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April 3, 2012

Canada Pavilion - Part Two

Jack Spence Masthead


Thanks for checking back for Part Two of my Canada Pavilion article. I will continue with the discussion about Hôtel du Canada, the icon of this World Showcase country.


Hôtel du Canada


In 1987, La Boutique des Provinces opened within the Hôtel du Canada. This store carried a more upscale line of merchandise than Northwest Mercantile or the Trading Post. Here you could purchase decorative leather masks, hand crafted Christmas ornaments, quality fragrances, prints, jewelry, ceramics, Anne of Green Gables items, and other articles befitting of an elegant boutique. It was nice to have a selection of quality goods that complimented the more "rugged" items sold in the other shops. In addition, the Kidcot station was located here. Unfortunately, this shop closed sometime after the millennium in an effort to save money.


La Boutique des Provinces

La Boutique des Provinces

La Boutique des Provinces


I was very sad to see La Boutique des Provinces close. Now this upper area of the Canada Pavilion has very little to capture your interest. Surely the Imagineers could come up with something profitable to fill this space - if not a merchandise shop, then perhaps a quick-service restaurant. There must be some Canadian treats that would entice guests to part with a few bucks. Anything up here would be an improvement to what it is now.

Also on the upper level is a classic red telephone box ("booth" to us Americans). Although we associate these with the United Kingdom, they were exported to many of the current and/or former British colonies around the world.


Red Telephone Box


The last point of interest on the upper level of the Canada Pavilion is an observation deck. "Pull-outs" like these are common on mountain roads in the U.S. and Canada and provide travelers with a way to "slow down and smell the roses." At the Canada Pavilion, this observation deck provides guests with a panoramic view of Disney's version of the Rocky Mountains and Salmon Island.


Observation Deck

Rocky Mountains

Salmon Island


It's interesting to note, the waterfall's intensity varies from day to day and season to season. The Imagineers would tell you it depends on the snow melt, but the truth is, Disney is concerned with your comfort. When the falls are at peak capacity, guests will get damp as mist and droplets splash them as they pass by. This is all and good during most of the year in Florida. But we do have some cooler times and when the temperatures drop, so does the water flow, greatly decreasing the residual spray. This next picture shows the falls during a brisk morning.


Minimal Waterfall


The upper level of the Canada Pavilion is accessible to wheelchairs and ECVs, but only in one direction. Ambulatory guests can continue on to the O'Canada movie from the upper level by descending nearby stairs. However, those on wheels who wish to see the movie must turn around and retrace their route. From the entrance of the pavilion, they must travel through Victoria Gardens and find a wooden bridge/walkway that leads through a gorge. Although the scenery is lovely along this walkway, and missed by many, it is extremely narrow and not well suited for wheelchairs.


Wooden Walkway

Wooden Walkway

Wooden Walkway


On Salmon Island guests enter Maple Leaf Mine, previously Moosehead Mine. This is the preshow area for the O'Canada movie. Inside the mine you'll find the remains of the Klondike era. Picks and shovels line the walls and old timbers hold back rock and earth.


Moosehead Mine

O'Canada Sign

Moosehead Mine

Moosehead Mine


Just inside the entrance of the mine is a time indicator, letting you know how many minutes before the next show. If it's more than ten, go back outside and enjoy the scenery for a few moments. The theater will not fill up and you won't miss the next show if you arrive at the last minute.


Count-down Clock


Before the show starts, one of the cast members will take the podium and introduce themselves. After giving a brief description of the movie, they very often will quiz the audience on Canadian trivia. This is always good for a laugh and it's surprising how much Americans don't know about their neighbor to the north.


Canadian Cast Member

Theater Entrance


The Canada Pavilion is currently showing its second version of O'Canada, but I'd like to visit the previous iteration first.

