Most of you reading this post have been to a Disney Park before. So much to see! So much to do! So many references, right?
Not all of us get those references.
It’s a bit surprising, but not every visitor to the Parks is a Disney Mega-Nerd. And that’s OK. Your ConciEARS friends are here to help. For the next few weeks, we are going to look at each Disney park and list out a few movies your family can watch before you arrive on your next trip.
This is going to be a pretty comprehensive list, but do not let it intimidate you! We’ll do our best to keep things friendly and concise. We want to give your family a great reason to dig into the Disney Vault to understand as many references as possible!
Let’s start out with a relatively tame idea. After all, the EPCOT Center launched without any specific ties to Disney characters. You might be surprised though! Since its launch in 1982, Epcot designers found a lot of ways to tie into the Disney universe.
Starting in the current parks, you might not see may major characters in the Future World area. Attractions like Test Track and Mission: Space might be popular, but do not have many ties to Disney movies. Head westward and you will find a different story.
The big link to Disney movies in Epcot’s Future World is The Seas with Nemo & Friends. This large attraction begins with a ride in a clam through an aquarium and around scenes from Finding Nemo. When the ride ends, the adventure begins! Your family can just leave the building, but we hope you stick around to look into one of the world’s largest aquariums and all of the fun scenes around it.
To get your family ready for this undersea expedition, watch Finding Nemo. If you have the time, its sequel, Finding Dory, is well worth the watch, so try to fit that in as well! These Disney-Pixar adventures are the perfect way to introduce your kids to the characters they will meet in the brief ride into the attraction. They will also meet the surfer dude turtle named Crush and the vegetarian shark Bruce inside. One or two films can get everybody caught up on the adventures of our favorite clownfish!
When you hit the World Showcase and its eleven pavilions, your family faces myriad food, drinking, and shopping options. Despite the more adult atmosphere, there is plenty to do here including a few attractions that you will enjoy more knowing the back story.
Visiting a country as rich with heritage as Mexico, it’s no wonder your family will have to bone up on movies before your visit. Yes, that pun was intentional. I am sorry.
First up is the movie Coco, an exploration into Mexican traditions around the Day of the Dead and folk music. Just inside the pyramid of Mexico’s pavilion, you will find an excellent exhibit of Mexican folk art designed around the narrative of the movie. The exhibits contain real stories and artifacts, but each is set within the narrative of Coco.
Venture deeper into the pyramid to find a vibrant night scene featuring art and jewelry you can purchase. You will also find a magical attraction called The Gran Fiesta Tour with the Three Caballeros that guides guests through Mexico and its history. To get perspective on Donald Duck and his South-of-the-Border friends Panchito Pistole and Jose Carioca you can watch the movie named after them, The Three Caballeros! It’s a mixture of live action and animation from 1944 that brings you deeper into the culture of Latin America.
If your family has not watched Frozen or Frozen 2 yet, I am not sure what to tell you. These extremely popular movies are represented in the Norway pavilion in the attraction Frozen Ever After and the character meet in the Royal Sommarhus. Give either movie or one of their associated short films a view before heading in to make sure your kids are ready to meet Anna, Elsa, and Olaf!
There are no rides in China’s pavilion, but it has plenty to see. Chinese acrobats entertain rain or shine and the Circlevision film Reflections of China is set to be updated to a new feature, Wondrous China in time for the 50th anniversary of the resort. Soak up the impressive architecture of a Chinese temple or enjoy the small garden out front.
Disney+ does not have a lot on China at the moment, but the animated and live-action films Mulan tell the story of a legendary Chinese warrior. You can also find some National Geographic specials, The Hidden Kingdoms of China and Ancient China from Above if you want to learn more about the country and its lands.
The American Adventure
If you venture within the stately columns of the American Adventure, you will find more than the animatronic extravagance of the show within. There is a great space inside the building where Disney recently installed an exhibit about jazz, a distinctly American music style. The exhibit showcases the cities around our country most involved with jazz influences, but it also leans heavily on Soul’s main character Joe.
The movie is fantastic and available on Disney+ with your regular subscription. It’s a touching journey on its own, but paired with exhibits like Louis Armstrong’s trumpet, the movie helps to connect the dots between fiction and reality.
It’s hard to sum up a country like Japan with its deep history and dynamic, modern cities. Epcot’s Japan pavilion straddles that line, containing touches of serenity in its gardens and excitement in its department store. To gain an appreciation of this balance, watch the excellent three-part series called Japan: Between Earth & Sky.
If you would rather soak up some Japanese pop culture, Disney has a long relationship with Studio Ghibli and their series of anime films. Disney took part in the making of many of these films and has distributed them around the world for years. Check out the Oscar-winning Spirited Away or fan favorite My Neighbor Totoro for a window into Japanese culture and history! None of these films are available on Disney+, but if you keep it under your hat, I might hint that you can find many on Hotel Bravo Oscar MAX. If Disney asks, you didn’t hear that from me. . . .
Two major movies dominate the charming France pavilion. If you move past the Parisian facades, you will find an ornate theater that for years has shown and continues to show a film about France and its countryside. Alternating with that film is a new experience, a singalong film
with music from Beauty and the Beast. This new cut of the film changes some of the perspective from the classic movie, giving Gaston’s former sidekick LeFou a more influential role.
Even though this ride is not open at the time of this post, it is hard to ignore the affect of the movie Ratatouille on the France pavilion. We all await the arrival of the new attraction that will shrink us down to rat size and let us explore the world of French cuisine from a different angle. The ride is a favorite of the Parisian Disney parks and once open in Epcot will likely wow your family just the same!
United Kingdom Pavilion
There are plenty of shops and places to eat in the UK pavilion, but no major attractions. One experience you can count on is interaction with some famous British characters. Even if you cannot get close right now, guests often find Mary Poppins or Alice enjoying the garden behind
the tea shop.
Mary Poppins is, as always, practically perfect in every way. Alice takes after her performance in the original, animated Alice in Wonderland. Both movies are classics, but are always worth a refresh!
And that’s about it! There are plenty of honorable mentions you could put on this list. There are normally a large amount of character meets around the park including classic Fab Five, Baymax from Big Hero Six, Joy from Inside Out, and a large numbers of princes and princesses. These experiences have changed for the moment, but if you keep an eye open, you will find plenty of characters scattered around Epcot.
For now, get to work! When you finish preparing for an Epcot adventure, your family can start on one of the other Disney parks. We will have a few more great articles this month highlighting those attractions that might need a bit of backstory to enhance their enjoyment. Stay tuned!
Editors’ note: ConciEARS’ blog series Screen to Park is a guide to the essential movies to watch to understand or enjoy Disney Parks attractions. The series is not a comprehensive discussion of all movie references in every attraction. The next blog in the series, Magic Kingdom, will be published next Thursday!