40 thoughts for Epcot’s 40th anniversary – Orlando Sentinel

I don’t have documentation for this, but I might end up at Epcot more than any other Central Florida theme park. One reason is it’s the one friends and relatives are most likely to invite me to tag along. “We’re going to Epcot. Want to meet us there?”

The park has turned 40, and in some ways, there are signs of its middle ages. Its spine is wrecked right now, propped up by construction walls. Some people wonder if it has a drinking problem. It’s going through nighttime spectaculars one right after the other.

But there have been good times, too, Disney fans. Here are my 40 random memories for Epcot’s 40th birthday.

1. My first trip to Epcot revolved around the double-decker bus and the daylong downpour that forced us to seek two rounds of shelter in Germany, where we locked arms with strangers. I bought My First Disney Poncho.

2. It took a while for the ride inside Spaceship Earth to grow on me, but now I look forward to at least four animatronic pals in there: the scientists in go-go boots, the Roman soldier, the dude endlessly banging out papyrus and the paperboy who can no longer face us.

3. I like the cheese soup from Canada, but eventually the price-to-serving ratio made me rethink my options.

4. I miss the terra-cotta warriors of the China pavilion.

5. I still haven’t heard all six songs that play during rides on Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind.

6. The sky-blueish color of the new Guardians building mesmerizes, and I think it could fade away before our eyes.

Eartha Kitt had style and some adlibbing during a Candlelight Processional reading at Epcot.

7. One time at Candlelight Processional, narrator Eartha Kitt went off script, in a believe-it-or-not sort of way. (She blew kisses our way upon exit.)

8. At another Candlelight, they filled all available space and asked if I wanted to sit on the front row. Sure. But from far stage right I could barely see Neil Patrick Harris’ head between the chimes.

9. At yet another Candlelight, a high-schooler with flopsy hair sang so exuberantly I couldn’t stop staring. I have it on video for when I’m blue.

10. Of all the Innoventions exhibits, the one I miss most is Sum of All Thrills, a roller-coaster simulator.

11. There was once a Velcro show there.

'IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth' wrapped up its Epcot run in 2019.

12. Not to whine, but I also miss the rib-rattling finale of “IllumiNations.”

13. Four words: Grand Marnier orange slushies.

14. One day in Rose & Crown pub, I saw former Hat Lady Pam Brody eating in the restaurant. And she was accompanied by current pianist Carol Stein. It felt like an alternate universe.

15. Another time, trapped in Rose & Crown during a rainstorm, I raised my arm to take a “look how packed we are” picture. Later I realized that in the middle of the pic was Chris Kirkpatrick of ‘N Sync.

Once upon a time, the Leave a Legacy monuments stood in the shadow of Epcot's iconic Spaceship Earth.

16. Leave a Legacy looked good on paper, but its legacy is showing people where the ‘N Sync guys’ pictures were located.

17. In the Wonders of Life building were meeting rooms plus a board room that was themed to a merry-go-round. It was … a lot. You might say head spinning.

18. At Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, I mindlessly and literally bumped into Carter Oosterhouse, then of “Trading Spaces” fame.

19. For years, my double-secret, reasonably priced eating alternative was Katsura Grill in Japan. So Zen.

Winnie the Pooh does socially distant meet-and-greet duty in a lawn near Epcot's Journey Into Imagination.

20. Favorite pandemic era meet and greet? Winnie the Pooh frolicking near Imagination. Zen again, but furry.

21. My favorite topiaries, thinking quickly, are big wave Goofy and the dancing Sleeping Beauty with Prince Phillip.

22. The Fountain of Nations was always in the way, but now that it’s gone …

23. I get the concept of the monorail looping over the area formerly known as Future World, but I get restless while onboard. Also, the monorail without a train is not very Instagrammable.

Workers install the final piece of a Sorcerer Mickey's gloved hand, wand and twinkling 2000 in 1999.

24. Something that still hasn’t aged well: The sorcerer’s wand that hovered next to SSE.

25. If I had an apartment at Epcot, I’d want it to be in the Mexico pavilion. Proximity to La Cava de Tequila is only one reason.

26. They still have school bread at Norway, right?

27. My official Epcot earworm is “Golden Dream,” but, wow, do I mess up the lyrics.

28. In an oafish move, I tripped in the Epcot parking lot. I fell in slow motion. Bystanders gasped. On the way down I theorized that I’d chip a tooth, break a wrist or have a concussion. But the results were a gloriously scraped knee and a Minnie sticker from first aid for being so brave.

29. I enjoy knowing where to stand for Epcot fireworks. It shifts with the wind.

30. Aboard Soarin’ a woman screamed long and loud as we lifted off. A friend tried explaining that it didn’t get scarier. “Oh, I know,” she said. “I’ve been on many times before.” What?

31. Remember how they turned Spaceship Earth into Mike from “Monsters, Inc.”? And then later into the Death Star from “Star Wars?” Look at all the tricks it does now.

32. I have a friend who prefers the fish and chips from Yorkshire County over any of the Food & Wine Festival fare.

33. There are still surprises out there. I still can’t believe I liked vegan nachos during one festival.

34. For the 25th anniversary of Epcot celebration, I did a live blog. Most memorable mishap: Thinking they said water from the Pope was used in ceremony. It was the river Po.

Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure was a challenge for Epcot visitors and an 'Amazing Race' wake-up call for me.

Theme Park Rangers

Theme Park Rangers


The latest happenings at Disney, Universal Orlando, SeaWorld and other Central Florida attractions.

35. Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure made me realize that I should not be on “The Amazing Race.”

36. Sure, when I see the faux Eiffel Tower, I think of France. But I also think of Kings Island.

37. If you’ve never seen the bathrooms inside World ShowPlace, you really must. Architects were expecting a crowd?

38. Perhaps the most peeved I’ve seen Disney fans is when Off Kilter, the rockin’ Canadian band, was taken off contract.

39. I’m hoping those plans for a Mary Poppins attraction are really on the back burner somewhere and not in a dumpster.

40. The answer is and will always be: Clockwise around World Showcase.

Email me at [email protected] Subscribe to the Theme Park Rangers newsletter at orlandosentinel.com/newsletters or the Theme Park Rangers podcast at orlandosentinel.com/travel/attractions/theme-park-rangers-podcast.