A Practically Perfect Day with Hardly Any Attractionsby Mark Goldhaber, staff writer
Epcot is boring.
There's nothing to do there.
All there is in World Showcase is food and shopping.
Do these sound like you or someone you know? If so, it's time for some attitude adjustment. First off, there are so many attractions from thrill rides, slow rides and Audio-Animatronic shows to standard movies, CircleVision movies and a 4-D movie not to mention a parade and a fireworks spectacular. But we're not even going to talk about them today. No, we're going to talk about the real treasure trove of Epcot the live entertainment!
Epcot has more live entertainment than any other park at Walt Disney World. Don't believe me? Check out the schedule they give you when you check into your hotel. All the live entertainment for the other parks fits on one side of the sheet, yet Epcot takes up the entire other side. There is live entertainment in virtually every nook and cranny. In fact, it's possible to spend an entire day at Epcot doing nothing but watching live entertainment.
Real trashy entertainment
Let's start in Future World with one of my favorite acts on property: The Jammitors. This group is great fun to watch. If you see three guys wheeling shiny garbage cans toward the breezeways through Innoventions East or West, follow them. Once they hit break time, it's time for a fun routine with some great drumming and a little audence participation. But all too soon, it's time to get back to work, and the show is over.
Next, we'll check out Kristos, the alien acrobats. These acrobats, dressed in bodysuits with matching alien masks, perform amazing feats of balance and strengh on a platform that they erect just south of the Fountain of Nations. There are also occasional performances by other acts, which I've never managed to see, around Future World.
Don't miss this bus
Now, let's segue (not Segway) from the appetizer of Future World to the veritable smorgasbord of international entertainment in World Showcase with the Disney Characters on Holiday bus, since it stops in both lands. This is the best way to find a bunch of characters at once in Epcot, although you can also sometimes catch some characters at the pavilion for the country of their story's origin. Mickey and the gang arrive on a doubledecker bus and hop off to dance, play, pose for photos, and sign autographs. The bus stops at different times near Spaceship Earth, World Showcase Plaza, and the Japan pavillion, which at certain times during the year, is replaced by stops near Pin Central.
Moving to our left from World Showcase Plaza, we can hear Mariachi Cobre playing at the Mexico pavilion. They will be either outside on the World Showcase walkway or inside at the Plaza de los Amigos depending on the weather and the season. On the days that these talented musicians are not performing, look for the Tejano sounds of a more recent addition to Epcot's entertainment lineup, Los Carnales.
In Norway, check out Spelmanns Gledje for some great Norwegian folk music. In China, Si Xian plays traditional music on authentic Chinese instruments. Also in China are the Dragon Legend Acrobats check out their feats of balance and strength.
The Outpost, while not really a pavilion, does host my son's favorite entertainment: OrisiRisi. Two entertainers tell African folk stories, play drums, and encourage others to join in the drum circle. There are djembe drums and other percussion instruments to play pull up a seat and join in.
Moving on to Germany, the entertainment is usually only inside the restaurant. Oktoberfest Musikanten performs in the Biergarten to entertain diners with traditional beer hall polkas, the chicken dance, and other music.
In Italy, we used to see flying soccer balls (footballs to most of you from other countries) as we passed Sergio getting the crowd involved in his fun act, but he has been replaced with Lou E.G. the mime. You might also chance upon the Character Masquerade, a group in medieval masquerade costumes performing to classical music. There hasn't been much music lately in Italy, though, but that is more than made up for next door at the American Adventure.
Before the Audio-Animatronic tour de force upstairs in the theater, listen to the a capella songs of the Voices of Liberty or American Vybe in the rotunda. The Voices, a staple since the early days of Epcot, perform traditional American songs, while American Vybe performs more contemporary classics. Outside the pavilion, hear the sounds of the Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corps. Across from the pavilion is the America Gardens Theater, which hosts special musical performances.
Had enough? No? Good we're only halfway around the lagoon.
Follow the beat of a different drum
Next up: Japan, where you can hear the taiko drumming of Matsuriza. This family has been drumming at Epcot for many years. We were shocked to realize on our last trip that the little girl that we remembered playing the huge drums with her parents was now a young adult. Like many of the other long-time musical groups at Epcot, Matsuriza now has its own CD and video available for purchase. Also in Japan, Miyuki makes animals sculpted out of corn syrup candy.
Still want more? How about Mo'Rockin, the group in where else? Morocco. It fuses traditional Moroccan melodies with a rock beat. And don't forget the Festival Marrakesh that performs inside Restaurant Marrakesh, performing traditional Moroccan music and accompanying the gyrations of the lovely belly dancer.
In France, A Chair Act thrills guests with amazing feats of balance, while Le Mime Roland provides silent entertainment. Imaginum A Statue Act (its current name) puts on a great show in either France or Italy at various times. I have not usually encountered music in France, though there are occasionally street musicians. However, at its neighbor across the International Gateway (and the English Channel), the United Kingdom, you can choose between reliving the good old days of rock and roll with The British Invasion (which performs in the garden behind the western part of the pavilion) and music of the piano kind with Pam Brody, who tickles the ivories inside the Rose and Crown. There is also the World Showcase Players, who perform in the UK year-round, and other countries on occasion.
The music's good, eh?
Canada is home to the only act at Walt Disney World to have a performance venue constructed specifically for it. Off Kilter used to play out on the Showcase walkway, but it drew such big crowds and required so much additional amplification equipment that a stage was contructed to allow the group to blast its Celtic rock way out there. In fact, you can usually hear the tunes clear across World Showcase Lagoon. On the band's days off, check out Alberta Bound, a group that's building a big following of its own.
But wait, there's more. Don't forget all of the special seasonal entertainment. In addition to the Flower Power and Eat to the Beat music series to accompany the Flower & Garden and Food & Wine Festivals, respectively, there is usually a special summer show (like Blast!, Shockwave, or Lord of the Dance). December holiday entertainment includes the famous Candlelight Processional and the celebration of Holidays Around the World, where a native storyteller at each pavilion tells a holiday story from their country. These include a Ramadan story in Morocco, a Chinese story about the Monkey King, as well as many different Christman stories.
The entertainment lineup is always changing. Everybody has their own preferences in types and styles of entertainment, but if you keep an open mind, you will be surprised at what you might enjoy. Best of all, it's all included in the cost of admission.
For more information on the performances at all the parks at Walt Disney World, and the current week's showtimes, check out Steve Soares' excellent Walt Disney World Live Entertainment Web site. And the next time you think, There's nothing to do in World Showcase except eat and shop, take a look at that entertainment schedule in your hands and head for the next performance at a pavilion near you.