Today begins the first day of widespread Cast Member previews for the new Journey of Water – Inspired by Moana attraction at EPCOT and we have a full tour of the serene nature trail! Our photos and video were captured during an early Cast preview as allowed by preview rules, but we were instructed to not post any photos or video until September 1st. With the turn of the calendar comes the opportunity for a full walking tour of the all-new Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana attraction set to open soon in the World Nature neighborhood of EPCOT.
Journey of Water Full POV Walk-Through
While we’ll cover the experience more in-depth below, we wanted to offer our full Journey of Water POV walk-through video here at the top of the article to set the scene!
Welcome to the Water Cycle
Our journey begins with an introduction to the water cycle and a scene that was set more than 4 years ago at the 2019 D23 Expo. The concept art below was the first to be presented for the attraction, and a 90-second preview of the experience was teased as part of The EPCOT Experience.
Going back to the attraction, guests will be greeted by a beautiful set of rockwork that has the Heart of Te Fiti logo carved into it and playful water jumping around. Once again, Disney has shown its ability to create realistic rockwork and finishing touches that not only rival lands like Pandora – The World of Avatar, but also nature. This entrance rock will become a popular photo spot, but it also, importantly, introduces us to the experience and teaches us to look for signage throughout the Edutainment-style attraction.
THE WATER CYCLE – Water Connects Us
All of the water in the world constantly circles the planet, from the sky to the seas and back again.
It brings life to each of us in turn. This global cycle of water connects us all.
This is the only water we will ever have! If we can conserve it wherever we find it, everyone will have the water they need to live.
Moana of Motonui, wayfinder and friend of the ocean saved her people by protecting and healing nature. Are you ready to follow in Moana’s footsteps? Come, journey with water
A misting effect will ebb and flow, just like we will find water doing throughout the attraction.
Overall, the entrance rockwork is a statement piece that is beautiful. While it’s tall, it’s never imposing like the scenery you find in larger-scale places like Pandora – The World of Avatar. It’s welcoming, and the familiar motifs of songs from the Moana film set the stage for an experience that preserves Edutainment while meeting Intellectual Property goals from the C-Suite.
A Little Bit of Rain
Three steps past the entrance rockwork and you find yourself in the Rain section. This is the first time that we get to interact with water via the strings of water stations, but before we get to that, here’s a look at the description for Rain.
RAIN – Our Cycle Begins
Born as drops of water high in the sky, rain falls from the clouds to the earth. It renews everything it touches.
Eager to explore, this gentle water tumbles down mountains, filling the world with its happy music.
Its song invites us to play and relax.
Does water call you? What parts of the water cycle can you enjoy in your community? Dance in the rain, visit the ocean, or tell your family about a local lake or stream. Share your love of water!
We also get introduced to the concept of hidden characters from the Moana film. A sign tells you to keep your eyes peeled for familiar shapes in the rocks. The first familiar shape is right above the sign and the first character that we see is Mother Island – Te Fiti.
Continuing on, we see the first interactive section of Journey of Water – Inspired by Moana. Water strings invite guests to run their fingers through streams of water to create sounds.
Stream Starts the Journey
STREAM – Traveling Together
As rain runs over the ground, trickles of water come together to make a new stream.
Encouraged by gravity and by the shape of the land, this small stream begins its journey heading downhill toward the ocean.
More water will join it along the way, strengthening its flow.
Challenge your family to see how many times a day you can do something to protect water. Small changes add up! Hint: You can save water by taking shorter showers and turning off the faucet when brushing your teeth.
Turning the corner, we actually get a wonderful “reveal” of Spaceship Earth at one of the closest spots to EPCOT’s icon during the entire experience. The stream is where little droplets of rain come together to start their journey downhill to the ocean. While the rain section was our first opportunity to interact with water, the stream section is the first spot where water gets to play back a little.
Standing on a splash icon at one of four stations, guests will wave at the gently flowing stream in front of them.
The stream will then “wave” back at guests, with water droplets playfully jumping from the stream as you wave in their direction.
A quick sneak peek behind the magic and this February 2023 photo of the installation of sensors that are cleverly hidden within baskets. These high-resolution sensors pick up motion from guests big and small to create water effects throughout the attraction. Keep an eye out and you’ll see them placed strategically near the interactive stations. We hope that Disney made the technology just complex enough to work effectively, but simple enough to work reliably.
Wetland or dry…land?
Journey of Water is, of course, an experience that revolves around water, but that doesn’t mean you have to get wet during the nature tail. In fact, we’ll get our first introduction to the “dry path” in the Wetlands section.
WETLAND – Building Community
Slowing down as it leaves the hills, our stream spreads out and soaks the soild.
This wet ground grows special plants that offer food and a home to water-loving animals.
Some of this water stays at the surface, and some continues downward through the ground. No one knows just how far or deep it goes.
Did you know that other things can soak into the soil, affecting drinking water we get from underground? Keep water clean by safely disposing of chemicals. Use all-natural products when possible – they are better for the environment!
The path may split, but the destination is always the same no matter if you take the dry path or the wet path. Honestly, the wet path is not always a guarantee that you’ll get wet either.
