World Showcase @ Epcot Center


Irish and Asian areas for the International Shopping Center. 1966.
(c) The Walt Disney Company

At today's Epcot themepark, World Showcase - a permanent World's Fair featuring the look, feel, cuisine, entertainment and shopping from countries around the world - is the final adaptation of the proposed enclosed international shopping center that was supposed to be built below the cosmopolitan hotel deck of E.P.C.O.T. Despite not being built in an enclosed building, the result is in line with Walt Disney's description: 

"Shopping areas where stores and whole streets recreate the character and adventure of places ‘round the world…theaters for dramatic and musical productions…restaurants and a variety of nightlife attractions."
(Walt Disney)

World Showcase is the second major area of Epcot themepark after "Future World". This large area is reminiscent of a permanent world's fair containing eleven pavilions, each themed and dedicated to represent a specific country. The eleven pavilions surround the World Showcase Lagoon, a large man-made lake located in the center of World Showcase with a perimeter of 1.2 miles. In clockwise order, the eleven pavilions include: Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, United Stated, Japan, Morocco, France, United Kingdom and Canada. Of the eleven pavilions, Norway and Morocco were not present at the park's opening, and were added later after park opening. Each pavilion contains themed architecture, landscapes, streetscapes, attractions, shops, and restaurants representing the respective country's culture and cuisine. In an effort to maintain the authenticity of the represented countries, the pavilions are primarily staffed by citizens of the respective countries as part of the Cultural Representative Program through J-1 visa agreements. Some pavilions also contain themed rides, shows, and live entertainment representative of the respective country. The only pavilion that is directly sponsored by the government of its respective country is Morocco, the remaining pavilions are primarily sponsored by private companies with affiliations to the represented countries. Pavilions for Russia, Switzerland, Spain, Venezuela, United Arab Emirates, and Israel have occasionally been rumored as potential future pavilions but have never made it past the planning phases to date (2014).

Mexico Pavillon
(c) The Walt Disney Company

Mexico Pavillon Concept Art from Walt Disney Imagineering
(c) The Walt Disney Company

The Mexico pavilion resembles a Mesoamerican pyramid. The nightly fireworks show "IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth" is controlled from a small office atop the building. The office's window is barely visible from street level, but can be seen at an angle.

Visitors enter through a display of Mexican artwork, the "Animales Fantasticos" art collection. The main room is the home to a twilight-lit Mexican marketplace, Plaza de los Amigos. At the edge of the plaza, a restaurant, San Angel Inn, overlooks an indoor lagoon. To the side of the plaza, a boarding area leads to a boat ride, Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros.

Norway Pavillon
(c) The Walt Disney Company

Norway Pavillon Concept Art from Walt Disney Imagineering
(c) The Walt Disney Company

The 58,000 square foot Norway pavilion is designed to look like a Norwegian village. The village includes a detailed stave church, and the exterior of its main table-service restaurant, Restaurant Akershus, resembles its namesake in Oslo. The exhibit showcases 4 styles of Norwegian architecture: Setesdal-style, Bergen-style, Oslo-style and Ålesund-style.

Much of the pavilion is taken up by interconnected shops. These shops are decorated with large wooden trolls and sell assorted Norwegian goods, including clothing, candy, and small troll statues. The courtyard of the pavilion contains the entrance to Maelstrom, a boat ride into Norway's past and present. Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe is a bakery, featuring assorted Norwegian pastries, such as cream horns and open-faced salmon sandwiches. There is a Viking ship, inspired by the famous Oseberg ship, that was formerly used as a children's play area. The courtyard contains the entrance to Restaurant Akershus, featuring a hot and cold buffet and "Princess Storybook Dining."

