In 2007 El Rio del Tiempo, a dark ride within the Mexico Pavilion of Epcot Center, was changed to The Gran Fiesta Tour. Prior to the change, the boat ride took guests on a tour of Mexican history and culture.
I used to joke that it was “A Mexico Small World” because the dolls and animatronic figures reminded me of Small World so much. Video was a large part of the presentation as guests journeyed through the ride. However the video appeared very dated, as in circa-1970s dated, and a rehab was in order.
El Rio del Tiempo received more than a rehab. It was nearly a complete re-imagination once it reopened as The Gran Fiesta Tour. The stars of the attraction became The Three Caballeros – Donald Duck, Jose, and Panchito. This made the attraction more kid friendly. But for many fans, the ride took a decided turn for the worse.
It’s hard to find much Mexican history or culture in the new version. Instead it seems like a frantic attempt at humor, which borders on annoying after a few minutes of Donald Duck’s antics. Nothing against Mister Duck of course.
The good news is the ride is a fast loading and generally has short lines (big surprise). It’s still a nice ride to take now and then, but I don’t think it captures the charm of the original. A few wonderful elements remain. The beginning of the ride takes the boats past the San Angel Inn restaurant, which is wonderfully night themed. Boats then drift through the fog, and at this point the ride has a very nice ambient to it. The ending of the ride is also very well done, as the boats drift under a fireworks display over Mexico City. But this is a holdover from the original El Rio del Tiempo.
People seem to come up on both sides of this debate. Some favor the original, some the new version. What do you think? Is there anything you would do to change the new version?