World Showcase Cinema

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Epcot has always been a place of learning, exploration, and wonder.  You simply can’t deny all that’s been packed into this park over the years.  There so much to see and do, and so many ways you can experience it all.  As with all the Walt Disney World parks, here at TouringPlans.com we have a vast collection of information about Epcot to help you plan your days.  And, like many Disney geeks, I read about the attractions as much as possible (yes Twitter followers, I read all those articles I tweet out, and then some), pouring over data like this, looking for something I may have missed.  Constantly hoping to get back to them soon – even though I live just down the road a stretch.

So a few weeks ago, when I was in a situation where I’d get in a few hours of “alone” time in the parks, I got it in my head that I’d travel World Showcase with the intent of viewing all five of the World Showcase movies.  My plan was to get in all but American Adventure before my wife, Cheryl, and fellow TouringPlans.com blogger J.L. Knopp caught up with me that day.

My personal, and completely un-scientific, analysis of World Showcase has lead me to believe that there are two types of people who visit World Showcase: those that head clockwise, and those that head counter-clockwise.  Being an against the grain sort, I fall into the latter category and therefore like to start with Canada – unless I’m at the International Gateway, then I like to start with France.  Thus my day began with seeing O Canada!.

O Canada! is a CircleVision 360° film spanning 9 screens and is 14 minutes long.  In order to watch the film you must be willing to stand for the performance, and you may leave at any time prior to it’s completion.  This movie is, without a doubt, my second favorite of the World Showcase movies.  I enjoy the scenery depicted, the cinematography is very well done, and the story it tries to convey to the viewers is complete.   There’s no denying that Canada is a beautiful and interesting country, and this movie goes to great lengths present that to viewers.  The effects of the CircleVision are well played, my favorite moment is when the RCMP march around you.

My own enjoyment of this film is enhanced by it’s host Martin Short who I have been following on both television and film since I was a kid. Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Mr. Short is a Canadian native and well known in the United States for his comedic stylings going back to his days on SCTV and Saturday Night Live.  In the Disney community he’s best known for his role as Franck Eggelhoffer in the remake of Father of the Bride – who’s bridal studio has been recently recreated at the Walt Disney World Wedding Pavilion.  His inclusion in this film is what helps it to stand apart from the others.

From Canada, I moved on to France, and headed in to see Impressions de France.  The name is a clear play on words as there is a high degree of impressionist quality to both the cinematography of the movie and the score that plays throughout.  This film has also not changed at all since the park opened in 1982, and it could certainly use a re-working.  It’s quite terrible in how it depicts many of the major landmarks, both the familiar and the less well known.  And it does very little to portray the beautiful countryside of France.

It also makes a fatal flaw that I think ranks it at the bottom of all five movies – it presumes that the people viewing the movie have any clue of what they’re looking at.  Epcot is supposed to be educational, and yet we have a movie that is presumptive about the knowledge of a guest viewing the film. I’m lucky in that I’ve been to France and been to most of the locations depicted, but for many this may be their first time seeing France, and it’s a shame for it to be presented in this manner.  That said, the movie itself is well cut to the musical score, and it can definitely be praised for it’s choreographic qualities.

Next stop was Reflections of China, which, like O Canada!, is a CircleVision 360° film.  Now, while this is my third favorite of the five films, it’s definitely got the 2nd best home as it’s inside the Hall of Prayer which is modeled after the Temple of Heaven, Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest, in Beijing, China.  One of the prettiest buildings in all of Epcot.

I can’t say strongly enough how much I love the bookended story and narration of this film.  The narrator is the famous Chinese poet Li Bai, and he was picked specifically for his most famous poem which is considered to be a story about a traveler and his love of his homeland:

Quiet Night Thoughts
The moonlight glistens in front of my bed.
I thought it was the frost on the ground.
I lift my gaze to view the shimmering moon,
Then lower my head, and miss my homeland.

Many have stated that this film is a political whitewashing of the current state of affairs in China, but the truth is it’s completely not political in nature at all.  It’s about the people and the places of China, not it’s military or it’s government.  And watching this film makes me remember that, of the countries that I’ve never been to, China is the one that I want to visit the most.  It’s simply breathtaking to look at, and the sweeping nature of the film as you travel with it through the cities and countryside is fantastic.