The Norway pavilion is the most recent nation to be added to World Showcase. It was officially opened in June 1988 by Crown Prince Harald in a ceremony that was broadcast live to Norway. The original idea was to create a Nordic Pavilion that would combine elements from various countries into one exhibit. Three countries were consulted, but it finally ended up with investors from Norway raising the required US$30 million as to create an exclusive national pavilion. Disney contributed the other one-third of the construction cost. In 1992, the investors sold their stake to Disney. Since nearly as many people visit Epcot as live in Norway, the government felt it still was a good promotional tool for their tourism industry. The federal government continued to contribute US$200,000 annually for five years to help fund the exhibit. Renewed in 1997 for a further 5 years, the government stopped payments in 2002, against the recommendations from their American embassy.

China Pavillon
(c) The Walt Disney Company

China Pavillon Concept Art from Walt Disney Imagineering
(c) The Walt Disney Company

Visitors enter the China Pavilion through a large Chinese gate. The courtyard is dominated by a Chinese temple, the Temple of Heaven, which contains the entrance to "Reflections of China", a Circle-Vision 360° movie exploring China's history and scenery, as well as a museum containing several ancient Chinese artifacts. The courtyard is bordered by shops selling Chinese merchandise, and two Chinese restaurants. The pavilion is decorated with ponds, crossed by bridges. Chinese acrobats also perform frequently in the pavilion.

Germany Pavillon
(c) The Walt Disney Company

Germany Pavillon Concept Art from Walt Disney Imagineering
(c) The Walt Disney Company

The original design of the pavilion called for a boat ride along the Rhine river. It was to have focused on German folklore, in a similar manner to the Mexico and Norway rides. According to the Walt Disney Company's 1976 annual report the ride was to be " ... a cruise down Germany's most famous rivers -- the Rhine, the Tauber, the Ruhr and the Isar. Detailed miniatures of famous landmarks will also be seen, including one of the Cologne Cathedral."

Though the building was built, the ride wasn't and is now used as storage space. You can see the main entrance hall, as it's now the dining area for the Biergarten. The ride building is used for storage for floats, a workshop and cast member rehearsal space.

The Germany Pavilion is designed to look like a German town, but with architecture from different eras and regions. The Platz (square) is decorated with a statue of St. George and the Dragon and a clock tower. The Biergarten, at the rear of the courtyard, sells traditional German food. The pavilion also has numerous small shops selling German goods, including dolls and cuckoo clocks. The area near the pavilion is decorated by an extensive model village with working model trains.

Italy Pavillon
(c) The Walt Disney Company

The Italian Pavilion features a plaza surrounded by a collection of buildings evocative of Venetian and Roman architecture, including a functional re-creation of St Mark's Campanile (bell tower) of St. Mark's Square. A replica of the Doge's Palace from Venice also figures prominently. The pavilion's design is inspired by other hallmarks of Italian architecture, such as the Neptune Fountain (reminiscent of Rome's Trevi Fountain), the Il Bel Cristallo shop (meant to resemble the exterior of the Sistine Chapel) and the Lion of St. Mark. Musicians, clowns and acting troupes often appear in the piazza throughout the day. There are also small shops selling Italian goods, such as candy and wine.

United States Of America "The American Adventure" Pavillon
(c) The Walt Disney Company

United States Of America Pavillon Concept Art by Walt Disnney Imagineering
(c) The Walt Disney Company

The pavilion is a single largue building designed in the Colonial style. It contains the American Adventure show and the Hall of Flags exhibit, a display of the different flags throughout U.S. history. It also contains the Liberty Inn restaurant which serves American fare, such as cheeseburgers and hot dogs. There is a small gift shop, Heritage Manor Gifts, selling American items.

The American Adventure takes guests on a trip through America's rich 200-plus year history. It is narrated by figures of Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain. The show is presented in a theater-like auditorium, with sets and characters rising out from the stage floor to represent scenes from different historical periods. The characters provide insight into American life of the past through conversations in which they discuss the current events of their time. Periods include the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the Centennial International Exhibition of 1876 (representing American industrialization), and the Great Depression. The presentation culminates with a musical film montage representing famous moments and people in American history from post-World War II to the present.

In 1993, the attraction was updated with all new animatronics and a new version of the theme song. In mid-2007, about 45 seconds of footage was added to the end of the Golden Dreams montage, the first updating of the montage since the 1993 renovation.

