Walt Disney World
---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(9/13/20) France Pavilion Construction Update (MORE...)
(9/10/20) No CandleLight Processional, New Holiday Festival (MORE...)
(8/29/20) Epcot Worker Attacked By Guest Over Mask Enforcement (MORE...)
(8/25/20) France Construction Update (MORE...)
(8/24/20) Epcot - Construction Update (MORE...)
Ride Rehabs - The following information is not guaranteed to be 100% accurate.
Nothing is known to be planned at this point in time...
Click here to read: EPCOT HAS FAILED
General Park News - (9/9/20) In a post about Holiday entertainment coming to the Walt Disney World theme parks later this year, it was also confirmed that the annual Candlelight Processional at EPCOT will not be taking place in 2020. The annual holiday production that would normally bring in different celebrity guest hosts throughout the run of the show will be in hiatus this year.
Instead Disney will be hosting a variety of different entertainment options throughout all the parks, but at Epcot starting on Nov. 27 they will put on the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays. According to the description, “Holiday kitchens will return around World Showcase promenade with favorites like American Holiday Table featuring Slow-roasted Turkey with Stuffing and Bavaria Holiday Kitchen with dishes like Cheese Fondue in a Bread Bowl.”
“JOYFUL!” will also be on hand in World ShowPlace “who present a journey through R&B, Gospel, contemporary and traditional Christmas and holiday music. Also, the Voices of Liberty will bring their incredible 8-part harmonies to the America Gardens Theatre stage for a special concert of favorite carols and songs of the season.”
Look for these and more details to come as the holiday season gets closer.
(8/29/20) Yet another theme park employee has been attacked by a guest after trying to enforce a face mask rule. According to this report a Walt Disney World security guard was assaulted by a man visiting with his wife and three kids, and when he was informed that the mask style they were wearing did not comply with Disney’s safety standards, they apparent left, only to return later where they encountered the same security guard. Upon the new confrontation the man began swearing and told the guard to call to “call the police”, and when he pulled out a phone to call his supervisor the guest struck him in the head and threatened to kill him. The guest was later arrested and charged with misdemeanor battery.
This is extremely unfortunate as there is no need for a physical altercation to ever take place at a theme park.
(8/17/20) MouseSteps is back with a new photo update from Epcot this time. Still lots of construction walls all around Future World, and workers spotted on the roof of the Guardians of the Galaxy and Play Pavilion structures.
(8/16/20) It may be a little thing to some, but seeing pictures of the new acrylic spires returned their place on the fountain structure just in front of Epcot’s Spaceship Earth ride gave me some joy. The light see-through spires that would light up at night I believe were removed from the park’s entrance plaza back around the time that the Millennium Celebration decor was put into place, that saw a giant Mickey arm holding a magic wand placed over the top of Spaceship Earth. Seeing the spires return gives me a feeling of completion once more, as it is nice to see something that has been missing for so long has finally returned to where it belongs. You can see a good group of pictures of the new spires posted to Attractions Magazine this week.
In other Epcot news, Attractions also reports that a teaser poster for some kind of “Monorail Mark X” attraction “Arriving at EPCOT in 2021” can be found in a new book called, “The Disney Monorail: Imagineering a Highway in the Sky”. The book celebrates the history of the Disney monorail and seems to tease that this “Monorail Mark X” was to be some kind of attraction inside of the mysterious “Play!” pavilion. Of course, at this point the future of the entire Play pavilion concept may be in jeopardy as well due to the pandemic and resulting cutbacks.
(7/29/20) Orlando Experience has posted a new trip report from Epcot showing off what things are currently like in the park, along with a look at the 2020 Food & Wine Festival in addition to current COVID-19 crowd levels and safety procedures. There are also quick looks at the areas under construction (like the new Guardians of the Galaxy attraction), France, the new Smokehouse at the American Pavilion and more.
Given how empty the park is, you would never guess that this was shot in the middle of the summer.
(6/20/20) According to the Disney Parks Blog the popular EPCOT International Food & Wife Festival will not only return, but will be the longest one ever. The modified event will actually begin on July 15 and continue through into the fall season, offering over 20 “signature global marketplaces” to try out, spread out throughout the park. Some aspects of the annual Flower & Garden Festival will also be sprinkled in with the new Food & Wine Festival, while others will sadly not happen this season. One such item that will not be included this year is the popular Eat to the Beat Concert Series, which simply can not be done while ensuring proper social distancing requirements.
(5/28/20) The moment Disney fans have been waiting for came today as Walt Disney World announced that they will begin a phased reopening of the resort’s theme parks starting on July 11. The plan right now is to open the Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme parks on July 11, 2020 which will be followed by the opening of Disney Hollywood Studios and Epcot on July 15th. That last one surprised me, as I was expecting that it would take Disney a little longer to reopen Epcot than the rest of the parks, but I guess they have a plan.
