But Epcot, as fans know, isn't a static, never-changing place. So, the list will offer up the five best current offerings at Epcot, as well as the five best historical attractions at EPCOT Center. Likewise, it will consider Epcot's five worst, as well as EPCOT Center's five worst.
Your thoughts, comments, suggestions, feedback and arguments are most welcome, with the hope that EPCOT Central's list will never be seen as "definitive," but instead open the door to lively conversation, both online and in the real world.
The Best and Worst of Epcot -- #5
Best: China Pavilion
As a top-class World Showcase pavilion should be, China offers much more than the attraction at its center, the CircleVision 360 film Reflections of China. More to love, then, that the film itself is terrific. Exemplifying the best of "old" EPCOT Center and "new" Epcot, the film retains the structure it has had since 1982, which ran for 21 years under the name Wonders of China. It's a beautiful film that transcends the notion of mere travelogue by truly taking guests to a place most of them have never seen, and presenting it in breathtaking, informative way. But China is much more than this film. The extraordinary Dragon Legend acrobats would be worth the cost of admission to Epcot alone. Even more, there are genuinely compelling exhibitions and authentic, immersive shopping experiences -- some of the items are truly exquisite, and there's nary a Mickey or Donald to be found. The dining may never be a journey of discovery, simply because this sort of "mass-appeal" Chinese food is so familiar to most people. Still, Epcot's China presents a beautiful, multi-faceted face in a compact space. You'll never mistake it for the real thing, but you'll also come away realizing that the real thing is vastly more complex and awesome than you may have imagined going in. It's truly a pavilion to be savored and explored.
Worst: Test Track
If judged solely on adrenaline rush and repeatability, Test Track scores high. It's an undeniably fun, sometimes genuinely thrilling ride. True, almost everyone reading this drives his or her car faster every single day, but not on road like this! No, conceptually the ride is pretty good. It's in the execution that it fails miserably, and its huge flaws are only amplified with every passing visit. It starts outside the pavilion, which is a visual mess. There's an exquisite, sleek metal-and-glass building behind there, but you'd never know it. Once through the soulless queue area, the pre-show is a primer on how not to make a pre-show. Few guests pay attention, but rather gab and text throughout. They just want to get to the ride ahead. There's nothing captivating about it at all, wasting an opportunity to set the tone and impart some worthwhile information. Inside the ride, the cavernous inside of the show building feels half-abandoned, as if Imagineers stopped at "good enough." It's difficult to make out most of what's going on, and most riders frankly don't care. What's the point? The final 30 seconds are an undeniable rush. The rest is, to cite the latest entry into the Collins English Dictionary, meh.
The Best and Worst of EPCOT Center -- #5
Best: The World Key Information System
This was the promise of EPCOT Center -- a world we had yet to see, but could experience today! Back in 1982, touch-screen computers and laser discs were truly leading-edge technology. Yet here they were, ready and waiting to be used! Want to know more about something at EPCOT Center? Just touch the screen -- literally, that's all you needed to do. Many of these screens were housed in the CommuniCore area, just at the base of Spaceship Earth, but there were also stations scattered throughout EPCOT, kind of like Vacation Club kiosks today, but useful and thematically appropriate. And if that's not enough, you could make same-day dining reservations by video conference call. (Technically, this was separate from World Key, but combining them seems to make sense.) Though simple by today's standards, this technology was truly a marvel, and would probably be impressive on its own even to those of us currently living in the 21st century. For a time, EPCOT wanted to fulfill the promise of showing us how the world of tomorrow might work, and WorldKey was a wonderful example of that. It wasn't a commercial, it was real, applied technology. It wasn't trying to sell us a new DVD, movie or TV show, it was just showing off what our Future World might be like. It was everything EPCOT aspired to be, and EPCOT was the only place you could find it.
Worst: El Rio del Tiempo
Few Disney attractions have ever gotten off to a better start. The small loading area imparted the flavor of old Mexico, a happy, lovely feeling also conveyed by the costumes of the few cast members working here. The literal "river of time" down which boats floated wound past the still-existing cyclorama of an ancient pyramid and exquisite outdoor scene. On the opposite "shore," the San Angel Inn and small marketplace completed the sense of being in a different time and place. Imagineers weren't aiming for verisimilitude, they wanted to evoke an emotional response. It worked. And then, the ride. A pointless mixture of poorly shot film scenes projected oddly into static displays, it played like the Spanish-class report of a very creative high-school student. The Mexico City scene at the end clearly hoped to be an impressive finale, but came off instead giving a creepy, black-light vibe; a glow-in-the-dark Elvis-on-velvet painting wouldn't have seemed out of place. No sense of Mexico's vast and impressive history, or of its people or places, was truly conveyed, though the song (quite arguably) was at least fun and cheerful. "El Rio del Tiempo" was a beautiful name for a ride that should have been splendid, but wasn't. (Sadly, in EPCOT Central's opinion, the "El Gran Fiesta" update has only exacerbated the problems.)