Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Kid Scale - Future World

There are many who argue that there is nothing for small children at Epcot. This is a statement that I cannot agree with, but can't completely refute, either. This second installment of our Kid Scale feature is devoted to the front half of Epcot, called Future World. Yes, there are several things your kids can and will want to do here, but there are also a couple of attractions that I must caution strongly against. Fortunately, because Future World is so large and signage is actually sometimes a bit harder to notice, your kids might be easily steered around the less appropriate attractions without even being aware they are there.

Epcot is focused more on education (or "edutainment," as Disney calls it) and less on fantasy, so it's worth visiting whether your kids will ride anything or not. Disney still provides street entertainment, exhibitions, and other diversions everyone in the family can appreciate.

Please remember in our Kid Scale posts, my goal is not to describe the ride, but rather I will assume you already know what the ride entails and will provide instead some details about age-appropriateness. Some attractions do have height requirements, so be sure to check those as well. I offer age suggestions based on developmental milestones, so you will want to adjust those to your own children’s development and special needs. We’ll also point out difficulties you might encounter or highlights that may be especially important to your individual tyke. Every six weeks or so, we’ll post another land or area in the Walt Disney World resort until we’ve covered them all.

And remember, I’m just a parent with my own experiences and those of other parents like me, so your comments and feedback are more than welcome as they will help others whose children are more like yours than mine or those of my interviewees.

  • The Seas With Nemo And Friends – All ages – I'll just say it right now. This is the best ride for small kids in all of Future World. Best. The queue alone is reason enough to see it, but then to have real fish swimming with Nemo and Dory and the gang... it's fabulous. Bruce the shark makes an appearance, so be sure they are ready, but for the most part, this ride is just magical. Do not miss it if you have children under 10.

  • Turtle Talk With Crush – Age four and up – Thanks to what I think is the coolest new technology Disney has put out in recent years, your child can interact with Crush from Finding Nemo. It is, by far, the most realistic and fun character meet I know of. If your child is well-spoken and brave enough, help him come up with a question for Crush. He will call on several kids during your visit and the Q&A with the children is probably the most memorable part of the attraction.

  • Soarin'™– Age 4 and up (assuming height requirement of 40 inches is met) – I have to admit a major bias here, as this is my absolute favorite attraction at Walt Disney World. Even my mother, who is afraid of heights, agreed to ride it because of my enthusiasm and she loved it. Just let the kids know that they will feel like they are flying, but they are safely buckled in and won't fall and Mommy and Daddy will be right there. Even the 4D effects don't get frightening. And they'll love the orange grove smell. Well, I love it, anyway.

  • Living with the Land – All ages – This is not a thrilling ride for your younger ones. Looking at plants is not something that they will really appreciate much, although there are fun moments for them--like pumpkins molded to look like Mickey Mouse--scattered throughout the attraction. It's a slow boat ride, though, and it's going to be interesting to the gardeners and healthy folk in your party. Lines are usually short and it's a great way to pass twenty minutes or so while you wait for your Soarin'™ Fast Pass time to come up if you are a tad early.

  • Circle Of Life – Age 7 and up – If you really feel you must see this attraction, by all means, try it. But it's quite dull, and I doubt many kids want to sit through it. It's a pretty National Geographic-esque movie (think Disney Earth) with a really strong, preachy message. Not that it's a bad lesson to hear, but will your kids really absorb it? It is true that Timon, Pumba, and Simba are in it, but their appearance will probably not be enough to hold them.

  • Journey Into Imagination With Figment – All ages – Figment is a purple cartoon dragon. 'Nuff said? In addition to Figment, this slow ride carries you through some colorful and (dare I say it?) imaginative scenes. Mom and Dad can laugh at the silliness, the kids can enjoy the scenery. There are a few 4D elements such as puffs of air and smells that may surprise young children plus it gets loud at the end. Figment practically has a cult following, so it's a worthwhile stop. That said, it's also not an extremely popular attraction anymore, so lines are often short.

  • ImageWorks: The Kodak "What If" Labs – All ages – This is a free play area and is great for recharging. Not every station here will be good for your smallest children, but there is certainly something for everyone. And the water spouts outside are not to be missed.