As expected, there will be some major changes once the parks reopen. Reservations will be required in advance to get into the parks, temperature screenings will be in effect and face masks are mandatory at all times for guests and Cast Members. Many of the standard Disney experiences will be cut for the being as well, with the list including a stoppage for Character meet & greet encounters, parades and all big nighttime spectaculars. In general, anything that would typically draw a big crowd will be put on hold for the time being. Overall park capacity ‘will be significantly limited” as Disney welcomes guests back to the parks at this time.
They have not opened reservations yet and have actually put all new reservations and ticket sales on hold for the time being as they will be making these available first to those with existing reservations and passholders before they open things up to everyone else.
So far nothing has been mentioned about when Disney is planning to reopen their water parks. I also did not see anything mentioned about ‘park hopping’ during this era of required reservations.
(3/13/20) Walt Disney World announced last night that in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and “in the best interest of our Guests and Cast Members” they will be closing all of their Florida theme parks starting starting Monday, March 16th which will remain closed through to the end of the month. It is nice to see that Disney will continue to pay their Cast Members “during that closure period.”
The various Walt Disney World Resort Hotels and Disney Springs area will remain open as normal “until further notice”. The resorts staying open in Florida is where things differ from how the California resort is handling things, as the west coast resorts close on Monday. In Florida however, there are a large number of international tourists who are likely already on site who sometimes stay for 1 or even 2 weeks at a time and may not have anywhere else to go until their flight home.
(1/6/20) A great new video showing off all the construction taking place at Epcot has been posted by our friends at Orlando Experience. Check it out below.
(12/13/19) For anyone interested, you can see a video of the entire ‘Epcot Experience’ preview center show below shot by Orlando Experience. It’s very well shot showing off the projections on the wall as well as the projection mapping on the model in the center.
(9/29/19) This Tuesday, on October 1st, 2019, Walt Disney World will open a “Epcot Experience”, a new mini attraction in Future World, built inside the former Odyssey restaurant building on the lake between Test Track and the Mexico pavilion. Inside you’ll find an artistic model of Epcot in the center of a room (I think this is the one from D23) surrounded on all sides by a 360º projection screen that will show off previews of several new attractions coming to Epcot in the future.
During Cast Member previews the other day they were showing off simulations of a new fireworks show, the Mary Poppins themed addition to the UK Pavilion, Ratatouille, Guardians of the Galaxy, the Play Pavilion, the Journey of Water, Spaceship Earth and much more! Check it out in the video clip below!
(9/20/19) Just a quick reminder to everyone that the last night to see Epcot’s fantastic Illuminations: Reflections of Earth night show will be on Monday, September 30th. The next night the park will debut the new, but temporary night show replacement, Epcot Forever.
(8/27/19) A ton of new announcements were made for Epcot over the weekend at the D23 Expo. For starters, a new version of park’s logo will soon premier, that looks almost identical to the original park logo, back when the park was first known as EPCOT Center. Going forward, what we have known as Future World will be no more, than will now be divided into three smaller zones to be known as World Celebration, World Discovery and World Nature, which will join the existing World Showcase to complete the EPCOT experience.
The entrance plaza to the park will be revamped and relabeled as World Celebration, with the small fountain outside the entrance to Spaceship Earth to return to look like it did long ago. Spaceship Earth will remain, but be upgraded with new scenes to focus on the storytelling experience that brings people together. World Celebration will also feature a new garden area called Dreamers Point that will feature a new statue of Walt Disney, there will also be a new multi-level pavilion built here that will provide great views of World Showcase from the upper levels.
The left side of the former Future World will be called World Discovery and feature the new Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind coaster, that will feature rotating vehicles and “the first reverse launch into space!” Mission: Space will be expanded to add the “Space 220” restaurant experience where guests will board a space elevator to journey up to the space station restaurant experience and enjoy the view of earth from 220 miles up while you dine. The new Disney Play Pavilion will also be part of World Discovery, and we can only assume Test Track will as well, though nothing was said about it.
The right side of the former Future World will become World Nature and feature the existing pavilions for The Land and The Living Seas, along with a new walk-through Journey of Water tropical landscape area inspired by the animated film, Moana. Inside The Land, the new Awesome Planet theater experience is set to premier in January 2020. For the time being we assume the Imagination pavilion will also be part of the World Nature section of the land, though it will stand out as not fitting in as well with the rest of the theme to the zone, so I do wonder if the Imagination Pavilion’s days are numbered.
