Welcome to the eleventh post in the Imagineering Awesome series on Mouse on the Mind! You can access all of the posts by clicking on the link at right.
Today’s post is from the delightfully weird Mickey Mutineers (but mostly Jake). I think this would cement The Land’s status as EPCOT’s most popular pavilion in Future World, and I am in favor of anything that gets more of the Duck family into the Parks.
Gore. Sex. Drugs. Car chases that end in violent explosions. When asked this year to come up with another groundbreaking ride, these are all the things we left out of it. Instead, we decided that Epcot needed another step in the direction of edutainment, and we didn’t know whether we should go futur-y, or whether we should go robotics, or whether we should tackle time travel, or whether whether whether. All these “whethers.” Whether… weather. WEATHER! Great Scott! That’s it! Let’s dive into this.
Everyone knows the Land Pavilion at Epcot. It holds one of the most congested rides in the park. No, not the Circle of Life film. I mean Soarin’! And what better way to add to the congestion than to add another high class E-Ticket ride! But something has to go. No, not Soarin’. I mean the Circle of Life film. Axed. Okay, now stick with me for a second. That theater isn’t nearly big enough for a ride of any sort! But outside is. We’re going to kick out those walls and build a massive expansion on the north side of the Land. Alright, the building is built and ready to be filled with a ride (that’s how engineering works, right?)
Now, this ride needs a host. Who better to host an edutainment ride than Professor Ludwig Von Drake himself?! The main beauty of this attraction is that it combines old school and new school Disney tech and is loaded with Easter Eggs! We are looking at you Mr. Limpet… I see you back there on the Mermaid ride…
The queue is simple. It almost mirrors the Soarin’ queue, but the scenes it shows are from the DuckTales universe. Also in the interactive portions of the queue we get to see how weather works, how rain is created, and maybe even manipulate the weather with a wave of our hands!
(Of course we know Ludwig Von Drake was only in one episode of DuckTales where he played Launchpad’s psychiatrist, but this is our ride! We do what we want. Piss off.)
Finally we get to the ride vehicles. Here’s where our lack of artistic skills comes at a complete disadvantage, because you’ll just have to imagine the whole thing. Imagine the ride vehicles from Horizons. Basically a suspended omnimover. Got that? Okay, now instead of an omnimover, they’re going to be broken into trains of five or six cars, like the vehicles over at Imagination. Also, the individual cars have the capability to rotate a full 360 degrees. Got that? Good. Because you’re going to be riding in them for the next three and a half hours. Or fifteen minutes. Whatever comes first. Let’s move on.
The ride vehicle leaves the loading area and enters the first room, which is a projection screen just big enough for everyone in the dangly train to see. The opening music for Soarin’ starts to play, and a cloudy opening scene appears on the screen in front of us. Suddenly, “Vait! Vait a minute! Zees is zee wrong video!”
The film of the Golden Gate Bridge melts and breaks in the projector and our host, Professor Ludwig Von Drake runs out on screen. He explains how he’s here to talk about weather and the effects it has on “each and everyvun of us!” He then introduces us to his high tech new weather simulator, which “hoo hoo! I see you’ve already found eet!” And the train moves on!
Okay, here’s where the ride gets tricky: we here at Mickey Mutineers are not scientists (surprise!) and for this to be an effective edutainment ride, we’re going to need scientists. Specifically meteorologists who know their shit about weather. Unfortunately we have no access to one, so from here on out, the science facts and information will be briefly summarized and breezed right over or just largely ignored. Pretend they’re here.
The next room consists of a sunny beach scene underneath the train. The good Professor tells us about tides and the ocean and the effects they have on the weather. Waves wash up on the beach under the ride, similar to the waves on the rocks outside of the Seas. Projected in the distance, dark storm clouds start forming on the horizon. “Vee better get a move on!” and the train continues to the next room.
The train slowly moves through the canopy of a tropical rainforest. Add some animatronic monkeys, some freakin’ sweet colorful birds, and this is a pretty cool-looking scene! We fly over a large river and see a black caiman. “Be careful, she is alvays looking for a hand out! Or in dis case a foot!” The Professor’s voice once again chimes in and tells us about the rainforest, wet and dry seasons, and all the cool sciencey things that go along with it. As he talks, a light rain drizzle starts to happen around the trains. As the train moves on, the forest fades into a Pacific Northwest pine forest. “You know, in zee Pacific Northvest, it can rain up to three inches in one day…”
Next our train leaves the rain and moves into a hot, arid, rocky desert landscape. It’s noticeably hot in this room and off to the right we see a group of cacti from The Mine Train through Natures Wonderland. The suspended train moves into a desert slot canyon, which is very narrow.
Ludwig then finishes his last sentence: “…but during monsoon season in zee desert, three inches of rain can happen in just twenty minutes!” And that’s the cue for our first “action” scene!
A flash of lightning happens, accompanied by thunder, of course, and the scenery grows dark and starts to rain. Then it turns into a torrential downpour! Directly under the trains, a flash flood comes rolling down the canyon (kind of like a small scale Catastrophe Canyon) and the water rises until it’s touching the bottom of the cars and it seemingly washes them down the canyon and into the next room. “Vhew! Zat was a close vun!”
This next room is a classic Disney effect: the speed tunnel! (Like you used to find on Disneyland’s PeopleMover and currently on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.) All around the trains is snow falling and the temperature, naturally, is very cold in here. “And here vee have snow! Each little flake has eetz own identity! See for yourself!”
The train moves through the speed tunnel room as the snowflakes around us increase in size until they’re much larger than the train itself. The exit to the room has a projected snowflake growing in size and we “enter” it on a microscopic level, entering a room hearkening back to Adventures Through Inner Space where our train briefly meanders in and out of giant ice crystals (real scenery, not projections) that are the inner workings of snowflakes. The train peacefully rolls into the next room.
As we enter the next room, we encounter tall rows of corn and go past a combine (that’s Frank). “In zee American midwest sudden thunderstorms can cause big, big problems!” As he finishes speaking our sky goes black and lightning streaks across (thanks to the magic of projection mapping). After a few bolts strike near us the wind seems to pick up and the ride vehicles seamlessly lower from the overhead track and are allowed to roam freely in the room. The wind picks up and rumbles. Soon, everything is spinning around our cars as they spin in the room. A red dodge pickup truck blows past us.
It’s definitely a red Dodge. If you want a GM vehicle, you can skip your happy ass across Epcot to Test Track.
“HOO, that vas close, vve better be more careful vvhen zees tornados are near.” The storm dies down as are cars are corralled back onto the overhead track.
“Let’s get to a more tropical climate.” We float over a sunny, tropical beach, Bahamas perhaps. “My weather machine can create a small tropical squall, take a look.” The waves below grow, sky darkens again, and lightning strikes. This time it hits the ride vehicles and the storm grows into a hurricane.
The wind whips the vehicles, a palm tree sails past us. “VOH NO! The veather machine! It’s on zee fritz!” Just then, Fritz from the Tiki Room flies past us backwards. A P-3 Orion hurricane hunter flies by the other side, we hear a radio crack and Launchpad McQuack’s voice comes over the radio. “Gee professor, don’t you think you should be getting out of here?”
“Launchpad, I’m trying to shut off the machine.”
“Machine? Mr. McD is going to be mad if it blows up.”
“Launchpad! Zat’s eet! More power!!!”
Just then we see a big blue flash and come out into the exit queue. There’s an overhead spiel from the Professor talking about weather or something. There’s probably a catchy theme song playing as well. I dunno. I have a FastPass for Soarin’ I need to get to.
Edutainment and a cameo from Fritz?! I’m in line. Are you?