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Epcot's American Adventure an Epic Animatronic Achievement

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by , 05-05-2012 at 10:33 PM
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There is one pavilion, regarded by many, as the centerpiece of Epcot's World Showcase; not just because it IS the center of the World Showcase, but because of how beautifully it frames the rest of the pavilions. That pavilion, of course, is the American Adventure.

Originally, Disney didn't plan to include the United States as one of the pavilions encircling the lagoon. Instead, they wanted to 'house' the pavilion in a two-story building elevated on stilts between Future World and the World Showcase.

The first level would be a tunnel, or gateway, between Future World and the Showcase, and the second level would be the pavilion itself.

After someone shot down that idea, Disney moved the American Adventure into the central position of the World Showcase so that guests would be able to see it as they walked around the lagoon. This central positioning was meant to represent the fact that the United States was playing 'host' to the other pavilions.

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The American Adventure building itself is notable for a few reasons.

The first is forced perspective, a technique used elsewhere at Disney World, especially on Main Street, U.S.A., where it makes the buildings appear larger than their actual size.

The American Adventure building uses REVERSE forced perspective. The building had to be large enough to house a massive theater show, but not so large that it would appear inappropriate for its time period. So, the Imagineers built it to look smaller than its actual size. Disney also built the American Adventure on an elevation slightly higher than that of the adjacent pavilions, giving the Imagineers more room for the show.

Architecturally, the building is an amalgam of elements borrowed from Independence Hall, Monticello, Boston's Old State House, and Colonial Williamsburg. Disney used 110,000 hand-made, Georgian clay bricks, colored and aged for authenticity, and they gave the building a slate roof with a widow's walk, bell tower, and clock.

Look closely at that clock and you'll see the Roman numerals on its face. Look more closely and you'll see that the clock uses IIII instead of IV. It's not a mistake! During the colonial period, clock-makers often used IIII. You'll see the same notation on the clock in front of Cinderella Castle.

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Outside the building, you'll find the American Gardens Theater, where various shows (usually) are held daily, including the Candlelight Processional during the holiday season. Around back is the Golden Dream, a replica of a Virginia Sloop. These ships were used for trading and feature a flat deck to hold large amounts of supplies. The Golden Dream was restored in 2006.

Inside the building, you'll find a gorgeous rotunda with marble floors and a dome ceiling. If you get there at the right time, you may catch a patriotic performance from the acapella musical group Voices of Liberty. They usually perform about 15 minutes before each American Adventure show.

The rest of the pavilion is decorated in typical colonial era style, with reproductions of classic paintings hung on the wall alongside framed quotes by some of America's most notable citizens.

As you leave the rotunda and head for the theater, you travel through the Hall of Flags. Look up to see a collection of 44 flags that have flown over the United States during key moments of its history. The flags include those flown during the Revolutionary War and the Colonial Era, and also flags flown by foreign nations who had once staked a claim on our territory.

When you get into the theater, you'll see that each side is flanked by 12 statues, 6 per side, called the Spirits of America. On the right side of the theater, the Spirits are Freedom, Heritage, Pioneering, Knowledge, Self-Reliance, and Adventure, and on the left they are Individualism, Innovation, Tomorrow, Independence, Compassion, and Discovery. The statues are life-sized and they figure into the final sequence of the show

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Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain are your hosts during your journey through America's history. The 30 minute show highlights numerous important events and quite a few notable personalities who left their marks on American history. The show uses a combination of audio-animatronic figures, moving sets, various special lighting effects, and filmed images projected onto the 155 feet wide screen. Disney's attentive eye for detail is evident, as the speeches and broadcasts used in the show are straight from the original text and, where available, the actual recordings.

The show features 35 audio-animatronic figures in scenes that include the Mayflower landing at Plymouth Rock, the Boston Tea Party, the writing of the Declaration of Independence, Valley Forge and the Revolutionary War, World Wars I and II, and much more! The show ends with a film montage that Disney updated in June 2007 to depict more recent events in American history

In addition to showcasing our pride as a nation, the show is notable for a few of its technical feats. It includes a range of motions for some of the audio-animatronics that were quite revolutionary for the time. For example, Benjamin Franklin seems to walk up a set of stairs in one scene, which is still quite a sight today! In reality, the figure is incrementally lifted into place one step at a time. Since he is placed next to the stair's railings, it helps to sell the illusion that he is walking up a flight of stairs.