In World Showcase a number of new attractions and enhancements are coming your way very soon. Disney confirmed that the first attraction inspired by Mary Poppins is coming by creating Cherry Tree Lane as a new neighborhood in the UK Pavilion. Guests were shown lining up to enter a building to experience an unknown attraction inside. No timeline was given for the new Mary Poppins attraction.
In China a new 360-degree seamless digital format project experience is coming called “Wondrous China” Similarily the Canada Pavilion will also premier a brand new Circle-Vision 360 film experience in January 2020 to be called “Canada Far and Wide”.
Lots of additions are coming to the France pavilion with Beauty & The Beast Sing-Along opening in Jnauary 2020, and the new Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure dark ride will be ready to open in Summer 2020 alogn with a brand new restaurant experien called “La Creperie de Paris”.
(7/6/19) MouseSteps gives us a close up look at the work taking place at Epcot’s International Gateway entrance as well as a peek at the Ratatouille Adventures attraction construction site.
When you’re done looking at the backside of Epcot, you can also click here to look at the front entrance where half of the Leave a Legacy monoliths have already been removed to make way for the planned renovations for the park’s entry plaza. The overall plan for the new entry plaza is to return it to looking more like the classic Epcot entrance plaza that was there before, with more large garden planters, lots of colorful flowers, and to redo the fountain at the end to look like it did when the park first opened.
This is just the start of a number of planned renovations coming to Epcot as part of, with many more closures confirmed to begin starting in September. Disney has already confirmed that on Sept. 8th they will close the Fountain of Nations in the center of Future World, as well as Innoventions East, Club Cool (no more tricking your friends into drinking Beverly), and the Character Spot meet & greet area. The Art of Disney shop will also close but move to take over the gift shop location at the American Pavilion.
Later in the year the area’s food & beverage locations (such as the Electric Umbrella) will also shut down for renovations. To get your Starbucks fix (or other Fountain View bakery snacks), you’ll have to take a stroll over to find them in a new temporary home in the old Odyssey restaurant building that sits over the water between Test Track and Mexico. Even the huge Mouse Gear gift shop will be forced to close for a time while this area undergoes massive renovations. Disney hasn’t revealed these full plans just yet, but claims that they will do so at this year’s D23 convention happening August 23-25 in Anaheim, CA.
Early 2020 - Space 220 Restaurant - (1/25/20) According to a post at WDWInfo, the new Space 220 restaurant at Epcot is rumored to be planning to open the doors (or rather...airlock?) to the first paying guests on March 30, 2020. So if you have a trip planned around then, keep your eyes glued to Disney’s restaurant reservation system.
(12/4/19) Disney released a new piece of artwork showing off the interior of the Space Elevator you’ll ride in, taking up from the surface of the Earth to the Space 220 restaurant, set to open sometime this winter.
(11/23/19) Just a quick update regarding the “Space 220” restaurant under construction next to the Mission: Space attraction. According to some job postings for the site posted by the parent company of the Patina Restaurant Group, they mention that the expected opening is now for February 2020, with training to begin in January, from the previous “Late 2019” timeline.
(5/13/19) Walt Disney World has confirmed that the new Space-Themed Restaurant coming to Epcot will open in 2019. They don’t get very specific on the timeline, they only say that it will open “later this year”.
(11/14/18) A new job posting from the Patina Restaurant Group offers some extra details about the future Space themed restaurant coming to Epcot between Mission: Space and Test Track. According to the posting they are calling it “Space 220”, but I’m not sure if this is simply a temporary project name or possibly the actual name. They are looking to recruit international employees to work in the restaurant to give it an International Space Station feel with a number of European candidates to be considered for 12 to 15 month long work programs.
“The dining room will contain more than 350 seats. Customers will access to the dining room thanks to two fully functioning elevators with large digital screens, similar to those used by tourists to access the viewing platforms at One World Trade Center and the Burj Khalifa. The Space Restaurant is using these screens on the elevator to simulate the trip to the space station. After exiting the elevators, customers will enter into the newly constructed restaurant that will be connected to the rear of the existing lounge. After walking through a small hallway, guests will enter into the main dining room that will have a 250-foot-long digital screen that flanks the back of the curbed room.”
(7/26/18) Things are progressing for Epcot's new Space themed restaurant with land cleared out behind the Mission: Space attraction (on the right hand side) where the new restaurant will apparently be reached by traveling through an unused two-story corporate lounge building hidden behind the trees near the outdoor queue area. According to a report at OrlandoWeekly, the idea is that guests will be transported from Epcot up to outer space via a 'shuttle' experience, done by elevators outfitted with floor to ceiling video screens to showcase the journey into space and back for the diners.
