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Behind the Ride: Living with the Land

“Welcome to a voyage of discovery and awareness of the richness, the diversity, and the often surprising nature of living with the land. Our journey begins as dramatic and sudden changes are sweeping over the land. The approaching storm may seem violent and destructive to us, but to nature, it’s a new beginning in the cycle of life.”

Living with the Land is one of the most underappreciated attractions in Disney history. While many perceive it as a preachy dark ride about agriculture, it’s actually something quite different. It’s an integral step in Disney’s noble quest to eradicate world hunger. Let’s go Behind the Ride to learn how Imagineers have constructed a sustainable agricultural production facility as a theme park attraction.

The experience: a boat ride through Agriculture 101

The trick: relaying the entire history of farming in a matter of minutes

Image: DisneySince The Land pavilion opened in Living with the Land in 1982, some version of Living with the Land has anchored the building. At first, its name was Listening to the Land, and that description better describes the first half of the boat ride.

I say first half because Living with the Land is really two attractions in one. Riders begin by entering 40-person boat that sails through several sets. Each of them retells a historical aspect of agriculture, the very thing that has sustained the human race.

Unfortunately, few guests board Living with the Land in search of an agricultural education. To the contrary, some riders view the entire attraction as a welcome 20-minute respite from theme park chaos.

I must acknowledge that the short documentary film that plays across the early sections of Living with the Land isn’t the most exciting story at Epcot. However, Disney clearly cares greatly about it, as demonstrated by the number of revisions over the years to keep it fresh. As recently as the summer of 2019, Imagineers updated scenes to modernize the story.

Image: DisneyOn Living with the Land, guests learn about the circle of life, the one made famous in The Lion King. However, this attraction is nearly 15 years older, demonstrating that the ideas were familiar to Imagineers long before the film. The difference here is that fauna tell the story in The Lion King, which formerly had a presence at The Land pavilion. Florae take center stage in Living with the Land.

A narrator explains the how and why of a plant’s life cycle during the ride. Scenes display how the roots of trees capture needed water. In combination with sunlight, it creates the nutrients that have allowed humanity to thrive and prosper.

Living with the Land demonstrates the importance of rainforests and the oddities of floral survival in arid regions. It’s actually a factual, thorough exploration of the evolution of agriculture, up to and including modern innovations.

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