There are two basic camps of Disney fans when it comes to including characters in World Showcase– those who don’t see anything wrong with it (and probably partially because they just don’t think much of it to begin with) and those who are violently opposed to it. While this is something that people tend to have strong opinions of, I kind of fall somewhere in the middle.
I wasn’t outraged when the Three Caballeros were introduced to El Rio del Tiempo in Mexico, changing the attraction to the Gran Fiesta Tour we know today. But to be fair, this was partially because the attraction wasn’t all that spectacular to begin with. In fact, I would argue that it’s improved more in recent years compared to how it was originally simply because of the Animatronics of the Three Caballeros in the final scene– I get that they may not give way to an authentic Mexican experience, but I’m totally not a fan of the TV screens used to portray settings in this attraction, so the Animatronics were a welcome addition for me.
I don’t mind being able to meet Mulan in China. She’s not really in the way of anything, so if you want a more “authentic” photo op in this pavilion you can do so without looking like you’re in the middle of an animated movie. And like Belle (in her blue dress anyway) in France, I’m mostly okay with this because it’s the only place you can meet her. If you can’t find this character anywhere else, I would hate for these meet and greets to be removed. And from a more business operations standpoint, World Showcase in itself is so adult-oriented that I’m sure it only helps to have experiences that children will enjoy too.
The one issue I have with characters in World Showcase, as you may have guessed comes in Norway. I’m partially biased here because the Maelstrom was one of my favorite attractions in Epcot (and it has since been replaced with Frozen), but I’m mostly bothered by the fact that Frozen takes place in an entirely fictional kingdom. (I know, the same argument could be made against Aladdin and Jasmine in Morocco, and if it was a meet and greet alone I would deal, but it’s a meet and greet, a ride, and an exhibit in Norway, along with at least half of the shops there).
Enter Coco. First of all, if you haven’t seen the latest animated hit from Pixar Animation Studios, you need to get on that because it’s that good. But for the purposes of this post, let’s talk about why this movie above all others should, no– needs to be included in World Showcase.
The story of Coco focuses entirely on experiences that are authentically Mexican. The entire theme of the movie focusing on Dia de los Muertos is based on a holiday that is exclusively celebrated in Mexico. The characters and their individual stories may be entirely made up, but the culture and celebrations seen in the film are not. And while the story itself may be fictional, it’s worth pointing out how much research went into accurately portraying Mexican culture while the film was being written and designed. Animators visited numerous towns in Mexico, and even went to far as to research real-life family-owned shoe-making businesses to portray details like Miguel’s family’s business in the film as close to real life as possible.
If you did not stay after the credits when you saw this film in theaters, you may not have even realized this but producers even encouraged guests to learn more about Mexico’s culture with a note that follows the film reading “Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican holiday. To learn more visit your local library.” (The post-credits filler also includes photos of the filmmakers family members who are presumably deceased given the theme of the film, which in any case is a touching tribute). I’m thrilled to see producers encouraging people who see the film to learn more about the holiday, and I think this idea is exactly why the movie should be featured in Epcot.
Epcot is full of “edutainment,” and what better way to allow guests to learn something while still having fun than by including actual Mexican history and culture alongside the hit film in the parks? Shortly after the film’s debut, the mariachi band that performs daily in Mexico began playing songs from the film, and a small area in the pavilion was decorated based on the film. Given how quickly these touches were added (while the film is still in theaters) I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll be seeing some more Coco coming to the park in the future.