Tag Archives: Epcot

Disneyland Resort vs. Walt Disney World Resort Part 2: Top 8 Walt Disney World Resort Wins

17 Oct

This is Part 2 of my Disneyland Resort vs Walt Disney World Resort post.  If you missed Part 1: Top 8 Disneyland Resort Wins, you can read it here.  The same disclaimer applies.  In this post, I will discuss my Top 8 Walt Disney World Resort Wins.

Part 2: Top 8 Walt Disney World Resort Wins

1.  Isolation

As soon as you set foot on WDW property, you’re “there”.  The road signs, fire department, restaurants, gas stations, etc. all look like they belong to WDW.  The term “cast member” really does hold true in WDW in that you don’t have many chances to see backstage.  The way each park was constructed ensures that guests see attractions only from the angle they were intended to be seen.

Tower of Terror Road Sign Photo credit: flickr.com

Tower of Terror Road Sign
Photo credit: flickr.com

Reedy Creek Emergency Services Headquarters Photo credit: firehouse.com

Reedy Creek Emergency Services Headquarters
Photo credit: firehouse.com

Since most of backstage is hidden at WDW, cast members are rarely seen out of their element.  Conversely, on our most recent trip to DLR, when we were crossing Harbor Boulevard heading toward the esplanade, we saw several cast members in full costume walking to the parks to start their shift.  Seeing someone walking near McDonald’s on Harbor in a Soarin’ Over California flight attendant costume can sort of suspend the magic.

2.  Size

As Walt Disney said, they have “the blessing of size” in Florida that they never had in California. WDW is about twice the size of Manhattan.  I’m calling this a win for a few reasons.  First, it affords guests more opportunities for experiences outside of the four major theme parks.  With the resorts, golf courses, shopping, restaurants, water parks, stage shows, and outdoor activities, WDW has a lot of options for entertainment.

Aerial View of WDW Photo credit: flickr.com

Aerial View of WDW
Photo credit: flickr.com

Along with the extra land, WDW has a lot more Disney-owned resort options at varying price points.  You can stay at a value resort for a respectable rate without ever having to leave the magic.

Big Blue Pool at Disney's Art of Animation Resort Photo credit: reserveorlando.com

Big Blue Pool at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
Photo credit: reserveorlando.com

Also, the large resort gives guests more places to escape the crowds without leaving the property.  And finally, the Walt Disney Company has plenty of land for expansion, should they choose to do so.  Although the size of the resort can be daunting when it comes to park-hopping, for the reasons above, I still consider it a win.

3.  Fastpasses

I know I already discussed that I prefer the FP system at DLR, but there is one aspect of the FP system at WDW that I like: offering FP’s for attractions with consistently long wait times.  If Disney is set on continuing the use of FP’s in all their domestic parks, there are a few rules of thumb I wish they would use when deciding where to offer them.  I would like to see a breaking point where Disney would offer FP’s for attractions that consistently exceed around a 50-minute wait.  I chose 50 minutes because I personally feel that it’s not unreasonable to ask guests to spend a total of one hour to both wait and ride a headline attraction; anything longer than that is too long for me.  When the standby queue exceeds 50 minutes, and I don’t have the option of getting a FP, I will choose to skip that attraction.

Entrance to Toy Story Midway Mania at WDW Photo credit: photosfromtheparks.blogspot.com

Entrance to Toy Story Midway Mania at WDW
Photo credit: photosfromtheparks.blogspot.com

This happened a few times with both Toy Story Midway Mania and Haunted Mansion Holiday in DLR when the queue hovered around 65 minutes during most of the day.  I wish they had offered FP’s for those attractions during that time of year.  I like that I have the option of obtaining a FP at most WDW attractions with consistently long wait times.  All of that being said, when WDW removes their standard Fastpass system in favor of Fastpass+, I’m sure I will have plenty of new recommendations for improvement.

