The American Adventure is the host pavilion of the World Showcase within Epcot at the Walt Disney World Resort. It is also the name of the pavilion's main attraction, an Audio-Animatronics stage show of American history.
An America pavilion was present in the plans for EPCOT Center once it had arrived at the merged "Future World and World Showcase" concepts in the late 1970s. In early layouts, the American Adventure would have straddled the border between the two areas and feature a more futuristic looking design, as it was thought that the host of World Showcase should take center stage. It was quickly decided however that the USA shouldn't overshadow the other nations and it was moved to the back of World Showcase, where it could still play the role of centerpiece, but require guests to travel around the world to get there.
The show within the American Adventure underwent a number of different drafts as finding the right tone and story was difficult. Imagineer Marc Davis worked on a number of concepts for the American Adventure, ranging from a 1975 proposal for dark ride that was a whimsical and musical exploration of American history and culture, to more serious explorations of American folklore and historical figures during 1976. Concepts during this period grouping different figures from across American history together based on shared identities, with a piece based on American humorists putting Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin, and Will Rogers together inspiring the final show, though Davis would leave the project shortly afterwards.
Continuing the idea of an animatronic stage show, Imagineering would find a way to distill the history of the United States into a half-hour show. The show's hosts, Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain, representing the 1700s and 1800s, were initially to have been joined by Will Rogers as a representative of the 20th century, but the creative team was worried that Will Rogers wasn't quite as iconic a figure to represent the modern era that could stand next to the other two hosts, reducing Rogers to a smaller role in the Great Depression scene.
The show opened with the park on October 1, 1982 and beyond a technical upgrade in 1993 and occasional updates to the Golden Dream montage film, has remained mostly unchanged.
The pavilion is a single large building designed in the Colonial style. It contains the American Adventure show and the American Heritage Gallery exhibit, a display of the different flags throughout U.S. history. It also contains the Liberty Inn Restaurant which serves American fare, such as cheeseburgers and hot dogs. There is a small gift shop, Heritage Manor Gifts, selling American items, as well as a Kidcot Fun Stop.
In 2019, it was announced that the Liberty Inn Restaurant would be replaced by the Regal Eagle Smokehouse, offering barbecue style food and craft beers themed as a barbecue competition hosted by Sam the Eagle. There is also Fife & Drum Tavern, as well as Block & Hans and Funnel Cake.
In 2021, Epcot announced that a new exhibit called "THE SOUL OF JAZZ: An American Adventure" will open inside the attraction. Based on Disney and Pixar's animated film, Soul, the exhibit is part of Epcot's transformation. Guests join Joe Gardner, the star of Soul, and will be taken to New Orleans, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Puerto Rico.
Attractions and services
The American Adventure takes guests on a trip through America's history. It is narrated by figures of Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain. It is presented in a theater-like auditorium, with sets and characters rising out from the stage floor to represent scenes from different historical periods. The characters provide insight into American life of the past through conversations in which they discuss the current events of their time.
The show begins with Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain, the former quoting John Steinbeck's view on the United States' birth. Twain, dozing off, is awakened and encourages Franklin to tell the story of their nation. An image of The Mayflower appears on the stage's back screen, carrying the first pilgrims to America's shores, followed by a musical montage showing the first settlers in the country.
The beginnings of the American Revolution begin, depicting discourse between the colonists and those loyal to the British, leading to the Boston Tea Party. In a loft, Thomas Jefferson tries to pen the final draft of the Declaration of Independence and is visited by Franklin, who comments it is "difficult to make thirteen clocks chime at the same time" when Jefferson complains on his isolation. However, Jefferson reveals he has finished the declaration and begins reading it aloud. Another montage shows imagery of the Revolution.
At Valley Forge, George Washington sits on horseback observing a snowy landscape. Two soldiers, frostbitten and in rags, stand opposite Washington, complaining between them about their suffering for Washington's war. The American Revolution is won, as narrated by Franklin, with Twain taking over the narration for there onwards. He turns to the discussion of slavery in America, with Frederick Douglass appearing on a raft travelling along the Mississippi River. Douglass comments on how Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin has inspired anti-slavery and cannot be stopped.
