Our Visit to Disney’s Moana Experience (Spoilers: Meh)

by joeheg

It’s hard to believe that it was during the D23 Expo in 2019 that the Epcot 2.0 expansion was announced. It was going to be such a drastic remaking of the park that Disney opened a “Preview Center” to showcase all of the new things coming to the park. Honestly, this update was needed as Epcot had become the place known more for its festivals than for its attractions.

It was at this same event that Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser was announced and while that experience was built, opened, and now subsequently closed, some of the other planned projects never even made it off the drawing board. Remember the Mary Poppins attraction planned for the United Kingdom pavilion? Or the renovation of Spaceship Earth with the addition of new scenes?

One project that eventually made it to the finish line, albeit not in the exact form of the original plans and several years behind schedule is the Moana-themed experience.

Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana was originally planned to be the centerpiece of the World Nature redevelopment of Future World, According to Disney:

This first-ever experience based on the Walt Disney Animation Studios hit film, “Moana,” will let guests interact with magical, living water in a beautiful and inspiring setting.

It was originally planned to open in 2021 as part of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary celebration but is now due to officially open on October 16th.

Sharon and I recently visited Epcot and were able to grab a spot for the “soft opening” by using the Disney App.

Is Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana worth the four-year wait??

First things first, both of us like the movie. With music by Lin-Manuel Miranda and a culturally authentic story, it’s an enjoyable watch. But how would it translate to an attraction?

That’s where people need to reset expectations. This is not an attraction. It’s a walk-through experience with several chances to play with water. It harkens back to the olden days of EPCOT where things were called Infotainment. They were educational while being entertaining. Honestly, so much of that has been ripped from Epcot that Journey of Water feels more like it belongs in Animal Kingdom.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

a waterfall on a rock

Walking into the area, you see an area that looks the most like the design drawings; a waterfall with an engraving similar to the water symbol from Moana.

From here on, the best explanation is that this is the next generation of the old Image Works from Journey to Imagination. Every area has a different way for you to interact with water. Break the water strands to make music. Stand in front of the water and wave your hands to make the geyser erupt. Hold out your hand and the water will rise and fall to meet it. Walk towards the waterfall and it will part to let you walk past.

Get the idea?

However, it was nice to see Disney get to use the jumping water effect from outside the Imagination pavilion again, even if it’s technology from the early 1980s. Retro is cool, right?

For me, the best things about the experience were the photo ops. Several of the rock features had images from Moana embedded in them.

a rock with moss and steam coming out of it

a carved stone of a woman

In addition, the landscape features give some cool foreground to Spaceship Earth in the distance.

a large dome in the background

a waterfall in a garden

At the end of the walkthrough, there’s a photo-op with Te Fiti.

a statue of a woman in a garden

This is also where you’ll find the water splash pad that’s so popular with the little ones. The same thing you’ll find at parks everywhere.

All along the walkway, there are signs telling about how we need to conserve water. One of them tells us to take shorter showers and to turn off the water when brushing our teeth (which Sharon said was the same advice that Mayor Ed Koch gave New Yorkers in the 1970s.) This is why the whole place feels like it doesn’t belong in today’s Epcot. Long gone are the educational themes of Future World, replaced by Soarin’, Guardians of the Galaxy and Mission Space.

The Seas have been taken over by Nemo and Crush and who knows what’s up with Imagination. The Land pavilion is more known as the place with Soarin’ than for the massive greenhouse.

Final Thoughts

If you have younger kids, they’re going to enjoy Journey of Water. Once they get older, it’s going to get lame pretty quick. In fact, they’ll probably know more about saving the planet than is shown in this walkthrough.

While the technology used to let guests “interact” with water was cool, I’m afraid of what’s going to happen. Eventually, the sensors that know where you are and control the water are going to break. Will Disney World invest the money to continually fix the experience? Disco Yeti anyone?

Was it worth waiting 4 years for this “experience?” I don’t think so. While it looks pretty and has good intentions, it seems to have been built a generation too late.

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1 comment

Lars October 12, 2023 - 1:26 pm

The Mouse just doesn’t emphasize non-upchargeable experiences anymore. The thought of a new ride or experience that is 100% covered by the already dear price of admission is a painful one for management. So I guess it’s a small miracle that they did anything at all with this. It’s a shame because the possibilities for theming offered by Moana are quite extraordinary.

Agreed that jumping water in front of what I’ll always call “the Captain EO building” never gets old.


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