4.  Epcot

This really isn’t a fair comparison because DLR does not have an Epcot equivalent.  But nonetheless, Epcot is a win for WDW.  It’s essentially two-parks-in-one with a year round world’s fair on one side of the park and a progress-themed area on the other side.  It’s the most mature of all US Disney Parks, and no other park challenges its uniqueness.  Epcot alone is reason enough to visit WDW if you’re a DLR veteran who is hesitant to make the trek to Florida.

Epcot's Spaceship Earth

Epcot’s Spaceship Earth

5.  Table Service Restaurants

WDW wins this category for me.  I’ve had a lot of great table service meals at DLR, but WDW has more to offer in my opinion.  WDW has at least four times as many table service restaurants to choose from, and fortunately, they have yet to homogenize the menus too terribly much (notice I said “yet”).  And not only do you have a wider variety of table service menus to choose from at WDW, you also have some really exceptional theming at many of the table service restaurants.

Magic Kingdom's Be Our Guest Restaurant Photo credit: disneyparks.com

Magic Kingdom’s Be Our Guest Restaurant
Photo credit: disneyparks.com

6.  Unique Attractions

WDW has several attractions that are unique to the east coast (Note: I apologize if I have missed any.  Some attractions have a west coast relative that provides a similar experience):

Magic Kingdom – The Magic Carpets of Aladdin, Swiss Family Treehouse, Country Bear Jamboree, The Hall of Presidents, Mickey’s PhilharMagic, Enchanted Tales with Belle, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (opening in 2014), Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, Stitch’s Great Escape, Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover, Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress, Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It! Street Party, Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade, Main Street Electrical Parade, Celebrate the Magic, Wishes, Electrical Water Pageant (on the Seven Seas Lagoon), and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.

Carousel of Progress Photo credit: disneyparks.com

Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress
Photo credit: disneyparks.com

Epcot –  Spaceship Earth, Ellen’s Energy Adventure, Mission: SPACE, Test Track, Journey into Imagination with Figment, Living with the Land, Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable, The Seas with Nemo & Friends, IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth, World Showcase (all pavilions) including Mexico’s Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros, Norway’s Maelstrom, China’s Reflections of China, Germany, Italy, The American Adventure, Japan, Morocco, France’s Impressions de France, United Kingdom, Canada’s O Canada.

France Pavilion Photo credit: disneyparks.com

France Pavilion
Photo credit: disneyparks.com

Disney’s Hollywood Studios – The Great Movie Ride, Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, The American Idol Experience, Streets of America, Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: Movie Set Adventure, Studio Backlot Tour, Voyage of the Little Mermaid, Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream, The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, and Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.

Casablanca Scene from the Great Movie Ride Photo credit: yorktonshortfilm.org

Casablanca Scene from the Great Movie Ride
Photo credit: yorktonshortfilm.org

Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Festival of the Lion King, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, Wild Africa Trek, Rafiki’s Planet Watch, Expedition Everest, Kali River Rapids, Maharajah Jungle Trek, Flights of Wonder, DINOSAUR, Finding Nemo-The Musical, Primeval Whirl, The Boneyard, TriceraTop Spin, and Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade.

Expedition Everest

Expedition Everest

7.  Attraction Comparisons

Besides the attractions that are unique to the east coast, WDW has several attractions that I believe are the better version of its sister attraction at DLR.

Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid – The exterior and queue of this attraction is much grander than The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure at DCA.  I still don’t understand why Disney chose to alter the attraction name slightly when it was installed at WDW.  No wonder guests just call it “the mermaid ride”.

Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid Photo credit: disneyeveryday.com

Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid
Photo credit: disneyeveryday.com

Splash Mountain – The attraction is slightly longer at WDW and I like the two-by-two seating configuration.

Tower of Terror – I don’t enjoy either version for motion-sickness reasons, but the exterior theming and Fifth Dimension scene in the Disney’s Hollywood Studios version give it an edge over the DCA version.

Monorail – This is not just a ride at WDW; it’s a mode of transportation.  For guests staying at the monorail resorts, it’s usually the most efficient way to travel to Magic Kingdom or Epcot.