The show cuts to a Southern family posing for a photo, but the two brothers break into an argument about their respective political views - one supports slavery and the other is an Abolitionist. Their father silences them, while their mother encourages Matthew Brady to take the photograph. A new musical montage follows, focusing on the American Civil War and the fates of the two brothers using the song "Two Brothers" (also featured in Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln).
Twain narrates the end of the civil war and the arrival of new immigrants to help improve the country, only for Chief Joseph to interrupt, cursing the cruel treatment of the Native Americans during the war. The scene cuts to the Centennial International Exhibition of 1878. Twain, Alexander Graham Bell, Andrew Carnegie, and Susan B. Anthony all stand in booths. Anthony calls for equality for women, and is praised by Twain. Bell and Carnegie compliment each other's inventions and those of others including Thomas Edison. It is a time for innovation and new awareness. The scene vanishes as another musical montage follows, showing America's industrialization and numerous inventions made by Edison and the Wright Brothers.
At the end of the montage, Twain commenting on the mass changes in the country. Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir view the Yosemite Park landscape, agreeing to create national parks. The show proceeds through World War I and the Great Wall Street Crash of 1929, also covering Charles Lindbergh's successful flight from America to Paris. At a gas station, four men joke about the former millionaires are having to sell apples to make a living. Franklin D. Roosevelt speaks on the radio for his presidential inauguration with his infamous "Nothing To Fear" speech. Will Rogers then speaks on the radio, appearing to the right of the gas station, commenting that the United States is the only country in the world that goes into war without preparing for it.
A news report of the Pearl Harbour bombings plays as the show goes into World War II. The gas station descends, revealing a battleship during the Christmas holidays. A sailor, worker, and a riveter discuss their workload over the holidays but hope that they can reunite with their lovers by next year.
The battleship sinks into the stage, as an extended musical montage plays to the attraction's theme song "Golden Dream". The montage shows modern figures and events including Walt Disney, Albert Einstein, Louis Armstrong, Elvis Presley, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. (representing the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s), the 1969 Apollo 11 Moon landing, Jim Henson, George Lucas, Steve Jobs, the September 11th attacks, Independence Day, and the Statue of Liberty.
Franklin and Twain rise up on a replica of Lady Liberty's torch. Both express pride on America's progress, but Twain quotes Steinbeck's warnings for the people not to become complacent. Franklin counters, acknowledging the struggles of life, quoting Thomas Wolfe's belief that everyone in America has the right to live, to work, and follow their dreams.
As a reprisal of "Golden Dream" begins, Franklin and Twain shake hands and reveal statues lining both sides of the theatre, representing different qualities of Americans:
- Adventure (a seaman)
- Compassion (female doctor)
- Discovery (mountain man)
- Freedom (pilgrim)
- Heritage (Native American woman)
- Independence (American Revolutionary soldier)
- Individualism (cowboy)
- Innovation (African-American scientist)
- Knowledge (school teacher)
- Pioneering (pilot)
- Self-Reliance (farmer)
- Tomorrow (a mother and her child)
In 1993, the attraction was updated with all new animatronics and a new version of the theme song. In mid-2007, 44 seconds of footage were added to the end of the Golden Dream montage, the first updating of the montage since the 1993 renovation. The most notable addition is the brief footage of NYPD/FDNY rescue crews after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. In early 2018, the ending montage was updated once again, as well as the song receiving a new arrangement and orchestrations.
- "New World Bound" (lyrics by Xavier Atencio and Randy Bright, music by Buddy Baker)
- "In the Days of '76" (traditional)
- "Two Brothers" (lyrics and music by Irving Gordon, vocals by Ali Olmo)
- "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" (lyrics by E. Y. Harburg, music by Jay Gorney)
- "Golden Dream" (lyrics by Randy Bright with additional lyrics by Lynn Hart, music by Robert Moline, vocals by Richard Page and Siedah Garrett)
The theme song for the show is "Golden Dream". It was written by Robert Moline and the lyrics were written by show producer Randy Bright. It gets its biggest push at the end of the attraction, during the montage sequence of famous Americans. The melody has been heard in Epcot's entrance plaza since opening day.
