Epcot’s Undiscovered Future World Tour: Recap and Review

” The Undiscovered Future World” is a guided tour offered daily at Epcot.

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Here is Disney’s description of the tour:

The Future Is Now

Take a trip back in time to see how Walt’s vision of a futuristic utopia became the Epcot we know today.

Walt dreamed of building the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT)—a living, breathing home to 20,000 permanent residents and a model for city planning.

Stroll through the pavilions of Future World while hearing the amazing story of the groundbreaking construction project that brought Epcot to life. Learn how each pavilion and the attractions within it are a testament to Walt’s accomplishments and challenges. And see how his legacy lives on in the design, technology and spirit of the park.

Also, go backstage for an exclusive look at areas usually off limits.

In this post, we will take a look at all this tour has to offer and offer our thoughts on if we think you get your money’s worth or not.

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NOTE: This post WILL contain spoilers of the tour! I am going to go into detail all we experienced during this tour, as well as some fun facts we learned. I will let you know below once we get into spoiler territory!

The tour departs at 8:30 am each morning, with check in scheduled for 8:15 am. This allows you to enter a mostly empty park as the only other guests let in will be those with dining reservations or those taking the morning World Showcase tour.

On this morning, I arrived at the Epcot parking lot around 7:45 am. The tram is running by then but there wasn’t much need for it as we were able to park relatively close to the park entrance.

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As we get to the smaller security check on the left side of the monorail station, there are only a few folks in front of us. This will be mobbed in about an hour or so.

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Everyone with either a dining or tour reservation was lined up at the far left turnstiles. There is maybe 60 or so people in front of me.

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At 7:55 they began letting us in. The line moved very quickly and I was inside by 7:58. People with 8:05 reservations seemed stressed but that early don’t worry if you are a couple minutes late. You will still be seated as soon as you arrive at the restaurant.

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This was the morning of the final day of the Festival of the Arts. You can read my review of that here!

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Its pretty rare to get an empty area in front of Spaceship Earth so take the time to enjoy it if you can.

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The tour check in is located near the Fountain of Nations behind Pin Central. I checked in around 8:10 and was told I could explore for a bit or use the bathroom if I needed to. I was told to meet over by the Electric Umbrella outdoor seating right around 8:25.

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I took my time to walk around a bit and snap some photos.

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Things are quiet over on the west side looking towards The Seas.

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Those with breakfast reservations have all pretty much made there way into The Land by now as well.

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Over on the East side you can only get as far as the overhang between Mouse Gear and Electric Umbrella. Since there are no restaurants (yet) on this side there is no reason for Disney to open it up early. The cleaning crew was actually still hard at work off in the distance.

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Upon check-in you will receive a name tag like the one above, as well as an earpiece so that you will be able to hear your guide clearly throughout the tour.

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At 8:30 the tour officially began with our guide April. I can’t say enough about how great of a tour guide she was. We could not throw a question at her that she did not know the answer to.

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NOTE: From here on out, there will be spoilers of everything our tour included!

We started out by heading over to guest relations. Here we took a look at the photos along the back wall while learning a bit of information about what each photo represented. It was all fascinating information, even though I already knew a good deal of it.

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We then headed over towards Spaceship Earth, pausing to look at some really neat construction photos provided by April. We were told several facts about the massive structure, as well as the ride itself. The support base for the sphere goes approximately 180 feet deep into the ground which is just crazy!

We also got to take a close look at one of the alucobond panels which make up the individual triangles on the exterior of the sphere.

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In the distance here, you can see the rope drop crowd getting ready to be let loose after an early morning performance from the Jammitors (because who wouldn’t want to listen to 3 guys banging as hard as they can on trashcans at 8:40 in the morning).

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And here they come!

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Apparently there is in elevator in the shiny support thing directly over the center of the fountain in the picture above. This makes sense but I never knew this before. This is how all of the ride elements were transferred locations within the ride. The car outside the garage near the end of the ride is completely real. Workers dismantled the car and rebuilt it in place to get it there.

We then entered through a backstage area and boarded immediately to take a ride on Spaceship Earth. Not everyone realizes it but Spaceship Earth is the communication pavilion of Future World. The ride definitely represents that.