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A computer controlled device nicknamed 'the War Wagon' changes the massive sets between scenes. This movable device is located directly under the theater, measures 65-by-35-by-14 feet, and weighs 175 tons.

The building itself is quite a sight to behold, but far too often, families rush by on their way to the next attraction without so much as a glance inside.

Next time you're in Epcot, take a few minutes to explore the American Adventure Pavilion, and maybe learn a thing or two about America's great heritage!

Have you visited this great attraction? Do you make it a regular part of your Disney World vacations?

[QUOTE][I][B]The American Adventure Fact Sheet[/B][/I]

[B]In order of appearance, these figures appear during the show:[/B]

Ben Franklin (3 figures)
Mark Twain (3 figures)
Thomas Jefferson
George Washington
Washington's horse
Two soldiers in Valley Forge
Frederick Douglass
A Civil War-era family consisting of a father, mother, baby, daughter, and two brothers
Mr. Brady (a Civil War-era photographer)
Chief Joseph
Alexander Graham Bell
Andrew Carnegie
Susan B. Anthony
Theodore Roosevelt
John Muir
Four men and a dog in a 1929 gas station scene
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Will Rogers
Rosie the Riveter
Two battleship crew members (one male and one female)

[B]In order of performance, these songs are played during the show:[/B]

"New World Bound," which is played against the backdrop of a series of paintings depicting the Mayflower voyage and the Pilgrims' landing at Plymouth Rock.
"In The Days of '76," which is played during various scenes of the Revolutionary War.
"Two Brothers," telling the Civil War story of two brothers, fighting on opposite sides of the War.
"Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?", sung by a banjo player in a 1930s gas station.
"I'll Be Home For Christmas," which is heard in the background of the Rosie the Riveter scene.
"Golden Dream," sung during the film montage and the show's finale.

[B]And did you know:[/B]

The audio-animatronic figures have wigs made of real human hair!
The furniture in some of the scenes are antiques from their respective time periods.
In the 1930s gas station scene, the two signs over the gas station are promoting Coca-Cola and American Express.
The rear projection screen is 28 feet high and 155 feet long.
The rear-projection movie required the longest single loop of film ever employed for a Disney show. The film, some 3,330 feet long, snakes up and down through rollers in seven specially designed storage cabinets.
This show marks the first time audio-animatronic characters were equipped with individual voices and speakers. In the past, narrations had been played over a theater speaker system.[/QUOTE]
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Tickets are now on sale for the

[B]COMMUNICORE WEEKLY 38TH WEEKAVERSARY
&
EPCOT 30 YEAR ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION![/B]

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[/FONT][/SIZE]Come celebrate EPCOT's 30th Anniversary in style with a live taping of MiceChat's Communicore Weekly! Join co-hosts Jeff Heimbuch & George Taylor, along with MiceChat's Dusty Sage and the Communicore Weekly Orchestra, for a fun-filled night of fandom and frivolity as they tape a special hour long episode of the hit show, Communicore Weekly.

Join us on the evening of Saturday, September 29th 2912 in the Norway Pavilion Special Events Lounge in EPCOT's World Showcase for this one of a kind event!

Your ticket includes:

[LIST] [*]Admission into the live taping of CW in the Norway Pavilion of EPCOT (note: admission into the park is NOT included)![*]Meet special guest, Ron Schneider, the original Dreamfinder![*]Decadent dessert reception![*]Short scavenger hunt event before the show will be available to those who would like to participate (prizes will be awarded)![*]Prizes, giveaways and more![*]The chance to be a part of EPCOT and Communicore Weekly history![*]Endless Five Legged Goats and perhaps even a real life Bathroom Break![*]Exclusive late night ride after park closing on a selected EPCOT attraction to cap off the evening! [/LIST]

For more tickets and more information, be sure to visit [URL="http://MiceChat.com/store"]MiceChat.com/store[/URL]!
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[/FONT][/SIZE][HR][/HR][SIZE=3][FONT=verdana][B][I]by Jeff Heimbuch[/I][/B]

If you have a tip, questions, comments, or gripes, please feel free email me at [EMAIL="[email protected]"][email protected][/EMAIL] or leave a comment below. I'd love to hear from you!

[/FONT][/SIZE][FONT=verdana][SIZE=3]Jeff also writes another column called [URL="http://micechat.com/blogs/mouth-of-the-mouse/"]From The Mouth Of The Mouse[/URL]. We invite you to check it out.

