Journey of Water Inspired by Moana is a new attraction coming to Walt Disney World as part of Epcot’s Future World overhaul. This covers everything you need to know about it: target opening date, concept art, construction progress, and answers to frequently asked questions. (Updated May 4, 2022.)
Let’s begin with a basic overview of Journey of Water Inspired by Moana (or Moana’s Journey of Water, as we’ll call it for simplicity’s sake). This is the first Walt Disney World attraction based on the Walt Disney Animation Studios hit film Moana, and will be an exploration trail rather than a ride.
This water maze will be an experience where guests can interact with magical, living water in a beautiful and inspiring setting. Moana’s Journey of Water will consist of a lush walk-through environment that engages and educates guests about the water cycle and how it sustains our world…
Next, let’s take a look at the location of Moana’s Journey of Water. There has been a lot of confusion about this, with some Walt Disney World fans believing it’ll be replacing Journey into Imagination for some reason. (Because both have “Journey” in the name? Perhaps since there’s already a water play area up by the Imagination pavilion?)
In any case, that’s not where Moana’s Journey of Water is going. Instead, the water maze will more or less replace half of Innoventions West, which was demolished as part of Epcot’s central spine redesign.
Moana’s Journey of Water will be part of the new World Nature neighborhood.
World Nature is dedicated to understanding and preserving the beauty, awe and balance of the natural world. In addition to Journey of Water, it will include The Land and The Seas with Nemo & Friends pavilions.
Above is concept art that Disney has released of the new-look front of Epcot and these three new neighborhoods. Note that this was released a couple of years ago, and the scale and scope of these plans has likely changed. (For example, the tiered festival center is unlikely to be built.)
Essentially, Moana’s Journey of Water will be located between Spaceship Earth and the Seas with Nemo & Friends.
Above is a closer look with Moana’s Journey of Water outlined.
Based upon the concept art, it appears that the water exploration trail will be one way of accessing the Seas and Land pavilions from Spaceship Earth, with normal bypass pathways on each side of it for guests who don’t wish to partake in the play area.
Here’s some aerial concept art that offers an artistic perspective on the same area.
As you exit Spaceship Earth, you’ll have a view of World Nature and Moana’s Journey of Water to your right from Dreamers Point.
That puts the entrance of Moana’s Journey to Water pretty close to one of my favorite (now-extinct) ‘play areas’ in any Disney theme park, anywhere ever.
Here’s hoping that Journey of Water can live up to the legacy of the Epcot fiber optics. (Or more ideally, that these effects are relocated elsewhere, expanded and upgraded.)
Above is a look at progress one year ago on the area where Moana’s Journey of Water will be located. The area was walled off, with some site prep work having already begun. However, demolition of the Innoventions building was still in progress.
Below is the same view today:
In case you’re unfamiliar with Future World, what you see above behind the wall is all Spaceship Earth, its show building, corporate lounge, and post show.
The Innoventions building has now been fully demolished–nothing else you see will be removed.
For the next few photos, we take to the Highway in the Sky, for some “aerial” shots from the Epcot monorail.
With the Innoventions building long gone, construction on Moana’s Journey of Water is now vertical. It’s difficult/impossible to see from the ground, but if you follow the “Begin Your Journey” text on the construction wall up, you can see a bit of the equipment.
A lot is going on in these Moana’s Journey of Water construction photos, so let’s break it down.
You can see steel support structures, concrete walls, and wire mesh forming the shape of rockwork.
Here’s a closer look at the main rock wall of wire mesh, this has been attached to steel support columns and abuts a concrete retaining wall. On the other side of that is a walkway, with a large steel tower still exposed. This could be for the signature rockwork in Moana’s Journey of Water–the mountain-like feature with cascading waterfalls.
It also could be for the enchanted garden in World Celebration. That area will include Dreamers Point and feature a new Walt Disney statue plus “natural environments and global design elements.”
Another detail you should be able to make out in these photos is the sections of wire mesh rockwork that are staged on the ground, ready to be installed. This goes up in sections, and has been installed relatively quickly already. Once up, artisans bring the construction materials to life and make it look like real rockwork.
