An in-depth look at EPCOT's Journey of Water Inspired by Moana at Walt Disney World

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Journey of Water Inspired by Moana overview
Posted: Thursday September 7, 2023 8:40am ET by WDWMAGIC Staff

Walt Disney World is on the cusp of unveiling its highly-anticipated Journey of Water Inspired by Moana at EPCOT, a walk-through experience designed to entertain and educate. Nestled within the park's World Nature area and featuring elements drawn from classic EPCOT water attractions and the hit animated movie Moana, this immersive experience has already garnered significant buzz. 

As Imagineers put the finishing touches on EPCOT's newest attraction, here is an in-depth look at what you can expect - from interactive water play areas to educational elements - when Journey of Water opens to guests on October 16, 2023.

Watch the video below for a tour of Journey of Water Inspired by Moana. (4K YouTube)

Bridging the Past and Present: Journey of Water and EPCOT's Legacy of Water Attractions

Disney announced back in 2019 that Journey of Water Inspired by Moana would be coming to Epcot as part of the park's massive redevelopment project. It was a new direction for EPCOT, leaning into existing movie franchises and aiming to make the park more accessible to families with younger children.

The pandemic delayed EPCOT's transformation, and construction began on Journey of Water in June 2021. Just over two years later, Walt Disney Imagineers are completing the finishing touches for what Disney says will be a "late 2023" opening.

The idea of a water playground is familiar to EPCOT, with the park originally including the Fountain of Nations, leapfrog water jets, the upside-down waterfall at the Imagination pavilion, and several splash pads, one of which is still available in World Discovery.

Work on the original leapfrog fountains by Mark Fuller led to the formation of WET Design, which would go on to create some of the world's most impressive fountain displays, including the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

Designers have incorporated some original EPCOT concepts into an educational and entertaining experience centered on the water cycle with a touch of Moana.

The choice of Moana was an interesting design decision. Some Disney fans saw it as another character IP invading EPCOT, moving it closer to a Magic Kingdom-type park. In contrast, others welcomed the addition of a familiar character, appealing to all ages, especially younger children.

Moana's inclusion in EPCOT comes at a time when she is also expected to have a significant presence in a future expansion of Disney's Animal Kingdom, as revealed by Disney Parks head Josh D'Amaro at last year's D23 Expo. Some argue that the entire Journey of Water experience would better fit Disney's Animal Kingdom, a park that is centered around lush vegetation with themes of conservation and education.

Ignoring the argument of which park Journey of Water belongs in, question marks also surround whether it is in the best place within EPCOT. While being part of World Nature, Journey of Water sits on the very edge of the area close to Spaceship Earth, and it would seem to have made more sense for it to be slotted in between The Seas and The Land pavilions, freeing up the space for a more impressive and more extensive attraction in World Celebration on the former Innoventions site.

What is Journey of Water Inspired by Moana?

In its most basic form, Journey of Water is a walk-through experience that offers lush landscaping, water features, and some education on the water cycle, with a little bit of Moana thrown into the mix.

Journey of Water will be experienced on different levels by different guests. Some will see it as a splash pad, others as a nice place to walk through, some as a learning experience about water, a homage to Moana, and others as a mix of all these things.

The educational aspect requires guests to read signs. There isn't any narration, animatronics, live actors, or video screens, but the information is presented clearly and in simple terms that any guest can understand.

The attraction explores the water cycle through the signs, landscaping, and interactive elements. As you move through the trails, you will see how rain rejuvenates landscapes and streams into wetlands that nurture unique ecosystems. The streams unite and gather strength as they move downhill, eventually going underground to become springs or widening into rivers that sustain life. The land also plays a role in this cycle, guiding water's flow while being shaped by it. Finally, the cycle concludes in the ocean, highlighting the symbiotic relationship between water and all forms of life.

Journey of Water is not a detailed learning experience on the level of the original EPCOT pavilions like the Living Seas and Universe of Energy. Set expectations accordingly from the education perspective.

