For the past several months, I have been covering the beautiful and detailed pavilions around World Showcase, and today we’ll take a look at Canada. Our ally and neighbor to the north have some of the most beautiful scenery and is the second largest country in area after Russia. The country was first settled by the French, but in 1763, Great Britain took control. With both countries colonizing the land, both French and English is spoken. In 1867 the British North America Act united English-speaking Upper Canada (Ontario) and French-speaking Lower Canada (Quebec) with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in a self-governing confederation. Canada has many cultures, 28 percent are of British descent, 23 percent from French descent (concentrated in Quebec), 2 percent are aboriginal peoples—other minorities include Italians, Germans, Ukrainians, and Chinese. It’s interesting to note that although Canada is larger than the USA, it only has 11 percent as many people. It is one of the least densely inhabited and most prosperous countries! About 80% of Canada’s trade is with the United States.
Although on the same continent, our lifestyles, terrain and weather are quite different. Like most of the pavilions in EPCOT, many of the countries represented are funded by the host country. Wanting our neighbor to the north represented in EPOCT, The Disney Company sought financial support for the attraction from the Canadian government. The major blockade if you will was the Canadian Governments concern that the pavilion would stereotype their country, i.e. Lumberjacks, Moose, and the RCMP etc. Although the funding was refused, Disney went on with the project.
You will notice that like many of the other countries represented, the Canadian Pavilion has no central courtyard, as in Germany, Italy, Morocco or Japan. When first envisioned, the pavilion was to have a main St. of shops and restaurants, one side to represent the English side and the other, the French side. But let’s just wander about the country and talk about its many aspects. First, entertainment. With no ride attraction, Canada offers its spectacular “O Canada” 360deg Circle vision movie. The original film took almost two years to complete, using the filming technique enhanced by the Disney Company in the ’50’s. By placing 9 cameras on a round stand facing outward, the cameras literally filmed scenery 360degs and gave the impression you were in the scene itself. The first film concentrated on the beautiful scenery and climate changes in Canada, but after several years, as beautiful as it was, the Canadian Government wanted a more updated film reflecting more of the people, culture and lifestyles of modern Canada.
So on August 31st, 2007 the new updated film bowed. It also features a comical narration by Canadian comedian Martian Short, and Eva Avila, the winner of Canada’s “Canadian Idol” show sings “Canada…You’re a Lifetime Journey” The movie is accessed through a pathway pass the “Victoria Gardens” (More on that later) over a small bridge. This area of the pavilion is very beautiful. Built to represent the rugged Rocky Mountains, it features a cascading waterfall on the right and a mine entrance straight ahead. (The entrance to “O Canada”) It’s interesting to note that the amount of water coming down the falls lessens during the “Colder Months” here in Florida. This is in order to keep the water off guests during this period. Very thoughtful, those Imagineers! The Inside of the movie queue area represents a mine, the Maple Leaf Mine, previously the Moosehead Mine. As always, the detail is amazing with shovels and picks, and all sorts of mining tools on the rustic wood walls. There is even an old time timer which tells guests the time till the next show. Just note that this movie is 14 minutes in length and there is no seating in the theater, just long handrails. Do not miss this movie, it is very well done and the scenery is spectacular. As you exit the film, the Kidcot station is located at the exit.
The second part of Canada’s entertainment is the “Off Kilter” band. Located to the right of the pavilion, the band plays a blend of Canadian and Celtic music, with the bagpipes as the lead instrument. The band members are all dressed in traditional Kilts, the dress of men and boys in the Scottish Highlands of the 16th century. Since the 19th century it has become associated with the wider culture of Scotland in general, or with Celtic or Gaelic heritage. This band which was a replacement for the original show called the “Caledonian Bagpipe Band” debuted in 1997 and was an immediate hit. They even had their own stage erected call the “Mill Stage” But note that as of September of this year, the “Off Kilter” group along with several other entertainment staples, including …Mo ‘Rockin’, The Spirit of America Fife & Drum Corps and the World Showcase Players are being phased out for new “Entertainment Experiences”. I know I will miss these acts.