Monorail in Epcot Photo credit: thedisneyblog.com

Monorail in Epcot
Photo credit: thedisneyblog.com

Cinderella Castle – While I do love Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Park (especially the walk-through with dioramas), Cinderella castle is much more spectacular in person.  It’s more than twice as tall as Sleeping Beauty Castle and is the focal point of Magic Kingdom Park.

Cinderella Castle Photo credit: wdwfanzone.com

Cinderella Castle
Photo credit: wdwfanzone.com

Jungle Cruise – I thought the piranhas were a nice addition to the Disneyland version, but I think the temple portion of the Magic Kingdom version gives it a leg up.

Haunted Mansion – The recent updates to this attraction with the interactive queue, the never ending staircase room, and techy hitchhiking ghosts are what make this version better than Disneyland Park’s version, in my opinion.

It’s Tough to Be a Bug – The exterior queue and location of this attraction (it’s housed inside the Tree of Life in Disney’s Animal Kingdom) are more visually interesting than DCA’s version.

Tree of Life Photo credit: examiner.com

Tree of Life
Photo credit: examiner.com

8.  Conditioned Spaces

Because of the thunderstorms and humidity during Florida’s spring and summer months, WDW has a lot more indoor seating options and air conditioned queues.  And while the outdoor seating and open queues at DLR are comfortable most of the year, it can still get very hot in Southern California.  When it does, it’s not as easy to find conditioned spaces in DLR.  There are ample conditioned spaces to retreat to in WDW.

What have I missed?  Does Walt Disney World Resort win in other areas?  Do you agree with the Top 8 Walt Disney World Wins?  Please share in the comments section!

I am not affiliated with the Walt Disney Company.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.


Amusement Park vs. Theme Park

18 Nov

Whenever I tell someone that I’m going on a trip to one of the Disney parks, I often hear the phrase “I don’t really like amusement parks.”  That’s when I say, “The only amusement parks I like are theme parks.”

What’s the difference, you ask?

Well, the term “amusement park” is all-encompassing.  Old Mr. Webster defines it as “a commercially operated park having various devices for entertainment (as a merry-go-round and roller coaster) and usually booths for the sale of food and drink”.  A theme park is a specific type of amusement park defined as “an amusement park in which the structures and settings are based on a central theme”.  For example: a square is also a rectangle, but a rectangle is not always a square (for geometry nerds) or a Q-Tip is a brand of cotton swab, but not all cotton swabs are Q-Tips (for Q-Tip nerds).

Photo: Magic Kingdom Park – Splash Mountain (one of the most well-themed attractions in WDW)

To simplify, a theme park is a themed amusement park.  The park can follow a single theme or have multiple themed areas.  The attractions, buildings, and landscaping are all developed using a specific design concept.  Every item in the park is placed there deliberately to convey the central idea.  This fundamental difference between a theme park and an amusement park is what sets Disney parks apart from others.  Disney fans who “get it” will often use the phrase “it’s all about the details” when trying to describe why they love Disney parks.

Photo: Disneyland Park – Mad Tea Party and Storybook Land (my favorite themed area in DLR)

Very few theme parks throughout the world dedicate as much time and attention to theming and details as Disney does.  If you ever visit WDW or DLR and spend any amount of time simply exploring its “look and feel”, you will undoubtedly gain an appreciation for the consideration that was given in the creation of the parks.  Everything has a story.  Someone spent time designing the building facades, the landscaping, the area music and lighting, and even the trash cans.

Photo: Epcot – Spaceship Earth

So if someone makes the argument that the main reason they do not wish visit any of the Disney parks is because he or she doesn’t like amusement parks, you can now explain that they are not just amusement parks; they’re theme parks.  And that’s one of the reasons why you and so many other people love them.

If you have any favorite themed areas/attractions of one of the Disney parks, please share by commenting below.  I love hearing about the neat little “extras” that people are drawn to in the parks!

The Design and Construction of Epcot’s Spaceship Earth

13 Sep

“Hey, that’s that golf ball thing!” is a phrase I hear a lot when people see my desktop background of Spaceship Earth.  Instead of giving more information about what that person is looking at, I usually just smile and say, “Yep, that’s that golf ball thing.”  But Disney Nerds will agree that it’s much more than that.  It took countless hours to design Spaceship Earth (SE) and a full 26 months to build it.  This article is dedicated to the design and construction of both the structure itself and the attraction housed within.