Where Journey of Water exceeds expectations is in the interactive water play areas. Notably, designers built play capacity into the experience, where each section has multiple setups of the same effect. This configuration means guests are not standing around waiting for others to finish an interaction before they can try it for themselves. An example is where the water streams act as strings on musical instruments. Four sets of water columns are set into the rockwork widely spaced, giving enough capacity for groups of guests to try it out without much of a wait.

Most water effects and interactions are sensor-driven and seem very accurate and precise. Water responds to waving arms and jumping in a way that seemingly gives guests control of it. There is a nice effect with streams of water falling above a tunnel, and as you enter, the curtain of water separates and quickly closes after you pass. It's an exact effect that keeps you perfectly dry.


Several laminar flow effects are in use, which are famously used in the Imagination pavilion's leapfrog fountains. These streams of water maintain a clear tube-like state and appear to fly through the air, gracefully gliding over guests' heads on the walkways.

It is worth noting that in some areas, there are two paths to follow - dry and wet. If you wish to avoid the possibility of getting slightly damp, take the dry path. One area at the trail's end features pop jets, similar to the splash pad near Test Track. Jets of water will randomly emerge from the ground as guests pass through. This area is off to the side and can be easily bypassed, but it is very popular with kids looking to get even more hands-on with the water.

Some interactions require teamwork for the best results. Coordinated waving or jumping at the right time adds an element of gameplay to the attraction.

A meet and greet with Moana in a specially built area will be available once Journey of Water Inspired by Moana officially opens on October 16.

There is music based on the movie soundtrack playing in the background, and there are some nods to the movie in the signage and rockwork. Some guests will be disappointed with how little Moana content there is with an experience bearing her name.

Journey of Water Inspired by Moana is a fun and entertaining experience, particularly for those with young children. It is the type of attraction all Walt Disney World theme parks could benefit from. While everyone values big E-ticket class attractions, experiences that don't require long lines and hours of time are equally as important. Journey of Water fits that need very nicely and is a valuable addition to the park, even though it may be in the wrong place, and could do more to educate as well as entertain.

Plan to spend around 15 minutes at Journey of Water. That should be plenty of time to walk around and see everything. If you have younger children, that time could be longer. Disney has yet to announce how it plans to manage demand, but some form of queue will be required, at least in the early days. Capacity could be higher, and Disney will need to limit the number of guests on the trails to operate effectively. The walking trail is entirely outdoors, so expect closures in inclement weather, and be aware that there is not much shade from the sun. That may change in future years as more of the larger trees grow in.

You will find a couple of benches near the beginning of the walk-through, but designers clearly don't want guests to spend an extended amount of time inside the attraction. While nothing stops guests from working their way back through the pathways, most guests we saw during the previews were following through the trail in a one-way direction from the entry to the exit.

There is a single restroom about halfway through, and there is only one way in and one way out of Journey of Water. You cannot cut through the area on the way to Soarin' or any other part of the park.

Although operating hours are not yet available, Journey of Water includes a comprehensive lighting package that looks beautiful after sunset. Aim to visit Journey of Water during the daytime and after dark to see the water effects in both modes.

Finally, be aware that there are rules for guests entering the interactive water areas. Namely, swim diapers are required for young children, kids under 12 require adult supervision, and no glass is allowed on the wet deck.

Journey of Water Inspired by Moana Previews and Grand Opening

Walt Disney World Annual Passholder and Disney Vacation Club Member previews begin September 24, 2023. Learn more about Journey of Water previews. Journey of Water will officially open to all guests on October 16, 2023.

Concluding Thoughts: A Splash of Ingenuity Worth Exploring

In summary, Journey of Water Inspired by Moana is a refreshing addition to EPCOT's evolving line-up of attractions. While it may not offer the in-depth educational experience of some of the park's original pavilions, it successfully blends entertainment, interactivity, and a touch of education in a way that will likely resonate with visitors of all ages.

