I'm not going to lie, the switch from "El Rio Del Tiempo" to "The Gran Fiesta Tour" was a big let down for me. I spent the whole refurb period, fingers crossed, singing that El Rio song (you know the one, it goes "la la la la la la"). Only to have my dreams crushed at first ride once "The Gran Fiesta Tour" finally opened. Not only was the song missing, but there were not any drastic improvements to the attraction. It was still largely video screens in rocks, only now those screens also featured the Three Caballeros and some really bad chef acting, note my first "minus" for this podcast.
Donald Duck, Panchito Pistoles and Jose Carioca appeared in the 1944 full-length animated feature, "The Three Caballeros," but, does anyone really know that? I mean, we know that because we are Disney fans but your average kid has probably never seen the film. As Scott points out, everyone loves Donald Duck and that's a given, but his two amigos? Not so much. I have no qualms with Senor Donald roaming around the streets of Mexico, heck his other Caballeros can be out there too. That is where they belong, though. Donald can don his poncho and sombrero, off to the side. After all, he's not a Mexican duck. Jose Carioca isn't even a Mexican parrot, he's from Brazil! If any character should be included in The Tour, let it be Panchito. After all, he's the only one from Mexico. Try as they might to add characters to Epcot, this addition seems too forced and irrelevant. Take that, Scott and Melissa!
There is something to say for the ambiance, though. The first scene is absolutely breath-taking (Melissa happens to find it voice-taking) with the Mayan temple on your left, and the restaurant on the right. The faint sound of the Mariachi band, and the faint smell of chips and salsa make it all the better. It starts off so strong (the ride, not the smell of food), and maybe that is why most of the other scenes are disappointing, they just don't live up to that opening. The "It's A Small World"-esque scene is also a good one. It is the Walt Disney World version of Mexico, and it's cute! This is more of what I expected the attraction to turn into, It's A Small Mexico, and all without the Three Caballeros, sorry muchachos!
Instead, the attraction stayed largely how it was, mostly screens displaying scenes from Mexico. It's unfortunate that so much about the culture of Mexico is being left out. I'm not looking for a downer of a history lesson, but a better exploration of the customs and culture of Mexico would be welcomed. How about a scene about El Dio De Los Muertes? Or a taste of the music of Mexico? Or even something about the art of Mexico sponsored by those Animales Fantasticos guys?
The biggest disappointment is that so much more could have been done. Instead we are left at the end, with an empty stage and the Three Caballeros. By the way, I never minded that bead-selling woman all that much. Melissa hated her though! It might have something to do with the fact that Melissa is a bead-seller by day and her sales techniques just really couldn't hang. Personally, I miss that guy at the end who bid the riders, until we meet again. Until then, we will always be delighted with the beauty of the Mexico that was, El Rio Del Tiempo.
NOTE: * I still haven't been able to get a definite answer about bringing alcohol on the boats, my calls to Disney Dining returned no definite answer. If you have any information, please feel free to post in our new forum!