One of the rides in Walt Disney World that you don’t hear about as often as others is “Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros” located at the Mexico Pavilion within Epcot’s World Showcase. It’s a shame too, because this is an enjoyable little dark boat ride filled with colors, lively music, and quite a few silly antics. Why should you take time out of your day to go on this ride? Well if nothing else, we can give you 8 totally cool things about the experience that will make you want to hop in line the very next time you’re in Epcot.
1. The Ride’s Lovely Opening Scene
The very first part of the Gran Fiesta Tour ride is easily the coolest portion. Before you dive into the silliness that comes later, you are treated to a slow, peaceful passage between the San Angel Inn Restaurante on one side and a beautifully lit Mayan pyramid on the other, all under an artificial night sky with a volcano seemingly smoking in the distance. It’s quite lovely, really. If you’ve ever gotten the chance to ride the Pirates of the Caribbean ride over at Disneyland in California — which starts out next to a restaurant of its own — you’ll find Gran Fiesta Tour’s opening scene comfortably familiar.
2. The Story
Gran Fiesta Tour is based on Walt Disney’s 1944 film, The Three Caballeros, starring Donald Duck, Mexican rooster Panchito Pistoles, and Brazilian parrot José Carioca. As the ride’s story goes, the trio of friends are scheduled to play a concert in Mexico City when Panchito and José discover that Donald’s gone missing. The two of them jump aboard a flying sarape — à la Aladdin’s magic carpet — and set out on a search for their friend. As the ride progresses, you discover that Donald’s been having a good old time exploring all of Mexico, taking photos, buying souvenirs, and generally having a crazy time. After finally catching up to Donald and pulling him away from a group of girls, they finally make it to their concert, the performance of which closes out the ride in fun fashion. Which leads us to…
3. The Grande Finale Animatronics
Whereas most of the ride’s story is depicted through the use of animation overlaid on live-action footage, the concert scene at the end of the ride boasts animatronic figures of Donald, Panchito, and José themselves. Here, they perform their signature song, “The Three Caballeros”, as fireworks shoot overhead. Fun fact: Those three animatronics actually got their start as part of the Mickey Mouse Revue, a historic attraction that closed many years ago to make way for what’s known today as Mickey’s PhilharMagic.
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4. The Animation
Speaking of the ride’s animation, did you know it was directed by Eric Goldberg, who is known as the lead animator of the character Genie in Disney’s 1992 Aladdin film, as well as Maui’s tattoo animations in Moana? That’s right, this modern-day animation legend is behind all four minutes of the zany animated antics you see in Gran Fiesta Tour, and every second of it is a treat.
5. It’s a Relaxing Ride
You know how it is at Disney World: You’re walking around in the heat and bright sun all day, mostly hopping from attraction to attraction. Sometimes you need a little respite, and Gran Fiesta Tour serves this role very nicely. The moment you step inside that beautiful pyramid, you’ll appreciate the chance to cool off and take a little 8-minute boat ride — and an entertaining one, at that.
6. …And Did We Mention the Funny Hijinks?
With Donald Duck in the picture, you know you’re in for a silly time. As you go through the ride, you’ll see him get his swimsuit stolen by a boat, playing music with a mariachi band on another boat, trying to ride a pyramid steps like an escalator, and more. Along the way, José and Panchito find themselves in humorous situations as well, like when they ask a restaurant waiter if he’s seen Donald and he shows them a roasted duck on a silver platter, quickly scaring them away.
7. The Line is Usually Short
We’re often surprised how short the line is for Gran Fiesta Tour. You’ll rarely have to wait in it for more than 15 minutes, so you can go again and again for as long as it takes until you feel rested enough to venture back outdoors.
8. The Mural Map
As you near the end of the ride, you’ll see a large mural featuring a cartoony map of Mexico on the wall to your left. It was inspired by the one that appears in the Three Caballeros film, which is a nice touch on top of an already wonderful ride.