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A full ride through can be viewed here!

After the ride, we headed up to the old Siemens Lounge, which currently is without a sponsor. This space can be rented out for private parties but it will cost quite the pretty penny. The lounge provided some neat views of the area behind Spaceship Earth.

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Epcot’s history is full of interesting facts. In Walt’s original vision for WDW, he imagined the Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow to be the star of the show. The Magic Kingdom was really meant to be the entertainment district to supplement the city. However, Walt’s passing meant that this city would never become a reality.

The theme park version of Epcot was not Walt’s vision. He wanted a full functioning city, committed to blazing the trail to make the earth a better place for all of humanity. When Walt died, the company was at a bit of a loss over what to do with Epcot. Since the company did know how to do theme parks, this is what Epcot would eventually become.

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While it wasn’t a full functioning city, the park was heavily influenced by Walt’s vision. The east side of the park (which now contains Test Track and Mission Space) is full of rigid sight lines and architecture. This side was meant to represent the industrial part of the city. This is were businesses would reside.

The west side (Soaring, Seas, The Seas) was meant to be the science and learning part of the city. This is where schools, churches, etc.. would be. You will notice there is a lot of natural water on this side, something you will not find at all on the industrial side. Even the pavement is colored to fit the themes of each area. Its all very cool when you think about it.

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We headed over to the seas where we learned some more fun facts about the pavilion. April discussed the opening of the original Seas pavilion, complete with cast members dancing on the rooftop.

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Oh how I wish I was old enough to enjoy Epcot in the 80’s.

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April also told us how the shape of the pavilion is meant to look like a wave crashing on the shore.

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We headed through a cast only entrance up to the lounge on the second floor of the building.

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The lounge provided some cool views into the massive aquarium. The tunnel at the bottom of the photo below houses the Nemo ride.

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Several divers were in the tank doing various jobs. The coral in the aquarium is artificial as it was impossible to have an ecosystem to support both living coral, as well as all the different types of sea life they wanted in the tank. Each day workers scrub food onto the fake coral so the fish can follow their natural instincts and feed off the coral.

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As we were leaving the lounge, this diver decided to have some fun with us.

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We made our way over to the Land pavilion, which we learned was designed to look like a volcano. We also learned an interesting fact about the seating for Sunshine Seasons inside the pavilion. The seating itself is broken into 4 sections, distiguished by the color of carpet in each area. The pavilion has a big skylight and the sections are broken out by which areas receive the most sunlight. Summer gets the most while winter gets little to none.

From here we spent an extended amount of time in backstage area. Unfortunately, no photos are allowed backstage but I will go through a quick rundown of what we did:

  • We exited the Land pavilion through the doors to the far left of the ride entrance for Soarin. We then spent a little bit of time discussing various backstage tricks Disney uses in its park.
  • Disney actually created 2 new colors to help buildings blend in to natural backgrounds. For any building low to the tree line there is “Go Away Green”. For above the tree line they use “Bye Bye Blue”. These colors are pretty efficient at allowing show building to go relatively unnoticed… however the new Guardians of the Galaxy building is too big even for these colors to help all that much.
  • We walked through the backstage area over to the Imagination pavilion. We entered a door on the backside where all of the 3D glasses for Epcot, Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios are cleaned. Animal Kingdom got its own cleaning station when Flight of Passage debuted.
  • Also in the Imagination building, we saw a couple of Journey into Imagination ride vehicles being given a fresh coat of paint.

We cut through the holding area for the Pixar Film Fest and emerged back into the on stage area as seen below.

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Here we learned how Figment came to be. I already knew the story for the most part but it was still nice to have an expert to confirm or deny stories I have heard over time. I was a bit surprised April made it no secret that she is not a huge fan of the current ride and that she (like everyone else) would love to restore the ride to its former glory. I mean shes absolutely right, but I was surprised to hear a working cast member admit it.

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Always take a photo of a monorail if you see one pass by.

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We now headed over to the east side to Mission Space.

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The panels on the exterior of Mars (see in the photo above) are completely removable. This was done on purpose so that when man eventually lands on Mars, it can be changed to our next goal.

