A new Moana-themed attraction, Journey of Water, Inspired By Moana, is opening soon at Epcot at Walt Disney World as part of the theme park’s ongoing multiyear transformation.
Walt Disney Imagineers have been putting the finishing touches on the attraction as it undergoes “PLAYtesting,” a phase of testing and adjusting before an attraction is officially unveiled to the public.
I had the opportunity to step behind the construction walls to tour the attraction with Walt Disney Imagineers Reid Ekman, lead concept designer, and Chelsea Whikeheart, creative producer, and try out some of its many whimsical effects.
Here’s a first look at what guests can expect from Journey of Water, Inspired By Moana.
What Is Journey of Water, Inspired By Moana?
Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana, is within Epcot’s new World Nature neighborhood alongside existing The Land and The Sea pavilions. Carrying on the theme of conservation established by those pavilions, Journey of Water is a self-guided exploration trail that invites guests to establish a relationship with water, just as Moana did in the animated film.
During the all-ages experience, guests make their way along a circular walking trail, moving through different zones, each representing the cycles water travels through as it makes its way from the sky to the ocean and back. Each zone offers new ways for guests to “play” with water while learning about each cycle: Rain, Stream, Wetland, Spring, Land, Lake, River, Ocean and Sky.
Exploring the water cycles
Trail markers introduce each zone of the water cycle, with illustrations functioning like storyboards to explain the cycle stage and to show guests how to interact with the water in each zone.
In the opening Rain section, I played a water harp, running my fingers across strings of water that play music just like harp strings. The water harps are low to the ground, easily accessible to kids, but I audibly squealed when I tried one for the first time. Many of the attraction’s interactive elements invite cooperation between guests — here, you might try playing in unison — harmonizing with a family member or stranger at the next harp.
Moving along to the next phase of the water cycle, when rainfall gathers into streams, guests can wave to the water, wishing it a safe voyage. Illustrations and language on the trail markers along the way carry forward the film’s themes of voyaging and adventure. Shade canopies overhead take inspiration from canoe sails, and materials throughout the attraction are intended to look elemental and handmade.
Just as water is a character in the film, it’s given a personality throughout the attraction, reacting specifically to each guest’s unique movements. In the Stream section, my simple, slow wave encouraged a gentle rise and fall of the water, while my fast, frantic waving caused it to react in quick, splashy bursts.
Unlike the uniform hidden effects in the parks that can be activated through games like Epcot’s Disney’s DuckTales World Showcase Adventure, the Star Wars: Datapad, or MagicBand+ interactivity, these effects respond uniquely to each individual guest’s movements and don’t require the use of MagicBand+ or the My Disney Experience app.
Will I get wet?
I visited the attraction on a sweltering 93-degree afternoon when the prospect of a cooldown by any means was welcome. However, Florida temperatures can dip into the 30s in the winter, and even on a hot day, not everyone likes to get wet.
The good news is, you can get wet, but you definitely don’t have to — and staying dry doesn’t mean sitting out all of the interactivity either. The aforementioned water harp only got my hand wet — easily shaken off and dry in a minute, though eager kiddos could certainly eke out a bit more of a splash with more enthusiastic harp playing. My waves in the Stream section left me completely dry.
As the trail progresses, some portions fork into wet and dry paths, giving guests the option to experience the attraction while remaining dry. Even the wet paths aren’t guaranteed to get you soaked if you’re cautious though. I chose the wet paths throughout and left more or less dry.
The attraction is truly designed for all ages and sizes. There are ground-level splash areas perfect for toddlers looking to get soaked and shaded benches for grown-ups wanting to take a break while little ones splash and play.
Look closely for hidden characters
For a fun secondary challenge, guests can look for characters from Moana, hidden in plain sight in carvings in the rock work, reminiscent of those throughout the pool rock work at Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in Hawaii and the Tree of Life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
A stunning selfie spot
Arriving at the Lake section, the calmest and most serene portion of the attraction, Te Fiti rises overhead as a symbolic nurturer and protector of water. With Spaceship Earth soaring grand and miraculous in the background and several vantage points for photos, this is destined to become a popular selfie spot.
Spaceship Earth standing prominently in the background doesn’t break any fourth walls here. Ekman emphasized that this attraction isn’t meant to transport guests to an ancient world of Motunui; rather, it’s a contemporary story set in present-day Epcot and centered around a modern-day narrative about our water cycle and how we can conserve it. Signage in this area also gives more insight into current conservation efforts and directs guests online to learn more about the Walt Disney Company’s efforts to this end.
A celebratory finale
As the cycle progresses, water becomes more energetic, moving from River to Ocean finale — a celebration of water’s arrival at the ocean. Here, guests can team up for one big ocean wave. Wave a single hand, and the water will gently splash back, but team up with other guests to coordinate one big synchronized wave of everyone’s arms and the ocean will respond with a thunderous wave back.
When will Journey of Water open?
An official opening date hasn’t been shared, but Disney has confirmed that Journey of Water, Inspired By Moana will open later this fall.
When it does open, the attraction will be a welcome family-friendly addition to Epcot that kids will love — particularly on the hottest summer days. With the ability to explore the trail without getting wet and transformative lighting after dark, enhanced by an illuminated Spaceship Earth, the attraction should offer varied draws for different types of guests throughout the day.