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Vintage Walt Disney World: Journey Down El Río del Tiempo

Nate Rasmussen

by , Librarian, Walt Disney Archives

El Río del Tiempo (now known as Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros) was dedicated at the Mexico Pavilion at Epcot on October 21, 1982. Below is a look at the attraction under construction prior to opening.

El Río del Tiempo at Epcot While Still Under Construction

As the tour begins, guests board boats and float through the 220-foot scenic background seen above (still under construction) and below (today) which recreates a lush Yucatan jungle for the opening of their excursion. The crumbling pyramid and smoldering volcano set the scene as guests go in search of Donald before the Three Caballero’s reunion concert in Mexico City.

El Río del Tiempo at Epcot

After being launched up a pyramid via a high-speed escalator, losing his bathing suit while parasailing, and bouncing off rocks while cliff diving, it’s a miracle Donald makes it to the show on time to perform for his fans.


  • My first visit to Epcot was in February 1983. It was pouring rain but we had a wonderful time visiting this pavilion and having lunch at the restaurant there. I think our jaws hurt from gaping at all the wonderful places and rides. Thank you.

  • great pavilion – extra special with the kim possible experience!

  • I absolutely love this pavilion! We have to eat in the restaurant on every trip because there’s no better atmosphere on WDW property, especially when the Christmas lights are up. I too miss the old Rio Del Tiempo ride. I think I miss the song the most although half the time I had no idea what they were saying. It was addictive, or at very least repetitive. 🙂
    My favorite scene was the one of the 70’s couples in the hot tub. Talk about retro!

  • Isn’t the food and Wine festival coming up at Epcot? I might have to stop by after hitting up the Incredible Hulk at Universal. Orlando has some great stuff going on. Am I right?

  • The first time I rode this ride, in 1989, my friends and I got off and I said, “Why does this ride not have the three caballeros?” That was my all time favorite Wonderful World of Disney. I was a little baffled and confused. I thought it would be perfect. Anyway, so glad you guys came around to seeing it my way. 😉 I love it so much better. I keeps Walt alive.

  • The Mexico Pavilion is my favorite!

  • Have you seen how giant some of the sombreros in that pavilion are?

  • What a great picture and wish you could post more, it’s always been my favorite county in World Showcase. I agree with others though that I like the original ride better as it was vintage Disney. There was something about getting on the boat and seeing the fog and those movies of the people dancing with those strange backgrounds…I miss that.

  • This is my daughter’s favorite ride. Last time we were in Epcot I think we rode it 5 times in a row.

  • I remember living in Tampa Florida when this attraction park opened, I was so pumped about seeing it. It would be many many years later that I would be able to visit EPCOT but when I did I was in awe. As I have grown older and am now looking at only two months away from my 45 birthday, I think EPCOT is my favorite park and of the countries there, Canada is my favorite and Mexico is my second favorite. I have been to Mexico and this makes me feel like I am really there. Cudos to the imagineers who did this right!!

  • …Oops, I’d meant “Three Caballeros”, not “Three Amigos” with Steve Martin and Martin Short. 😉

    Hopefully, now that Dumbo has been rediscovered on Blu-ray thanks to his new parks expansion, maybe their appearances at Epcot and the Soundsational Parade can help Donald, Jose’ and Panchito bring their “forgotten” movie back out to a new audience.

  • I love the whole World Showcase, but Mexico is special because I’m mexican and it’s a beautiful way to have a peace of my country while I’m on holidays at Disney Parks. You’ve done a great job!!! Thanks!

  • No matter the effort, the best thing that could be done to that attraction is to take the Donald, Pedro, and Jose animatronics from former Mickey Mouse Revue and insert them into the ride. It would be so awesome!

    J Jeff K.
    Disney at Work

  • That is THE CUTEST ride, and it’s waaaaaaaaaay better that the old one was. The tiki room’s another story though. 😉

  • Thanks for the photos! Ever since the first time I took my parents to Epcot, they have been in love with the Mexico Pavilion. It was daytime and pouring and when we entered the marketplace, my dad was amazed that it had stopped raining and didn’t even realize that the day had turned into night. To this day, my mom can’t understand how large the space is despite how many times we’ve tried to explain it to her and draw diagrams. The construction photo will finally shed light on this fantastic illusion.

    • You’re welcome. Glad you enjoy them.

  • I know Disney will always be updating the attractions, but I miss the original version, before Donald Duck was added… I suppose kids are more excited to see him as a part of the attraction though. And the atmosphere in the pavilion is great, it’s fun to eat there!

    Nate, how much pull do you have? Can you tell the Imagineers to get back to work on a Germany ride? I’d love it!

    • Oh, Wes. I have no pull. 🙂

  • It is a nice place to relax out of the sun, while waiting to eat dinner in the restaurant. We never experienced a line for the ride.

  • El Rio was my FAVORITE ride at Epcot, then and now. (Although Horizons was a close second.)
    Maybe because I’m old enough to remember the relaxing ride of “If You Had Wings”, but also because the original Mexico song would stick in your head right next to Small World’s. 🙂
    I’m a Three Amigos fan too, but it just doesn’t have the same old-school Epcot ring to it. (Although I can see how Mexico would complain about the “No, wait, come back!” market-sellers.)

    I always loved to take somebody on the attraction for the first time, since, like Blue Bayou at Disneyland, the ride entrance was so hidden at the back, people didn’t know it was there, and would just think the pyramid was pretty scenery for no reason.

  • the pyramid is a great beginning. the day of the dead scene is also wonderful!

  • My family loves this ride, and I have so many memories of riding it even as a child. Thank you for the pictures today!

  • In 2009, we took our family of 6 to WDW for the first time! This was my kids favorite ride! We rode around and around 4 times! Thanks for sharing this!

  • Love it! Mexico was the first country I ever visited in the World Showcase. I remember being in awe as I walked in to the above view. It’s still one of my favorite Epcot attractions today.

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