In discussing this attraction’s greatness in the previous post, I remarked on its technical impressiveness and quality as a stage show. Now, I’ll turn my attention to its timeless message and importance to Americans. (Seriously.) While I’ve always enjoyed its patriotic tone, and the way it made me feel invigorated by the end, my appreciation of American Adventure has evolved over time.
Recently, I’ve come to appreciate its ability to unite us as citizens while touching upon moments in history that are both bright and dark. Given its status as a theme park attraction, it never delves into these too deeply, but just that they are there, and that people from all walks of life can find common ground, is something.
The final lines of the American Adventure, most notably, “the golden age never was the present age…” seem especially poignant, as if they could have been written in anticipation of today. Yet, people have likely always found those lines to be prescient, and that’s the point. To that end, another line from the attraction sticks in my mind: “this great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive, and will prosper.”
Impressions de France
Putting the France pavilion’s attraction above American Adventure might make me distinctly patriotic, but the reality is that they’re both must dos for us. Recently, we’ve probably watched Impressions de France more for the sake of research and motivation, to be perfectly honest.
I’ve said it before, but I think Impressions de France is the best film in all of Epcot. That does not just include the World Showcase films, but also Soarin’. I know very few people are inclined to agree with me, but I find Impressions de France to be more immersive despite not having the same engrossing ‘ride’ experience.
What Impressions de France lacks in immersive elements, it makes up for with a lack of contrived transitions, over the top CGI, and distracting distortions. Beyond that, Impressions de France has a beautiful, chills-inducing score, timeless visuals (aside from a few dated outfits), and an expansive, breathtaking showcase of scenery.
All of this combines to make it the most compelling travelogue I’ve ever watched. Thus far, we’ve visited just over half of the filming locations in Impressions de France, with the locations around Cannes and the French Alps being the remaining major spots on our list.
Carousel of Progress
Carousel of Progress is adored by many a Disney fan for its rich history. The fact that a famous NFL star and his brother wrote its song. The fact that the second scene was originally Walt Disney’s apartment when he used to visit Magic Kingdom. The fact that it used to be sponsored by a popcorn tycoon who made contractual demands that he appear (twice) in the attraction. The fact that it contains the only laser disc player in the United States still in use. (Note: above facts may be of the alternative variety.)
In fact, Carousel of Progress does have a rich history, and although that’s part of its place as an undeniable classic, that only plays a small part in why I love it so much. First of all, there’s personal nostalgia. I remember frequent visits here as a child. Thanks to that, the Carousel of Progress family feels like actual family.
That feeling also exists, and even endures, because the Carousel of Progress characters have so much character. This is something I’ll get into more with the next attraction, but I’m really drawn to attractions that develop their characters, and give them personality. Probably more than any other attraction at Walt Disney World, the ‘Progress’ family has this, and it’s always enjoyable to grow old with them, so to speak.
For me, this overcomes the problems that nag at Carousel of Progress, and prevent it from being an objectively great (or perhaps even objectively good?) attraction. It really bothers me that Walt Disney World refuses to invest even a few thousand dollars to clean up the blatantly-dated aspects of the final scene, much less won’t give the finale the full-scale update it so desperately needs…and has needed for well over a decade (I’d argue reverting it to its original Worlds’ Fair form and framing it as retro-futuristic is the best course).
Country Bear Jamboree
For so many people I’ve encountered, enjoyment of Country Bear Jamboree hinges upon whether they enjoy folk or country music. If they don’t, all of the bears in the world cannot save this attraction for them.
Personally, Bob Dylan’s forays into them aside, these musical genres are not my jam. The thing is, Country Bear Jamboree is not a simple country music concert performed by robotic bears. Instead, it’s simultaneously a love-letter to the genre, and a send-up of stereotypical Southern life. It borders on social satire, and in the process contains some of the best witty and irreverent humor ever showcased in a Disney theme park.
Most importantly, its irreverent humor is delivered in a playful and fun manner. Even as Country Bear Jamboree spoofs hillbilly culture, it does so in way that’s unlikely to offend. I grew up in rural Michigan and lived in Indiana for years, and rather than finding this humor offensive because it hits too close to home, I laugh at its astuteness.
Perhaps I just enjoy self-deprecating humor, but I think Country Bear Jamboree is a hoot, and one that makes me nod silently while laughing. When Big Al first appears, I think we all can relate. Who among us has not sat on our porch shirtless and shoeless, with jugs of empty moonshine scattered around our couch while watching the cars pass? (No? Just me. Okay then.)
Beyond Country Bear Jamboree’s catchy music and irreverent humor, the characters are excellent. Even though the runtime is fairly short (and shorter now than it used to be!), the character development is strong. By the end of the show, you have a good sense of each bear’s personality and their quirks.
When I think of the best theme park characters from Walt Disney World, Figment, Dreamfinder, Sonny Eclipse, and about 8 of the Country Bears come to mind. Talk about a strong ensemble! Country Bear Jamboree is like the Wet Hot American Summer of theme park attraction casts.
At the end of the day, none of this should really be necessary to persuade you that Country Bear Jamboree is among the best attractions at Walt Disney World. If you’re against singing, robotic bears, you are against America. It’s as simple as that.
This is the attraction we do more than any other at Walt Disney World. On the one hand, I love the Peoplemover for the laid back experience that it does offer. On the other hand, I feel like there are so many opportunities for easy, significant improvements to be made to the show scenes, narration, and atmosphere that would really improvement the experience. The failure of Disney to make these “little fixes” irritates me, because the attraction really deserves better.
While its unrealized potential really bothers me, what I appreciate about the Peoplemover is that it forces us to slow down, decompress, and converse. It’s the ultimate change of pace attraction, and for us, it presents the perfect opportunity to embrace why we visit Walt Disney World in the first place: to have fun together. So many other attractions engage you, individually, with the show scenes and ride experience, itself.
Because the show scenes are weak to non-existent, the Peoplemover does this to a far lesser degree than most other attractions. Largely, the TTA is pretty much whatever you want it to be. If you want a place to enjoy the nighttime ambiance of Tomorrowland, it’s that. If you want an attraction for socializing, it can be that. If you want to get off your feet and feel a nice breeze, it’s that. Heck, if you want a leisurely place to catch up on work emails, it can be that.
So there you have them, my top 10 favorite attractions at Walt Disney World. Oh, and props to anyone who noticed another reason I chose not to number them–because I actually snuck 11 attractions onto the list. Hope you don’t mind! 😉
What are your 10 favorite Walt Disney World attractions? Which ones are your personal favorites that would not make your ‘best of’ list? To what degree does nostalgia fuel your choices? Where there overlaps between my list and yours, is the reasoning similar? Do you think I’ve made a bunch of awful choices…to the point that you now question my judgment on every other post on this blog? 😉 Any other thoughts to add or questions? Hearing your perspective is part of the fun, so please share in the comments–even if it’s just a top 10 list with no explanation, it’d be nice to read!