Disneyworld Hidden Gems – Epcot’s Canada Pavilion

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Beginning in Canada and working our way counter-clockwise to Mexico, each of the eleven countries showcased has a distinct architectural style and timeline. Of the countries in The World Showcase, Canada’s vast expanses and diverse architecture, population and culture make it a perfect starting point for this trek. “Oh, Canada!” as the song goes, or as the poet A.M. Klein once penned:

another planet, the better to look
with single camera view upon this earth —
its total scope, and each afflated tick,
Its talk, its trick, its tracklessness — and this,
this, he would like to write down in a book! (“Portrait of the Poet as Landscape”, 1948)

Canada itself has quite a distinctive aesthetic that lends itself to the Imagineers for design and creation of this lush landscape and story-telling device. In fact, there are five distinctive areas of this pavilion. Most people bypass the entrance to the gardens and Le Cellier, (amazing steakhouse!) and automatically are driven to the front entrance to this pavilion where they are greeted with the façade of an outpost/frontier-like foreground. This log-cabin archetypal store is highly expressive of the period of expansion that came with the Canadian gold rush (1859;1896). This specific style of architecture draws on the human psychological need for adventure and exploration. The building style is quite impromptu and almost seems as though a visitor could feel the chill of the arctic winds blowing through the cracks in the mortar between the wooden slat rails of the walls and shaking the thin-paned glass windows on a particularly blustery night.

Moving further into pavilion, the influence from the First-Nations’ aboriginal tribes around the Pacific Northwest is felt via the longhouse or Haida (dependent on the tribe, but the one in Epcot’s Canada pavilion is reminiscent of a Haida to me) adjacent to the Northwest Mercantile. The door of the Haida is actually another entrance to the same Mercantile, although it is marked “Trading Post” quite specifically. (The font used for the Trading Post -“Cooper Black” when paired with the Mercantile’s “Playbill” reminds me of the kitschy “Indian” tipis along the winding roads in the Appalachian Mountains during the late 70’s-80’s, but that’s another story.) The visitor will take particular notice of the Totem Poles and their prominence. The main totem is a 30-foot “Story” pole by Tsimshian carver, David Boxley from Metlakatla, Alaska, was done on site (or in situ) finished and installed in 1998. (Well, close to in situ, in any case.) This allowed some interaction with the artist and guests, and having experienced this first-hand, was pretty magical. I’ve heard of totem carvings, I’ve seen finished ones and those in various stages of ruin/decay, however to have a world-renowned Totem carver in my midst, it was something otherworldly. Boxley is also the creator of the Totem Mask wall. (For more information on the Raven Trickster Story that inspired this totem, please email me.)

Progressing deeper into the space, the visitor is brought into a small maritime provincial village at the base of the Hotel du Canada. (Two distinct styles inhabiting the same space is a design element we will notice at other places, as well.) The maritime traditions and intrepid spirit brought to Canada from Irish, Scottish and Scandinavian settlers in addition to those of the First Nations are depicted not so subtly as we round the corner and get a glimpse of Salmon Island and the “Rocky Mountains”.

The hotel, when viewed as Victorian era chateau-styled architecture, is such a stunning example of the Imagineer’s attention to detail. Right down to the patina of the metal roof and the corbelling of the limestone. The hotel is actually inspired from the Ottawan hotel, Chateau Laurier. (Albeit a downscaled version)

Look similar?

Lastly we find our way leaving the pavilion through the winding walkway, willowed path of Victoria Gardens (inspired by the Butchart Gardens near Victoria, BC.)

Tucked away near the back of the gardens is a tiny stone cottage. This is something highly evocative of an English stone cottage with its shake-shingle roof and white-linen curtains, and which, in my mind, brings us out of Canada and headed in the direction of our next stop along the World Showcase….

 


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7 thoughts on “Disneyworld Hidden Gems – Epcot’s Canada Pavilion

  1. The design on the strange looking building that is said to recall “haida” (adjacent to the Northwest Mercantile) is very ….very sadly done. pity but it is consistent with the appalling design of the distorted facade underneath.

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