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The American Adventure (Attraction)[edit]

The American Adventure (Attraction)
Mark Twain and Benjamin Franklin host The American Adventure
Land American Adventure
Attraction type Show
Theme American History
Opening date October 1, 1982
Hosted by Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain
Ride duration 28:30 minutes
Audio-Animatronics 35
Theater Capacity 1000 guests
Disney Genie + No

The American Adventure is an attraction located within the American Adventure pavilion in Epcot. If you are looking for the pavilion that houses the attraction see: American Adventure (Pavilion)

Attraction History[edit]

While an attraction inside the America pavilion had always been a part of the plans for EPCOT Center, its location and design changed frequently during the park's planning. As early as 1976, there were plans for an American attraction to be one of Epcot Center's major draws [1]. By 1978, Imagineers wanted to use the American Adventure pavilion as a bridge between Future World and World Showcase [2] [3]. This version of the pavilion would have been two stories tall, with the American Adventure attraction located on the building's second floor [4]. Eventually however, Imagineers decided to place the American pavilion within World Showcase. By placing the pavilion at the back center of the land, Imagineers not only put America amongst the other countries, but they also created a "weenie" to draw guests back into the land [4].

Herb Ryman concept art for the American Adventure pavilion,

Like the pavilion itself, the American Adventure attraction also went through a series of changes. When development began on the attraction, Imagineers knew that they wanted to tell the story of America, but they were not sure how to do it. Six different attraction ideas were disregarded, before the show’s final form was accepted [5]. These discarded ideas included:

  • An idea for a lighter attraction that would only feature Audio Animatronics. [6]
  • A ride through attraction featuring short vignettes [6].
  • An attraction which focused on the characters of American folklore (ie. Paul Bunyan) [6]

According to Show Writer and Producer Randy Bright:

“One of the toughest things we had to do was take 350 years and compress it down to 20 minutes. In fact, we failed. It is a 28-minute show. We went through six abject failures before we got to an American Adventure we all felt comfortable with, which ultimately became what we have today [7]

With a goal of creating a venue that would be “alive and moving” [1], Imagineers eventually came up with the idea of creating a “Magic Theater” [7]. The theater was designed so that it would be able to combine: Audio Animatronics, video, audio, and moving sets to tell the story of America [7].

With the infrastructure and form of the attraction now settled on, Randy Bright and his team set about writing the shows script. Early on, Bright proposed the idea of focusing on “dreamers and doers”, an ethos that would guide the show's development [8]. Bright and professor of history at UCLA D. Allen Yarnell would meet late at night at Imagineering to work on the show. One of the theme that they hoped to portray was the overcoming of adversity, while also not wanting to whitewashing the country's history [8]. Bright further noted that the show focused on a series of individuals using their own words.

American Adventure producer and show writer Randy Bright

In order to help set the various scenes which were to be depicted in the American Adventure, Imagineers initially wanted the attraction to have three hosts, with each host representing one of the centuries that America had existed for [6]. The three men chosen to guide guests through the story of America were Benjamin Franklin (18th century), Mark Twain (19th century), and Will Rogers (20th century). Although promoted in concept art by Disney [9], it was eventually decided that Will Rogers would not appear as one of the attraction's hosts (although he would appear in Audio Animatronic form in the 20th century scene), leaving the duo of Franklin and Twain as the sole narrators. This decision was made after Disney discovered that only 5 out of every 150 college students knew who Will Rogers was [7], and they could not come to a consensus on a replacement. Bright later contemplated that the events of the 20th Century were too current to properly find a representative for [7]

The soundtrack for the American Adventure attraction was carefully created by composer Buddy Baker, who combined known, period specific songs, with new tunes written specifically for the attraction[8]. The music was then recorded by the Philadelphia Symphonic Orchestra before being mixed by engineer Bob Zalk [8]. In total, it took 18 months to mix the attraction's music, sound effects, and narration into the final score [1].

Like the attraction's score, the artwork used in the American Adventure was specifically curated. Bright noted that they did not want to use "modern art" in the 18th and 19th century scenes [1]. Instead, Disney created new artwork that was stylized to look like it was from the correct period. In a similar fashion, photographs and motion pictures were not used until the scenes set in a time where these technologies had been invented [1].

Despite technical problems and changes to the show's plot, the American Adventure was completed in time for EPCOT Center’s opening day on October 1, 1982 [10]. The show then remained unchanged until 1993, when all new Audio Animatronics were added (which featured more fluid movements) and the attraction’s Golden Dream montage was updated [3]. In 2007, the montage was once again updated [3].

In January 2018, the American Adventure attraction closed for a major renovation. At this time, the attraction's films were converted to an all-digital projection system, and a new screen, as well as new speakers, were instilled[11]. Furthermore, at this time, the attraction's Golden Dream montage was re-recorded and updated to include new American icons. The attraction reopened on February 14, 2018 [12].

Attraction Plot[edit]

Hall of Flags and Preshow[edit]

The Spirits of Adventure, Self-Reliance, and Tomorrow

After entering the American Adventure pavilion (and listening to the Voices of Liberty Perform), guests leave the main rotunda and enter the Hall of Flags. As visitors move the pavilion's second floor, 44 different flags from American history are showcased. Flags located here include Revolutionary War era flags, Colonial flags, and even foreign flags from the countries that first came to America [13]

Following the Hall of Flags, guests enter the main theater. Here, 12 life size statues can be seen on the left and right walls. The statues represent the "Spirits of America" and they include:

  • Spirit of Individualism- A cowboy
  • Spirit of Knowledge- A woman holding a book and a scroll
  • Spirit of Innovation- A scientist
  • Spirit of Tomorrow- A woman holding a baby
  • Spirit of Self-Reliance- A farmer holding a shovel
  • Spirit of Heritage- A Native American woman
  • Spirit of Independent- An American patriot from the Revolutionary War
  • Spirit of Freedom- A male pilgrim
  • Spirit of Discovery- A frontiersman
  • Spirit of Compassion- A female doctor
  • Spirit of Pioneering- A male aviator
  • Spirit of Adventure- A sailor

Opening Scene[edit]

The American Adventure begins in complete darkness, as guests hear the voice of Benjamin Franklin quoting John Steinbeck. As the first scene rises, guests see Franklin sitting behind a desk reading, with Mark Twain seated nearby. As Twain begins to doze off, Franklin concludes his Steinbeck quote by saying:

Stained and tinted with all colors, a seeming ethnic anarchy.