The theme song for The American Adventure is "Golden Dream", it was written by Bob Moline in 1980. After the rehab in 1993, the song's vocals were sung by a different man and woman, the chorus after the quotes is longer, and the ending is different.

Across from the pavilion is the America Gardens Theatre, an outdoor amphitheater. The America Gardens Theatre hosts concerts, singers, and bands from around the world. Many entertainment acts from around the world perform on this stage.

The America Gardens Theatre has hosted numerous amount of shows since it was built. Over the years some of the more famous shows include Blast! and Barrage. During the park's two major festivals—the International Flower and Garden Festival in the spring, and the International Food and Wine Festival in the fall—musical groups from the 1960's and 1970's perform as part of each festival's concert series ("Flower Power" in the spring, and "Eat to the Beat" in the fall).

In 1999, a revised version of Michael Flatley's Lord of the Dance performed in the theater over the summer. Even though Flatley himself did not perform in the show, its popularity encouraged Epcot to bring the show back in 2000 for another summer run. Originally designed as an open-air theater, partial cover and backstage dressing and show equipment areas were added during a refurbishment that was completed before the inception of the "Magical World of Barbie" stage show.

During the holiday season, the theater hosts the Candlelight Processional. This show follows in the footsteps of the show first performed in Disneyland in 1958, and which was duplicated at the Magic Kingdom in 1971. The show relocated to the America Gardens Theater in Epcot in 1994. The show includes an orchestra and massed choir that perform traditional holiday songs while a guest celebrity retells the biblical story of Christmas. Some of the celebrities who have taken part in the Processional over the years include John Stamos, Marlee Matlin, Corbin Bleu, Haley Joel Osment and Jim Caviezel. The Candlelight Processional is a major part of Epcot's Holidays Around the World celebration, running from the Friday after Thanksgiving until December 30 each year.

Japan Pavillon
(c) The Walt Disney Company

Japan Pavillon Concept Art by Walt Disnney Imagineering
(c) The Walt Disney Company

A Japan pavilion is one of the original World Showcase pavilions and had been in planning since the late 1970s. Many attractions have been proposed for the pavilion and one show building was built, but left unused. Meet the World was one planned attraction and was a clone of the attraction Meet the World that was once at Tokyo Disneyland. But because management thought that the Japanese film's oversight of World War II might upset many Veterans, it was dropped. The show was so close to opening, the show building and rotating platform was built but then unused.

For years, the idea of a roller coaster attraction based on Matterhorn Bobsleds from Disneyland but themed to Japan's Mt. Fuji has been mulled over by Imagineers. Space, lack of sponsor, and money has been a deciding factor in many of the reasons. Fuji Film originally wanted to sponsor the ride in the early 1990s. Kodak, a major Epcot sponsor, convinced Disney to decline the sponsorship. At one point, Godzilla or a large lizard attacking guests in their cars was tied to theming. Another attraction proposed was a walk through version of "Circle-Vision", in which guests would board and walk through a Shinkansen (bullet train) and looking through windows (actually film screens) that showcase Japan's changing landscapes before exiting. The train would have shaken and moved like a train going through the countryside.

The Japan pavilion is made up of buildings surrounding a courtyard. The entrance to the courtyard features a Japanese Pagoda. A torii gate decorates the water in front of the pavilion. The area is filled with Japanese pools and gardens. At the end of the courtyard is the gate to a Japanese castle, including a moat, which leads into a display of Japanese culture.

Morocco Pavillon
(c) The Walt Disney Company

Morocco Pavillon Concept Art by Walt Disnney Imagineering
(c) The Walt Disney Company

The Moroccan Pavilion is designed to look like a Moroccan city, with a realistic Minaret. It features the Restaurant Marrakesh which serves Moroccan fare, such as roast lamb in Tagines, Couscous and Harira soups. It includes the Gallery of Arts and History and the Fes House, an example of a typical Moroccan house. It has many shops with a Moroccan feel, selling such goods as rugs, leather goods, and clothing. The area is decorated with gardens and fountains to give a North African feel. Later in the evening, there is a musical show including a Belly Dancer.