With work just starting, I'd expect to see this thing open by late 2019.
(5/11/18) While we haven't heard anything about the announced Space themed restaurant coming to Epcot since it was announced last year, the Disney Parks Blog did bring it up again this past week, along with a confirmation that it would be located in a space between Mission: SPACE and Test Track. They also confirm that the new restaurant will be operated by the Patina Restaurant Group who also runs Tutto Italia and Via Napoli at Epcot, as well as the Morimoto Asia and Maria & Enzo's Ristorante in Disney Springs.
So we've got a few more tidbits and confirmation that the project is still in the works, but unfortunately we still don't have a timeline as to when it will open.
(7/20/17) In an interesting development, Disney confirmed a number of changes were coming to Mission: Space soon, as well as the addition of a new outer space themed restaurant experience where you can dine while gazing upon the stars and looking down at the Earth below. Yes... Disney is building a restaurant that will literally appear to be out of this world. According to the official description it will "be located adjacent to the park's Mission: SPACE attraction". There is a little room on the side near the exit of Mission: SPACE, but the biggest section of available space would be on the right side of Mission: SPACE near the backside of the attraction, close to the outdoor straight-away section of Test Track. This would let it bump up against the existing service road and be perfect for food deliveries to the kitchen. Plus the fully enclosed and nature of the restaurant would allow for it to exist here and have the loud buzzing of Test Track next door go entirely unnoticed.
According to Disney the restaurant will be run by the Patina Restaurant Group who already operates several eateries on Disney property including the popular Tutto Italia and Via Napoli in Epcot, as well as Morimoto Asia in Disney Springs. No official word on when it might open however.
2020 - Regal Eagle Smokehouse - (1/9/20) The Disney Parks Blog has confirmed that Sam the Eagle from The Muppets will serve as the mascot and inspration for the new Regal Eagle Smokehouse coming to Epcot at the America Pavilion. The Regal Eagle Smokehouse will be the site for “Sam’s CEntennial Cook-Off: A Salute to All Cook-Offs but Mostly Barbecue”. You gotta love it when Muppets show up in unexpected places at Disney. Even better, Sam will be incorporated into new exclusive merchandise for the Regal Eagle Smokehouse.
(12/5/19) Disney released a new piece of concept art showing off the soon to open Regal Eagle Smokehouse: Craft Drafts & Barbecue restaurant at the American pavilion in World Showcase. As you can see in the art, there will be a large smoker running in the outdoor seating area, roasting tasty barbecue and generating a smell that is sure to lure in the hungry masses passing by.
(7/4/19) Disney has announced that the Liberty Inn restaurant at Epcot’s American Pavilion will be closing forever on July 8th to make way for something new. The Liberty Inn really never served anything special, typically home to generic theme park fast-food choices such as burgers and hot dogs, with options for a couple of more fancy items like a barbecued pork sandwich pr a space-rib plate, but after July 8th… no more.
The site will be transformed into the “Regal Eagle Smokehouse: Craft Drafts & Barbecue” when it reopens in late 2019 as a modern style barbecue smokehouse featuring an assortment of craft beers on tap. Sounds like a yummy new addition to me, so I’ve got to give Disney props for leveling up the dining experience at the American Pavilion.
Late 2019 & 2020 - Epcot Forever and HarmonioUS - (10/9/19) Illuminations: Relfections of Earth is no more… and now we have the photographic evidence to prove it, as a photo was posted to Twitter showing off the show’s central globe screen now in pieces.
(9/29/19) Disney has released a quick behind the scenes video going over the music they are recording for the new Epcot Forever show that will begin on Oct. 1st, 2019. The new show is described as a “love letter” to the early music of Epcot’s early days. The show will showcase new recordings of several early Epcot music tracks that are sure to trigger your memories of the park’s early days. Listen for remade tracks of Magic Journies, Tomorrow’s Child, Listen to the Land and One Little Spark.
(8/27/19) Following the limited time run of the Epcot Forever night show, the new long-term new night show for Epcot will open and be called “HarmonioUS” that will “celebrate how the music of Disney inspires people the world over”.
(11/20/18) The latest official updates on the future of the IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth nighttime spectacular at Epcot now confirm that there will be temporary interim show called “Epcot Forever” that opens in Fall 2019 that “will feature classic Epcot tunes,” and “begin with a spark of imagination that sweels into an epic spectacle of fireworks, music, lighting, lasers and special effects kites.”
In 2020 a new nighttime spectacular will open that “ will celebrate how Disney music inspires people around the world, and will feature massive floating set pieces, custom-built LED panels, choreographed moving fountains, lights, pyrotechnics and lasers.”
