Untold Secrets of the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros at EPCOT

Are you ready to take an EPIC journey on the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros at Epcot?

In the Mexico Pavilion, hailed as the place where you should start when conquering World Showcase, is one of the best rides at Epcot.

It’s considered to be a family dark ride, but it is also a nice way for you to relax and see the sights!

Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros pays homage to a classic Disney film while showcasing the beauty and culture of Mexico.

Some may say it could use an update. Some say that it should be replaced with a Disney Pixar “Coco” themed attraction.

But for now, there are no plans for such changes or refurbishments.

To all my amigos, viajeros solitarios, let’s dive into this classic Disney attraction!

Epcot Mexico Pavilion Three Caballeros Gran Fiesta Tour Poster

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History of the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros

You may be surprised to learn, just as I did when I was researching the history of Gran Fiesta Tour, that it was not the original attraction Disney first had in mind for Mexico Pavilion.

Disney Mexico Pavilion Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros with Mariachi Band

Before the Mexico Pavilion was constructed, Disney Imagineers planned an attraction known as Las Tres Culturas de Mexico, which was designed to be an indoor/outdoor ride.

The attraction would take guests through three periods of Mexico’s history.

Epcot Mexico Pavilion Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros

This attraction would have had a similar structure to the now defunct “If You Had Wings” attraction which was in Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom until 1989.

The attraction would have had projections in the rear in physical sets.

Mexico Pavilion Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros In Epcot

You would embark on a journey through pre-Colombian Mexico, continuing with the colonial period, and conclude in modern Mexico.

The tale draws inspiration from a Mayan legend where the gods take music as a gift from the sun and bestow it upon the earth.

Mexico Pavilion at Epcot Pyramid in the Florida Sun

This attraction was a deep into its development but it got pushed back to Epcot’s phase 2.

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Enter El Rio Del Tiempo

After a while, it was renamed El Rio Del Tiempo following the closure of Germany’s Rhine River Cruise attraction and Japan’s Meet the World show, resulting in few attractions for guests in World Showcase.

Gran Fiesta Tour Starring Three Caballeros Lush Tree Area

Check out the defunct El Rio Del Tiempo boat ride below.

Due to this, El Rio was designated as an opening day feature, transformed into a fully indoor attraction, and reduced in length by 40%.

When did El Rio Del Tiempo open at Epcot?

The pavilion and attraction were built fairly quickly and debuted on Epcot’s opening day on October 1, 1982.

Donald Duck on the Gran Fiesta Tour Ride at Epcot
Donald Duck in his shenanigans on the Gran Fiesta Tour!

In the 1990s, attendance dropped and rumors spread that the ride would be changed.

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In 2007, the attraction underwent a refurbishment and was given a new storyline, leading to the creation of Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros!

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Story Behind the Attraction

Gran Fiesta Tour continues to feature the majority of its original sets, with the primary alteration being the replacement of the carousel from El Rio De Tiempo with a stage in the finale scene, along with the addition of a mural.

Epcot Mexico Pavilion Gran Fiesta Tour Entrance Area Queue Line

New animation featuring the Three Caballeros, Donald Duck, Jose and Panchito were done by Eric Goldberg.

Imagineers want imitate the style of Ward Kimball and Fred Moore’s animation technique from the film. There were also new screens added to show off this brand-new animation.

Epcot Mexico Pavilion Gran Fiesta Tour Entrance Area Queue Line

A new soundtrack was added, showcasing a fresh Paso Doble theme and the original The Three Caballeros song. Furthermore, new footage was filmed for the live action scenes set in Mexico.

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What to Expect on This Disney Dark Ride

Prior to boarding the longboats, you will encounter posters announcing an upcoming concert featuring the three Caballeros! This exciting adventure begins with a journey on the longboats.

Gran Fiesta Tour Starring Three Caballeros San Angel Mexico Pavilion
Video Feature of The Gran Fiesta Tour Ride

After you pass by a Mayan pyramid and Volcano, you will enter another room where Jose and Panchito introduce themselves, but you will soon discover that the third member, Donald Duck, is no where to be found.

Epcot Mexico Pavilion Three Caballeros Grand Fiesta Tour Pyramid with Smoke

Donald has embarked on his own adventure and you will accompany Jose and Panchito as they travel through Mexico in search of him.

Disney Mexico Pavilion Grand Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros

As Jose and Panchito journey on their enchanted carpet, you will embark on a boat to discover various regions of Mexico.

Gran Fiesta Tour Starring Three Caballeros Mexican Statue

After you pass through a few scenes including one reminiscent of “It’s a small world,” you will finally join the Three Cabarellos in Mexico City as they perform their concert with fireworks in the background.

This is my favorite scene of the attraction.

Epcot Mexico Pavilion Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros

The Three Cabarellos animatronics in the finale was placed in the attraction in 2015 and came from the now defunct Mickey Revue attraction from Tokyo Disneyland.

3 Pro Tips for the Best Ride Experience on the Gran Fiesta Tour Boat Ride at Epcot

We have completed our tour and now I can give you some helpful tips!

  1. The best time to ride this attraction is during lunchtime, 1 to 3 p.m., or closer towards park close. This allows you to not be in the heat too long or avoid it altogether.
  2. If you book a dining reservation at San Angel Inn Restaurant, try to ask for seating near the water so you can be near the volcano and have a lovely view of the guests going by on the attraction.
  3. If you can’t ride during the times I suggested above, bring an umbrella with you. This will help if it rains in line and to protect you from the sun. The queue to get into Mexico Pavilion is currently social distanced and can wrap outside to enter. The wait tends to be no more than 15 minutes however.

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My Final Takeaway on the Gran Fiesta Tour Boat Ride at Epcot

Although Gran Fiesta Tour may seem like another way for Disney to squeeze in an Intellectual Property, its history is fascinating regarding what it could have been, what it once was and what it is today.

Epcot Mexico Pavilion Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros.

It does showcase a small taste of the Mexican culture in a delightfully engaging way for solo travelers and families alike. It’s also a wonderful way to just take a break and relax from a long day at Epcot.

Gran Fiesta Tour Epcot Ride Secrets
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Whether a new change is on the horizon or if we shall have the trio for a few more years to come, we can all agree that we appreciate this relaxing, fun dark boat ride that has bits and pieces of Disney’s past in it.

Until next time, Happy Park Hopping Hipsters!

Victoria Wade Disney Writer at ThemeParkHipster

About the Author

Victoria is a professional solo traveler here to make your solo trips as stress free AND enjoyable as possible for you.

She has over 5 years of Disney and Non-Disney travel experience and was featured by POPSUGAR as one of the Top 50 Black Disney Creators you should follow.

She is a Proud Native to Baltimore, Md but always will call Disney World home. You can find her at Disney Tea with V.

UP NEXT: Magic of Possibility: 9 BEST Epcot Rides and Attractions You MUST Experience

(Original Article Date: September 6, 2021/Updated by Editor on May 22, 2024)

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