Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros
- 1 Attraction History
- 2 Plot
- 3 Cast and Crew 
- 4 See the Attraction!
- 5 Fun Facts and Trivia
- 6 References
El Rio Del Tiempo
The attraction that would one day be known as the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros, began as an idea for the unbuilt Mexico pavilion. Initially, Disney's plans called for the pavilion to feature an attraction titled "Las Tres Culturas de Mexico". This indoor/outdoor boat ride was to take gusts on a tour of three distinct periods of Mexico's history. Beginning with pre-colombian Mexico, the attraction would then travel through the country's colonial period, before arriving in modern Mexico. The ride's storyline came from a Mayan myth which told about the gods taking the gift of music from the jealous sun, and giving it to the songless Earth . The myth concludes with the idea that "Life was all music from that time on”. The attraction's structure was influenced by two Magic Kingdom attractions. Like If You Had Wings, the attraction would feature rear projected film screens in physical sets. Likewise, the attraction's "colonial scene" would feature singing dolls and a repetitive song in the same vein as it's a small world.
Although Les Tres Cultras de Mexico was far along in its development, Disney decided that the attraction would be pushed back to EPCOT Center's Phase II. According to these plan's the attraction's lagoon and load area would be built, with a space left open for the boat ride itself to be constructed at a later date. These plans changed however when Germany’s planned Rhine River Cruise attraction was cancelled along with the Japan pavilion's Meet the World show. Compounded by the fact that the plans for an Equatorial Africa pavilion were also shelved, Disney had a capacity issue. With no other rides in World Showcase, the area would not have enough attractions to meet its expected guest capacity . As a remedy for this situation, Disney decided to make Las Tres Culturas de Mexico an opening day attraction, changing the attraction’s name to El Rio del Tiempo. In order to complete the attraction (and pavilion) on time, the rides length was shortened by 40% and moved completely inside .
Following a very quick construction, El Rio Del Tiempo opened with the rest of EPCOT Center on October 1, 1982 . Although the attraction had been quite popular at the time of its opening, attendance began to drop during the 1990s. During this time, rumors were prevalent that the attraction would be replaced by a new Donald Duck attraction; however when El Rio Del Tiempo closed for refurbishment in 1999, no such change took place . Instead, at this time, the attraction was cleaned up and given new paint, just in time for Epcot’s Millennium Celebration.
Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros
On January 2, 2007, El Rio Del Tiempo was closed for a major refurbishment . At this time, it was decided that the attraction would recieve a new storyline featuring José Carioca, Panchito Pistoles, and Donald Duck, from the 1944 Disney movie The Three Caballeros. According to director George Scribner:
"When I started at Walt Disney Imagineering, vice president Tom Fitzgerald had this idea," George Scribner said. "So I said, 'What if it's a concert they're going to perform but Donald gets lost? Jose and Panchito would have to find him through Mexico and that would take us to different places.' Once we got the OK, we went to Mexico to film the live-action footage that would be combined with Eric's animation.
Overall, the physical sets that had been featured in El Rio Del Tiempo remained mostly intact. In fact, the only set changes in the attraction took place in the ride's final scene, where the carousel was replaced with an outdoor stage. During the refurbishment, a mural was also added to the load area .
While the El Rio Del Tiempo sets remained in place, new screens were added throughout the attraction, featuring brand new animation of The Three Caballeros. Scribner and art director Eric Goldberg (who animated the characters) wanted this animation to have the same look and feel of the original Three Caballeros film, including the work done by Ward Kimball and Fred Moore . In addition to the new animation, new live-action scenes were filmed in Mexico, and a new soundtrack was written for the attraction. This soundtrack included not only the song "The Three Caballeros" from the original film, but also a new theme titled "Paso Doble" written by Richard Bellis.
The Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros officially opened to guests on April 6, 2007 . Furthermore, at this time the San Angel Inn was expanded into an area that was previously part of El Rio Del Tiempo .
On December 4, 2015, Animatronics of the Three Caballeros were added to The Gran Fiesta Tour's finale . The figures had previously appeared in the former Magic Kingdom attraction the Mickey Mouse Revue, although they had been absent from Walt Disney World for 35 years .