The Imagineers knew that a one-screen presentation of the Canada landscape would not do the country justice. The nation is just too vast and majestic to be limited to a traditional theater presentation. The Imagineers didn't want the experience to be passive. They wanted to immerse Epcot visitors in the panorama that is Canada -- and the Disney developed CircleVision was just the ticket. This technique was pioneered and refined by the Disney Company for Disneyland in the 1950's. This method requires nine cameras be mounted on a platform facing outwards in a circle to capture 360 degrees of scenery. This apparatus is then positioned atop some sort of a moving vehicle or suspended from a plane or helicopter.


CircleVision Camera


After much research, the filmmakers set out to capture Canada. They filmed for almost two years in all twelve (at that time) provinces and territories. This lengthy time period allowed them to capture seasonal events and various weather conditions found in this sprawling nation. In some cases, the temperatures were so low, the cameras needed to be warmed with electrical heaters between scenes. In all, more than a quarter of a million feet of film was shot and was edited into an 18 minute movie that delighted guests. O'Canada was an opening day attraction at Epcot.

But time marched on and as the years progressed, the film no longer reflected some of the modern aspects the pavilion's sponsor, the Canadian Tourism Commission, wished to be portrayed. After a bit of lobbying, a new movie was created using a combination of old and new footage. It debuted on August 31, 2007 and gave Epcot visitors a fresh look at Canada. But the biggest change to the movie came with the addition of Canadian comedian Martin Short who now humorously narrates the movie. In addition, the ever popular song, "Canada - You're a Lifetime Journey" was rerecorded by Canadian Idol winner Eva Avila. The new movie is 14 minutes in length.


Martin Short

Eva Avila


As guests exit the O'Canada movie, they pass by a Kidcot Station. This is the place to get their World Showcase Passport stamped. The theme of "the great outdoors" is also continued in this area with the inclusion of a canoe under construction.


Kidcot Station

Epcot Passport

Canoe


As you continue your journey, you come to Victoria Gardens. This lovely area was inspired by Butchart Gardens found in British Columbia.

In 1888, Robert Butchart began manufacturing Portland cement in Ontario. He was successful and eventually moved to British Columbia, attracted by the rich limestone deposits found in this area. In 1904, he put down roots here and opened a new factory.

As the years passed, the pit near his home grew deeper and deeper and eventually the deposits of limestone were depleted, leaving an ugly eyesore. However, his wife Jennie, conceived a plan for resurrecting this bleak pit. From farmlands nearby, she requisitioned tons of top soil and had it hauled by horse and cart to the pit. Once the wasteland was covered with nutritious earth, she began to plant an array of trees, shrubberies, and flowers and bit by bit transformed this hole-in-the-ground into the lush garden it is today.


Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens


Although Disney's Victoria Gardens can't compete in size with the original Butchart Gardens, they are stunningly beautiful. Flowers are always in bloom and the grass is always verdant green. The Imagineers even included Canada's national symbol, the maple tree. A stand has been planted adjacent to the gardens. And here's an interesting fact for you. The snowy winters of British Columbia haven't been forgotten. During the colder months of the year (by Florida standards), the Disney horticulturist plant white flowers and white-leaved shrubberies to suggest snow. As spring approaches, these white patches are scaled back to the shaded areas beneath the trees to suggest lingering snow. You can see an example of this in the fifth and sixth picture.


Victoria Gardens

Victoria Gardens

Victoria Gardens

Victoria Gardens

Victoria Gardens

Victoria Gardens


Off of Victoria Gardens and on the lowest level of Hôtel du Canada is the most popular eatery at Epcot, Le Cellier Steakhouse. Without exaggeration, this restaurant books up within days of reservations being available. "Walkups" are sometimes offered for off times, but one must never count on last minute reservations if they have any hopes of eating here. But this wasn't always the case.