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Each one of these little markers represents a location we have landed on the moon.

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We headed up to the lounge above the ride, this being the first that was actually an active working lounge. The lounge is sponsored by HP and employees of the company can enter the lounge whenever they want. We were able to take any free candy, chips or non alcoholic beverages we wanted as we sat and discussed the pavilion.

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It was very dark but here is a lousy photo of our view over the queue for the ride. We talked about Walt’s fascination with space travel. Eisenhower was actually very inspired by the “Man in Space” created by Walt. This no doubt had at least some impact on how Eisenhower viewed our roll in the space race.

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Finally we headed over towards Test Track. Pretty much the entire rest of the tour was backstage so there aren’t many more photos past this point. We did get to ride the attraction with zero wait which was nice.

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Its a ridiculously hard ride to photograph! 😦

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As you make the final turn you get a good view of construction for the upcoming space restaurant.

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We exited the ride back into the backstage area. There were several workers doing maintenance on various test track ride vehicles. We also learned some really cool things about the ride.

The ride tops out at 65 mph due to that being the most common speed limit on highways across the US. Disney originally wanted to push the boundaries and have the ride top out closer to 100 mph, however sponsor GM did not want it to look like they were endorsing driving over the speed limit in their cars.

The ride basically runs like a children’s slot car toy. Because of this the tires have no treads on them. This means the tires need to be replaced very often as the rubber wears very quickly. We also got to see how the entire outdoor track is build on shocks. The entire track gives a bit and rocks slightly as the cars make their high banked turns. This helps make for a more pleasant experience for the rider.

The last bit of the tour involved touring the cast services building located behind the Mexico pavilion of World Showcase. On the way over we got to see the cast bus system in action. The cast members use this shuttle to get around the perimeter of the park in a timely manor. Disney never wants you to see a cast member in a France costume, walking through the other countries to get there.

We saw a lot of neat things at the cast building. This included:

  • Costuming: Rows and rows of cast costumes for all the different jobs and pavilions. Each costume is rented out by cast member using the same technology as Magic Bands. The cast member can then bring their rented out costumes home if they like and Disney will still know where each costume is. We also saw several employees sewing together / altering various outfits for the cast members.
  • We walked past the laundry area. According to April, it would take approximately 35 years to do the amount of laundry the Disney parks do in a day if you were to use a single load home washing machine.
  • Animatronic Costuming: This was a really cool area. The walls were lined with misc buttons, props and things like that; all things that may need to be replaced on ride animatronics from time to time.
  • There were several cool old props in the building. Statues from Kitchen Kabaret and Food rocks were 2 of the cooler things I noticed. They also had a few props from the Wizard of Oz scene of the Great Movie Ride.
  • We also saw a couple “friends” of the Disney princesses getting ready.

After the cast services building, we headed back towards the on stage area to finish our tour. We re-entered just to the side of the Odyssey building.

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April gave us her little wrap up speech an asked if we had any final questions. The tour was advertised as 4 hours but hours was over 4-1/2 and April never made us feel rushed.

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We were given our commemorative pins which I didn’t think to take a picture of. The pin is unique to the tour and makes up park of a bigger design. You can get the other half of the design if you take the World Showcase tour.

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Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this tour. I consider myself to have a pretty solid knowledge of the Disney parks and I still learned quite a bit of fascinating information. It was really neat to see the various lounges inside the pavilions as well as some of the backstage areas.

I know some people don’t want to pull back the curtain on the parks and I get that. I feel the same way most of the time but this was just the right amount for me. I got to see some interesting things on  how the park works but it didn’t really do anything to ruin the magic.

It was also nice that we had a great tour guide. April was incredibly knowledgeable and never made us feel rushed in any way. She took the time to answer everyone’s questions and even gave some opinions of her own.

The tour cost $69 a person (it does offer AP / DVC discounts) and in my opinion is well worth it. You are only looking at around $15 an hour to have a really fun an unique experience inside the park. Each tour is also varied so just because you read this doesn’t mean this is exactly what you will do if you take the tour. Plus there are so many more interesting facts that I didn’t even scratch the surface of.

Highly recommended!

 

 

 

 

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