2010 Best Theme Park Attraction nominee: Epcot's American Adventure

February 24, 2010, 8:02 AM · Today's attraction spotlight shines on Epcot's The American Adventure, the fourth seed in the Best Movie or Animated Show bracket of Theme Park Insider's 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament.

Epcot's The American Adventure

Yep, Ben Franklin and Mark Twain host this animatronic and filmed review of United States history. If the Hall of Presidents tells the story of America from the perspective of the Oval Office, the American Adventure offers a broader narrative on how the nation got to where it is today. (Or, where it was - more or less - around 1980, when Epcot opened.)

The show hits the highlights of any basic U.S. history course - the Revolution, the Declaration of Independence, the westward expansion - but it doesn't ignore the bitter moments in the nation's history, either, including slavery and the Native American genocide.

Personally, I love the show for its choice of hosts. There seems to be a movement today to paint the nation's founding fathers as pious men, motivated by religious calling. In Franklin and Twain, you couldn't find two more sarcastic, God(okay, Christian)-mocking examples to blow up that mistaken assumption about our nation's past. (True, you don't see anywhere near the full range of Franklin's and Twain's sharper attitudes written into in this show, but still, having them up there helps cut the cloying, rah-rah jingoism that threatens to bog down shows like this.)

Here's a clip from the middle of the show, which demonstrates that Disney was using the "Ken Burns effect" to animate still images long before Burns took over PBS pledge drive weeks. (Disney tech geeks should also note that this show offered the first example of an Audio Animatronic walking, too!)

What's your take on The American Adventure? We'd love to hear your thoughts, in the comments.

Replies (17)

February 24, 2010 at 8:44 AM · I saw this show for the first time late last year (having skipped it on previous visits) and was amazed by it as much on a purely technical level as I was by the actual narrative.

As a non-American I approached it warily (the HOP only just stays on the correct side of OTT patriotism for my taste) but the AA is a great potted history of the States, told in a way that only a Disney attraction can.

The exhibits and the Voices Of Liberty vocal group located in the lobby are also well worth checking out.
The exhibition items help flesh out a lot of information the show provided and I won't be skipping it again!

February 24, 2010 at 9:34 AM · The American Adventure is an amazing show. Technically dazzling, moving and educational at the same time. A must see; unfortunately, I keep hearing about people skipping this show. That's a mistake; the American Adventure is the best part of the World Showcase, IMHO.
February 24, 2010 at 10:04 AM · Something not mentioned in the description is that the cast members in this attraction are the best consistantly and most informative in my opinion. The last three times I have went, I have had an older cast member who told us about the flags and the hall as we were going upstairs to get into the theater. There is, of course, Pearl, my most favorite Cast member ever, but I haven't seen her for awhile.

Still, this attraction is fantastic and I like how they do not shy away from some of America's imperfections.

I could say much about this great attraction, but I can''t leave withhout talking about the music, especially Two Brothers during the Civil War. Chilling music!

If anybody ever has the cash and time, please make sure you take a tour of backstage EPCOT. You visit the American Adventure and the technology that goes behind putting on this show is pure Disney magic!

February 24, 2010 at 10:15 AM · This is a great attraction to take in when visiting the American Pavillion at the World Showcase in Epcot. International friends should not be turned off by the prospect of flag waving patriotism here. Sure, old glory is featured as are standard images of Americana iconography, but it is the "American Adventure", so that is all par for the course.

If for no other reason, this attraction should be experienced for it's technical execution alone. The various set peices rising from the stage, featuring beautifully detailed and articulated animatronics are some of Disney's best ever. Ben Franklin walking is a nice change of pace as opposed to other AA figures whose feet are often bolted into one spot and move from the waist up.

Really, with only a handfull of other attractions to experience at World Showcase, American Adventure easily ranks as the top, "Disney style" attraction to see. Maelstrom and Grand Fiesta Tour being the only other two really. I don't count those dreadful, archaic and lazy 360degree theater travelogues they try to pass of as something to do at WS.

Mostly this section of the park is reserved for shopping, drinking, dining and shotgun globe trotting, but if you're in the mood to take in an attraction at The World Showcase, do not let this gem slip by.

February 24, 2010 at 10:40 AM · Didn't Franklin once write: "The longer I live, the more convincing Proofs I see of this Truth — That God governs in the Affairs of Men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his Notice, is it probable that an Empire can rise without his Aid?"

I am no historian, but is that God-mocking? Plus Franklin was well-known to have thanked God everyday for beer and wine! =)

Oh well, the American Adventure is still a really good attraction regardless of your reasoning. One that WDI should be very proud to have imagined.