(9/19/18) Walt Disney World has confirmed that the long-running IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth night spectacular at Epcot will come to an end in the later half of 2019, shortly after finishing up the 2019 summer season. The good news is that Disney is already hard at work creating the new replacement night show which will “debut immediately following the conclusion of “IllumiNations,” continuing the tradition of nightly entertainment of the World Showcase Lagoon.”
As expected, this is another part of the multi-year transformation plans Disney has to upgrade Epcot. These plans also include the already announced Guardians of the Galaxy themed roller coaster replacing the Universe of Energy attraction, the Ratatouille dark ride being added to the France pavilion in World Showcase, and a new space themed table-service restaurant under construction next to Mission: SPACE. Disney also promises that there is even more to come as the Epcot experience is upgraded for the next generation.
I have to admit, while it is time for Reflections of Earth to be replaced by a new show after a nearly 20 year run, I will also miss the currently show horribly once it is gone. All said and done, I’ve already regarded Reflections of Earth as the pinnacle of all of the Disney’s nighttime spectacular shows, perhaps in a tie with the original version of Fantasmic! from Disneyland. There is just something powerful about the show overall... a mix of an intense musical score mixed with spectacular pyro and other visual effects that just has the ability to reach inside a person and touch your soul in a way most other shows just can't.
You know how the old saying goes, “Don’t mess with perfection”, but Disney’s had nearly two decades to think this through and come up with a way to top Reflection of Earth, so I can't wait to see what they come up with next.
By 2021 - Guardians of the Galaxy - (2/9/20) Still a bit of work to do, but some good pictures of the front of the Guardians of the Galaxy ride at Epcot were posted to Twitter by our friends at Behind the Thrills this weekend.
(12/8/19) I haven’t seen this view in awhile, but you can see a nice aerial view of the entire Guardians of the Galaxy attraction under construction at Epcot in this Twitter photos from @bioreconstruct that I’ve posted below. You can make out that work is still taking place on the former Universe of Energy ride building, but it looks like the site all around the blue/green attraction building to the right, where the majority of the coaster action will take place, has been fairly cleaned up at this point. It’s also fun to note how the employee access road backstage will travel through a little ‘tunnel’ under the launch/brake track structure that connects the two buildings together.
In between the two buildings you can see the golden dome of the future Play Pavilion, as well as some work taking place on the attraction’s backstage building structures, which I believe formerly housed the Body Wars and Cranium Command attractions, so there is no telling what Disney may have planned for those areas now.
(8/15/19) WDWNT has posted a series of photos looking over the Guardians of the Galaxy attraction building inside Epcot, formerly used for the Universe of Energy attraction. The building was previously hollowed out and not a lot has been going on here since construction began, but at last there is now a lot of activity going on inside to fill up the structure to be used as the queue and loading/unloading station for the new coaster. This includes the construction of a new second level inside the building, which is now well under-way.
(5/13/19) WDWNT has posted some new pictures of the Guardians of the Galaxy coaster building at Epcot as workers begin to seal-up the side-walls on it, forever blocking the interior from view. It is also interesting how the side panels start green at the bottom and end up sky blue at the top in an attempt to camouflage the enormous building from view when seen at a distance.
(3/24/19) Screamscape sources tell us that they spotted the top section of track being installed onto the Guardians of the Galaxy coaster at Epcot this week. We’ve already seen the track installed for the launch from the old Universe of Energy building that starts to rise up a steep hill to enter the new coaster building structure near the top. The new track piece(s) are here, and appear as if the track will take an extremely hard roll to the right as you hit the top of the hill. The interesting thing is it was described as looking similar to what Incredible Hulk does at the top of it’s launch-hill, but but minus the full inversion.
Given the spinning nature of the ride cars, the launch and incline, this could provide for a really interesting negative-g moment for the riders if the car were to spin to the left at the apex of the hill as the track rolls to the right, and then taking a steep dive towards the ground inside the structure while completing the spin to face the rider’s backwards, giving everyone a very nice and awkward feeling twisting negative-g airtime float.
(11/30/18) We’ve been waiting for the moment, as it appears that the first piece of track (that we can see at least) has been installed for the Guardians of the Galaxy coaster at Epcot. If I had to guess, you’ll probably hit this sharp rise up into the large building at the end of the launch tunnel that bridges the gap between the new and old buildings.
(11/21/18) Disney leaked out a few more small details about the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy coaster ride last week. This included a look at the concept art of the coaster cars, and confirmation that as we expected, they will indeed rotate to point the riders in the right direction to view the various scenes that play out during the adventure. Disney’s Bob Chapek talled it a “Storytelling Coaster” experience, as “each individual cab will be programmed to direct your eye to the story happening around you. That means instead of whizzing by the action, you’ll be fully immersed in the story from the minute you launch.”