Le Cellier Steakhouse


In the early years of Epcot, Le Cellier was a buffeteria style restaurant. As you might deduce from the name, buffeteria combines the elements of a cafeteria with a buffet. Disneyland had used this style of service at the Plaza Pavilion, Plaza Inn, and the French Market restaurants for years with great success and thought a buffeteria would be a perfect match for the Canada Pavilion's restaurant. Since most Americans are unfamiliar with Canadian specialties, a buffeteria would give guests the opportunity to see the tasty delights before ordering them. However, things didn't work out as planned. Whether it was the style of service (which has never caught on at Disney World) or the dishes offered, guests were not interested in eating at Le Cellier. Something needed to be done.

In late 1996, Le Cellier closed for a makeover. When it reopened on July 20, 1997, it had been renamed Le Cellier Steakhouse and featured an all new menu, focusing on beef. In addition, gone was the buffeteria style service to be replaced with a wait-staff. The restaurant was an instant success and good word-of-mouth only added to the eatery's popularity. Now, reservations are so in demand that Disney requires a credit card when booking a table and $10 per person will be charged if you fail to show up.

The atmosphere at Le Cellier Steakhouse is captivating. Designed to resemble a wine cellar, the dining rooms are incased within stone walls and low ceilings. The lighting is dim and the mood sedate. Yet the friendly Canadian cast members bring a lighthearted air to the service that relaxes the ambiance. Note, the next two pictures were taken with a flash so I could adequately show you the restaurant. Things are much darker in person.


Le Cellier Steakhouse

Le Cellier Steakhouse


The various sections of the restaurant are named after one of the thirteen Canadian provinces or territories. Each has its own emblem. Here are a few of them.


Province & Territoriy Emplems

Province & Territoriy Emplems

Province & Territoriy Emplems


If you have reservations for 11:30am or shortly thereafter, be sure to arrive in time to watch the wait staff sing "O Canada," the country's national anthem. Because this inspiring moment takes place in the restaurant's very small lobby, only a handful of guests get to see it.


Cast Members Singing O Canada


Back on the promenade we find several street vendors. The first sells more Canadian souvenirs, including personalized wrist bands. The second offers Coke products along with Moosehead, Moosehead Light, or Labatt Blue beer.


Souvenir Stand

Beer Cart


The Canada Pavilion is a handsome member of the World Showcase of nations. Its scenery is unsurpassed, its architecture varied, its food sumptuous, and its CircleVision film moving and humorous. Be sure to visit this gem of a pavilion on your next visit to Epcot. Take a stroll through Victoria Gardens so you can slow down and smell the roses.

As always, I have created a video of the Canada Pavilion. Enjoy.




April 2, 2012

Canada Pavilion - Part One

Jack Spence Masthead


There is a reason the Canada and Mexico Pavilions are located where they are along the World Showcase Lagoon. These two countries border the United States to the north and south and were thus given places of prominence along the promenade. Whether you tour World Showcase clockwise or counterclockwise, you'll come to one of our national neighbors first. Today I'm going to talk about the Canada Pavilion and hopefully provide you with a few tidbits you didn't already know.

Canada was perhaps one of the more difficult countries to portray in World Showcase. Not because it doesn't have a rich heritage and culture, but because it shares much of its history, architecture, and topography with its neighbor to the south. How do you create a unique identity that is easily recognized as Canadian, yet doesn't overlap with America?

Canada is the second largest country in the world. It spans six time zones and offers outstanding scenery from coast to coast. The Imagineers decided to use this boundless expanse and capture the natural elements of Canada's sprawling landscape rather than focus on architecture. Yet, the structures that were selected are unique to this vast land. I think the Imagineers did a fantastic job. There is no mistaking the identity of this northern jewel among the World Showcase nations.

Let's start our tour of the Canada Pavilion at the World Showcase Lagoon. Reference material tells us that this area was designed to resemble the rugged Canadian eastern seaboard. And it certainly does. However, I've often wondered if the Imagineers might also have been trying to suggest the Bay of Fundy as seen in the O'Canada movie.


Canada Pavilion Shoreline

Canada Pavilion Shoreline

Bay of Fundy


Located between the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, the tidal changes at the Bay of Fundy range between 47.5 feet and 53.5 feet, the highest in the world. In July 2009, the Bay of Fundy was named as a finalist in a contest to select the New 7 Wonders of Nature; however, it was not chosen.

