Last week we added one of my top 5 rides at Walt Disney World, Soarin’. It was great to finally share that ride with you. Since we were in Epcot last week, I thought it would be a good idea to stay there for this week’s episode. We are getting very close to the start of the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival which runs March 1 – May 29 this year. With that, I want to cover some of the things you can find around the World Showcase as you take in the amazing topiaries and great food.
What better place to start than with our neighbors to the North, eh? The Canada Pavilion is actually very close to the ride building that houses Soarin’, although you will have to walk a little ways to navigate around to the World Showcase pavilion. We will get to that more in just a minute, but first let’s get started with our…
Know Before You Go Essential Facts
- The film is located in the Canada Pavilion at Epcot
- There is no height requirement
- Fastpass + is not available
- The fright factor is 0 out of 5
- Guests may remain in a wheelchair/ECV
- Audio Description, Reflective Captioning, Assistive Listening, and Language Translation Devices are available
- The show is 14 minutes long
- The film opened on October 1, 1982. The film was updated and reopened on September 1, 2007.
Ah, yes the great white north is always white, right? Well, not according to Martin Short, or the 360 Degree Circle Vision film O’ Canada. O’ Canada does not take itself as seriously as the nearby Impressions de France film in the France Pavilion. What it does do is offer a stunning look at the variety of life found in the vast landscape of Canada.
The film was originally shot beginning in May, 1980. Bill Bosce was the director, and his team of seven spent two years filming Canada from one end to the other. The project took a lot of time as they had to wait for the weather to cooperate, or for seasonal activities to spring to life in order to capture the wanted footage. The story goes that some of the locations in the film were so cold that heaters had to be used to warm up the cameras in between shots. At the end of a long journey, they had over 250,000 feet of film, which they edited down to an 18 minute show. The original version opened with the Canada pavilion in 1982, and ran until 2007. At that time new footage was combined with some of the old footage and new narration from Martin Short was added.
In the current version of the film, Martin delivers his trademark sense of goofy charm while serving as tour guide for his home country. The film begins with a familiar sight for most Americans, Niagara Falls. This portion of the watery wonder falls on the Canadian side, known as Horseshoe Falls. The scene gives the first taste of what is achievable when showing a film in 360 degrees. The sight and sound of the water pouring down the falls completely surrounds viewers. At first it can be hard to know where to look. I usually find myself spinning around trying to take in the entire circular vision.
I should probably stop here, to say I am not suggesting you attempt to watch O’ Canada while slowly turning in circles. That could leave you feeling like you just stepped off the Orange version of Mission: SPACE! It is best to maintain a forward facing view, while pausing ever so often to slowly look around at the sides and rear of the theater. That also brings me to my preferred viewing spot inside the theater. Most visitors will naturally gather at the dead center of the room, thinking this will provide the best vantage point for seeing everything. Well, that would be true if you did spend the next 14 minutes slowly spinning in circles to see all angles. Given that we have established the danger in that idea, I have a different suggestion. I like to find a row about 2/3 of the way back, and walk as close to the center of that row as possible. This will allow you to see the focal point of the film directly in front of you, while taking in more than half of the theater in your periphery. From time to time you can still turn around to see the screens at the back.
Now, no matter where you choose to view O’ Canada it is important to know you will be standing for this 14 minute journey. There are guide rails that separate each row, but they are not for sitting, standing, or swinging on. Trust me, a Disney Cast Member will make this very clear at the beginning of the show and throughout should they catch you propping yourself up on the rail. Don’t think kids are exempt either. Letting your 2-year old stand on the rail for a better view is not allowed. Evidently, these are pretty weak rails and they can collapse from the weight of a toddler. They also don’t like for you to sit, kneel, or lie on the ground. If I didn’t know better I would think this was a 30 year practical joke, where Canadians are watching audiences on a closed circuit back home. It feels like the Canadian government got together and said, “Hey you know what would be hilarious? What if we sponsored a pavilion in Epcot and provided a theater where people couldn’t sit down? They’ll have to walk 10-12 miles that day, deal with screaming children, and be exhausted mentally, physically, and emotionally! Then they will see our theater and think, ‘Finally, a cool place indoors that I can rest for a few minutes.’ Only, once they get inside, they see these rails that we won’t let them use. Then right when they think they can just sit on the ground, we’ll tell them that isn’t allowed either! Oh, and to top it off, they will have to put up with bad Martin Short jokes for 14 minutes. Ha, it will be great.”
O.k., so I’m just teasing, a little. I actually like Martin Short in the film, and I don’t think the Canadian government is really pranking all visitors to Epcot. Still, it does seem like a cruel joke that you can’t sit down or relax while watching the show. Just keep this in mind when you decide to stroll into the Canada pavilion.
