Moana Journey of Water First Impression Review

    Later this Fall, an all-new attraction will open at EPCOT called Journey of Water – Inspired by Moana. The self-guided nature trail walk-through will open in the World Nature neighborhood of the park and ask guests to learn about the water cycle in a lush setting. Recently, we were able to attend a preview of the experience and wanted to offer our first impression review of Moana Journey of Water.

    What is Journey of Water – Inspired by Moana?

    At its most basic, Journey of Water is a self-guided outdoor trail where you can play with water. Guests will walk through areas of lush garden settings and even find a splash of Intellectual Property in the form of characters and music from the movie Moana.

    Journey of Water – Inspired by Moana is located in the World Nature section of EPCOT, which also includes rides like Living with the Land, Soarin’, and The Seas with Nemo & Friends. World Nature is dedicated to understanding and preserving the beauty and balance of the natural world.

    If we had to compare Journey of Water to something that already exists at Walt Disney World, it would be a significantly plussed version of the Tree of Life Gardens at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. In fact, it could also be called a more interactive version of Pandora – The World of Avatar, which includes little trails and overlooks that resemble what we assume Disney is trying to accomplish with Journey of Water – Inspired by Moana.

    When Does Moana Journey of Water Open?

    As of publish time, Disney World has not announced an official opening date for Journey of Water. Language on the Disney World website includes a timeframe of “Late 2023” and “Fall 2023” – two timeframes that aren’t completely in conflict. If we had to guess, an October opening would be ideal (if you don’t count the record-breaking heat this summer).

    Cast Member previews started in July, and they are likely to continue into September when Annual Pass, Disney Vacation Club, and other affinity group previews may take place (although not confirmed).

    What Did Journey of Water Replace?

    Journey of Water – Inspired by Moana is part of the EPCOT Overhaul effort that revitalized the “central spine” of Future World. Specifically, Moana Journey of Water replaced Innoventions West (flattened C-shaped building below) which housed some meet and greets, and The Art of Disney in its final years.

    Photo: Bioreconstruct

    Journey of Water Construction Timeline

    Journey of Water – Inspired by Moana was announced at the 2019 D23 Expo as part of an overview of the EPCOT Overhaul plans. Following the August 2019 announcement, crews began clearing nearby trees in October 2019 and didn’t get very far into the work before COVID-19 shut down construction projects property-wide. It wouldn’t be until June 2021 that we started to see some positive movement toward construction instead of work to demolish what was there.

    Late 2021 and early 2022 brought the installation of the complex underground infrastructure for the project. Essentially, we start the clock for the construction of the experience in late 2021. It took a couple of years to build and open, which would be a relatively slow build schedule for what the final project is. That said, other work was taking place in the surrounding area that we affectionately called The Pit.

    Moana Journey of Water Scene-by-Scene Description

    For this first impression article, we’re not able to share photos from the preview experience. While photos were allowed and even encouraged during the preview, Cast Members were very clear that they couldn’t be shared until September. We’re going to respect that request. That means that while our articles are typically rich with photos and video, this article will be mostly text-based. We will have another article with plenty of photos and a full walk-through video when we are able to post it.

    It’s worth noting that our scene-by-scene description will be just that – descriptions. It’s probably not possible to “spoil” an experience that is a walk-through nature trail, but reader be warned.

    Any photos shared in this article will be photos or concept art previously shared by Disney or photos we previously took from outside of the construction site.

    Here’s an outline of the various segments within the Journey of Water experience. I’m not the best at Photoshop, so this is what we get. It should give you a good idea of what to expect as far as the sections and circular nature of the lush exploration trail experience.

    Original aerial photo: Bioreconstruct | Journey of Water review

    Guests will start the circular path greeted by the Heart of TeFiti logo and rockwork very similar to the early concept art above. Signage throughout the attraction informs guests about where they are within the 9-step water cycle, and a sign at the foot of the rock work seen above invites guests on the journey of water. Disney says that the signs “guide guests through the cycle of water in fun and engaging ways to tell our story of the vital link we share with water across our planet, and inspire the important role we all share in preserving this life-giving and life-sustaining precious resource.” Here’s a look at the opening welcome sign as seen in a previous construction update from the monorail.

    April 2023 construction update
    April 2023 construction update
    Photo: Disney
    April 2023 construction update
    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 bright 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
    Journey of Water signage

    RAIN

    Photo: Disney

    A short walk brings us to the first step in the cycle – rain. In this first interactive area, guests are invited to “touch the strings of water”. If you’ve ever been on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and experienced the outdoor queue, you’ll find this interactive experience quite familiar.

    Five child-height holes in the rockwork have streams of water constantly flowing. Guests will be able to play with the water by playing the water. As you run your hand or fingers through the streams of water, musical notes play. This is a fun, easy introduction to the interactive nature of Journey of Water, and not somewhere where you’ll get soaked.

    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!
    Journey of Water sign

    STREAM

    Photo: Walt Disney Imagineering | Journey of Water review

    At the next station, guests find the next cycle of water. The stream nearby starts to gently flow past four interactive stations that allow guests to wave at the water in front of them. All four stations do the same thing.

    This is the first station that introduces guests to the “how-to” of playing with water. Signs at the location not only tell guests where to stand to activate effects but also have graphics showing Moana performing the interactive action and the expected result from the water.

    In this first station, we wave to the stream flowing in front of us to wish water a safe voyage through the water cycle. We’ll talk more about MagicBand+ interaction toward our wrap-up (there is none), but for now, know that you don’t have to purchase anything to play with any of the effects.