Disney also re-confirmed that the attraction will open in time for Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary in 2021.
(11/13/18) A new collection of photos showing off the progress on the Guardians of the Galaxy attraction at Epcot can be found over at OrlandoParkNews.com this week.
(11/2/18) The coaster track and supports (painted black of course) for the Guardians of the Galaxy themed ride going into Epcot has finally started to arrive on site. I knew it had to happen sooner or later because they’re quickly starting to seal up the building walls. As I mentioned previously, the assembly of this project has been interesting because it was being done in reverse order to how Rock ‘n Roller Coaster was put up. Back then they poured the giant pad, set up the coaster and then put up the walls and ceiling and sealed it all up inside.
(10/20/18) Back in March Screamscape pointed you all to view some photos taken at a Vekoma test facility in Europe featuring a new prototype creation set up on a test track. It featured what looked like your typical Vekoma 4-passenger sit-down coaster car frame, but instead of mounting it to the chassis like normal, it was mounted to what appeared to be a turn-table system, which was then mounted to the chassis. As I pointed out back in March, this was not your typical “free spin” style set-up, but rather this looked like a system in development for controlled rotation of the riders in order to point them in specific directions at specific moments during the ride experience… in other words… exactly the same kind of thing that Universal built for their Harry Potter themed “Escape from Gringotts” coaster in Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida. If you need a refresher, you can see these those photos posted here. Go ahead, take a quick look, I’ll wait.
The rumor sent to Screamscape at the time was that this new controlled spinning coaster car system was the prototype for Disney’s new Guardians of the Galaxy themed coaster under construction at Epcot. All along the constant rumor about the Guardians coaster was that it would feature spinning cars (and a launch system) in some fashion and now BlooLoop reports that Disney has filed for a patent for exactly this kind of rotating roller coaster vehicle system, which seems to confirm that this is indeed the Guardians of the Galaxy ride system. I’m a bit curious to know what unique features that Disney is using for this patent that would mark it as being different from the Gringotts’ system which I believe is developed by Universal and Intamin, but that’s another story to ponder.
(10/13/18) A new fantastic aerial shot of the Guardians of the Galaxy coaster coming to Epcot was posted on Twitter Friday night, showing off the massive new ride building and the framework for the connecting tunnel that will serve as a bridge between it and the former Universe of Energy building.
One interesting item I’ve noticed about how this attraction is going up is just how different this is compared to how Disney built Rock ‘n Roller Coaster. In the case of RNRC, they poured the large concrete foundation pieces and then put up the entire coaster out in the open first, then when finished they installed the walls and roof to enclose the ride inside. With this project, there isn’t a single section of coaster track to be seen anywhere and the roof is on the main building, so all the track is going to have to go in through the side walls which could make assembly a bit tricky.
(9/28/18) A reader heading out of Epcot the other night spotted the work lights on inside the future Guardians of the Galaxy attraction entrance building and snapped a few quick pictures showing off the work taking place inside.
(9/19/18) The latest photos of the Guardians of the Galaxy attraction under construction show off that the walls of the former Universe of Energy pavilion have been removed and the interior of the structure has been gutted. The rumored plan is that the former pavilion will be used to hold the indoor portion of the ride queue, the load and unload stations, a few early scenes for the ride before it jets off to the new building structure, and… of course… a gift shop at the exit.
(7/9/18) A couple of photos on Twitter show off the current state of the Guardians of the Galaxy coaster building, rising quickly backstage at Epcot.
(6/26/18) A quick look at the progress on the huge building under construction for the Guardians of the Galaxy ride can be seen below.
(6/13/18) A good new picture posted to Twitter shows off an aerial look at the new building under construction that will house the main portion of the new Guardians of the Galaxy coaster track. Also worth noting, you can see the colors changing on the domed roof of the former Wonders of Life Pavilion to the left, as the structure is being refreshed for some new unknown purpose. Also take a look in the background and you can see a large clearing being made next to the Monorail track as it heads from Epcot towards the TTC.
As previously noted in our coverage of the rumored Epcot Resort project, Disney did file plans to do just this, with the site along the track being cleared to create an all new and very large water retention pond that will be almost twice the size of the lagoon in the middle of World Showcase, running from where you see the work starting here all the way down to World Drive.
(3/23/18) In late January Screamscape reported about a new piece of test coaster track being put together at a Vekoma test facility in Europe. Now all new pictures have been added to this same photo link showing off a crazy new prototype coaster train now running on those same tracks.