El Rio Del Tiempo 
El Rio Del Tiempo began with guests boarding their boats and heading off towards a large Mayan pyramid. The boats then entered ancient ruins. Here, a statue of a Mayan High Priest would come to life and speak to the passing boats. Guests were also told that long ago a great civilization had flourished in Mexico. All around the room, one could see various natives performing different rituals. The first ritual, was an elaborate dance titled "Nature and Science". This dance spoke to the native's understanding of man's relationship with the universe. The second ritual performed was titled "Mathematics and Astronomy". This dance highlighted the advanced understanding that the Mayan people had about these subjects (including their understanding of absolute zero). Finally, the third ritual shown was titled "Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca". This dance spoke of the native's views on the never ending struggle between good and evil, as personified in a battle between the feathered serpent of light and the tiger god of darkness. Before exiting ancient Mexico, guests would see Aztec King Moctezuma II (who would lose his kingdom to Spain) predicting the subjugation of his people.
After passing through ancient times, guests arrived at a scene titled Festival of the Children, which represented Mexico’s period of colonization. In the this scene, Audio Animatronic dolls danced and celebrated, as the narrator told guests that Mexico’s ancient culture still thrived. During the festival, the dolls sang Vistas de Mexico, a song written by X Atencio and Armando Corral. After exiting the colonization scene, guests entered modern times. Screens in this room featured:
- A parasailing boat by a lakeside resort
- A mariachi band
- Cliff divers
- A white sand beach
- A scuba diver
Following these sights, guests entered a city where two rival merchants attempted to sell their goods. The merchants would follow guests along the river, until the boats reached the attraction's finale. The end of El Rio Del Tiempo featured a large fiesta inside the city. On their left, guests could see marionettes riding a carousel, as fireworks went off in the night sky. The dolls in this room sang Fiesta de Mexico which carried on until guests reached the unloading area. Before disembarking the narrator would tell guests.
“Goodbye. We will meet again, until then, may you always be delighted with the beauty of Mexico"
The Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros
The Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros also begins with guests boarding longboats and sailing off towards a Mayan pyramid. As guests progress past the pyramid, they come across a screen which shows Panchito Pistoles and José Carioca -two members of the famous Three Caballeros. Guests learn that the trio is supposed to perform a concert in Mexico City, but unfortunately, Donald Duck (the third member of the group) is nowhere to be found. In order to reunite the trio in time for the concert, Jose and Panchito board their magic carpet Pepe and set off to find Donald.
As Panchito and Jose fly high above Mexico, Donald Duck is shown below wearing souvenirs and taking photos. As guests enter the next scene, they see that Panchito and Jose are still searching for Donald. Other screens in the room show points of interest in Mexico, including a Mayan pyramid and a gondola.
At this point in the attraction, guests enter the Festival of the Children scene. Similar to it’s a small world, the scene features various dolls dancing and singing. The Festival of the Children is essentially the same as it was when the ride was known as El Rio Del Tiempo, with the only change to the scene being the addition of a Donald Duck piñata and changes to the scene's soundtrack.
Continuing on, guests enter the next room where they see Donald chasing after a parasailing boat that is driving away with his swimsuit. Overhead, Jose and Panchito leave a smoke message for Donald, which reads, “donde esta Donald?” (where is Donald). Moving forward, guests see that Jose and Panchito are now looking for Donald in a Mexican restaurant. When they ask a waiter if he has seen a duck, the man humorously shows them a roasted duck, causing them to flee (this scene rotates with other gags, and may vary). Meanwhile, across the room, Donald is shown attempting to rock dive, with predictably disastrous results.
As dusk sets on Mexico, Panchito and Jose continue to search for Donald in the air. Unknown to them however, Donald is actually scuba diving below. Exasperated, Jose proclaims that the show is about to start. As guests enter the next room, they see a mariachi band playing as women dance nearby. Jose and Panchito are finally able to find Donald, and although they need to pull him away from the women, the trio is eventually able to make it to their concert. The attraction’s finale then takes place in Mexico City, as fireworks shoot overhead and Jose, Panchito, and Donald perform their signature song, “The Three Caballeros”. After witnessing the concert, guests return to the loading dock.
Cast and Crew 
Donald Duck-Tony Anselmo
José Carioca-Rob Paulsen
Panchito Pistoles-Carlos Alazraqui 
Animation Director- Eric Goldberg
Art Direction (Animation)- Susan Goldberg
Musical Director- John Dennis
Music Arrangement- Richard Bellis
Senior Show Producer- Lori Coltrin
See the Attraction!
To see The Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros or El Rio Del Tiempo, click play below.
El Rio Del Tiempo
The Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros
Fun Facts and Trivia
- Animator Eric Goldberg was responsible for animating the Three Caballeros for the Gran Fiesta Tour  .
- X Atencio and Armando Corral wrote the music for El Rio Del Tiempo .
- In the scene where all of the Audio Animatronic dolls are singing, guests can catch a glimpse of a Donald Duck piñata .
- The Epcot Explorer's Encyclopedia: A Guide to Walt Disney World's Greatest Theme Park