The original version can be found on these releases:
- The Music of Disneyland, Walt Disney World and Epcot Center (1988)
- The Music of Disney: A Legacy in Song (1992)
- Walt Disney World Resort: The Official Album (1999)
The updated version of the song has different vocals, a longer chorus after the quotes, and a different ending. It can be found on these releases:
- Walt Disney World Resort: Official Album (2000)
- Official Album: Walt Disney World Resort Celebrating 100 Years of Magic (2001)
It is also available on later official albums.
The Voices of Liberty
The Voices of Liberty is an eight-member acapella group that hosts patriotic choral performances in the pavilion rotunda throughout the day, often as a pre-show to the next scheduled performance of the main presentation. They also perform in year-round events including the Candlelight Processional and other special events. Other performing acts include Spirit of America Fife & Drum Corps, and the former American Vibe.
America Gardens Theater
Across from the pavilion is the America Gardens Theatre, an outdoor amphitheater. The America Gardens Theatre hosts concerts, singers, and bands from around the world. Many entertainment acts from around the world perform on this stage.
The America Gardens Theatre has hosted numerous amount of shows since it was built. Over the years some of the more famous shows include Blast! and Barrage. During the park's two major festivals—the International Flower and Garden Festival in the spring, and the International Food and Wine Festival in the fall—musical groups from the 1960s and 1970s perform as part of each festival's concert series ("Flower Power" in the spring, and "Eat to the Beat" in the fall).
In 1999, a revised version of Michael Flatley's Lord of the Dance performed in the theater over the summer. Even though Flatley himself did not perform in the show, its popularity encouraged Epcot to bring the show back in 2000 for another summer run. Originally designed as an open-air theater, partial cover, backstage dressing, and show equipment areas were added during a refurbishment that was completed before the inception of the "Magical World of Barbie" stage show.
During the holiday season, the theater hosts the Candlelight Processional. This show follows in the footsteps of the show first performed in Disneyland in 1958, and which was duplicated at the Magic Kingdom in 1971. The show relocated to Epcot's America Gardens Theater in 1994. The show includes an orchestra and massed choir that perform traditional holiday songs while a guest celebrity retells the biblical story of Christmas. Some of the celebrities who have taken part in the Processional over the years include John Stamos, Marlee Matlin, Corbin Bleu, Haley Joel Osment, Susan Lucci, Jim Caviezel, and, in 2009, Whoopi Goldberg. The Candlelight Processional is a major part of Epcot's Holidays Around the World celebration, running from the Friday after Thanksgiving until December 30 each year.
- Father - Charles Aidman
- Franklin D. Roosevelt, Mark Twain - John Anderson
- Banjo Player - Mic Bell
- Chief Joseph - Dehl Berti
- Theodore Roosevelt - Bob Boyd
- Rebel Brother - Bill Boyles
- Susan B. Anthony - Tricia Buttrill
- Matthew Brady - Steve Cook
- Thomas Jefferson - Robert Easton
- Andrew Carnegie, Man in Rocking Chair - Walker Edmiston
- Apple Salesman, Frederick Douglass - Al Fann
- John Muir, Store Owner - Bob Holt
- Benjamin Franklin, Soldier 2 - Dallas McKennon
- Mother - Claudette Nevins
- Jane - Patricia Parris
- Alexander Graham Bell - Joe Rohde
- Will Rogers - Will Rogers, Jr.
- Union Brother - Mark L. Taylor
- Sailor - Harvey Vernon
- Rosie - B.J. Ward
- Soldier 1 - Frank Welker
Below the stage is a 65-foot by 35-foot scene changer – called the War Wagon – that moves show sets into place horizontally. The ‘drawer’ moves into place and the appropriate set piece rises up from below the stage. There are seven more lifts along the sides and above.
- Marc Davis In His Own Words: Imagineering the Disney Theme Parks
- "'THE SOUL OF JAZZ: An American Adventure' Coming to EPCOT in February".
- ASCAP ACE database
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