The attraction addresses a current gap in the Disney parks experience: the need for lower-intensity yet engaging experiences that don't require waiting hours in line or buying Lightning Lane passes. Although some questions remain regarding its precise thematic fit within EPCOT and the relatively minimal inclusion of Moana elements, the experience is a welcome nod to the park's legacy of innovation and a glimpse of its future direction.

As Disney finalizes plans for managing guest demand and operating hours, one thing is clear: Journey of Water is a splash of ingenuity worth exploring, both in daylight and under the park's evening glow.

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Epcot82Guy48 minutes ago

I got to go through it today. It was drizzling, so there was no wait. It is nicely done, but the criticisms are quite valid. I will say, even with clouds, I noticed the sun and its heat coming through. So, I don't know if the amount of shade will be as great as it seems come the hot summer afternoons. Also, even being not that crowded, it seems like a logistics nightmare. I didn't get to experience a couple of the effects, and we got caught in bottlenecks more than once. The theme is a bit disjointed, but not as bad as I feared. I still think it would have been better as Tefiti only. But, the placement is the biggest issue. It already feels disconnected where it is, except from the Seas. And, there is a large empty area in front of the Land. Plus, I am really fearing for how the center is going to look with only 3/4 sides filled with things. I truly wish this would have been the center of World Nature with a walkway around it, showing key parts of the attraction - where you could enter it from either side (much like the set up of the Communicore showcases). Then, have something proper in position 4/4 in the center. It just feels like it was designed by someone who hadn't ever been in the park and plunked down on a site map.

James Alucobond9 hours ago

Walls are down by the meet-and-greet space. Rolling planters have moved in instead.

BagOfGroceries1 day ago

I just got through it, and it was super fun! Will it be a worthy replacement for the space? We’ll see, but as a pure experience, it’s a solid 8.5/10

MisterPenguin1 day ago

Disney rarely removes unless something is ready to replace it. Unless that that thing costs too much or is a liability. So... I'm guessing Imagination water features will be around a long time.

Cmdr_Crimson1 day ago

So, who else thinks this is the end of the water features at Imagination?

Rich Brownn2 days ago

My car already alerts me if there is something in the back seat

lightningtap3472 days ago

It's very pretty at night!

MisterPenguin3 days ago

If you put your foot over the drain, the attraction fills up in 10 minutes.

UNCgolf3 days ago

I assume you meant 800, but I believe NRJ's capacity is higher than that. I think it's somewhere between 1200-1400 an hour -- higher than FEA and Peter Pan, but certainly not a people eater like Pirates.

Skibum19703 days ago

From what I recall, the river ride also has lower capacity, around 80 pph. With it being that low, the line gets long pretty quick. Frozen Ever After and Peter Pan have similar capacity constraints and long lines. I don't know the numbers but I would say that Pirates easily beats Frozen and Navi'i on daily throughput, mainly because Pirates can handle nearly three times the guests per hour. I do agree wholeheartedly that AK needs more rides but Navi's wait time can be misleading. FoP is a better barometer.

OSUPhantom3 days ago

I did the annual pass holder preview this afternoon and I was impressed with it. It’s not an e-ticket, it’s not groundbreaking, but it’s an enjoyable experience that I do think captures the edutainment spirit of Epcot well. It’s a win and I’m glad for the addition.

SilentWindODoom3 days ago

I wonder if the river ride is so full because it's chock-a-block with people who are waiting for their time to ride Flight of Passage and don't want to stray too far.

Incomudro3 days ago

I knew it was coming, if it wasn't here already.

UNCgolf3 days ago

Oh I absolutely wouldn't wait 70+ minutes to ride it and I agree it shouldn't get waits like that -- I also think the ride would be better received in general if it didn't have those waits. I don't think Flight of Passage is worth the waits it gets either.