In this instance, the wet path takes you across a few feet of water that is probably not even an inch deep. Chances are that you’ve found deeper puddles at Disney World if you’ve visited during the summer.
Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for familiar friends from Moana!
Water Springs to Life!
Perhaps the coolest interaction with water is in the Spring section.
SPRING – Hidden Depths
Moving underground, water filters through sand, gravel, and cracks in the stone, becoming cleaner as it goes.
It may hide in this deep, dark storage space for a thousand years or more.
Eventually, some of this water gets pushed back to the surface, to continue its travels to the ocean. Here it bubbles up to the light in a small natural spring.
Conserve your local water supply by using less! Journey of Water protects groundwater by capturing and filtering this water so that it can be recirculated.
The Spring interactive area is shaded and allows guests to “high-five” water kind of like Moana does in the movie. Guests stand on a splash icon and hold their hand over the Spring. Like magic, water bubbles up to meet your hand before receding again.
The next section is the Land section, where water has finished bubbling up from the Spring and is now ready to travel across the land on its way to the ocean and, eventually, back up to the sky before the cycle begins anew.
LAND – Shaped by Water
Not all parts of the water cycle are wet! The land itself is a big part of the journey.
Land shapes water’s movement and in turn water shapes the land.
As water travels, its continuous, gentle motion sculpts new paths in solid stone. It carves deep pools and cool caves, creating playful waterfalls along the way.
Water’s constant energy can create leaks in your home. Fixing dripping faucets and running toilets is a quick way to save a lot of water.
The land is a simple section that has a bit of tech behind it. A large piece of rockwork hides the tech and invites guests to explore a “cave” with a waterfall in it. The cave is, unfortunately, only a few steps, but the parting waterfall is a fun effect that should allow you to stay dry, even on the wet path. A fun bit of backstory from construction is that this structure contains the project codename for Journey of Water – Inspired by Moana.
Lake with a View
The most photographed section of the Journey of Water nature trail, both in this article and on the phones of preview attendees, is the Lake section. Of course, the “lake” in this case is certainly more of a pond, the views are incredible here. The 16-foot-tall Ti Fiti figure overlooks the lake and protects the water the same as guests are asked to do throughout the Edutainment experience.
LAKE – All Water is Connected
This little lake is continually being refilled by water coming from different sources.
The water has been changed by the places it passed through and by the people it met along the way. Now it all combines and continues as one.
In this way we are all connected by the movement of the water cycle. The water we touch today will visit somewhere else tomorrow.
Because all water is connected, our positive impact can go far! Picking up litter can keep it out of the water cycle. Community clean-ups are a fun way to make an even bigger difference.
Before we get to the beautiful Te Fiti figure, here’s a look at the waterfall with a manta ray carved into the rockwork!
The River is like the disappointing meat between delicious bread in the Lake/River/Ocean sandwich finale of Journey of Water.
RIVER – We are All Voyagers
Our widening river uses its energy to deliver fresh water to the people, plants, and animals that need it to live.
We use water to grow food, to make clothes, and to create many of the objects in our homes. It even makes up a big part of our bodies.
By using water in so many different ways, we are part of the cycle too. We are all water!
Let’s do our part for the water cycle by making our homes water-friendly! Water-efficient appliances and low-flow shower heads and faucets can save a lot.
From the lake, water is flowing faster to the ocean. Indeed, the flow of water is much quicker than the last time we saw it moving with a (more leisurely) purpose back at the stream. Jumping water effects that were introduced in the lake are a bit more kinetic here, but there really isn’t too much going on here before we get to the ocean in the next section.
The Big Blue World!
Finally, the water has made it to a destination that covers more than 70% of the world and contains 97% of the Earth’s water – the ocean!
OCEAN – The Ocean is Our Friend
Arriving at this joyful tide pool, our water is ready to travel beyond the reef, just like Moana.
Most of the planet’s water wanders in the ocean’s currents. The movement of these currents unites all of our continents. It shapes the climate and even provides us with much of the air we breathe.
The ocean is truly a great friend of ours!
The ocean chooses you to help protect this amazing resource! Plastic waste can hurt water and the animals living in it. Using less plastic means healthier oceans. What plastic can you reuse?
The Ocean section is split into two main areas – a splash pad that is shaded and tailored to little ones, and an interactive section that contains the most smile-inducing part of the whole attraction.
We’ll start with a look at the splash pad area, which is the only spot in the entire attraction where your little ones can freely play in the water.
The other “half” of the Ocean section is where you’ll find the two interactive elements and water that is far more active than the splash pad area. In the interactive section, there is a wave generator and a spot to simulate high-octane evaporation by blasting the water back to the sky.
This is also the part of the experience where you have the opportunity to get soaked. Much like the jumping fountains at the Imagination Pavilion, you get to watch water fly over your head. Unlike the Imagination Pavilion, the water doesn’t land safely in a catching basin. Instead, Imagineers dialed in the distance perfectly for the water to crash into the rocks and splash the immediate area. If you time it right, you can stay relatively dry, but there is the potential to get soaked.
