03 May 2013

The Mexico of Ancient Times

Often times when it comes to Walt Disney World, an attraction may be gone, but it is certainly not forgotten. A prime example of this is Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, after J. Thaddeus vacated his home in Fantasyland, there were photographs of he and his friends still scattered about The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and a bust of the old toad himself found its way over to the Haunted Mansion’s pet cemetery. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was a much beloved attraction, but what happens when you are not the flashiest or well-loved of attractions, are you still remembered fondly? As it turns out, yes, you are.

El Rio del Tiempo, translated as The River of Time, was the original attraction that occupied the Mexico pavilion in Epcot. It opened in World Showcase along with the rest of the park on October 1, 1982. In January of 2007 it was closed, retooled, and reopened as Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros. While the name and storytellers changed, much of the scenery and set pieces remained the same.

The story of El Rio del Tiempo began by illustrating the history of Mexico’s native people through artwork, such as reproduced sculptures and carvings, and large video screens showing dances and rituals. As the ride progressed through to the modern age, it showcased the natural beauty of Mexico, the friendliness of its people, and the way they keep the spirit of those ancient times alive and well.

El Rio del Tiempo wasn’t the most popular of attractions. In fact, it rarely had a line. It was, however, the only attraction in World Showcase when EPCOT Center opened that was not a film or theater experience, which gives the El Rio del Tiempo a sense of distinction. All of this brings us to how the attraction is remembered today.

La Vida Antigua – Life in Ancient Mexico is the new Mexico gallery, housed in the front section of the pavilion’s pyramid as you enter. Opened in 2012, its centerpiece is a large stone calendar, but the exhibit also looks at life from sports all the way to agriculture and home life in ancient Mexico. Most guests will walk right on by the exhibit, not to mention the abundance of signage detailing the artifacts and history. It is in these display signs that we find a nod to El Rio del Tiempo. Just opposite the main sign of La Vida Antigua, no matter which front door you enter through, is a sign welcoming you to the exhibit. It features an outline of the statue which once greeted guests on El Rio del Tiempo. The welcome to the exhibit, while simple, is the same as the welcome you received on the boat, “Uts talaha ane exte Mexico yancahan uuchich. Welcome to the Mexico of ancient times.

A tiny line at the bottom of this welcome denotes that this quote is from El Rio del Tiempo, though I wonder how many guests even notice it. Between the hurry to dive further into the pavilion, many guests bypass the gallery, and even those who pause to look rarely read all of the signage. Still, it is nice to see this once glorious, if not extremely popular, attraction be given a nod of respect.

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