In America, we get pretty wrapped up in our own 4th of July celebration that we often don’t take time to notice similar events in other countries. Before I met my wife Jamie, a Canadian, I had no idea Canada Day even existed. So in the spirit of Disney, freedom, and greater understanding, I give you this list of 8 things you might not know about Disney and our Canadian friends to the North.
1. Walt Disney World might have been in Niagara Falls
Shortly after building Disneyland in Anaheim, California, Walt Disney began looking outside of California for a second site to build a resort. He didn’t like all the cheap-looking businesses that a built up around his magical vacation destination and wanted a bigger chunk of land further to the East that he could play with.
In 1963, Walt flew all over North America looking for the land that eventually became Walt Disney World and one of the locations he considered was Niagara Falls, Ontario. The Disney family was wined and dined by the Seagram Liquor Company, as they tried to sweeten the idea to Walt, but he opted against the Niagara area due to the cold winters in the area.
There are many fan sites still making the case for a Disney resort in Canada. Some have even gone so far as drawing sample park maps!
2. Disney Resorts are on the top travel destinations for Canadians
Apparently, visiting Disney resorts isn’t for Americans alone, because Disneyland and Disney World routinely top the list of destinations most visited by Canadians. Most recently, Anaheim (DL) was the 17th most visited international destination for Canadians and Orlando (WDW) the 5th most.
‘Brother Bear’ has a little ‘Strange Brew’ in it…
The Canadian duo of Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas, aka Bob and Doug McKenzie, performed the voices for Rutt and Tuke, a pair of Canadian moose in the Disney animated feature Brother Bear. If you haven’t seen this film, don’t worry because you’re not missing anything, but you can check out a scene of the two mischievous moose below.
Pixar had a studio in Vancouver, BC
In 2010, Disney-Pixar took advantage of generous Canadian tax breaks and established a 20,000 square foot animation studio in downtown Vancouver. Mostly creating shorts and commercials, the studio, officially Pixar Canada, produced such gems as Mater’s Tall Tales, Small Fry, Partysaurus Res, and Tales From Radiator Springs. Three years later Pixar shut down the studio, laying off 100 animators and staff.
Canada was 1 of 9 world showcase opening day pavilions at EPCOT
In October 1982, EPCOT opened as the second theme park at Walt Disney World. One half of the park is ‘Future World’ and the other half the ‘World Showcase,’ which is basically boiled down versions of various countries in ten-acre plots around a lake.
When entering the World Showcase from the front of the park, the Canada pavilion is the first on the right-hand side and consistently one of the most visited areas in the entire park. All of the employees (cast members) in the pavilion are native to Canada and dressed up like lumberjacks (because everyone in Canada wears red plaid).
A scale version of a famous Niagara Falls landmark sits over the Le Cellier Restaurant, also consistently one of the best in WDW and one of the hardest to get a reservation at. EPCOT’s Canada is also the only place in Disney World where you can get poutine!
The highlight of the Canada pavilion is the 360 degree Circle-vision film, Canada: Far and Wide. Covering the country from Newfoundland to British Columbia, the movie is projected on all walls of the theater and gives you the feeling of actually flying across Canada.
The current version, updated in 2020, is hosted by comedians Eugene Levy and Catherine Ohara. Bring some tissue- this film still has a bit of that awesome cheesy theme song that’s a real tear-jerker.
It’s funny to think that the EPCOT Canada pavilion was almost never built. Before construction, Disney asked the Canadian government to help fund the project, in return for input on the design elements of the area. However, the government didn’t like the stereotypical nature of the pavilion, especially the lumberjack uniforms, and refused funding. Luckily, Disney built it anyway.
Disney Cruise Line Has service from Vancouver, BC
In 2012, Disney Cruise Line shifted it’s Northwest hub from Seattle to British Columbia. Currently, you can sail from Vancouver to Alaska, Hawaii, and San Diego (which is only an hour and a half drive to Disneyland). And right now, there are special Disney Cruise Line offers for Canadian residents, including a whopping 20% discount on some packages.
Disney invests in local Canadian businesses
In 2007, the Walt Disney Company bought New Horizon Interactive, a software company in Kelowna, BC that specializes in massively multiplayer online role-playing games. Now a subsidiary on WDC, under the name of Disney Canada, Inc, the company works with Disney on the maintenance and development of ‘Club Penguin,’ which is sort of a cross between Farmville and the Sims. Rumors of a television series based on the game have been around for a while, so watch that dial!
And last, but not least, there’s a Canada area inside It’s A Small World at Disneyland
If you’ve never been on the ride before, It’s A Small World is a gigantic animatronics attraction, filled with dolls and sets representing the entire world and singing a catchy, repetitive song. As you enter the show-building in your lazily floating boat, one of the first dolls you come to is your friend in red, the loyal Canadian Mountie. There really isn’t much to this area of the ride- he just stands next to a totem pole and waves at you passing by. Since my wife Jamie is Canadian, I always take special care to point out this part of the ride.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I like putting it all together. Can you think of any other connections between Disney and Canada? Let me know in the comments below. See ya’ real soon!