Jeff co-hosts the weekly VidCast [URL="http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLFFAFAC3F767465A9&feature=plcp"]Communicore Weekly[/URL] as well!
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FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER: [URL="http://www.twitter.com/jeffheimbuch"]www.twitter.com/jeffheimbuch[/URL]
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Updated 05-07-2012 at 02:11 PM by The 626

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Comments

  1. Bronco21's Avatar
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    My 2nd favorite attraction at EPCOT! (second to The Malestrom!).
  2. dlpostcardguy's Avatar
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    Thanks Jeff for the nice write up. AA is one of my favorite attractions in WDW. Last year when we went to WDW we took the multi park all day tour. The driving force behind taking this tour for me was the chance to go back stage in AA. It was neat but sadly they had just fired up the attraction for pre-opening testing and all the lights were off and we couldn't see hardly anything. Very disappointing. We were standing next to the scene shown in banner for the article. I had always thought the contraption that houses all the scenes was in the back not realizing that most of it was actually under the theater seating! Neat. It’s too bad they could not have provided the tour guide with a flash light or something so we could actually see the War Wagon. There were no guests in the theater at the time so it wouldn’t have been a distraction. Regardless, it's a very impressive attraction. Thanks for sharing all the info.
    !
  3. indianajack's Avatar
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    Is there really an Ayn Rand quote in the attraction? That would be a disappointment.
  4. mratigan's Avatar
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    Thanks jeff
  5. jcruise86's Avatar
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    Jeff, that was great! Thank you!
    We might not get to WDW till 2014. If we go I hope that this show and the Carousel of Progress are not creaky reminders of better maintained shows in the past.
  6. danyoung's Avatar
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    As much as I enjoy this show (and the Voices of Liberty preceeding it), I never bought the Ben Franklin going up stairs thing. It looks like what it is - the figure is incrementally raised as one leg swings. There have been better illusions in Imagineer history.

    BTW, what's wrong with Ayn Rand?
  7. DisWedWay's Avatar
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    I'm glad the two brothers are alive and doing well today and worked out their differences. Will Rogers was fun to model for.
    Updated 05-06-2012 at 02:11 PM by DisWedWay
  8. DisneySam's Avatar
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    My wife and I were invited to attend a wedding at Disney where the reception was held in the American pavilion. It was great. There are 'private' restrooms upstairs on what I believe would be the 3rd floor of the building but what is unique is that even though that space would hardly ever be seen by guests it is still dressed to the period with appropriate art and furnishings. Very cool.
  9. ttintagel's Avatar
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    I prefer to call him by his full name, "Famed Naturalist John Muir." ;-)
  10. JeffHeimbuch's Avatar
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    Thanks for reading, folks!

    DLPostcastguy - That would have been amazing. I would love to see how it looks under the stage like that. Have you ever read "Building a Better Mouse," by Steve Alcorn? If not, I definitely recommend it. He talks about this attraction at length, since he helped build it, and it's truly amazing.

    ttintagel - You're right! Haha. I should correct that
  11. yellowrocket's Avatar
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    Its nice to see a secret society's beloved patriarch get some attention... No, not Ayn Rand... Famed Naturalist John Muir!
  12. Johnny's Avatar
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    Great article, Jeff! I am a big fan of this pavilion, and always see the show as well as the Voices of Liberty. It is a powerful and emotional experience, particularly for citizens of this country. Also worth mentioning is the American Heritage Gallery, located inside a small room to the right of the rotunda as you enter. It's a miniature museum of actual artifacts from famous Americans such as Abraham Lincoln, Gus Grissom, and Rosa Parks.
  13. ttintagel's Avatar
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    Also, my junior high school chorus totally sang "Golden Dream" at some point in the late 80's. We had a tape with the accompaniment, and all the little speech snippets in the middle (JFK, Neil Armstrong, MLK, etc.) It's really hard not to sing along at the show.
  14. Not My Real Name's Avatar
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    When I first saw the show on October 2nd, 1982 (EPCOT's second day of operation), I was almost moved to tears by "Two Brothers" (written and sung by Joan Baez, am I right?). It was so beautiful, one of the best songs I'd ever heard.

    Ten minutes later, I heard "Golden Dream" and actually was moved to tears and choked up; it became the best song I'd ever heard. I've even applauded when Walt's image comes up in the film. And then hearing JFK, MLK and Neil Armstrong put me over the top. What a beautiful, grand adventure.