Over the course of several events, Parks Blog updates, and social posts, Disney revealed grand ambitions for EPCOT.
At the time, park officials promised three new pavilions, multiple attractions, and even a re-theming of the most iconic ride at EPCOT, Spaceship Earth.
Well, we’re a few years down the road now, and it’s time to perform a status check on how the great reinvention is going.
The Initial Plan
Disney executives never lack imagination, especially before the numbers-crunching begins.
During the glorious blue-sky phase of park development, nothing comes with a price tag. So, all options remain on the table.
Once management starts allocating resources, some projects fall by the wayside. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The early plan for the next version of EPCOT centered on modernizing it. Disney would split one themed land into three.
Initially, the park opened in 1982 as Future World in the front half and the World Showcase in the back.
That format has remained in place until quite recently. But, then, a few years ago, park officials acknowledged what everyone already knew.
Disney had fallen down on the job of keeping Future World futuristic. As a result, some elements grew woefully outdated, while others never seemed like priorities anyway.
So, Disney chose to split the former Future World into World Nature, World Celebration, and World Discovery.
Coinciding with these changes, Imagineers would construct many exciting new amenities at EPCOT.
We’d get two E-ticket attractions, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure.
The roller coaster tells a comic book story by controlling the rider’s line of sight, a first in the industry.
Meanwhile, Ratatouille represents a slightly modified update of an existing, wildly popular attraction at Disneyland Paris.
Simultaneously, Disney planned to add another attraction, a flat spinner to the United Kingdom pavilion and a re-theming at Spaceship Earth.
In fact, the comprehensive details at the parks proved so ambitious that I should list them by section.
The Plan for World Celebration
Disney subdivided its former Future World land relatively evenly.
At World Celebration, Disney would keep the Imagination! pavilion as is.
While rumors have persisted about a new version of Journey into Imagination with Figment, park officials never confirmed that part.
However, at the 2019 D23 Expo, Disney did reveal the intent to construct a three-story pavilion, a permanent base for EPCOT’s international festivals.
World Celebration would also include the updated Spaceship Earth and the existing Odyssey Events pavilion.
Park officials have recently utilized this space for the now-defunct EPCOT Experience Center.
Disney had used the Odyssey space for some festival activities, pop-up shops, and snack bars for a few years before that.
The attractions would include:
- Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival
- ImageWorks: The What-If Labs
- Journey into Imagination with Figment
- Project Tomorrow
- Spaceship Earth
Admittedly, that’s a thin roster. Disney intended to use the spine of EPCOT’s former Future World to pivot toward a daily festival-based “celebration”. The emphasis on this new themed land, World Celebration, is hanging out at the park as festival fanatics love to do.
The Plan for World Nature
Out of everything I discuss here, management held the lowest ambitions for World Nature. That’s not a bad thing, though!
Instead, this park section has proven the most timeless and satisfying to guests.
The division would have carved Future World into The Land pavilion, The Seas with Nemo & Friends, and one new addition.
That upcoming amenity is Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana. It’s a water feature akin to the living, nurturing, sentient water in the movie Moana.
Beyond that, World Nature’s anchor attractions would remain the same as this side of Future World. It’d include:
- awesome planet
- Living with the Land
- The Seas with Nemo & Friends
- Soarin’ Around the World
- Turtle Talk with Crush
That’s a solid roster of attractions plus the interactive experiences at Sea Base.
The Plan for World Discovery
As a reminder, Disney split the previous themed land into Future World East and Future World West. World Discovery comprises much of the space from the old Future World East.
So, the new themed land would only have two pavilions, at least technically. But, of course, they’re both new ones as well.
As park officials commit more to intellectual property, EPCOT will give up the ghost on its non-fictional design.
Instead, Disney will introduce the Wonders of Xandar pavilion soon. That’s the home to a significant planet in Guardians of the Galaxy and MCU. Yes, the next pavilion at EPCOT will somehow transport you to outer space. It’s not even the only place that happens.
Disney also announced a new restaurant, Space 220, that has since debuted. It’s the hottest ticket at Walt Disney World.
When you dine here, you take a “stellarvator” to exit the Earth’s atmosphere and travel into outer space. You orbit the planet during your meal. It’s crazy.
The PLAY! pavilion was Disney’s other significant project. Park officials planned to build a new, highly interactive pavilion with many games.
Overall, the attractions at World Discovery should be:
- Animation Academy at PLAY!
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind
- Mission: SPACE
- Unnamed Mono Attraction at PLAY!
- test track
So, what is going on with Epcot?
In short, Disney cut the budget. A LOT. Executives announced during the pandemic that they had shaved nearly $1 billion from the park expansion budget.
Since then, EPCOT’s development has advanced at a glacial pace. Yes, Imagineers have added some promised attractions and amenities.
The Ratatouille attraction opened in October and proved immediately popular, just like the one in France.
As mentioned, Space 220’s demand is comically high. So we’re even posting pro tips about what to do when you cannot snag a reservation.
More recently, we were there on the opening day of Creations Shop and the return of Club Cool in an entirely new location. Yes, the Beverly is back!
Meanwhile, by the time you read this, Disney has probably confirmed the opening date of Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic rewind.
When this coaster debuts, it’ll rival Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance as the two most popular rides at Walt Disney World.
So, Disney has undeniably added a tremendous amount to EPCOT. The problem stems from the fact that park officials promised more.
Right now, the only other proposed change underground is the Moana water feature at World Nature.
The Spaceship Earth re-theming has been shelved and possibly even canceled.
The flat spinner attraction I referenced, one based on Mary Poppins, remains in stasis. Even Disney CEO Bob Chapek has expressed frustration about that.
The three-level festival pavilion sounds dead. Recent images of EPCOT plans don’t even acknowledge it.
As for the PLAY! pavilion, does this count as good news? I don’t even know.
My guess is that Disney wouldn’t sell it if the project were dead, but I’m basing that on nothing.Would Disney really cancel two previously announced EPCOT pavilions?
I hate repeating myself on the subject of Disney park enhancements. But I don’t like to lie, either.
EPCOT remains the same place it has been for a while because Disney doesn’t have the money or, at least, the willingness to spend it here.
Until that changes, I strongly suspect that the Moana water feature (hopefully) opening later this year represents the final improvement for now.
The future of Future World that Disney promised simply isn’t possible due to extenuating circumstances. Rather than obsess over that, I choose to embrace the positive.
The new additions – Cosmic Rewind, Space 220, Ratatouille, and Creations Shop – are all spectacular.
Disney parks often change anyway. So, some of these delays may be for the best.
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Feature Photo: Disney