Photo credit: livinginagrownupworld.wordpress.com

After the success of Magic Kingdom Park in Walt Disney World, Disney Imagineers decided to use portions of Walt Disney’s idea for the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT) to develop a new theme park that would be called EPCOT Center.  Today it’s simply known as Epcot.  Just like Magic Kingdom’s Cinderella Castle, WED Enterprises wanted Epcot to have a central icon to embody the theme of the park and to draw guests in.  They wanted a “logo” or focal point of the park, and they wanted it to be in place for Epcot’s grand opening on October 1, 1982.

The designers at WED expressed interest in the design of the Expo ’67 dome in Montreal.

Photo credit: britannica.com

They liked the geodesic design and decided they wanted Spaceship Earth to have a comparable look.  WED’s project designer for SE was a man named Gordon Hoopes.  He said that his intention was to “create an atmosphere for our guests that raises their spirit and kindles an excitement for the human experience in the future.”  WED played with the idea of a dome but soon decided they wanted a full sphere.  They settled on the size of a 160-ft. diameter geodesic sphere elevated above the ground.  The title of the icon was not developed by WED alone.  The term was popularized by Buckminster Fuller in his 1968 book Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth.

Epcot’s Spaceship Earth is not simply an architectural icon; it also houses an attraction of the same name.  WED enlisted the help of several third-party entities to collaborate on the concept and development of the attraction.  Along with Buckminster Fuller, Disney Imagineers worked with science fiction writer, Ray Bradbury on its structure and storyline.  They also consulted with Los Angeles’ Huntington Library, the University of Southern California, the University of Chicago, and the Smithsonian Institute.

Because a geodesic sphere (as opposed to a dome) was a novel concept and there was little engineering data on this type of structure, WED also hired MIT to conduct wind tunnel studies on a 1/16” = 1’ scale model.  They did this to determine pressure coefficients for the design and to test wind pressure underneath the sphere – where the guests would be walking.  They didn’t want the wind to knock guests down as they passed under the structure.

Photo credit: intercot.com

Essentially, SE is two separate structures: the external shell which is the sphere itself and the internal ride system and show scenes.  From now on in this article, I’ll refer to them as either the Shell or the Show.  Besides being a full sphere, SE was unique in another way.  WED wanted to put an attraction with moving vehicles inside the sphere, and they wanted SE to be elevated above the ground on six legs.

Their first concern was how they would carry the load of the Shell.  If they allowed the six legs to bear the full load alone, it would put too much stress on those individual sections of the sphere.  This could cause the Shell to buckle in the areas of concentrated force; they needed to distribute the weight more evenly.  They decided they would keep the Shell structure completely independent of the legs.

First, they drove the six legs supported on pile groups between 100’ and 160’ into the ground.   They connected the top of each leg with trusses to form a hexagonal truss and reinforced it with additional interior trusses which formed a platform.  At this point, SE looked sort of like a six-legged table.

Photo credit: land.allears.net

The hexagonal trusses, or the perimeter of this “table”, are what carry the load of the Shell structure.

This table including the interior trusses also bears the load for the Show structure.  Because this platform was so crucial, they needed to apply some dead load to the hexagonal trusses before erecting the Shell.  They were able to build the majority of the Show structure before beginning construction of the Shell.  They erected the interior columns and most of the ride helix onto the platform.  This ended up working well for WED because the construction of the Show and the Shell could occur together.

Photo credit: mickey-mouse.com

I should also mention that there is an elevator shaft that runs vertically through SE that is not associated with the hexagonal trusses. The base of the truss that forms the shaft is covered by mirrored panels that you can see as you pass underneath SE.

Photo credit: en.wikipedia.org

Once most of the Show structure was completed, they had to begin transitioning from the hexagonal trusses to the Shell. They used what they called “quadrupods” which are shaped like pyramids formed from pipe.  The bases of the quadrupods were connected to the outer perimeter of the hexagonal trusses and the tops of the quadrupods were connected through support hubs on the Shell to make an interlocking ring of sphere struts.

