest topiaries. Some of the special areas (like Dominican Republic, Peru, Australia, Oklahoma (?) and Turkey were very nicely done and elaborate. The event banners featured many works of art reproductions and the the feel of the event was much more elegant than in years past. If Disney continues to do new decor and themes from now on, I could even learn to love and enjoy this event, which I usually do not care much for due to it's alcohol-related theming.
Just one complaint: Ratatouille. Why do they have to commercialize the event so much with so many images of Disney's new rat character? Personally, I do not care to mix a rat with food.. but even if for fun, it just felt like I was looking at way too many Ratatouille dvd ads (coming out Nov 6th). But I will let this infraction slide since most everything they did for the event has a new and fresh feel to it. Even the merchandise was stylish.
Finally, Illuminations. 10 mins before the show was to start, the skies opened and the rain came down hard. After 10 mins or so, it stopped. The show was delayed until 9:15pm. We were treated to the same nightly show, then a final 4 minute finale with high altitude pyro went off. Very exciting to watch... but not all that different (except for the music which was from EPCOT's past for the most part) to the efforts they do for new year's eve or the 4th of july. I wish they had done the same finale they used to do in the 80's when massive perimeter fireworks displays would envelope the entire World Showcase (like the MK's perimeter displays), in addition to the pyro over the water in the center of the lagoon. That would have been neat. STILL... it was a most fitting finale to the day. The icing on the cake was seeing new graphics on Spaceship Earth as we walked to the parking lot.
One bittersweet note: Spaceship Earth being closed for this important date, which I am sure was not premeditated due to Disney's quick rush in putting this day's festivities out to avoid the fallout from the fanbase comunity. Of course... I sure hope this becomes a lesson for the future: NEVER skip important dates again, much like they did with the MK' 30th and 35th anniversaries.
All in all, it was a great day at the park, running into fellow Disney fan friends, well known Disney Legends, and new offerings at the park. Below is a link to some of the photos I took during the day. Hope you enjoy them... They are a bit heavy on the 25th anniversary gallery and the Wine fest, but I hope you enjoy them.
HAPPY 25th ANNIVERSARY EPCOT Center!!! We LOVE You!!!