There are 11 countries represented in Epcot ’s World Showcase. Five are European, three are North American, two are East Asian, and tiny Morocco is left to represent the entirety of Africa and, I guess, the Middle East too. While nobody would attempt to argue that leaving out India and all of South America makes for a remotely representative way to showcase the world, this theme park section is as unique as it is improbable.
There are very few actual rides or attractions in this part of Epcot, but the charming tourist-brochure image of each country that is represented makes for a fantastic way to spend an afternoon.
There are rides like Mexico’s Gran Fiesta Tour (a lazy-river boat ride through various tourist sites; a recent update incorporated a Three Caballeros–era Donald Duck while excising some of the more 1980s-specific imagery) and Norway’s Maelstrom (a dark and briefly exhilarating boat ride that manages to incorporate trolls, Vikings, and oil rigs), but these are the exceptions.
Most countries highlight live-action performances like the Beatles tribute band in the UK pavilion, the Dragon Legend Acrobats in “China,” or the demonstrations by Miyuki (who sculpts candy into animal shapes) in the Japan pavilion.
For the most part, the allure of the World Showcase is simply circumnavigating the lake, a pleasant walk that allows one to start in “Mexico” and end in “Canada,” taking in food, drink, and tchotchkes from all over “Italy,” “Germany,” “France,” “America,” and more in the process. If this sounds like it would be boring for television-addled kids, it’s actually not; kids thrive on the wildly varying sights and sounds, and the cast-members in each country take extra care to make their pavilions feel less like a World Cultures lecture and more like an animated adventure.
In the interest of real animated adventures and corporate synergy, Disney recently launched the Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure, a Showcase-wide scavenger hunt that has kids working on behalf of the cartoon detective to track down the bad guys using something called a “Kimmunicator” and clues found in each pavilion.