Imagineer Tom Fitzgerald Talks About New Epcot Films “Canada Far and Wide”; Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along; and “Awesome Planet”

Hi everyone!

We spoke with Senior Creative Director at Walt Disney Imagineering Tom Fitzgerald about the three new Epcot films that will be debuting with the Epcot International Festival of the Arts on January 17th, 2020. Fitzgerald has been a part of Epcot history from the beginning and is leading the park at this time of historic transformation. The three films are Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along, which is to be in a rotation with my favorite attraction at Epcot, Impressions de France. Canada Far and Wide is opening in the Canada pavilion, and then Awesome Planet in The Land pavilion. We previewed two of the films – Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along and Canada Far and Wide. Fitzgerald talked about each of the three movies.

First, here is our video that includes the whole interview!

Before starting, I mentioned to Fitzgerald how impressed we were with Canada Far and Wide. The film, which is in Circle-Vision 360° (thanks to Disney Legend Don Iwerks, who also originally developed the technology for the France pavilion) is very much a throwback to the original movie prior to the Martin Short version. Fitzgerald says of Canada Far and Wide, that it has “a lot of DNA from the original”. He mentioned how it still includes the song Canada, and that the film is now digital. New footage was shot in Whistler, Quebec City and the Okanagan. What suprised me most about Canada Far and Wide is that Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy are narrators but not comedians in it. They never appear onscreen, and there is light humor from them throughout but don’t expect them to be reprising their current television roles – the narration is well done but subtle. Canada Far and Wide has a more timeless quality to it since the focus is on the country, not the celebrities. Fitzgerald said that O’Hara and Levy are telling a “love letter of Canada”. And that is how I worded it as well after seeing it. The movie is a wonderful addition to World Showcase.

Next, Awesome Planet replaces Circle of Life in The Land pavilion. Fitzgerald calls it “our call-to-action film about our planet, and how important it is that we all pitch in to maintain this incredible planet”. There is footage from ILM, and “stunning cinematography” along with a new score by Stephen Price, who composed Gravity. There are some 4-D effects, but they are used “as a spice” and not like in Philharmagic. We have not seen Awesome Planet yet but will on Friday.

The most popular of the three films will probably be the Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along. There is a lot of attention focused on the France pavilion this year, with this new film (“in rotation with” the original 1982 Epcot movie Impressions de France) and the family ride Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure opening in summer with an authentic creperie at that same time. We have seen the Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along twice now. Fitzgerald says of it, that it is “a fun show for families and kids or any fan of Beauty and the Beast“. He continued, “It’s a sing-along, but with a twist”. Don Hahn, the producer of the original classic animated film did direct and produce this as well – and it includes new hand-drawn animation. Fitzgerald talks about the twist being that LeFou is the one who brings Belle and Beast together. I asked Fitzgerald about choosing animators because it isn’t as easy anymore to find those who create hand-drawn animation. He said that Don Hahn chose the animators – Hahn wanted hand-drawn animation “so it would seamlessly blend with what was from the film”. Composer Chris Bacon was chosen “to write a score that takes the classic songs and threads them together – so it feels like an original film, yet the story is a little twisted”. The animation is fun and Angela Lansbury is back, narrating as Mrs. Potts.

It was such a pleasure to have the opportunity to talk to Tom Fitzgerald, and I look forward to seeing Awesome Planet on Friday (and definitely Canada Far and Wide again then too!)