The Land pavilion at Epcot focuses on man’s impact on Planet Earth and his efforts to learn from the past in order to create a promising future. The structure was designed to look like a futuristic green house, emphasizing our dependence on plants, especially food, a requirement for our survival. Encompassing six acres, this is the largest pavilion in Epcot and is roughly the same size as Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom. This structure houses three attractions, Soarin’, The Circle of Life, and Living with the Land.
The Land was an opening day pavilion at Epcot (October 1, 1982) and was sponsored by Kraft Foods. Kraft ended their sponsorship on September 26, 1993 and Nestlé took their place. Nestlé oversaw several pavilion makeovers during their tenure but decided to end their affiliation on February 13, 2009. Currently, The Land Pavilion has no corporate sponsor.
Today’s blog will focus on the Living with the Land attraction. But before we begin, I have an important message to share with you from The Secretary.
Good morning Mr. Phelps.
A noted artist from a country friendly with the West has created beautiful murals leading up to The Land pavilion.
So ingenious is his design that the south wall is an exact mirror image of the north wall right down to the very last tile. Pictured here are close-up shots of the two sides illustrating this unique design.
However, an evil Imagineer has cleverly hidden a rogue tile within the murals throwing off the delicate balance, thus threatening peace among the World Showcase nations.
Your mission, should you decide to accept, is to find this tile, share its location with your friends and family, then experience the Living with the Land boat ride.
Should you or any of your IM force be caught or killed by Disney security, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions.
This blog will self-destruct in five seconds.
During Kraft’s sponsorship of The Land, the boat ride portion of the pavilion was called “Listen to the Land.” When Nestlé entered the picture, the attraction was given a minor refurbishment and the name was changed to “Living with the Land.” The attraction can be found on the lower level of the pavilion at the bottom of the “down” escalator.
If you arrive first thing in the morning, this attraction has no wait and you can often ride all by yourself. But between 9:30 and 9:45, people start to exit Soarin’ and a line ensues. FastPass is available, but if the line is 20 minutes or less, I suggest riding at that time.
In an effort to make the queue more interesting, a mural was envisioned featuring inspirational quotes from world leaders, philosophers, scientists, and writers. As the idea began to develop, Walt Disney Imagineering President Marty Sklar suggested that children be included with this distinguished group. Several children’s environmental organizations were contacted and one, Kids for Saving Earth, volunteered to run a story about the mural in its newsletter. They received more than 800 submissions, of which 10 were selected for the mural.
We all know about “hidden Mickeys,” but did you know about the hidden prince and princess? This can only be seen from the FastPass line, but if you look closely at the wall, you can see a prince leaning over and kissing his princess. It’s subtle, but once you see it, there is no doubt.
Our fourteen minute journey begins at the loading dock where we board 20-passenger boats that travel in tandem. The attraction can accommodate 2,400 people an hour.
The first sight along our journey is rather ominous. Here we see a video monitor reminding us that the entire attraction is under surveillance (all Disney attractions are). There is also a reminder to remain seated at all times. This warning is becoming more and more common and the cast members take this rule very seriously. I recently witnessed three teenaged girls being escorted off of the Tomorrowland Transit Authority and out of the park because they repeatedly ignored warnings to sit down.
Our boat first travels to a tropical rain forest where a storm is raging. We’re told that while the wind and rain may appear to be violent and destructive to us, to nature it represents a new beginning. Beneath the surface of the land, roots trap water from the flowing mud, extracting nutrients and minerals. These elements, combined with sunlight, create the diverse living systems of Earth. Although the rain forests make up only a small portion of our planet, they contain more than half of its plant and wildlife species.
We travel next to the desert where we learn that this seemingly hostile climate is also teeming with life. The plants and animals that call these sandy expanses home have learned to avoid the sun and make use of what little water they can find.
As our journey continues we come to the American prairie. The narrator explains that this area was also once a bleak desert, but over time, water and nutrients made their way into the soil creating rich farmland.
In the original version of this attraction (Listen to the Land), we were told how nature continually changes the face of the planet. In the prairie scene it’s explained that a lightning storm has set fire to a field of wild grass. This in turn stirs up a swarm of locusts that lay waste to the plains. The lightning, flames, and the insect swarm can still be seen in the distance.
The next scene brings us to an American farm at the turn of the 20th century. We are told that in our quest to feed a growing nation, humans have had a bigger impact on the land than Mother Nature, sometimes with negative consequences.
Be sure to take a close look at the mailbox. The route number is 82, the year Epcot opened.
We travel into a barn where a hundred years of farming history is presented via film clips and narrative. We’re told that although man has made mistakes, these can be reversed and we can feed the planet while living harmoniously with the land. We’re also told that Epcot is playing a part in the solutions of tomorrow by testing innovative techniques in the greenhouses we’re about to visit.
The next portion of the tour takes us through five working food production areas, Tropics Greenhouse, Aquacell, Temperate Greenhouse, Production Greenhouse, and Creative Greenhouse.