  • Honey, I Shrunk The Audience – Ages 10 and up – You will see a common theme through my Kid Scale posts about 4D movies. Even the cartoony and fun Philharmagic in Magic Kingdom will scare the bejeezus out of some young children. While the 4D effects might seem cool, wicked and way out to your tween, your eight-year-old might not ever be able to trust you again for taking him into this movie. It's long and the 4D tricks include snakes, lions, and mice... all on a huge scale since you, as the audience, have been shrunk down to teeny tiny. Actually, you might not want to take grandma into this one either. Only for the brave and not easily skeeved out by creepy crawlies and rodents.

  • Test Track – Age five and up – This is sort of a thrill ride, but much of it is story and show. Oddly, I found it wasn't the speed of the last part of the ride that scared my preschooler, but rather it was the "heat lamps" we passed through on our way to said speed test. They put you into a car and do some pretty scary driving with you inside, so it's a fine time to remind your youngsters about car safety and also reinforce that this car is pretend and so these tricks are safe. The bottom line here is to be ready for anything, but it certainly is a good way to introduce younger kids to thrill rides.

  • Mission: SPACE® – Ages 10 and up – When it first opened, this ride made many a guest quite ill. Anyone who has trouble with spinny rides seemed to have at least a little trouble with it. I know one person in my party (an adult) was ill for more than two hours after riding. It was a long walk back to Boardwalk for him... but we were lucky we were in a resort that was walking distance. I can't imagine what would have happened if we had needed to take a bus or car somewhere. Because of the troubles many guests had, Disney kept scaling back the intensity, and finally created a tame version (green)and a wilder version (orange). Guests can select the one they want at the door. That said, I still feel that thrills of this nature are better suited for bodies that are a bit more developed. And take the cautions seriously. If you have any sort of medical issue (especially vertigo, sinus troubles or known heart problems), do not ride the orange version and think twice about the green. However, for your older kids (and kids at heart), the ride is really very cool and unique. Your youngsters can wait with an adult in the Advanced Training Lab free play area until others in the party are finished riding.

  • Mission: SPACE® Advanced Training LabAll Ages – If you must go near Mission: SPACE® with youngsters (and you will need to if you have thrill-loving teens and adults in your party), the Advanced Training Lab will keep them busy and happy. It's the exit area of Mission: SPACE® and it includes a play area called Space Base for the smallest visitors plus lots of interactive areas for older kids and adults. Space Base has gerbil tubes and climbing nets similar to playgrounds found at fast food establishments around the country. The free play is great for recharging your engines. Parents can sit and supervise and kids can roam fairly freely.

  • Ellen's Energy Adventure – All ages – I rate this as "All Ages" because truly, anyone can ride it. However, there is a lot that will be missed by anyone under age 12 or so. It's possible many kids know Ellen from her daytime talk show. And they might even know Jamie Lee Curtis from the children's books she's written and possibly from Freaky Friday. Sadly, not many children know Bill Nye, a tragedy that I would certainly do something about if I could. However, Ellen and Bill's personalities will probably get your kids through it, and with the cool dinosaurs plus the quiet, slow, air-conditioned tram ride, it's a great resting ride. It is also cited as a ride on which moms like to breastfeed, should you need to do so, as the 40-minute ride takes you from the Big Bang through evolution and into modernish times. For your more skittish kids, the darkness, high volume and even the dinos may be too much for them. Oh, and be sure to take a potty break before the adventure begins.

  • InnoventionsAge three and up – This is a huge attraction. There are 14 different stations for you to explore. They range in age-appropriateness and with the variety, it's an attraction that will merit its own post in the future. It does change from time to time, so it's worth a walk through no matter what. A highlight for kids is The Great Piggy Bank Adventure, designed to expose your children to money management. We've seen someone as young as four enjoy this. Many of the attractions are meant for your whole family to play together. There are some louder attractions and simulators that will not be appropriate for the younger members of your party.

  • Spaceship Earth – All ages – Anyone under age 8 may not really get the whole history lecture Dame Judi Dench provides on this journey through communication, but it's still visually interesting and the interactive elements will interest them. The main caution is that it can get quite dark, and some guests are bothered when they reach the apex of the track. This is the point where the car turns around backwards so you can comfortably ride back down to Earth (kind of literally). But it's a fairly slow descent and actually, a good time for a toddler or younger child to curl up in Mommy's lap and go to sleep.


What to Do at Epcot said...

Great ideas here! I think also just asking the kids what they think might be in that great big silver ball and do they want to go find out can be pretty alluring. Even adults are curious! I know I was....So cool it's Spaceship Earth ride in there.

Trent R said...

Thanks great bloog post

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