February 24, 2010 at 11:37 AM · I took a back stage tour which brought us behind the scenes of this great attraction. The logistics of getting the sets moved around is something to behold.
February 24, 2010 at 12:09 PM · Not to change this to a political argument, but Franklin, along with other founding fathers, was a deist, which means he believed in there being a God, but not organized religion. While they seem pretty tame by today's standards, both Franklin and Twain were a bit ahead of their time, even contriversal.

I think the point is that its not a flag waving patriotism exercise that many American things have become, but rather a show about the good, bad, and complexities that make this nation great: Different backgrounds, different ideas, but the ability to work together to make America better.

February 24, 2010 at 1:28 PM · Argument? Who's arguing? ;p

Interestingly enough, Anthony, one of the reasons I like the American Adventure is that while it is [mostly] honest and fair, it still manages to offer an ample dose of "flag waving patriotism" as you so eloquently put it. I for one find it difficult to walk out of that theater without feeling uplifted by the portrayal of good, old-fashioned, American ideals, like self-reliance, honesty, integrity, equality, compassion, and liberty. Moreover, the American Adventure seems to be boldly stating that while America has not yet reached the summit of its greatness, it has all the elements in place to achieve it.

I like that sentiment -- a lot.

And back to your comment, I don’t think there is enough "flag waving patriotism" going on these days....

February 24, 2010 at 1:37 PM · i dont care about the politics, this is the best animatronics show, period. plus i love the pre show about the flags and such. everyone needs to hit this up at the world showcase, plus they need to get drunk and hit those funnel cakes with ice cream on top.

word to america!!!!

February 24, 2010 at 2:03 PM · I love how much controversy this attraction raises.

Even more so, I love Luis' signature on every one of these threads. "Word to the yeti" killed me.

It's a solid attraction, ranking somewhere around an 8-Commendable, but France's film gives it a solid run for its money.

Word to Luis!

February 24, 2010 at 2:33 PM · The American Adventure show is an amazing show, one of Disney's best. In response to part of what was said in the write-up, many of our founding fathers WERE God-fearing people. In all of what I have read, I have never seen a quote where Franklin mocked God. It might be a different story with Twain though.
February 24, 2010 at 2:49 PM · In my opinion, the greatest Disney attraction. Ever. So many skills coalesce in The American Adventure--particularly the art of show writing. The proposition of distilling the story of the United States into a twenty nine minute song-and-robot show and somehow come out the other end with a dignified, meaningful experience--well, that's daunting. The fact that Disney not only pulled off that feat, but managed in the process to create the closest thing to theme park poetry that I can point to...well, it's amazing.

What a fantastic experience and a testament to WED's skills in the late seventies and early eighties. Guys like Randy Bright are every bit as much "Disney Legends" as the greats that preceeded them a generation before.

February 24, 2010 at 2:54 PM · thanx for the props, corn pops!


February 24, 2010 at 7:42 PM · Sorry, but the God mocking comment was uncalled for. If you actually read your history, you will find this comment to be a farce. This isn't a political or religious forum, so comments like that are not needed. Get back to reviewing theme parks.
February 24, 2010 at 9:11 PM · See, I knew that people were going to start arguing about it, suprised not more WORD or NO NAME writers.

Not enough? I guess you are right, but you can't beat the closing montage. Makes me proud to be an American, especially after the changes.

But Rao, I always like your views. Now only if I could change your mind on a certain Cruise that goes through a jungle.

February 24, 2010 at 9:31 PM · Everyone's entitled to an opinion, Joshua. Besides, I kinda thought the "cloying, rah-rah jingoism" comment would inspire a little more of an outcry than it has. Maybe most folks don't know what jingoism is? For the Founding Fathers, the Boston Tea Party was probably construed by the English as a jingoistic act. And in relation to the rapid westward expansion of this nation, think of jingoism as an angry, violent way of describing "manifest destiny." But, what do I know? I'm just grateful to be an American and consider myself very lucky to have been born here. But lets face it, every nation/civilization worth its salt was founded upon war and conquest. We are not alone in our jingoism. Just ask Sid Meier! ;)

Anyhoo, ideas and opinions are supposed to excite and even incite people. So, props to Mr. Niles, his opinion started the comments flowing, and that's really what this web site is all about!

February 24, 2010 at 9:34 PM · LOL, Anthony! I like the Jungle Cruise, I just think it needs a good, jingoistic update! We should be exerting our evil will over some small, defenseless native tribe during that cruise, not pandering to their crazy antics with frivolity and punnery! =)

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