DISNEY: HYDROPONIC PAVILLON
I’m sure that many of you have ridden Living with the Land at Epcot’s Land pavilion many times. And if you’ve gotten off this attraction and said to yourself, “That was nice, but it sure wasn’t Test Track”, then you might want to skip this review. But if you’ve been impressed with the information presented on this 13 minute journey through the future of farming, then read on.
Disney offers a behind the scenes tour of the Living with the Land attraction called Behind the Seeds. This excursion takes small groups of between 10-15 guests backstage with a knowledgeable guide and presents a more in-depth look at the wonders of this attraction. Tours are 45 minutes in length
I arrived at the Land Pavilion around 11:45 and signed up for the 12:45 tour. I was told to return to the sign-up desk five minutes before the tour. I then enjoyed a leisurely lunch at the Sunshine Seasons food court. Upon returning, I was given a peel-off name tag featuring a Disney character. After a quick head-count, the group headed off to a door located behind the Soarin’ Fastpass area. Finally, the din of the Land Pavilion was behind us and we could now hear our tour guide, Linda.
Linda introduced herself and said she was a Professional Intern working here at the Land Pavilion. She didn’t really go into any detail as to what a Professional Intern does, but it made her sound like she had the credentials to conduct the tour. She asked each of us where we were from and then gave a brief explanation as to what the tour would entail. She also told us that photography is allowed during the entire tour.
Our first stop was in the “bug room” (my title, not theirs). Here we were told how Disney breeds “good” bugs to be released into the greenhouse to eat the “bad” bugs. We were also shown a short video graphically showing bugs laying eggs, destroying plants, and eating one another. I found it interesting, but if you’re squeamish about insects, you might want to focus your attention on other things in the room.
We were also given small, plastic magnifying glasses to look at “dust” on the side of a flower pot. In actuality, it wasn’t dust at all, but extremely small insects that could be seen moving when viewed up close. Creepy.
Our guide then asked for three volunteers as she eyed the children in the group. Two eagerly raised their hands and a third was reluctantly recruited by her parents. Each child was given a small vial that contained several Lady Beetles (I call ’em Lady Bugs). The kids were told that later in the tour they would be releasing these insects out into the greenhouse to eat bad bugs.
From here we moved outdoors to a large window that looked into the Biotechnology Lab. This is the backside of the laboratory that you see from the attraction as you float by. Since this lab is a sterile environment, we couldn’t actually go in. We just got to stare into the window. Here, we were told how Disney propagates new plants from clippings.
The next stop on the tour was inside the greenhouse. The first thing I must tell you is that along one entire wall of the greenhouse is a floor to ceiling radiator (my word, not theirs). Here, water trickles down Teflon coated corrugated cardboard while fans blow cool air through it. This is how Disney air conditions the greenhouse and regulates the moisture in the air. I tell you this because during the majority of the tour you walk next to this cooling wall – a very pleasant experience in an otherwise warm and humid environment.
During the next 35 minutes of the tour we walked through the actual Living with the Land attraction. We could easily see the boats floating by and they could easily see us. It kind of made me feel special to watch the “ordinary” guests float by as I was being given a VIP tour.
Each of the growing methods that are talked about on the actual attraction are explained in more detail on this tour. Plus, here you have the opportunity to ask questions.
In order to keep the tour from becoming too dry and to keep it interesting for all age groups, the tour also includes a few special diversions. At one stop, we were each given a small zip-lock bag with a piece of cotton in it.
Linda then gave each of us two pumpkin seeds to place inside the bag. After that, a mister was passed around to moisten the cotton. We were told that if we kept the plastic bag in our pocket or on top of a warm TV for the next couple of days, we could see the seeds sprout. Then, when we got home, we could grow our very own pumpkin plant.
At another stop Linda gave each of us a couple of slices of cucumbers that were grown here. I was amazed at how many people don’t like cucumber and declined. We were also shown the molds that they use to make Mickey Mouse shaped cucumbers and pumpkins. We were also given a handout that explains how to turn an aquarium into a Hydroponic Gro-Tank.
About half-way through the tour is a resting spot. During this “rest,” Linda continues her talk, but here there are benches to sit on and a water cooler from which to get a drink. It was here that the children were allowed to release their Lady Bugs. In most cases, they had to tap on the vial rather vigorously to get them to come out.
When we reached the Aquaculture tanks, the children were offered the opportunity to feed the fish. They seemed to get a kick out of this. When they were finished, Linda encouraged them to use the antibacterial hand solution that was readily available.
At this point the tour was pretty-much over. From here we turned around and retraced our steps back to the starting point.
So, what did I think of the tour…
I found it interesting and I did learn some things that are never presented on the Living with the Land attraction. But for me, I was more interested in (and distracted by) the “back stage” aspects of the tour than the information being presented. But then, I hire a gardener to mow and fertilize my yard because I have a “brown” thumb.
This tour also made me appreciate what an excellent job the Living with the Land attraction does at presenting a lot of information while on a very short boat ride. The Behind the Seeds tour really doesn’t present any new topics, it just expands on what you’ve already been told before.
I would never recommend this tour to a first-time visitor to Epcot. Unless you had unlimited time, there are too many other things to see and do before signing up for this tour.
Disney has tried hard to make this tour “kid friendly” and I think they’ve done an excellent job. But, if you have easily distracted children, you might want to think twice before signing up.
If you’ve been to Epcot a number of times and have an interest in gardening, then by all means, take the tour. You won’t be disappointed. But if the Living with the Land attraction has already answered all of your questions about innovative farming, well, you might want to think twice before signing up.
Behind the Seeds costs $14 for adults and $10 for children (3 thru 9). Discounts are available for AAA, DVC members, annual passholders, and active military.
Reservations can be made up to a year in advance by calling 407-WDW-TOUR (407-939-8687) or you can make same-day reservations by stopping by the sign-up desk located on the lower level of the Land Pavilion, next to the entrance to Soarin’. Tours start every 45 minutes between 10:30am – 4:30pm.