Then in a little time, we became more alike than we were different.
In society, not great, but fitted by our very thoughts for greatness.

Ben Franklin

The two men then begin to banter about humility, before Twain says that the American Adventure should begin with Franklin. Franklin corrects him, saying that the story of America began even before his time. As he speaks, images of ships crossing the ocean, and then a picture of the Mayflower reaching America, are shown.

New World Bound[edit]

At this point, the attraction's first song, “New World Bound” begins to play. As the song play, images of pilgrims coming to the new world are shown. The song tells the story of the troubles that the pilgrims faced, both coming to America and then subsequently surviving there. The lyrics to New World Bound are:

The Pilgrims crossing the Atlantic Ocean.

♫ There's a land cross this ocean,
I'm waiting to see.
A land for these people
who dream to be free.
So stand by the mainsail,
the fierce storms will race
aloft with our king mates
King Neptune we'll face.

You think that these landlubbers
never would last,
this cargo of pilgrims,
twelve weak for the mast.

It's "Land ho!" me hardies,
at last we've arrived.
and praise be to God,
nearly all have survived.

But look o'er this wilderness,
brings me to dread,
that the first bitter winter
ill leave 'em all dead.

They call themselves pilgrims,
these poor wretched souls.
With a dream to be free,
in the new world, there goal. ♫

The Deceleration of Independence[edit]

After New World Bound ends, Benjamin Franklin informs guests that America was not an easy place for settlers. He then goes on to explain that in future decades, America would face a new problem- a growing separation from Great Britain. Colonists are then shown on the screen, rallying against British rule and debating what to do. Franklin informs guests that:

Thomas Jefferson writing the Deceleration of Independence. Photo by Lauren Javier.
First we spoke out with our voices, then we spoke out with action, with a growing defiance, that led to the Boston Tea Party.

Ben Franklin

At this point in the attraction, the screen goes dark and a large glass scroll comes down from the ceiling. The scroll is proclamation from King George III, telling the colonists that in response to the Boston Tea Party, Boston Harbor will be closed. As colonists debate the merit of revolution, Franklin explains to guests that finally it was time for action. As the glass scroll is raised back up, it reveals Thomas Jefferson sitting in his loft, working tirelessly. As the young Virginian continues his work, Benjamin Franklin climbs up the stairs to enter the room. After an exasperated Jefferson proclaims that John Adams should have been the one to write the Declaration of Independence, Franklin reassures him that he is the only man for the job. After making a joke about Franklin falling asleep during the last session of the Continental Congress, Jefferson explains that the Congress was able to ratify a final version of the Declaration. He then reads:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.

That they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Thomas Jefferson

In the Days of '76[edit]

Following the reading of the Declaration of Independence, scenes of the American Revolution are shown on the screen as guests hear the traditional song “In the Days of '76”. The song begins:

Two Revolutionary War soldiers at Valley Forge.

♫ In the days of '76, my boys, we never must revere That every man takes his musket up and fight for freedom dear. We'll hit the flanks Of the Redcoats' ranks as Yankee volunteers.

Oh, tis a great delight to march and fight, But it's getting tough, I fear... ♫

At the end of the first verse, a painting of Valley Forge is shown. At this point, two Revolutionary War soldiers and George Washington rise to the stage. The two soldiers commiserate about the difficult conditions at Valley Forge, and the luxuriously lifestyle the British troops are living in Philadelphia. The song then continues:

♫ In the days of Valley Forge, my lords, forever we must hail We fight the cold with bags on our feet, as the lobster backs regail

Oh, the time will come When they'll be on the run As their ships will homeward sail.

Oh it's a great delight to march and fight Along the victory trail... 'Tis a great delight to march and fight Along the victory trail! ♫

At the conclusion of "In the Days of ‘76", the images of the Revolutionary War stop. Guests are then shown an image of the 13 united colonies, as Benjamin Franklin comments:

In the end, we the people, prevailed and achieved perhaps our greatest dream.

Thirteen very different colonies became the United States of America, and we were free to become an entire nation of dreamers and doers.

Benjamin Franklin

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pT8dbXhN1G8
  2. http://progresscityusa.com/2009/06/27/a-visit-to-epcot-center-1979/
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 http://www.martinsvids.net/?p=218
  4. 4.0 4.1 http://allears.net/tp/ep/e_adv.htm
  5. http://2719hyperion.blogspot.com/2007/01/lost-imagineering-happy-fun-american.html
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 http://allears.net/ae/issue828.htm
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 https://www.mouseplanet.com/9905/Will_Rogers_and_the_American_Adventure
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8WTTQzuDZge
  9. http://progresscityusa.com/page/57/
  10. http://thisdayindisneyhistory.homestead.com/epcotgrandopening.html
  11. https://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/2018/02/epcots-american-adventure-attraction-will-add-new-american-icons-this-month/
  12. https://www.wdwmagic.com/attractions/the-american-adventure/news/14feb2018-video---the-new-american-adventure-golden-dream-finale.htm
  13. http://land.allears.net/blogs/jackspence/2010/12/the_american_adventure_part_1_1.html