Thanks for checking back for Part Two of my Canada Pavilion article. I will continue with the discussion about HÃ´tel du Canada, the icon of this World Showcase country.
In 1987, La Boutique des Provinces opened within the HÃ´tel 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Off of Victoria Gardens and on the lowest level of HÃ´tel 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.