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Five Things to Know About The American Adventure

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The American Adventure is an epic presentation of significant moments in American History. Using film, audio-animatronics, massive sets, and stirring music, it’s one of Walt Disney World’s most ambitious attractions. To learn more about this patriotic production, read on. Or to skip through history and head straight to the nuts and bolts, here’s your shortcut.

1. The queue sets the stage for your trip through history.

To queue up for the show, you’ll enter the American Adventure Pavilion. (Yup, it shares its name with the presentation itself.) The building was inspired by the Georgian architecture of the late 1700s (think Colonial Williamsburg, Independence Hall, and Boston’s Old State House.) Its interior boasts a 45-foot high rotunda filled with artwork created by Imagineers and quotes from American historical figures.

To your right is the American Heritage Gallery, an exhibition space with frequently rotated displays and paintings. The Voices of Liberty, an a capella choral group, performs in the rotunda several times a day. Stopping to listen is a great way to take your time as you wait for the main attraction to begin.

When time for the next show approaches, you’ll be ushered up the escalators or stairs (your choice) through the impressive Hall of Flags. This hall showcases 44 flags that have been flown over the United States throughout history. Included are some from the Revolutionary War, the Colonial period, and even flags of foreign countries that once claimed various territories that later became part of the United States.

2. You’ll see American history come alive as never before.

The first thing you’ll notice is that the American Adventure theater is huge! It can seat 1,024 guests! Each padded seat offers a great view of the stage and screen, so you’ll have a good view no matter where you sit.

On either side of the theater are six statues (12 total) representing the Spirit of American values. The six on the left depict Individualism (cowboy), Innovation (scientist), Tomorrow (mother and child), Independence (revolutionary soldier), Compassion (doctor), and Discovery (frontiersperson). On the right are Freedom (pilgrim), Heritage (Native American), Pioneering (pilot), Knowledge (teacher), Self-Reliance (farmer), and Adventure (fisher).

The stage itself is just about the size of half a football field. Behind it is a digital rear-projection 72-foot screen on which images are projected and interwoven with onstage action. Altogether, ten different impressive sets and 35 incredible -audio-animatronic characters representing important eras in American History rise from the stage floor (or descend from above in some cases).

The show is hosted by audio-animatronic figures of Mark Twain and Benjamin Franklin. You’ll witness the landing of the Mayflower, the Boston Tea Party, the winter at Valley Forge, writing the Declaration of Independence, the Civil War period and the Great Depression among others. Narration and speeches are delivered by audio-animatronics depicting Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, Thomas Jefferson, Chief Joseph, Teddy Roosevelt, and more.

And one thing that makes it extra-special … the speeches you hear are true to history. For example, when you hear Franklin D. Roosevelt talking on the radio, you’re hearing a recording from his actual inaugural address to the nation.

The show concludes with a video montage of modern-day historical moments and significant individuals, all set to the music, “Golden Dream.” It can only be described as a stirring conclusion!

3. A bit of history behind this telling of our history.

As you can imagine, creating The American Adventure pavilion and the show was an incredibly complex undertaking. Disney says it this way: “A feat of entertainment, engineering, and aesthetics, The American Adventure took Disney Imagineers 5 years to complete.” The show opened with EPCOT on October 1, 1982. Since then, the presentation has been upgraded several times. In 1993 new audio-animatronic figures of Franklin and Twain were installed. The Golden Dream montage film was updated most recently in 2018. And in 2022, the building was refreshed and some of the wiring for the show was upgraded.

Interesting sidebar: when EPCOT’s World Showcase was on the drawing board, the United States pavilion was designed as a two-story building on stilts. The plan was to place it as a gateway between World Showcase and what was then called Future World (now home to World Celebration, World Discovery, and World Nature). In the end, Disney decided to make the American Adventure the central pavilion in the showcase, since the U.S. was the host country. (And although it’s not obvious as you walk through, as the host nation, the pavilion is built on a slightly higher elevation than those on either side of it.)

4. The theater has its secrets.

As is the case with many of the indoor theaters at Walt Disney World, the seating area in the theater is sloped. But in this particular instance, that slope serves an important function. In addition to providing a clear sightline for audience members. It provides space underneath for housing the massive sets – and helps obscure what goes on above the stage as well. In all, those ten different sets and the majority of the 35 audio-animatronic figures who tell the story are housed under the seats, which is why you enter the theater from the second floor.

All these sets and figures are moved into place by a massive, computer-controlled mechanism called “The War Wagon.” This huge machine is 65 feet by 35 feet by 14 feet and weighs 175 tons. As one set rises, the next slides into place underneath. Then the process is repeated throughout the presentation. It’s a remarkable feat of Imagineering that stands as a testament to the work that goes into creating true Disney magic.

5. The Nuts and Bolts.

The American Adventure is located inside the colonial-style building in the center of the American Adventure Pavilion in EPCOT’s World Showcase. The presentation lasts about 29 minutes, and since it’s indoors it’s not affected by weather.

The seats are standard theater seats, and there is accessible seating so that guests may remain in a wheelchair or ECV for this presentation. Assistive Listening, Audio Description, and Handheld Captioning are also available, and there aren’t any health and safety advisories or height restrictions.

The American Adventure is not open for Early Theme Park Entry or for Extended Evening Theme Park Hours. It doesn’t participate in Genie+, but you won’t need it. The largest crowds are usually between 2:30 and 4:30 pm, but because of the theater’s large capacity, it’s highly unusual not to be admitted to the next performance.

The Bottom Line.

We think The American Adventure is Disney’s best patriotic attraction and rate it as not to be missed. It’s a great way to get out of the elements and a terrific spot to take a rest in the middle of a busy touring day. I can only say that when I first saw the presentation in 1992, I was greatly moved by the Golden Dreams finale. If you’ve never been, I’m hoping you have the same experience.

Have you seen the American Adventure? What did you think? Let us know in the comments.

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Bob Jacobs

Bob Jacobs lives in Wisconsin where he retired as Editorial Director for a well-known catalog company. He and his wife Cristie have four children, seven grandchildren and a cocker spaniel named Penny the Dog. They’ve visited Walt Disney World regularly since 1992.

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