What's odd about this new train design is that while they seem to have mounted a typical modern Vekoma coaster car to it, they have it mounted up high, sitting on top of a circular mounting system, that gives me the impression that it is designed to allow the coaster cars to spin. However, the size of it all does not look like the kind of mount that would be used to allow for a freely-spinning system, but rather this looks built to allow for controlled spinning of the cars. Controlled in such a way that they could point the riders at specific scenes as the train passes by... not unlike what Universal Orlando did with Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts attraction.
Even better... the popular rumor is that this new prototype ride system in development is for Walt Disney World's new Guardians of the Galaxy themed coaster coming to Epcot. All along I had heard this attraction would be some kind of new spinning coaster design, and this looks to fit the bill perfectly. Stay tuned!
(2/14/18) While not much more was revealed, Disney did confirm that the new Guardians of the Galaxy attraction coming to Epcot would indeed be a roller coaster. They also mentioned it would be "one of the world's longest enclosed roller coasters", and be a one-of-a-kind family attraction with "a new innovative ride system". It will be ready to open in time for the Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary in 2021.
(12/11/17) While I had hoped the new Guardians of the Galaxy coaster at Epcot would be a Mack Spinning Coaster in my last post, digging a little deeper with sources revealed that the ride is apparently going to be a new Vekoma coaster after all. No word on what style ride it will be then, but as far as I can recall, I don't believe Vekoma has built a spinning coaster to date, though I think they did pitch a design for one years ago that had inward facing seating instead of outwards.
So now I'm very curious as to what kind of ride is in store for us.
(7/20/17) As rumored, Disney confirmed that a Guardians of the Galaxy themed attraction is on the way to Epcot that will replace the current Universe of Energy attraction. Few details were given other than it will be an E-Ticket attraction "based on the rockin’ and action-packed world of Guardians of the Galaxy". While Disney released some concept artwork for the attraction showing off what looks like a pre-show briefing room of sorts with Rocket and Groot standing in front of a window where the Milano (their starship) appears to be docked. The other piece of artwork shows that the old Universe of Energy building will be staying, and looks to have a Nova Corps fighter hovering over the fountain out front, along with Rocket and Groot talking to guests.
Our sources still say that this will be a coaster style ride of some kind.
While an exact date is not given, Disney did promise that the Guardians of the Galaxy attraction would be open in time for the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World in 2021.
Universe of Energy is confirmed to be closing down on August 13, 2017.
(7/10/17) As the biggest of the rumored new attractions, and one that seems to be holding water with permitting for the site already underway, Screamscape sources tell us that much of what we’ve already discussed about a Guardians of the Galaxy themed family coaster ride is very much true and in the works.
(5/31/17) So far Guardians of the Galaxy seems to be a hit in California where they took over the West coast’s version of Tower of Terror, but with the Guardians rumored to also take up residence in Epcot, we’re looking at an entirely different style attraction. What could it be? Well… as usual, Screamscape takes a look at some of the latest rumors we’ve received and how they fit in with what we’ve seen from those new building permits last week.
So far, from what I’m hearing the old Universe of Energy building structure will remain, but I’m hearing that we can expect it to be gutted and transformed for use for the new attraction. The early rumor sent my way long ago about this was that it was some kind of coaster style ride under consideration for the property, and adding to this possibility I’ve also heard it mentioned that the ride would feature some kind of launch track… which is apparently what will act as the bridge element between the old attraction building and that massive new building going out back. Speaking of that new building… would you believe that the early rumor is that it could stand as tall as 130 feet? Don’t worry, Spaceship Earth is 180 feet tall, and it will be located somewhere back behind the Wonders of Life dome, which is said to be about 80 feet tall all by itself, so it could possibly remain hidden for the most part. What else has Screamscape been told so? In a cryptic comment, it was mentioned that the new ride would put a new “spin” on Epcot… so could this be some kind of launched spinning coaster style attraction?
2020 - Awesome Planet, Canada Far and Wide, Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along and DuckTales World Showcase Adventure - (12/4/19) Disney announced updates on some other attractions and improvements coming to Epcot in 2020. A new “Disney’s DuckTales World Showcase Adventure” is coming to Epcot where you’ll join the characters in a search for treasure. Using the Play Disney Parks mobile app you’ll discover exotic destinations, solve mysteries and maybe confront a few villains along the way in this interactive scavenger hunt.
Three new film updates are also launching in the park on Jan. 17, 2020.
Awesome Planet will launch at The Land pavilion, showing off Earth’s beauty in a 10-minute film.
Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along will launch in the France pavilion, running in rotation with the existing Impressions de France film, which will upgraded to 4K projection.
Canada Far and Wide, an all new Circle-Vision 360 film will launch inside the Canada pavilion as an update to the previous “O Canada!” film, with all new scenes and narration by Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy.
