The next area of Epcot we will be touring is World Nature, which is divided into two sections: The Land and The Seas.
The Land is an Earth-themed pavilion that explores the subjects of agriculture and conservation and how humans can do a better job preserving and celebrating our planet. It first opened with three attractions: Listen to the Land, the Kitchen Kabaret and Symbiosis.
Very little has changed about Listen to the Land since Epcot first opened, although the name of the attraction changed to “Living with the Land” in 1993. It consists of a dark ride in which guests sail in a boat while witnessing Mother Nature in various forms from a rainforest to a desert to a prairie with the sound, lighting, temperature and wind effects all giving you an authentic feel for each environment as you visit them. It starts out highlighting the relationship between humans and the environment and then moves into the “Living Laboratory” to showcase ideas about mankind’s future with agriculture, with the five areas of the lab consisting of the Tropics Greenhouse, the Aquacell, the Temperate Greenhouse, the String Greenhouse and the Creative Greenhouse, which is connected to a biotechnology lab with actual scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on site. You can even purchase your own mini garden at this pavilion.
Kitchen Kabaret was a 13-minute audio-animatronic show that was hosted by the beautiful Bonnie Appetite (voiced by Jeannine Brown) and used music and humor to educate guests about healthy eating with a focus on the four food groups. In typical Disney fashion, the bands of singing food had amusingly satirical names like the Kitchen Krackpots, Dairy Goods and the Cereal Sisters.
That show was replaced in 1994 by a show called Food Rocks in an attempt to appeal to kids with more modern music tastes, with new host Fūd Wrapper (voiced by rapper Tone Loc) and the heavy metal junk food band Excess, who constantly interrupts the show to remind people how much they hate nutrition. And with an updated show came updated parodies such as the Peach Boys, Chubby Cheddar and, probably my favorite, the Refrigerator Police who sing “Every Bite You Take.”
After ten years, Food Rocks was replaced with the flight motion simulator Soarin’ Around the World in 2005, an attraction that was first introduced at Disney California Adventure in 2001 as Soarin’ Over California, giving park guests the experience of flying over the Golden State. The version in Epcot however takes you everywhere from the Great Wall of China to the Eiffel Tower.
Symbiosis was a documentary shown at the Harvest Theater narrated by voice actor Philip L. Clarke and directed by Paul Gerber about the growth of technology and its effect on the environment, but it was replaced in 1995 with a new documentary called Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable starring Simba from The Lion King explaining to his friends Timon the meerkat and Pumbaa the warthog how humans are harming the environment through things like deforestation and pollution and how recycling and conservation can help. Walt Disney Animation Studios provided some new animation for this film and Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella reprised their roles as Timon and Pumbaa while James Earl Jones provided opening voice over as Mufasa. Meanwhile Simba was voiced by Cam Clarke who would continue to voice the character in the TV series Timon & Pumbaa, the film The Lion King 1½ and the video game Kingdom Hearts II. In 2018, the film was replaced once again with the 4D film Awesome Planet, another documentary detailing the perils of climate change hosted by Ty Burrell (Modern Family, Finding Dory).
In addition to The Land, the World Nature area of Epcot is also home to an aquatic pavilion called The Seas and it features one of the world’s largest aquariums.
First introduced in 1986 and formerly known as The Living Seas, in 2007 the name was finally changed to The Seas with Nemo & Friends, based on the Pixar film Finding Nemo, the first Epcot pavilion to be based on a Disney movie and only the second attraction after Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable to be based on a Disney movie.
Before its Finding Nemo re-theme, The Living Seas simulated the experience of being under the ocean at an imaginary location called Sea Base Alpha which guests would be able to visit by taking a hydraulic elevator called the Hydrolator, traveling deep beneath the sea in a Seacab on the Caribbean Coral Reef Ride and exploring and interacting with the underwater base before returning to the Hydrolator and coming back to the surface.
An interactive attraction starring Finding Nemo’s Crush the sea turtle called Turtle Talk opened in The Living Seas back in 2004 and became hugely popular, so after the entire pavilion underwent a Finding Nemo makeover, Turtle Talk obviously became incorporated into it as well. This attraction consisted of a movie theater-like room with what appears to be a window into an aquarium in which Crush appears in an improvised dialogue with audience members, with other characters from Finding Nemo (and Finding Dory beginning in 2016 when that film came out) occasionally making appearances as well. The way the animated Crush was able to improvise dialogue was through digital puppetry operated by a backstage actor projected onto the screen in real time. Obviously kids and adults both love this attraction (how can you not?) and it continues to be a hit.
Another attraction, Journey of Water inspired by the Disney film Moana, is also scheduled to come to World Nature soon, with the giant figure of Te Fiti the goddess of life at its center and a theme that highlights the importance of water in sustaining our world.
Last but not least in my next blog we will go international as we tour World Showcase.