Some of the major defining structures of the pavilion include two prayer towers, the Chellah and the Koutoubia, which are replicas of the ones in the towns of Rabat and Marrakech, respectively. The Baboujaloud archway into the Bazaar area signals the entrance to the downtown replica of the pavilion called the Medina.

The King of Morocco actually sent Moroccan artisans to design and create the many mosaics. Due to Islamic religious beliefs on the content of art, the mosaics contain no representations of people.

France Pavillon
(c) The Walt Disney Company

France Pavillon Concept Art by Walt Disnney Imagineering
(c) The Walt Disney Company

The France pavilion is themed to look like a Paris neighborhood with a pool and fountains and with a view of the Eiffel Tower in the distance. Most of the shops on the streets are actual shops selling French goods such as Guerlain perfumes. The pavilion features "Impressions de France", a panoramic movie which visits France's cities and historical structures. It also includes two French restaurants, the Bistro de Paris and Les Chefs de France, and a bakery, the Boulangerie Patisserie.

United Kingdom Pavillon
(c) The Walt Disney Company

United Kingdom Pavillon Concept Art by Walt Disnney Imagineering
(c) The Walt Disney Company

The United Kingdom Pavilion is designed to look like a typical British village, although it could be argued that it is more stereotypical, with buildings based on different periods of British architecture. It has British gardens (including a hedge maze). The shops sell British items, such as tea, toys, clothing and Beatles merchandise. There is also a Beatles tribute band called "The British Invasion" that performs regularly in the Pavilion. The Rose & Crown Pub and Dining Room serves traditional British food, as well as beer and ale. There is also a Harry Ramsden's restaurant serving Fish and Chips. There is a sport shop selling British sport equipment, including Chelsea FC and Liverpool F.C. shirts.

Canada Pavillon
(c) The Walt Disney Company

Canada Pavillon Concept Art by Walt Disnney Imagineering
(c) The Walt Disney Company

The Canada pavilion is designed to remind the guest of the Canadian outdoors. The pavilion is decorated with a canyon, a waterfall, gardens, a pool with fountains, and totem poles. The main attraction at the Canada Pavilion is "O Canada!", a Circle-Vision 360° movie of Canada's cities and scenery. This pavilion also includes Le Cellier Steakhouse and the semi-permanent home of the Celtic rock band Off Kilter.

Prior to the construction of the Canadian pavilion, the Walt Disney corporation sought financial support for the attraction from the Canadian government. The company wanted the Federal government to fund the cost of building the attraction, in return the government would have input into the design and layout. The Canadian government was concerned about the stereotype of Canada that Disney wanted (i.e., lumberjacks). Funding was refused, and Disney threatened to pull the exhibit, but ultimately did not.

At one time during the planning stage, the pavilion was to have been divided by a main street of shops and restaurants, with one side representing French Canada and the other English Canada.

At the opening in 1982, the original musical talent for the Canadian pavilion was performed by a trio called the "Caledonian Pipe Band". They consisted of 2 pipers, 1 drummer. The performers were Robert (Bob) Proctor (lead, drummer), Kenneth Mauchin (piper) and Robert Mauchin (piper). These performers were recruited by Ron Rodriguez (talent co-ordinator for Walt Disney World) from the Rosie O' Grady's Pipe Band of Orlando. Because all three had ties to Scotland, they also performed in the UK pavilion) at various times.

In 2007 Disney updated the film "O Canada!" which was filmed in 1979. For several years, the Canadian Tourism Commission has been lobbying to have the movie updated, partly to remove outdated stereotypes of Canadian life. On August 31, 2007, the updated edition opened with a new host, Canadian actor Martin Short, and Canadian Idol winner Eva Avila reprising the film's theme song, "Canada (You're a Lifetime Journey)".