Walt Disney World guests will soon have a new way to beat the heat at EPCOT when Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana opens later this fall. The family-friendly self-guided exploration trail takes guests on an adventure that follows the water cycle from the sky to the ocean and back via a series of interactive water experiences.
I was invited to join Walt Disney Imagineers for a first look at the new attraction during a period of “PLAYtesting” when tests and adjustments are made before the official opening. Here are some things I learned about the park’s newest attraction.
Water Isn’t Just a Fun Effect, It’s the Main Character
Situated in EPCOT’s new World Nature neighborhood, Journey of Water takes the film’s themes of voyaging and adventure and uses them to tell the story of the water cycle, emphasizing the importance of conservation. This might sound dry, but it’s quite the opposite.
As Walt Disney Imagineering lead concept designer Reid Ekman explained during my tour, water is the attraction’s “lead hero character.” Guests are invited to play and interact with water throughout the experience with the hope that they will leave thinking of water as a friend, just as Moana does in the film.
Carrying forward EPCOT’s longstanding “edutainment” approach, the attraction’s informational components are incorporated throughout as trail markers, introducing each stage of the water cycle. Stylized illustrations inspired by the film’s colors, textures and themes depict both the water cycle stage and the way that guests can interact with each of the nine zones: Rain, Stream, Wetland, Spring, Land, Lake, River, Ocean and Sky.
Water Effects React to You
Each zone showcases water’s “personality,” giving guests a new way to engage and play with it. In the Rain section I ran my fingers across the “strings” of a water harp to play music.
In the Stream section, I wished a safe voyage to the newly formed streams gathered after rainfall by waving — and the water waved back at me, matching my motions both in height and intensity. A high wave raised the water higher to meet my hand’s height, and the faster I waved, the more water splashed its enthusiastic greeting back.
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During the Ocean finale, the more guests that team up to give water a big ocean wave, the bigger the wave you’ll back from the ocean, reminding us that we should all work together to care for our friend, the water.
You Can Get Wet, But You Don’t Have To
While water features will provide a welcome respite from the heat on the hottest Florida days, guests can still enjoy the attraction without getting wet. Guests can control just how much they engage with the water — and how wet (or not) they get. The attraction offers both wet and dry paths through certain areas, and the paths are close enough together that family members don’t need to split up if not everyone wants to get wet.
No Additional Technology Is Required to Activate the Water Effects
Playing with water truly feels like a natural, organic experience here. You don’t need a MagicBand+ or My Disney Experience app to activate any of the effects — they respond directly to your own motions and are unique to your gestures. They also adjust to your height. Even the littlest kiddos have height-appropriate spaces and ways to interact throughout.
You Can Do an Unofficial Scavenger Hunt Along the Way
“Moana” characters are hidden in carvings in the rock work throughout the attraction, so be on the lookout for Te Fiti, those mischievous Kakamora, Moana’s grandmother as a stingray, and many more. See how many you can find as a fun secondary activity to the main story.
Bring Your Camera
Journey of Water is as beautiful to look at as it is whimsical and fun to “play” your way through. Details from rock work and signage to woven light fixtures and hewn poles and benches are all intended to look handmade from natural materials. In the Lake zone, Te Fiti rises as a lush green figure protecting water and representing life and the balance of nature. Spaceship Earth stands prominently in the background of the attraction and behind Te Fiti, presenting itself as the perfect spot for a photo memory of the experience.
Journey of Water Will Open This Fall
Disney has yet to share an opening date for Journey of Water, but has confirmed that it will open “later this fall.” In the meantime, Moana fans can get their fix by meeting Moana at Character Landing in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, watching her call the ocean during a sequence in “Fantasmic!” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and watching the “Moana” segment in “Happily Ever After,” Magic Kingdom’s can’t-miss nighttime spectacular.