EPCOT’s World Showcase is delightfully innocuous, a place where you can lightly sample the music, food, and gift shops of other cultures in a mall-like atmosphere. You’re never forced to leave behind the comfortable familiarity of the USA. However, World Showcase does push you out of your American comfort zone in one important way: it makes you walk long distances.
People in other countries do a lot more walking than Americans do. This is true for a variety of reasons. In Europe, for example, just about all of their cities predate the automobile because they wasted many valuable centuries burning heretics and dying of the Black Plague instead of spending those years inventing useful modern conveniences. By way of contrast, the Mayans’ only real vices were human sacrifice and a tendency to worship silly-looking dragon gods, and they were so advanced that they were able to devise a calendar which correctly predicted that people would make a big deal about the year 2012 for no good reason. But I digress.
The point is that people in other countries do a lot more walking than Americans do, because the people who designed their cities in the Middle Ages did not allow for parking places, or because they live in the Third World and no one can afford cars. Also, Americans are big fat lazy slobs. True story: in 1979 my parents encountered some people from Quebec who were mortified that our fast food restaurants had drive-thru windows. “You Americans are so lazy, you can’t even walk inside to get your food!” they exclaimed. And that was thirty-one years ago, when the width of the average American rear end was much less than it is now. I think that explains the animosity some Americans feel toward the French: they are in much better shape than we are. One American probably has the body fat of a dozen French people.
The huge size of the World Showcase, and just how much walking you have to do to get around it, never really registered with me until I started pushing 30. By then, nearly a decade of sitting at a desk all day had caught up with me, physical-fitness-wise, and circumnavigating the World Showcase Lagoon was suddenly a fairly exhausting proposal. It doesn’t help that Florida is often given to hideously uncomfortable weather, so when you’re crossing a big distance on foot, you’re generally walking as fast as you can to get indoors. So what’s the solution? Some form of motorized transport, like a tram that circles the lagoon? Or maybe a PeopleMover on an elevated track?
Honestly, I don’t think either one is a good idea. The walkways in some areas of World Showcase simply aren’t wide enough to accommodate passenger vehicles. And since the park wasn’t designed for a Tomorrowland-style PeopleMover, something like that would just look tacky, ruin the sightlines for IllumniNations, and create new traffic problems when the queue to get into the various stations spilled out onto the sidewalk on busy days. But hey, before we denounce Disney for being cheap for not building some kind of mass transit system into such a large park, maybe we should thank them. After all, World Showcase is home to some of the best restaurants on property where you can fill up on all kinds of food from around the world. How else are you supposed to burn off all those calories?