If you don’t know, this is SpaceShip Earth. It’s actually a ride at EPCOT about human progress. It’s kind of evolutionary, but once you get out of the cave it’s pretty interesting. It’s also the symbol of the park, much like Cinderella’s Castle in Magic Kingdom.
After my last post, Ali reminded me that EPCOT is her favorite park, not Magic Kingdom. At this point, using our Annual Passes, we’ve been to Magic Kingdom the most, with EPCOT a close second. We’ve been to Hollywood Studios once, and still haven’t completely explored Animal Kingdom, though we’ve ridden the Expedition Everest a half dozen times. As you can see, we have our work cut out for us the rest of the year.
This past Saturday, we were once again at Disney, this time with Ali’s sister and brother-in-law as her birthday present. We started semi-early in Magic Kingdom and then Monorailed over to EPCOT around 3. We skipped almost all the rides in Future World and opted to spend the remainder of the day walking through the World Showcases. If you’re not familiar, the bulk of EPCOT is 11 pavilions around a lake. Each pavilion is a part of the world, though Morocco is the only one directly sponsored by that country’s government (the King of Morocco apparently sent his own architects over to make sure everything was designed authentically).
We started on the right by going to England for fish and chips (and Guinness) and then watching the Lumberjack show in Canada. From there it was off to France to once again be mesmerized by Impressions de France. From here, we more or less breezed through Morocco, Japan, America, and Italy before pausing again in Germany for more refreshments. We planned to watch the Chinese acrobats before realizing we were all more or less worn out, so it was a quick trip through Norway and Mexico before making the Monorail journey back to the car.
I relay all of this not because you’re super interested in how I spent my Saturday (note: no sports were watched). But it helps set the context for a couple of thoughts I had while there. In many ways, EPCOT is a surrogate way to travel the world. For those of us who can afford Disney passes but not international flights, it is nice to take a Saturday afternoon and visit at least a facsimile of several European countries. The countries don’t completely obscure the fact that they are artificial, although Morocco comes semi-close. Still, taking a stroll around the world at your leisure is hard to beat, even if you know it is all just smoke and mirrors.
Also, unlike Magic Kingdom, it is easier to enjoy EPCOT in the moment. For Magic Kingdom, much of the enjoyment is anticipation about going and past satisfaction in the fun that was had. In the actual moment, we’re usually more focused on maximizing time to do as many rides as possible. We pause on the rides, but because a lot of it is go-go-go, it is hard to relax. It is fun, but we realize it is fun mostly in retrospect (I think). EPCOT on the other hand is more relaxing and casual, and at least when it comes to the World Showcase, it is based on really pausing to enjoy good food and drinks in, at least this past Saturday, semi-perfect weather. And this is even more so at the moment during the Flower and Garden Festival (which will be eclipsed this fall by the Food and Wine Festival).
Given EPCOT’s themes of “technological innovation” and “international culture,” it makes sense that it is trying to capture utopia, or at least a higher plane of human existence. I would say it is “new creation now” but the twist is that there is no Creator in EPCOT’s vision. From a Christian point of view, I can see it as capturing some of the created realities that we will enjoy in full on the new earth. But in the context everything is presented, it is stripped of its actual creational underpinnings. In some ways, it is heaven without the Beatific Vision of God in Christ made manifest. God is conspicuously absent and everything is instead the result of human progress. It is a new better earth without new heaven because God’s presence is missing. For non-believers, this makes EPCOT a fairy tale for grown ups just like Magic Kingdom is fairly tale for kids. And since the symbol of EPCOT is SpaceShip earth, it is only fitting the grandest fairy tale of all is presented on the ride it houses.
None of this is to say you can’t enjoy EPCOT because you’re supporting evolution or denying the creator. As a Christian, I can enjoy everything EPCOT has to offer in a proper perspective, realizing it is neither true utopia, nor the result of human achievement. Instead, it is a less than perfect picture of the consummated reality that will be part of the new heavens and earth, but not the full vision. Instead it is merely the earthly part and even that is still seen through a glass darkly. The full vision includes a better version and Beatific Vision that outshines anything this earth or the new earth on its own would have to offer. Disney may aim to be where dreams do come true, but it can’t compete with the Christian hope that outdoes what even our best dreams can come up with.