Then they were ready to build the Shell.  The Shell is basically two geodesic domes – one on top of the other.  The top ¾ of the sphere rests on the table and the bottom ¼ is suspended below the table.  The geodesic dome maintains its shape simply by the nature of its design.  It does not require reinforcement.  The larger the dome, the stronger it is.  When SE was built, the construction of the Shell first traveled upward from the support hub level in rings of struts until the entire top portion was complete.  Then the remaining portion of the sphere was completed below the support hub level.

Photo credit: magicalmountain.net

Construction then continued to complete the exterior of the Shell.  The Shell structure is actually a sphere-within-a-sphere – the larger (exterior) sphere has a radius about two feet greater than the smaller (interior) sphere.  The “double-skin” came about as a solution to a few problems WED had explored during the design.  They needed a waterproof and fire-resistive exterior to protect the occupants, sets, and attraction vehicles.  And most importantly, it had to look good.  There was no one material that could accomplish it all, so the sphere-within-a-sphere concept was born.

Steel closure panels with a waterproofing neoprene sheet were attached to form the inner skin.  The outer skin would be purely for show.  They needed an aesthetically pleasing material that could withstand the elements of central Florida.  They chose a material called Alucobond which is polyethylene plastic sandwiched between two sheets of aluminum.  They used aluminum pipe standoffs to create the gap between the inner and outer skins and attached the Alucobond facets to them.  The inner shell’s basic structure is an array of large triangles.  For the outer shell, John Hench (WED VP for Creative Development) decided to subdivide each of the large triangles into four smaller triangles on which they placed triangular pyramids.  What we as guests see are the small triangular pyramids.

Photo credit: simplydifferently.org

The sphere-within-a-sphere design also addressed another issue: runoff of rainwater underneath SE.  By leaving one inch gaps between the Alucobond facets, rainwater trickles down to the waterproof inner skin where it accumulates at a hidden gutter system near the “equator” of the sphere and is then carried out to the World Showcase Lagoon.

Photo credit: flickrhivemind.net

Photo credit: mainstgazette.com

Spaceship Earth, the attraction, takes guests on a journey through time highlighting the ways in which humans communicate.  The ride structure is arranged in two helixes that serve as the track for the ride vehicles.  The vehicles spiral up to the top of the sphere and back down to the unload area.

Photo credit: amusementauthority.blogspot.com

Along this slow-moving journey up into the sphere, guests encounter various props, projections, and Audio-Animatronics.  If you want to know more about how Audio-Animatronics work, you can check out my post about AA’s.

The ride vehicle utilized on Spaceship Earth is Disney’s Omnimover system.  Imagineer Bob Gurr combined two terms already in use, OmniRange and PeopleMover, to create the term Omnimover.  The true root of the term Omnimover comes from the Latin term “omni” meaning “all” or “every” and “mover” meaning… well, “mover”.  The technology itself was developed and patented at WED Enterprises by Roger Broggie and Bert Brundage in 1968.

Each vehicle is capable of rotating or tilting to a preprogrammed position.  This system is advantageous for Disney in that they are able to control what scenes guests will view in order to tell a story while obstructing portions of the attraction that are meant to remain hidden.  SE’s ride system also includes speakers on each individual ride vehicle.  Disney can cue a portion of the soundtrack/narration at predetermined locations along the track.  This gives each guest the same ride experience.  Then, the 2007 renovation of SE added interactive displays to each vehicle.

Photo credit: amusementauthority.blogspot.com

Every time I see Spaceship Earth in photos or when I visit Epcot, I have a huge appreciation for the complexity of the structure itself, the attraction, and the story behind its design.  So next time you hear someone say “Hey, that’s that golf ball thing!”, you can direct them to this article to help them understand why we Disney Nerds think it’s much cooler than a golf ball.

If you have anything you wish to add, please feel free to comment below.  I am not affiliated with the Walt Disney Company.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Resources used: