Epcot just passed its 41st anniversary, a remarkable achievement. Over the decades, this park has changed a lot, moving from its original “edutainment” vision and yet still a promise of a fun future. It’s evolved in more exciting rides and attractions and plans are underway for even more changes.
Which is why it’s remarkable to realize there is one attraction in Epcot that has remained unchanged since Opening Day. An attraction that, despite being seemingly perfect for an overdue makeover, is still around in its original form. One many visitors totally skip over but should still be admired.
Impressions de France.
Yes, as astounding as it seems, this 18-minute film looking at France and its history has never changed once since October 1, 1982. How is it that this movie has remained unaltered and why does it work so well?
What Impressions is
When EPCOT Center opened in 1982, the mantra was pretty simple: Future World had the rides, World Showcase the shows. Mexico had the Rio del Tiempo boat ride, and one planned for Germany but never came off. World Showcase had great shows like The American Adventure and the CircleVision 360 O, Canada and Wonders of China. The Canada film was updated in 2007, while Wonders turned into Reflections of China in 2003.
For France, Impressions de France opened in The Palais du Cinema, made out to be a classic Paris movie house. It’s projected on five huge screens for a 200-degree view, a fantastic immersion for guests.
The movie, directed by Rick Harper, uses extraordinary aerial footage via helicopters to show just about every incredible vista in France. The cliffs of Normandy, the forests, the famous vineyards, farms, and exquisite mansions, it’s all there. Obviously, there are Paris’ iconic landmarks like Notre Dame Cathedral and the Eiffel Tower, along with Versailles and Cannes.
Yet the best parts are showing the smaller parts of France, from skiers down mountains to a wedding reception to boaters on the Champ Elysses, the beauty of the nation on full display. The beautiful musical score by Disney legend Buddy Baker mixes various French themes to match the landscapes.
In just 18 minutes, it’s a love letter to that nation and still a wonder to behold.
Why this movie has lasted
One would think Disney would have updated this before now as it can be a bit jarring to see people in late 1970s fashions about a Paris that’s changed in the last four decades. Some might snidely say it’s due to cost and Disney not wanting to refilm it all.
Yet there’s also the fact that this movie showcases how France, in many ways, is timeless. A common reaction is that you can go to most of the spots in the film today and it would look just like it did in 1981. Paris alone is still much the same and the pristine farmlands show the nation at its best. Maybe some in Disney are worried that updating it will only ruin the magic that’s made this movie a standout for four decades.
The movie has shifted a bit in its standing as, in 2020, Disney began a Beauty and the Beast Sing-A-Long film in the same theater. As of now, Impressions is only available to watch early in the morning after Epcot opens or in the last hours before it closes. That makes guests worried this film may soon fade away.
Yet the fact that 41 years after it premiered, Impressions still remains is a stunning achievement. Literally everything else in Epcot has changed one way or another, but this film is still a link to the original park. You don’t have to be a French lover to admire its beauty and remarkable style. Anyone who’s watched it will remember it and the hope that when Epcot’s 50th-anniversary rolls around, somehow, Impressions de France is still playing as it is to entertain a new generation of guests.