Journey of Water, Inspired by “Moana” is nearly the last piece of the puzzle when it comes to the long-term EPCOT reimagining. The new walkthrough attraction has yet to have its grand opening, but we were able to experience it during Cast Member previews. Now we’re bringing you our honest review of the highly controversial addition that somehow took several years to complete.
Journey of Water, Inspire by Moana Review
The EPCOT reimagining has included many projects, some completed, some not: Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and the expansion of the France pavilion, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, Harmonious, Creations Shop, Connections Cafe & Eatery, CommuniCore Hall & Plaza, and Dreamers Point.
Given all that, I can pretty confidently say that, in my opinion, Journey of Water is the absolute best part of the EPCOT reimagining. The attraction marries the old and the new EPCOT, providing an IP-based attraction that is beautiful and immersive, with the core values that made so many EPCOT offerings great: interactivity and an educational aspect being at the forefront.
If you haven’t checked out our walkthrough of Journey of Water, the attraction (neither a ride nor show) takes guests through the entire water cycle in a true “edutainment” atmosphere. When EPCOT Center opened back in 1982, the core values of the park were to educate and inspire you to leave and go make a difference in the world. This was such a focus that Disney characters weren’t even present in the park to distract from the mission.
It differs from Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind because, while the coaster is fun and references the Big Bang, it doesn’t actually set out to teach anything about it. It also makes fun of what EPCOT has been, taking time to teach guests about a fake culture that doesn’t even exist, and making a mockery of all the things that came before it. It’s insulting to the intelligence of modern park guests.
Meanwhile, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure is just a clone of a Disneyland Paris “screen ride” from 2014 without its tie-in restaurant, which honestly is the highlight of the offering in France.
Journey of Water is the most “EPCOT” anything new at the park has been in years. It’s inspired by “Moana,” but it feels like a more natural incorporation of IP, not an attempt to sell merch. “Moana” is not the main theme; it just supports the educational element because it, too, is about the relationship between humans and water. Other than the giant Te Fiti figure, the “Moana” characters are secondary to the attraction, being more like Easter eggs in the rockwork. The artwork on the signage is also inspired by “Moana,” but the signs are about the water cycle, not the film, and never really take the time to remind you of moments or characters from the movie.
The use of “Moana” makes Journey of Water accessible to Disney guests, especially kids, so they are drawn in by familiar characters, but the interactivity and sprinkling of facts and things guests can do at home to help the Earth’s resources will likely distract guests from the movie characters, stealing the show away from what many Disney executives surely thought would be the allure of such an offering.
The placemaking reminds us of Pandora – The World of “Avatar” in many aspects, with quality set design, structures, and finishes. They took care to actually consider sightlines. Other than Spaceship Earth (and one glimpse of The Seas), nothing else in EPCOT is visible, and Spaceship Earth doesn’t take you out of the natural world of Journey of Water. Instead, the greenspace and fountains allow for some of the best Spaceship Earth photos ever. It’s a gorgeous view during the day — we can’t wait to also see it at night.
Some of the water effects will feel familiar. The water strings, for example, are a great effect that used to be present in the interactive queue of Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. That being said, we were told that this is a significant technological upgrade of the system, now using actual water to indicate when the chords are struck, not just where the guest’s hand may pass over.
Designers obviously considered capacity, creating several stations for different interactive features. While I have my reservations about this having a queue and dedicated entrance and exit (I think it should have been more of something guests passed through traversing the park), I think once inside, you’ll find lots of room to explore and play without feeling overwhelmed.
There are a ton of jumping fountains — making this feel like the spiritual successor to the jumping fountains at the Imagination! Pavilion. They were incorporated well, some being close enough to touch, others being used to accentuate the river water moving downstream. While there are many signs indicating how to use various effects, the design also makes areas with no signage intuitive, like a small indent in a pathway leading out the river’s jumping fountains so you can touch the closest one without spraying water on surrounding guests.
Journey of Water, Inspired by “Moana” highlights the fact that not every attraction needs to be a ride. We see this more often at international parks, particularly Disneyland Paris, but it’s nice to see something that isn’t an E-Ticket mega-ride that you need to wake up at 7 a.m. to book a boarding group for. It’s also something EVERYONE can do with little to no restrictions (unless you have some sort of water phobia, but there’s a dry path you can use if this is a thing).
What is frustrating about this offering is that it strikes the balance between the use of Disney characters and the “edutainment” aspects of EPCOT so well — so well, in fact, that I am angry that these feelings didn’t carry over into the other projects that were part of this reimagining. If Disney wants a blueprint of what future EPCOT additions should be like, this is it. You can certainly add characters to the park at this point, but you should NEVER sacrifice the core values on which a park dedicated to Walt Disney was built. Every park doesn’t need rides and attractions purely based on movies; there should be a difference in theme and message that makes the four parks of Walt Disney World feel like different entities, rather than just four vague collections of offerings.
For more thoughts, you can watch my full honest review below:
Journey of Water, Inspired by “Moana” is set to have its grand opening later this year.