In Norway I did something I’d never done before, watch Norway – The Film (also referred to as “The Spirit of Norway Movie”) without riding Maelstrom.  I wasn’t actually sure I could do this. Usually people either do both, or walk quickly through the theater pretending the movie doesn’t exist.  Normally I’m in the latter crowd.  Sure I can listen to the narrator say things over and over again in his cool Norwegian accent.  But, its hard to get past the fact that the movie is basically a poorly done travel advertisement for Norway that was shot in 70mm Panavision so it could be shown at Disney World.  It’s most memorable element is the child who is examining the Oseberg ship as it lends a true air of mystery to the ancient vessel.  This film comes in fourth for me.

After leaving the Norway pavillion, I met up with Lindsay & Jacqueline outside of Mexico.  We took a break at the new Cantina de San Angel so I could have a quick meal, as I’d not eaten in a few hours.  I munched on some empanadas, while admiring the gorgeous view of World Showcase from the patio seating, and talking about running & exercise (they’re personal trainers), food allergies, and their trip.  Finally, Cheryl, JL, and NDK1 caught up with us and after a ride through Maelstrom (note: we skipped the movie!!!), we headed over to the final stop on my movie tour: The American Adventure.

There are few who would not agree that The American Adventure is the best film in World Showcase.  That is to say it’s not even completely a film, it’s more of an experience.  First of all it’s inside of the most majestic in scope of the buildings in World Showcase, designed purposefully to stand out from across the lagoon. While waiting to be seated in the theater, it has a pre-show starring the Voices of Liberty – an a capella group who’s songs ring beautifully, and keep old and young well entertained.

Then, once you’re inside and the “film” starts you learn that it’s not completely a film at all, but rather the film is the glue that binds together an absolutely amazing animatronic and musical experience narrated by Mark Twain and Benjamin Franklin.  This show would do Sam the Eagle proud if he were ever to see it.  I can’t help but watch this and feel a full range of emotions from joy to sadness and back around again.  The “Two Brothers” sequence is a pivotal moment for me every time I see this – it’s both a sad story and an important reminder of where the United States has been as a country.  And, of course, the “Golden Dream” montage is just so awesome to watch.  All the images and memories portrayed within that footage make for a truly beautiful experience.

Overall, I can’t recommend enough making sure you see all these movies at least once, and then take the time to go back and see the ones you really enjoy the next time you visit.  Each movie is not for everyone, but, out of the five, there’s bound to be one for you.

What about you? Which is your favorite World Showcase movie?  Which is your least favorite?  Have you seen all of them?  Some of them?  None of them?  What moments in these films do you like most?  Least?  Have any of them inspired you to travel?  Sit back, relax, and enjoy the shows.

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Posted on October 7, 2010

13 Responses to “World Showcase Cinema”

  • I enjoyed reading this blog. I have never seen any of these movies and I found it very informative. Now that my children are school age I plan on taking them to each movie on our next trip to Epcot. I homeschool my children and I will be going over each country in world showcase in the weeks before go leave.

  • I like to think that a little part of Sam the Eagle is in each showing of the American Adventure. To think otherwise would be distinctly unpatriotic.

  • Wait- Todd, how did you see The Spirit of Norway without riding Maelstrom? It was my understanding that one could only access the theater after exiting the ride vehicle, (except for the exit, of course.) Did you go in through the exit, or ask a cast member or something?

    • I asked. And the castmember told me to just wait for the exit to open and then I could go in for the movie. You want the really odd part of it, people queued up with me to go in and also watch the movie. I mean we’re talking like 20 other people.

      • Proof that if you stand still long enough at WDW a line will form behind you!

        btw – I agree with your assesments though I have yet to see China. For some reason we never make it inside. We’ve waited for it a few times but never actually watched the movie.

  • Enjoyed the column. It makes me want to go see them again. I would point out that your link to “lindsey” (I was curious who she was) in the column goes to her facebook page. Unfortunately, it obnoxiously “captures” the browser and will not allow a return to your blog. I figure many readers won’t bother to go find your entry again, so if you can find a way to fix that, it would be a plus for future entries.

    • Thanks!

      What browser are you using? I’m using Chrome and I can select and go back just fine (it goes to her Twitter page for me). A tip… use the middle mouse button or a ctrl+click to open any link in your browser to a new tab or window.

  • This web site is really a walk-through for all of the info you wanted about this and didn’t know who to ask. Glimpse here, and you’ll definitely discover it.

  • Thank you very much for posting a lot of this great info! Looking forward to checking out more posts!