Next time you walk along the promenade of the Canada Pavilion, notice the picket fence. Maple leaves, the national symbol, are carved into every other plank.


Maple Leaf Fence

Maple Leaf Fence


From the inception of World Showcase, regional entertainment was intended to be part of each nation's offering - and the Canada Pavilion was no exception. In the early years, a group called "Caledonian Bagpipe Band" performed at both the Canada and United Kingdom Pavilions.


Caledonian Bagpipe Band


Although bagpipes can be traced as far back as 1000 BCE in the Middle East, they didn't become commonplace in Europe until the 14th century and later. However, as classical music began to take hold, bagpipes fell out of favor due to their limited range and function.

When the British Empire was expanding during the 18th and 19th centuries, many of its units contained Highland regiments, groups that referred to Scotland in some part and had adopted items of Scottish dress and customs - which included bagpipes. Thus, the bagpipe became synonymous with many military companies. Today, the military forces of the United Kingdom and a number of its Commonwealth Nations such as Canada and New Zealand are known for their bagpipe bands which often play at formal ceremonies. In recent years, the revival of native folk music and dance has brought a resurgence of the bagpipes in popular culture.

In 1997, the Celtic-rock band Off Kilter was formed and became a permanent fixture at Epcot. Besides drums, fiddles, and guitars, bagpipes are a part of the instrumental makeup. The group became so popular that a permanent stage (The Mill Stage) and seating was erected shortly after their arrival. Unofficial surveys consistently select Off Kilter as one of the most popular live acts at Epcot. Although they perform a wide range of songs, they generally try to present pieces from Canadian artist and composers.

Senior AllEars Editor, Deb Koma, conducted an interview with Off Kilter's founding member, Jamie Holton. To read it, click here.


The Mill Stage

The Mill Stage

Off Kilter


Now to that age-old question I know some of you are thinking, "What does a Scotsman wear beneath his kilt?"

Although I haven't checked Off Kilter personally, I can assure you that EVERY cast member at Disney World is given a copy of "The Disney Look," a booklet that outlines every aspect of the Disney grooming policy. It even stipulates that cast members must wear underwear while at work. So I have to assume that the Off Kilter band has broken with tradition and follows company guidelines. (Now that's information you won't read in most people's blogs. LOL)

The aboriginal peoples of Canada's Northwest Coast, specifically the First Nations tribes, were selected to represent the indigenous tribes of Canada. Their thousand mile stretch of homeland, bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Rocky Mountains to the east, isolated them from the rest of the country. In their isolation they became artisans and craftsmen. Representations of their handiwork can first be seen along the promenade where a great photo op presents itself.


First Nations Photo Op


As you ascend the steps to the pavilion, you are greeted by three totem poles, an art form peculiar to the Pacific Northwest. The meanings of the designs on totem poles vary from tribe to tribe. They can recount familiar legends, clan lineages, or notable events.


Canada Pavilion Totem Poles


In the early years of Epcot, all three totem poles were made of fiberglass. In 1998, artist David Baxley carved a real totem pole as "performance art" at the Canada Pavilion. Upon its completion, it replaced the existing pole that sat adjacent to the shops. The story of this new pole tells of a Raven who tricks the Sky Chief into releasing the sun, the moon, and the stars from its chest. The first picture depicts the original, fiberglass totem pole. The second picture highlights the newer, wooden pole.


Original Totem Pole

New Totem Pole


There are two shops on this level of the Canada Pavilion. The first is called Northwest Mercantile and pays homage to the French and English trappers, prospectors, loggers, and traders that helped open the vast western sections of Canada. If you pay attention while browsing in this store, you will find equipment necessary for surviving in the harsh environment of Canada's wilderness. Items like these were the stock and trade of wilderness outposts during the frontier days.


