When you have a place like Walt Disney World, each with dozens of attractions, most of them incredibly complex, stuff is going to break. It simply can't be helped. Attractions frequently go down for scheduled maintenance, which can often prevent unscheduled breakdowns. But either way you end up with an attraction that's either not fully operational or entirely shutdown. Such was the case with Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros. The boat ride attraction, fount in Epcot's Mexico Pavilion, has been down one caballero, as the Donald Duck animatronic broke down three weeks ago and had been MIA ever since. Well, Donald's back now, sort of. And it's a little hilarious.
For the last few weeks the finale of the attraction which includes animatronic versions of Donald Duck, Panchito Pistoles, and José Carioca, has only included the latter two characters. What's more, a small plant that has been in the spot Donald usually occupied. Three weeks is a long time for an unscheduled animatronic breakdown, but it seems that Donald is still having technical difficulties. Because this morning Touring Plans visited the ride and found that now, all three animatronics have been replaced by simple cardboard cutouts. Check it out.
I mean, on the one hand, it makes some sense. While you could just stick the Donald cutout on the stage, he's going to look really weird next two a pair of functioning animatronics. So if you replace all three characters, it's a little less obvious that stuff is broken. But the entire story of the Gran Fiesta Tour is about Jose and Panchito trying to find Donald, and so not having the Three Caballeros together at the end of the right basically ruins the storytelling. At the same time, considering the ways that Walt Disney Imagineering frequently wows us, this is certainly something of a let down.
What makes this particular situation a little more unique is that the animatronics were actually a late addition to the attraction. Originally, the Three Caballeros performed together via animation displayed on a screen, which is still how the characters are presented in the rest of the attraction. Screens are seen by many fans to be a lesser solution than the more complex animatronics, a fact which many are pointing out.
One assumes that simply putting the old screen back in wasn't possible for some reason, as that would have at least been consistent with the rest of the attraction and would have popped a bit more for guests on the ride. I certainly can't remember a time that we've seen such a solution to an attraction problem. Frequently we just see attractions shut down or sections of them darkened when whatever is there isn't working properly.
In this case, the options are all bad. We either get this solution, with the ride's characters together as they should be, or only two of the three animatronics working properly. Disney is always about the story, and since this option at least completes the story properly, it seems likely that's why this very simple solution was used. Hopefully we'll see all three of the Caballeros back together again and moving soon, but clearly whatever went wrong with animatronic Donald is a significant issue.