    A small wave of your hand elicits a small water-jumping effect as the water playfully shows that it’s ready for the journey ahead. Larger waves equal larger jumps of water. You won’t get wet here as the water only jumps vertically and out of reach.

    This is a fun way to start your interaction with water!

    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.
    Journey of Water sign

    WETLAND

    Our next “how-to” comes in the wetland section. It’s a small section, but it introduces the concept of a dry path. Where necessary, a dry path is available with clear signage for guests to use who don’t want even the possibility of getting wet.

    In the wetland section, that meant a bridge over a very small stream that ran across the walkway. Probably not even an inch deep, the water crosses the pathway as it goes from the stream through to other portions of the experience.

    There are no interactive elements in the wetland section, but our second-favorite section is up next!

    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!
    Journey of Water sign

    SPRING

    Photo: Disney

    The spring area is covered, offering some relief from the (normally) hot sun. For good reason too because you might find yourself here for a bit with your little one.

    At the spring station, guests can hover their hands over a pool of water. When you hold your hand over the pool, a column of water reaches up to meet your hand – no matter what height you are! Spaces in the fence allow young ones to participate along with older kids and adults.

    Like the stream station, there are multiple spots around the pool that allow five guests to participate at one time. Benches nearby are carved into the rockwork, allowing parents a chance to take a seat while their kids have fun playing with water.

    If you haven’t spotted some carved characters already, now would be a great time to look around and find a familiar face!

    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.
    Journey of Water sign

    LAND

    The next area is another quick experience that, while complex, creates a simple and fun effect. Again, guests can find a dry path through a small cave that has no water effects at all.

    However, you might want to take the water path, even if you’re dead set on not getting wet. I walked through with my camera equipment uncovered and everything stayed dry on the wet path.

    The idea here is that a waterfall in a three-step cave will part for you if you walk through slowly. It worked every single time that I walked through, although I certainly waited for the water to part before I stepped through.

    After you pass through, the water curtain closes behind you, and it’s on to the next area!

    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.
    Journey of Water sign

    LAKE

    Photo: Disney | Journey of Water review
    Photo: Disney | Journey of Water review
    Photo: Disney

    While we aren’t at the finale yet, this will be a popular spot due to the overlook of a pool and the 16-foot-tall TeFiti figure.

    TeFiti is a beautiful figure, lush with foliage and towering over water while still being a nurturing presence.

    The development of Te Fiti and her pose was a close collaboration with Walt Disney Animation Studios and its Creative Legacy team. As guests walk along the trail, they will come across Te Fiti, who is seen protecting water as it travels through the water cycle.

    Along with Moana as a steward of water conservation, Te Fiti is a symbol of how we should protect and nurture water wherever we find it. 

    Guests can get quite close to TeFiti, allowing for some wonderful photo opportunities including some wonderful views of Spaceship Earth as seen in the photo shared by Disney above.

    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.
    Journey of Water sign

    RIVER

    The river, while a critical part of the actual water cycle, is not a big part of Journey of Water. After the beautiful, serene scene of the lake, the river doesn’t have any interactive elements and is actually going to be something that most guests pass by on their way to the ocean finale.

    The water is certainly moving quicker through the river than it was as a stream, but deep valleys make it tough to see the flowing water and appreciate this part of the water cycle.

    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.
    Journey of Water sign

    OCEAN

    Photo: Walt Disney Imagineering | Journey of Water review
    Photo: Disney

    The ocean is the big finale and probably where you’ll spend the most time during the experience. There are a number of water elements in the ocean section, although only two of them would be considered interactive.

    To recap, we’ve seen water start as rain, falling from the sky to create a stream. From the stream, water went through the wetlands and some of it went deep into the earth before surfacing in a spring. The water that emerged from the spring was shaped by the land on its journey to a lake. Water left the lake where it traveled through a river into the ocean.

    The most popular interactive element in the ocean was the wave area. Here, guests will stand on one of nine spots and work together to celebrate water. By standing on a splash icon and raising your hands, water lifts up and sometimes even crashes over the rockwork in front of you. If you work as a team, you can create a larger wave!

    Another interactive station asks guests to step on an activation pad to send water back to the sky, creating a burst of mist that shoots up 10 feet into the air.

    In addition to the two interactive stations, there is a splash pad of sorts as well in the ocean section. A partially covered splash pad was popular with young ones, just like the liquid layer splash pad in World Nature. Other rockwork in the area contains laminar flow mushroom dome water features that are perfect for young ones to run their hands through.

    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?
    Journey of Water sign

    SKY

    While the ocean certainly acts as a grand finale, there is a final part in the water cycle and a call to action for guests interested in protecting water as Moana and TeFiti have in the Journey of Water attraction.

    The water returns to the sky to start the cycle again, and a final piece of rockwork is bathed in mist to simulate the clouds that serve as the reset button for the water cycle. There are no interactive elements here, but the cycle wouldn’t be complete without it!

    With the Journey of Water completed, let’s dive into our thoughts about the attraction and what you should expect when visiting.

    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 sign

    Journey of Water Review

    Ok, hopefully, we’ve been able to paint a picture of the various scenes within the Journey of Water attraction and we can form an initial review of the walk-through attraction.

    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 wthey 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!

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    2 COMMENTS

    1. This sounds amazing but do you think this is going to be the kind of thing where people are stuck waiting for a group to move on at each stop? Reading your review, it’s hard for me to imagine it being a free flowing experience once the crowds hit.

      • Crowds will certainly be an issue at the start. I think once the newness of the experience moderates, crowds should be manageable. That said, it’s not the type of experience that lends itself well to large crowds. I imagine there will have to be some sort of gating when the experience first opens

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