Northwest Mercantile

Northwest Mercantile

Northwest Mercantile

Northwest Mercantile


Next door is the Trading Post. Here, the Native American culture that thrived in Canada before the arrival of Europeans is exhibited. The building duplicates the adze-hewn log construction used by these ancient people. Inside, more totem poles and paintings are on display.


Trading Post

Trading Post

Trading Post


The merchandise sold in these adjoined stores is a collection of stereotypical Canadian souvenirs to useful items that can be used in real life.


Shop Interior


For you hockey fans, a number of shirts and other sports related items are available.


Hockey Shirts


For the kids, I especially like these two t-shirts.


Kid's T-shirt

Kid's T-shirt


For the gourmet, several brands of real maple syrup can be found.


Real Maple Syrup


And for the ladies, a nice selection of body-care products by Fruits & Passions is for sale.


Fruits & Passions


Early plans for the Canada Pavilion called for a "main street" of restaurants and shops. One side of the thoroughfare would represent French Canada while the other, English Canada. This idea was modified greatly, but in essence, it exists in the finished product. On the upper level of the Canada Pavilion, the country's bicultural society is represented. On the right side of the street is Hôtel du Canada with its French architecture and on the left side of the street, English stone houses are patterned after those found in the maritime provinces of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick.


Hôtel du Canada

English Stone Houses


The first English settlement in the Maritimes was in Halifax. The style of construction methods that developed in this region was very close to the architecture found in New England as the trade links between these two areas was close and the topography similar. The New England and the Maritime Provinces are mountainous and rocky. Early settlers used what was on hand to build their homes and shops, and in the case of the Northern Eastern Seaboard, stones filled that need. Take a look at this Nova Scotia structure and compare it to its Epcot counterparts.


Nova Scotia Structure

English Stone Houses

English Stone Houses


Original designs called for these "homes" to house the Canadian Tourism Information Center. But to my knowledge, this never came to pass.

Hôtel du Canada is the Canada Pavilion icon. It towers over the area with majestic beauty and grace. There is no mistaking this regal structure on the horizon.


Hôtel du Canada

Hôtel du Canada


Hôtel du Canada was patterned after Chateau Laurier in Ottawa. The resort was commissioned by Grand Trunk Railway and was constructed between 1909 and 1912 in tandem with Ottawa's downtown Union Station. Hotels like these were built all across Canada as the railroads pushed westward around the turn of the 19th/20th century. To promote passenger ridership and business, lines like the Grand Trunk Railway, Canadian National Railway, and Canadian Pacific Railway established a series of first class resort hotels along their routes. Many of these hotels do not exist today, and those that do, now belong to hostelry chains like the Fairmont, Westin, and others.

(I have had several readers comment that they believed Hôtel du Canada was inspired by structures other than Chateau Laurier in Ottawa. Looking at these other hotels, I agree that there are many similarities. I wouldn't be surprised at all if the Imagineers used several hotels for their inspiration.)


Chateau Laurier in Ottawa


The next picture shows the Canadian National Hotels emblem. The second picture is Disney's take on the logo which can be found on the side of the Hôtel du Canada.


Canadian National Hotels Emblem

Disney's Canadian National Hotels Emblem


The architectural style used on Hôtel du Canada is Château. This term refers to the French country homes (châteaux) built in the Loire Valley from the late fifteenth century to the early seventeenth century. This style is noted for elaborate towers, spires, and steeply-pitched roofs.

You often hear Imagineers speak of "forced perspective." This is a technique of making an object or structure appear larger than it actually is. The Hôtel du Canada is an excellent example of this trickery of the eye.

The actual structure is only three stories high, yet it appears to be seven. The first trick was to place the building on a hill. This truly does add height to the hotel. Next, the fiberglass stones are large at the base of the structure and grow smaller as they rise. And finally, the windows and other decorative items also become smaller the higher on the structure they are placed.


Hôtel du Canada


That's it for Part One of the Canada Pavilion. Check back tomorrow for Part Two.



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