Let’s check out the shops. All of the countries have shops for the obligatory souvenirs’ and Canada is no different. Walk up a short flight of stairs and you will be greeted (Actually, you see them long before the stairs!) with three large Totem poles. These Totems carved by the tribes in the Pacific Northwest tell tribal stories and legends via carved motifs. In the beginning, the three Totems were made of fiberglass. But in 1998, a real Totem was carved by artist David Boxley, an internationally recognized Northwest Coast Native artist and culture bearer. This real wood Totem tells the story of a Raven who fools the Sky Chief into releasing the Moon, Sun and Stars from his chest. The two shops on this level are the “Northwest Mercantile” This shop displays many tools and necessities that trappers, loggers and prospectors would need. They sell shirts, plush toys and Canadian snacks. In the connecting store, you’ll find the “Trading Post” with more goods, reflecting on the native Indians of Canada.
On the second level you’ll find on the right, several English stone houses that represent those found in the coastal regions of Halifax, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The materials used were those most available, and the rocky coast provided the material. On the right side is the signature visual structure of the pavilion. The Hôtel du Canada (The plaque on the outside of the hotel says…Canadian National Hotels) is similar in architecture to the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa. These Chateaus’ or Hotels were constructed during the latter part of the 19th and early 20th centuries as the railroads surged westward. Many of Canada’s major rail lines built these hotels along their routes to increase business and ridership. This Hotel utilizes Disney’s famed “Forced Perspective” making it appear much larger than it is. The building is only three stories high, but like Cinderella’s castle, appears much larger. The “Chateau” style of architecture apes the style of French country homes. There was also an additional store housed in the Hotel called the La Boutique des Provinces. This shop offered more exclusive items such as Christmas ornaments, ceramics and jewelry. But due to budget controls, it closed and now other that the observation deck overlooking the “O Canada” entrance, there is little else in that area.
Every country has food, some only quick-service and some Table service. Here at the Canadian Pavilion, is one of the most popular eateries on property… “Le Cellier Steakhouse” (The Cellar). Let’s take a quick history trip back, because the current eatery that opened with Canada was totally different. The restaurant was called just “Le Cellier” and it was a buffet-style set-up. It was not called a buffet per se, but a “Buffeteria” which combined the elements of a buffet and cafeteria. But the eatery never became popular, and Disney realized that an update was in order. The restaurant closed in 1996, and after a complete makeover; reopened on July 20th, 1997 along with a new name…”Le Cellier Steakhouse”. Now a full-blown table service restaurant with a very friendly wait staff. The restaurant is themed after a Canadian Wine cellar and the detail and stonework are amazing. The dining room is a bit small, but cozy. The dining room is also divided up into different “Provinces” in Canada, so impress your server and ask which one you are dining in.
The food is uniformly good, with emphasis on meat, especially steak. Their signature offering is the Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup. The manager told me that the menu changes almost every week, depending on the head chef. Although the main offerings remain, he updates and adds, making the menu fresh as the ingredients. New touches are the light-up menus, making it easy to see in the subdued lighting. The massive stone arches, wall sconces, chandeliers, and free-standing candelabra, and many small ‘Wine Caves” give a feeling of comfort and coziness. But, due to the immense popularity of Le Cellier, reservations are hard to come by, even booking 180 days out. In addition, Lunch is now a “Signature” meal, meaning both lunch and dinner menus are the same, and unfortunately, pricey.
On the main promenade you will find several venders selling Canadian beer, souvenirs, popcorn and water. Also on the walkway, you’ll find a “Kodak” picture spot, a board with humorous Totem cut-outs to place your face in and get that Picture of the day.
Last on the tour are the most beautiful Gardens in EPCOT, the Victorian Gardens. This “Garden Spot” is inspired by the Butchart Gardens found in British Columbia. The real gardens are named after Robert Butchart, a Portland cement magnet, who in 1904 moved to British Columbia and built a cement factory. After years of digging out the limestone, his factory left an eyesore of a pit. Not wanting to leave the area in such a condition, he had tons and tons of soil hauled into the pit and eventually turned it into a garden paradise, with trees, flowers and grasses. Victoria Gardens are also the most labor intensive in EPCOT. Even during the winter months, Disney’s horticulturist’ plant white flowers, to simulate a snowy landscape!
Just a quick bit of trivia…You will notice that Mexico is at one end of World Showcase and Canada is at the other. Why? Because both countries border us on the South and North, and the American Pavilion is in the middle!
That about wraps up the Canadian Pavilion. The Imagineers did a remarkable job of conveying the immense grandeur, beauty and feel of our neighbor and friend to the north, Canada. Although the pavilion is not as big as some other countries, there is much to see and take in. Make the Canadian Pavilion a must-stop on your next tour of World Showcase.
Please enjoy this gallery of pictures that Bill Iadonisi took around the Canada Pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase!
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