For over twenty years, these sections of the tour were narrated by a cast member positioned at the front of the boat. This was deemed necessary as the crops were continually changing and the information shared with the guests needed to be current. However, on August 20, 2006, the spieling cast members were eliminated and a prerecorded narrative was added as a cost saving measure. The spiel is voiced by Mike Brassell who also narrates the Tomorrowland Transit Authority at the Magic Kingdom. The spiel is updated periodically as the greenhouses are replanted with new crops.
The Tropics Greenhouse is located inside a geodesic dome and features crops native to Africa, Southeast Asia, Latin America and portions of the southern United States. These regions are home to the greatest diversity of plants on the planet. Most of us are aware of papaya, banana, cacao, coffee and rice which are grown in these areas. But other, lesser known plants such as jackfruit, fluted pumpkins, and dragon fruit are showing great promise as they have high nutritional value and are well adapted to grow in soils unsuitable to other vegetation.
During your travels, be sure to look for pumpkins and squash shaped like Mickey Mouse. This bit of Disney magic is achieved by placing a plastic mold around the budding vegetable and forcing it to grow into this famous shape.
Our journey next takes us to the Aquacell. This section of the tour introduces us to fish farming where we learn that more than 200 species of aquatic animals are grown today in tanks like these and man-made ponds. Cultivated fish account for almost fifty percent of the seafood consumed around the world. The Land pavilion grows about 5,000 pounds of fish each year. Much of this is served at various Walt Disney World restaurants.
If you’re wondering why this area is bathed in red light, it’s to help prevent the growth of algae.
In the Temperate Greenhouse we learn that cross breeding has created plants that are more resistant to disease and insects. Some of these hybrids can even survive where water and nutrients are in short supply.
Drip irrigation is also displayed in the Temperate Greenhouse. Here, the exact amount of water and nutrients needed to grow perfect vegetables are delivered to each plant individually. This produces higher yields with less impact on the environment.
This room is also where you’ll find the nine-pound lemons. Imagine the pitcher of lemonade one of these fruits could produce.
In the Production Greenhouse we’re introduced to more innovative farming methods. Lettuce is grown by using the Nutrient Film Technique. This system uses a thin film of nutrient solution that flows through plastic channels containing no solid material. In time, root matting develops in the shallow stream of recirculating solution. Disney grows over 27,000 heads of lettuce a year with this system.
The “tomato tree” was developed by Chinese scientists. These plants live longer than traditional tomato plants and produce significantly more fruit. One of The Land’s tomato trees lived 16 months and produced 32,194 tomatoes with a total weight of more than 1,151 pounds.
The final phase of our tour brings us to the Creative Greenhouse. One of the farming techniques seen here is the Integrated Aquaculture System. This method combines hydroponic crops with an aquaculture system populated by fish. The plants’ roots are bathed by the nutrient-enriched water from the fish tank. The water is cycled through a series of filters before it is circulated through the plants and returned eventually back into the fish tank.
Another innovative growing method suspends plants in the air. The plants are moved through a chamber by a conveyer system where nutrients are sprayed on the exposed roots. As the plants continue their journey, excess water drips into the rocks below where it’s collected and reused.
Many of the vegetables grown in the Living with the Land attraction are served in the Garden Grill Restaurant located on the entry level of the pavilion. This rotating restaurant revolves every 45 minutes and offers views of the rain forest, desert, and prairie scenes experienced at the beginning of the boat ride. This eatery has gone through several name changes over the years. Originally it was called the Good Turn Restaurant. On May 2, 1986 it reopened as the Land Grille Room. And on November 16, 1993 it became the Garden Grille.
Open only for dinner, the Garden Grill offers family style dining featuring grilled beef strip, turkey breast, sustainable fish, and a variety of side dishes. Being a character meal starring Mickey, Pluto, Chip and Dale, reservations are strongly suggested.
If you arrive at Epcot first thing in the morning, you might want to make The Land your first destination. Grab a FastPass for Soarin’, then experience the Living with the Land attraction and see The Circle of Life movie. By the time you’ve done both, your FastPass will be ready and you can go hang gliding over California.
If you find that the Living with the Land attraction only whetted your appetite for this type of information, you can learn more by taking a backstage tour called “Behind the Seeds.” This excursion takes small groups on a walking tour of the greenhouses with a knowledgeable guide who can answer many of your questions. The sign-up desk is located near the entrance to Soarin’. There is a small fee for this tour.
I took the Behind the Seeds tour a couple of years ago and you can read my review by clicking here.
Mike Bachand took this tour in May and you can read his review by clicking here.
As usual, I have created a video of the Living with the Land attraction. Even with editing, it is rather long running at 13 minutes – I wanted to capture the entire ride. I hope you enjoy it.
The previous post in this blog was Via Napoli.
The next post in this blog is Coronado Springs Resort -- Part One.