A lot has been going on over where that lovely boat ride, El Rio Del Tiempo, used to be. Now it's becoming the "Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros," Gran Fiesta Tour, or GFT for short.
Now, this rehab includes some minor enhancements to the entire Mexico pavilion. Since it was opened in 1982, pre-ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), a lot of the queue as well as building is being re-designed for Guests with Wheelchairs.
Back in 1982, things were designed a little differently, and there is a little story that goes with this. So sit tight, and keep reading, we'll get to the good stuff in a minute.
Now, I'm sure you all know that the Mexico Pavilion was designed entirely by WDI, Mexico was not an official sponsor of the pavilion at opening. (It was only very recently that the Mexico Tourism Board opened an exhibit inside.) So, when WDI designed the place, they had the idea of you having to "discover" this giant vine-covered Aztec Pyramid... in the middle of a dense rainforest jungle.
Now, that's a fantastic idea, but you can't really "discover" a country in World Showcase, it has to stand out around the lagoon, that way you'll go inside. So the vines were taken off the concept for the actual pyramid to make it more visible, and the pathway leading up to the fron through the rainforest was removed from the concept, way before construction ever began. But WDI wanted that pathway, they really felt "discovering" this pyramid in the middle of the jungle was really unique.
So an answer? Well, pyramids have steps, right? So how do guests in wheelchairs get in? Well, a ramp just HAD to be included in the construction. And a budget for a ramp off to the side was added to the project... and that's just what Imagineers wanted.
They took the concept of a ramp, and placed a dense jungle of plants around the ramp, complete with live parrots, and dense fog. Thus allowing you to still "discover" the pyramid. Though to my knowledge, the fog no longer works on the outside, and the fog dissipates in the summer too quickly anyway.
So, If you remember that pathway leading up to the pyramid on the outside, well, it's being changed a tad. New railings that are ADA comlpiant are being installed. I'm sure you're well aware now that the parrots are over in Animal Kingdom. But it's still a neat pathway to take... so next time you go to Epcot, take it, and think to yourself, "Yeah, this is what the Imagineers wanted us to do!" I hope they take the time to fix the fog too!
Inside, the main changes are in the queue at the attraction. Well, I mean, the attraction is different too, but the queue is all I'm talking about. All I'm allowed to talk about. Let's just pretend I don't know about the new finale of the attraction, and we'll continue...
The queue has been re-designed, making it ADA compliant. So in short, everyone goes through the entrance now, so if you use a wheelchair, no more going in through the exit ramp, having to fight the people exiting anymore!
The queue's design is fairly different, and, in the limited space in the queue, an attempt will be made to re-acquaint you with the three main stars of the movie, as well as the attraction. Jose, Donald, and Panchito! Their faces, as well as their names, will be painted on the walls as you enter. To enhance the "fiesta" tone of the attraction, banners and flags are hung everywhere, and makes for a much more festive entrance. When you go to board the boats, you'll notice that air gates have been installed.
And then you're off on your boat ride, with a new safety spiel (of course) done by one of the characters of the attraction. I've heard Donald in English, Panchito in Spanish, but somehow I question if that's true, simply because I can't understand Donald half the time anyway. My bet is on Jose to actually end up delivering the spiel, but we shall see!
Okay, that was probably the longest and most typed out, history-infused update you've read for a long time. So, go have fun.
Oh, one more thing. naumoney posted some lovely photos of the new attraction sign with the logo still covered by a see-through tarp, so take a look here: http://micechat.com/forums/walt-disney-world-resort/58012-gran-fiesta-tour-new-sign-update.html
Adios Amigos! Figment says Hola!