If you feel up to standing for the entire film, you will actually be treated to a great expedition through Canada’s majestic wilderness and stunning cities. The journey takes you to the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, Vancouver Island’s gardens, the 800 year old trees of Cathedral Grove, Nova Scotia, Moosejaw, Medicine Hat, Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Quebec. Pay close attention to the middle screen during the visit to Montreal. You will notice a large golf ball like structure very similar to Epcot’s own Spaceship Earth. This is the Biosphere created for Expo67, otherwise known as the 1967 World’s Fair. Not only did this serve as inspiration for the structure of Spaceship Earth, but many of the elements found in today’s World Showcase have striking similarities to the different pavilions of Expo67. In fact, this expo is where the roots of the O’ Canada film begin. More on that in a bit, first let’s get back to the journey provided in the film.
Along the way you learn about the passions of the country’s people. Skiing, ice hockey, curling, sailing, baseball, lacrosse, film, and rodeo are just a few of the pastimes enjoyed at different times of the year. Of course, the great outdoors does get its time in the sun as well and a montage of the Canadian wildlife is put on display. The other montage that soon follows includes faces of famous Canadians. People like Mike Meyers, Jim Carrey, Avril Lavigne, Michael J. Fox, Keanu Reeves, and Donald Sutherland.
The goal of the film is to paint a full picture of Canada. There are many different people, places, and experiences to be found there. Unlike the narration at the beginning suggests, this is not a place where it snows 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The country is rich and diverse, and like the show’s host, has a good balance of quirky charm.
As the film concludes, Martin takes you back to Niagara Falls where the journey began. The full circle theater presentation has come full circle and that is your queue to head back into World Showcase. In an interesting tie to last week’s podcast, Martin Short concludes the film by saying he needs to find a way out because he has a Fastpass for Soarin’!
Speaking of that ride, last week I told you Soarin’ was a multigenerational modern day Disney classic that pretty much the whole family would enjoy. Sadly, the same cannot be said of O’ Canada. As I said earlier, the film’s roots date back to Expo67 and a film there entitled Canada 67, which was also shown in Circle Vision 360. There is an interesting backstory that details how that film connects to the original version of O’ Canada that debuted in 1982. If that sounds like something you would like to hear more about, let me direct you to another podcast. The Unofficial Guide’s Disney Dish with Jim Hill tells this story in depth, click here for that episode. For today’s purpose I just want to point out how far back this show goes. The 2007 version of the film does not feel like something from 1967, but you can still pick up echoes of a grand documentary that began half a decade ago. In other words, it does feel dated at several points.
I was actually surprised to discover the film had been updated as recently as 2007, and that Martin Short references Fastpass and Soarin’. Watching the film, it feels like it belongs more to the 80’s than the year 2007. The dated feel of the film combined with the fact you can’t sit down while watching makes O’ Canada a show you can skip when pressed for time. This show won’t have much appeal to young kids, or anyone that has a hard time standing in place for more than a few minutes. I’m not saying it doesn’t have redeeming qualities, or that it is wrong for everyone. I actually remembering seeing O’ Canada as a young teenager and having a whole new appreciation for the world outside of my own little bubble. Back then my perception of Canada was probably not far off from the comedic viewpoint of snow falling every day of the year. When I saw the complexity and scope of Canada’s cities and natural landscape I was really blown away. So, I think this is a great show to take older kids to see. It can really broaden their perspective on the world, starting with a place just north of the American border for most guests. It is also a great show for any seniors in the group that can enjoy seating in a wheelchair or ECV. With a comfortable seat, this is a very entertaining and beautiful piece of film. If you do have family members in wheelchairs or ECV’s pay close attention to the signs entering the Maple Leaf Mine. The signs will direct you to the correct level to enter the pre-show area.
O’ Canada won’t be something high on your list for repeat visits, but if you happen to be spending multiple days in Epcot for one of its festivals I think this show is a great place to stop. Now that I think of it, I haven’t seen O’ Canada on my last few trips. It might be time to poke my head and say hello to Martin next time I’m there!
All right, that wraps up our time for today. I hope you have enjoyed our expedition to the friendly country of Canada. Please come back next week as we have even more to discover! Thank you so much for joining me! Have a great week, and I hope to hear from you soon. Until then, make each day a ride worth taking!
If you like the podcast please tell a friend and leave us a review in iTunes
Check out our Etsy shop Ride Guide Goods
Join the Rider Alliance by visiting patreon.com/wdwrideguide