The sunset is drawing near, and pink, golden-tipped clouds are hanging lazily in an Epcot sky.
You find yourself in France, lovely France, with the Palais du Cinema rising up before you, golden against the deep blue of the evening.
You go inside, stick your tongue out at that statue everyone takes a photo next to, and take a peek at the digital clock just inside the door - it's counting down the minutes til the next show.
Soon the doors open and you find a seat in a rather grand theatre. A very French cast member comes up to the front and speaks the intro in a very French voice:
"Bonjour Messieurs et Madames, Bienvenue a France. Good afternoon, are you ready for the show?"
(Murmurs of assent from the audience - no one is quite sure if the CM is speaking in French or English or what exactly they're agreeing to.)
"Good. And now I'm proud to take you on a visit to my country; we hope you enjoy the classical beauty, music, and romance you will see from Paris to our countryside in Impressions de France. Messiuers et Madames, nous avons le plaisir de presenter Impressions de France."
A lilting melody starts to play, and you can hear the curtains as they slowly begin to open.
All is still dark. The words "Impressions de France" appear on the screen, and behind it, slowly, a scene of the cliffside...
Seagulls circle and swoop, and just as you're eagerly examining the ever-widening scene on the ever-widening screen, the music takes us to a river, hung thickly with trees and vines and mist. We're slowly floating along, and then a beautiful castle emerges from the branches. A friendly French voice begins to speak:
"Among gentle spirits of zee air, my France awakens with zee early dawn."
The gentle spirits of the air take us from the riverside castle to another castle with a long, sweeping terrace and gardens, and then to the grounds of another castle, where a huge pack of hunters is coming towards you, and THEN -
Then we're flying in the air over a perfectly fairytale castle. The turrets look like pastry puffs. If you look closely you can see people out on the roof (I always wave, but I've never seen anybody wave back).
The music is taking us soaring up, higher into the air, over a hill with houses spilling down the side, topped by a lovely cathedral.
With a shift in the melody, we're inside the church, and bells are ringing, and with another shift we're outside again, in the back of a wagon, riding down a steep old street towards the marketplace. The driver of the wagon scoots over obligingly so we can see down the hill. Old ladies are gossiping over their shopping baskets.
Our friend is speaking again: "The true heart of my country grows from the toil of her people, from villages and family farms of the most fertile land."
We enter the marketplace surrounded by flowers and very self-conscious-looking villagers, then cut to (this is my favorite scene.) a Patisserie. Your vision is completely filled with amazing eclairs and French treats. I think that must be what heaven looks like.
From the Patisserie we move to the vineyard, where the workers are collecting grapes. Look over to your left, and you'll see the fellow driving the tractor is wearing a punch of grape leaves on his head, which always makes me laugh.
Then we come in from the hot sun to a quiet cellar, where a single sommelier carefully opens a bottle.
POP! Suddenly we're at Versailles!
"The majestic gardens of Versailles. The magic window onto a golden age of kings."
The music is now full of pomp and circumstance as we go through the Hall of Mirrors. The music shifts again to more mysterious strains, and we're flying - this time over a very ancient castle, with the sunlight just creeping over the hills.
Then, just to surprise you, suddenly you're watching some guy cutting wood.
"In distant towns and quiet villages, within the heart of all my people dwells...the secret vagabond!"
Cyclists ZOOM by, disrupting the peaceful sheep. Even though I've seen the movie a million times, I still expect those bikers to wipe out EVERY TIME. They wobble so alarmingly!
Believe it or not, we're only about seven minutes into the movie, but no, I'm not going to subject you to all of it. Just to a few more highlights.
Like the hot air balloons rising up into the air (if you look down on the ground there's a little buffet table complete with chefs cooking up something).
And the POET BODELAIR. "They leave for the sake of leaving, and without knowing why, they always say: 'We must go!'"
And the Alps, with the climbers perched atop those crazy peaks. And the guy that does the belly flop off the yacht in the South of France. And the little country wedding (I wonder if it was a real one or completely staged?). And the ageless symbol of France, Mont-St Michel!
"Proud. Full of grace and symmetry. Rooted firmly to the ground, yet dedicated to the spirit!"
And PARIS of course. I love the scene at Gare du Nord - next to you there's a lady and a little boy waving, and I made it my mission to find who amongst the crowd they were waving to. He's wearing a red jacket.
After seventeen minutes of being completely transported to France, you emerge back out into Disney World.
Now you may be thinking: "Emma, why did you just make me read a post describing Impressions de France in words and not even in pictures?"
To which I would answer: "Because it's THE BEST MOVIE EVER!"
Seriously, though, Impressions de France is one of those Disney things that is just inexplicably magical to me. You get to be in France and in Disney all at once, and the music is absolutely the best, and it's like a moving giant picture book because there are so many tiny details to notice.
If you have not seen Impressions de France, carve out some time for it on your next trip. It's air-conditioned, and it gives you a chance to rest your feet. Yes, it's dated, but that's part of its charm!
I wrote this update as an homage to Impressions de France, yes, but I also wrote it because I leave for France TOMORROW.
I can't really believe it. I'm so excited.
I will be blogging and tweeting and even vlogging (I KNOW) whilst in Europe, and probably there will be plenty of references to Impressions de France, so I just wanted you all to be in the know! ;)
A Bientot! I'll see you in Paris!