Disney hasn’t had anything to say about the rockwork on Moana’s Journey of Water (or anything else about it, for that matter), but here’s hoping that renowned Imagineer Zsolt Hormay is leading the team. For those unfamiliar with Zsolt Hormay, he’s the Imagineer behind rockwork on Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Pandora – World of Avatar, Tree of Life, Cadillac Mountain Range in Cars Land, and Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea. You don’t hear Zsolt Hormay’s name as much as the celebrity Imagineers, but he’s arguably more deserving of that status than anyone.
Here’s a final look from the monorail at the edge of the Moana’s Journey of Water construction site and Spaceship Earth. The entire area behind the geodesic sphere has been the Giant Epcot Dirt Pit™️ for the better part of the last three years.
Again, it’s difficult to ascertain what is for Moana’s Journey of Water and what is simply the “enchanted gardens” that’ll make up the lush area of World Celebration. From the concept art that Walt Disney World has released, it’s incredibly difficult to ascertain the scope and scale of Moana’s Journey of Water. It could take up a lot of real estate, or very little. We should have a better idea once more of the wire mesh rockwork goes up and the actual path becomes more clearly defined.
My expectation is that a lot of this will make up the walk-through trail, and I’m cautiously optimistic about Moana’s Journey of Water.
Epcot is unquestionably changing, and part of that entails becoming more “Disneyfied” in the process. Denying that reality is a recipe for constant disappointment. From my perspective, anything that manages to mesh with the park’s optimism, inspiration, and edutainment aims is on the right track.
While Moana’s Journey of Water is clearly not a blockbuster addition, that’s fine. Not everything needs to be. That doesn’t mean this isn’t a welcome addition.
One of Future World’s biggest issues was that it was a concrete jungle with little shade, water, and lushness. This remedies all of those complaints, while also offering kids a place to play and blow off some steam.
Morever, Moana’s Journey of Water is a logical transition to both the Seas and Land pavilions, making it a good “pathway” to those attractions. Offering a nice environment to educate kids about the water cycle while providing a fun gateway to this neighborhood of Epcot sounds like a win to me.
It’s certainly not my ideal walk-through attraction, but my generation’s version of EPCOT Center is long gone. I’ve accepted that and am satisfied with the potential Moana’s Journey of Water could offer as an enjoyable diversion that coalesces nicely with what already exists on this side of Epcot.
Plus, Walt Disney World could use some Moana. Right now, there are segments in Harmonious and Disney Enchantment (the nighttime spectaculars at Epcot and Magic Kingdom) plus new rooms and other details at the Polynesian.
There’s also a meet & greet in the queue for Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room during the Halloween and Christmas Parties. That’s about it.
Moana is one of our favorite modern animated films (that soundtrack!) and is deserving of more representation in the parks. Its popularity probably doesn’t justify an E-Ticket addition, but an interactive play area seems well-suited to the film.
For that, Adventureland or this area of Epcot were about the best-case locations. It should go without saying that Epcot is in more urgent need of new offerings.
Finally, the opening date of Moana’s Journey of Water. While a lot was planned to debut “in time for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary,” this was never one of those projects.
A debut date has never been announced for any of the central spine projects, but the internal timeframe has been that they would start to open “…beginning in 2022.” That nebulous timeframe was before the closure of Walt Disney World.
It’s worth noting that during and after the closure, all construction stopped at Walt Disney World. Demolition of the Innoventions building didn’t resume until several months after Epcot reopened, and it was slow-going for a while.
Moreover, the plans for much of the Epcot overhaul have changed and been scaled back, with some components cut entirely. While we have every reason to believe that Moana’s Journey of Water is still happening, the finished product could look dramatically different than the concept art if Imagineering took the totality of the Epcot overhaul plans back to the drawing board. However, it’s always the case that what’s built differs from concept art, so nothing really novel or surprising there.
Our expectation is that 2023 is now the target opening for Moana’s Journey of Water. Given the current state of construction, previous delays, and the evolving nature of the Epcot transformation, we’re hesitant to make a prediction beyond that. Spring or Summer 2023 seems most likely in light of current progress and the water-centric nature of the attraction, though.
Ultimately, a lot could happen and change between now and 2023. It’s thus impossible to make any sort of credible predictions about the ultimate fate of Moana’s Journey of Water, including the precise date it’ll open, and what it’ll look like if/when it does.
News Source: Disney Tourist Blog.