Here’s a look at the wave generator that works best when guests raise their arms in sync with one another. Don’t have a full group? There’s even a playful effect built in for guests who are there by themselves, but we can’t give away every secret right away!
Keep an eye out for creatures and characters carved into the intricate rockwork in this area too!
Here’s a look at the interactive station where you step on a pressure pad to blast the water back up to the sky.
The Full Journey
Speaking of the sky, the Sky section is the final part of the water cycle before rain starts the cycle over again.
SKY – Water Knows the Way
To get back to the clouds, our water takes on a new form. The sun’s warmth changes it into invisible vapor and lifts it to the sky.
The vapor cools into clouds of tiny droplets. Now it’s ready to be reborn as rain and start its voyage all over again.
This amazing journey from the sky to th eseas and back again keeps our planet alive, connecting us all.
Are you a true friend of water? Pledge to protect the water cycle so we will have clear water for future generations. Become part of the EPCOT community working to make a better word, together!
Journey of Water Closing Thoughts
We’ll close with the thoughts we shared in our Journey of Water First Impressions review:
We’ll start with the first question we had when going into the experience: does Journey of Water belong in EPCOT? The short answer is no. The longer answer is that while the beauty of the experience is undeniable, it feels more like an Animal Kingdom experience (without animals). That said, there are some classic EPCOT themes throughout such as how we interact with the world around us and an Edutainment-style attraction. It’s also important to note that we’re forming this opinion based on having not experienced the new World Celebration central spine of the park, which remains under construction. Perhaps the lush environment of Journey of Water will feel more at home when the foliage-dense central park area has been completed.
This is perhaps an unfair metric, but the opportunity cost of Journey of Water seems high. While Journey of Water is technically in the World Nature section of the park, it’s within the monorail loop envelope, which has historically been considered to be a bit more industrial with sprinkles of natural settings. The single access point from near The Seas Pavilion will certainly help it feel like it’s part of World Nature, but we can’t help but wonder what could’ve been for this section of the park. I certainly don’t have any ideas to contribute, but it feels like Imagineers could’ve found a better use for this footprint and probably tied it into World Celebration proper.
Ok, with that out of the way, we’re going to focus on the experience itself. We loved it. It’s not an E-ticket attraction like Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewnid, but (at the risk of contradicting myself) it feels like something that EPCOT was missing. The self-guided nature of the experience lends itself well to families that will find different areas of value from the experience. There is certainly an Edutainment element to it, which we’d love to see Walt Disney Imagineering lean into with every new experience at EPCOT, but it’s not too heavy-handed. Basically, the information and explanation is there for anyone who wants to learn.
Beyond that, there are some really fun interactive elements that guests of all ages will enjoy. It’s hard not to smile when a group of nine strangers work in concert to create a massive, crashing wave in the ocean, or when water droplets show personality when you wave at them and wish them a safe journey to the ocean. Like Moana, you’ll feel a connection to the water as you ask it for a high-five in the springs section.
Another fun element is the rockwork carvings that guests will be able to spot through the new Moana attraction. Characters and familiar shapes are in just about every scene within the experience, so keep an eye out! The rockwork is well done throughout the experience, but we’d expect nothing less from Imagineering these days.
One thing that we found confusing, but perhaps refreshing to the masses was no MagicBand+ interactions. It’s a win that the entire experience isn’t behind a MagicBand+ paywall that would require a purchase of Disney’s $50+ wearable to activate any effects, but this experience seems taylormade for some sort of bonus interactions. Maybe Imagineering has one final trick up its sleeves before the attraction officially opens, but if there’s nothing in the way of MagicBand+ effects, that might be all the commentary you need to understand the upcharge wristband and how it’s viewed within the theme parks.
Journey of Water invites you to play while creating an environment that allows you the opportunity to observe and appreciate. No other attraction at EPCOT creates a sense of community and shared experience quite like Journey of Water. It’s not an overtly thrilling experience, but it may just be a transformative one. To others, it might just be a garden that they walk through once on their way to Test Track or Soarin’, and that’s ok too.
The thing we might enjoy most about Journey of Water could also be seen as a criticism of the offering – it takes you out of EPCOT. Yes, Spaceship Earth can be seen in probably every scene within the attraction, but Journey of Water acts as a breath of fresh air and an opportunity to slow your day down a bit. Hopefully, crowds die down a bit after an initial “new thing” rush and Journey of Water can operate as a peaceful garden like what you’d find in the China Pavilion or the Japan Pavilion, but on a larger, more immersive scale. Journey of Water doesn’t care about drinking around the world or being a headliner attraction in a park that now demands 1-hour waits or more at many of its attractions. Instead, it’s a chance to learn something about perhaps the most precious resource on our planet while also giving guests of all ages permission to play.
Journey of Water – Inspired by Moana won’t be a reason to book a trip to Disney World, but it will be a welcome distraction from the hustle and bustle while you’re here.
As always, keep checking back with us here at BlogMickey.com as we continue to bring you the latest news, photos, and info from around the Disney Parks!