A lot of folks weren’t exactly thrilled when Frozen Ever After replaced Maelstrom in the Norway pavilion at Epcot. For some, it was about nostalgia and love for the ride. I was more concerned about the possibility that this could be the beginning of the end for the original intentions of World Showcase.
Alas, years later, we now find ourselves getting ready for an adventure with characters from “Ratatouille.” The Disney character takeover of World Showcase is well on its way. While I may have originally been distraught by this reality, I’ve decided to embrace it. As a person with a completist mindset, I now want major character representation in every pavilion in a way that makes sense for the respective countries. If you’re going to do it, do it all the way.
Although the France pavilion is getting Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and already has the Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along, I can’t help but want more in that particular area, considering one of my favorite Disney movies takes place in France. As we recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of Walt Disney Animation’s often overlooked masterpiece, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” it had me longing for representation from this movie in Epcot’s France pavilion.
When the film was released in 1996, it did have some pretty epic (and different) stage productions in both Disney-MGM Studios and Disneyland park. But since those closed a few years later, we haven’t gotten much from “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” There are some small nods to it, like Clopin’s Music Box in Disneyland’s Fantasy Faire and rare character meet-and-greets during some special events, but I’d love to see more consistent nods to this movie. The France pavilion in Epcot is obviously a great fit.
I admit, a sing-along to “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” could be a bit questionable when it comes time for guests to belt out “Hellfire,” but I think there are some other options available. To be fair, they do play some instrumental versions of songs from the film in the pavilion, but daily character meet-and-greets would be an excellent addition there, as well.
One thing that I’m truly surprised doesn’t exist is representation of Notre Dame Cathedral in general. Since the pavilion opened in 1982, we’ve been able to see the Eiffel Tower “in the distance.” Considering how iconic Notre Dame Cathedral is when you think of France, a similar treatment for this historic landmark would be appropriate for the pavilion, as well as tie into the animated movie. And before you say that Disney wouldn’t want to mix religion into the park, might I remind you that this is the same theme park that hosts the Candlelight Processional every year telling the story of Jesus.
As a big fan of live entertainment, I would love to see the Festival of Fools brought to life with a live performance each day. I’m not saying it needs to be anything huge or extravagant, but some live musicians, dancers and a character or two could really liven up the space. At one point, there was some energetic entertainment in New Orleans Square in Disneyland to honor “The Princess and the Frog.” A similar treatment for “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” in Epcot would make me very happy.
As has been confirmed and rumored, Disney characters in World Showcase will continue to expand as the years pass. Disney did announce some “Mary Poppins” additions for the U.K. Pavilion, although those have been postponed at this time. And it seems like rumors consistently swirl about a big “Coco” takeover for the Mexico pavilion. As for Italy, I’m hoping we start to see some nods inspired by “Luca” there.
Overall, the character representation in Epcot’s World Showcase seems to be here to stay and growing. Epcot’s upcoming nighttime spectacular, “Harmonious,” will only deepen the movement in that direction. Now that it’s begun, it does seem like there are some fun ways to incorporate the characters while still honoring the countries and pavilions.
What are some Disney characters that you would like to see represented in their native countries? Do you like these additions to Epcot? How would you add “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” to the France pavilion? Let me know in the comments.
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Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” the ultimate, unofficial Disney fan podcast. Get your FREE gifts of “America’s Hidden Mickeys,” “On the Rohde Again,” “Theme Park Comfort Kit” and more at DizneyCoastToCoast.com.