(3/20/19) Disney has announced that a new film presentation is coming to The Land pavilion be to called “Awesome Planet”, along with confirmation of some other projects that have been in the works as part of the park-wide upgrade of Epcot.
“Awesome Planet” will be an “on-screen exploration of the realm we call home, showcases the spectacular beauty, diversity and dynamic story of our earth with all the grandeur guests have come to expect.”
“This new film – together with the new Circle-Vision film previously announced for the China pavilion, updates to the film at the Canada pavilion, and the “Beauty and the Beast” Sing-Along that is coming to France – hints at the scope of the coming transformation of this amazing park. The new films herald a bold new era for a theme park that is distinctly Disney in its view of the earth, its lands and its people.”
They remind us that the new Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along show will rotate throughout the day with the existing “Impressions de France” film, so that it will retain its place in the Guinness World Records as “the longest-running daily screened film in the world.”
They don’t mention the exact location in The Land pavilion for Awesome Planet, but I can only assume it will go into the former theater space that was home to Circle of Life from 1995 to early 2018.
2020 - Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure / France Pavilion Expansion - (9/13/20) MouseSteps dropped into Epcot this week to check out the latest projects under construction, with a ton of pictures looking over the expansion of the France pavilion in World Showcase.
(8/25/20) A new construction update from Epcot, focused on what’s going on at the France pavilion area, including the new Ratatouille Adventure ride, has been posted to MouseSteps this week.
(3/29/20) It has been noted that the new Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure attraction has been added to the WDW digital maps and according to a tweet from Behind the Thrills, you can start making FP reservations for June 1st and beyond. Of course, this may be just wishful thinking that this point. While I believe the parks will be reopen by then, the shutdown may delay the opening date, unless WDI still has a crew in there finishing up all the final testing right now. We’ve been told Disney shut down their construction projects, but at this point I’d be fairly confident “construction” on the ride itself is likely finished, with mostly just finishing touch work needed around the expansion, as well as final “test & adjust” and Op’s training for the ride itself.
(2/15/20) One of our Screamscape source took a flight on the Disney Skyliner and sent in some great photos of the new Ratatouille attraction area and ride building set to open later this year behind the France pavilion at Epcot.
(1/15/20) Walt Disney World announced that they’ve put in the large Gusteau’s sign on the roof of the new building at Epcot’s France Pavilion that will house the new Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure dark ride opening this summer. You can see photos of the sign being lifted into place on the Disney Parks Blog.
(12/19/19) Our friends at MouseSteps have posted a nice construction update showing off the France Pavilion at Epcot’s World Showcase where the new Ratatouille dark ride is under construction and more. It really is going to be a beautiful themed expansion to a pavilion that I always thought had the potential to be so much more than what was originally built.
(12/4/19) While we still don’t have an exact date, Disney did confirm that Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure would be ready to open to guests during Summer 2020 at the expanded France pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase. You can also get a peek inside the attraction as the finishing touches are being put on, along with a look at the ride vehicle.
(12/2/19) A couple of great photos of the Ratatouille construction site can be found in a new article posted to Orlando Rising this week. Scroll down a little further to see all the construction taking place in Future World as well, including a peek at the now green building hiding the Space 220 restaurant.
(3/20/19) Disney has confirmed that an authentic Crêperie will be built into the France pavilion as part of the upcoming expansion that will bring the Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure attraction. According to the Disney Park Blog the new eatery will feature a menu inspired by the Brittany region of France and offer both table service and quick-service items. Look for these all to open in time for the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World.
(11/20/18) Disney has confirmed the official name for the new Ratatouille attraction coming to the France pavilion at Epcot will be “Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure”. Meanwhile the pavilion will also open a new Beauty & The Beast “sing-a-long” show in 2019 in addition to Impressions de France show.
(9/4/18) A great new aerial image shows off the progress on the Ratatouille ride building at Epcot behind the France pavilion as the green outer walls are starting to go up. Meanwhile clearing is also taking place directly behind the France pavilion likely for a little plaza area that will link up the old and new sections of the pavilion when they are finished. Meanwhile in the background, the yellow arrow is pointing to the station building construction for Epcot's Disney Skyliner aerial tram station.
(8/27/18) I'm not sure why but apparently Disney has been surveying guests about possible names for the upcoming Ratatouille dark ride in Epcot. For some reason they seem to be trying to give it a rather wordy title, much like it's French counterpart which is known as "Ratatouille: L'Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy".
You can see a bunch of different possible names are being tossed about in the tweet below, most of which seeking to work the name "Remy" or "Chef Remy" into the title rather that just calling it something simple like "Ratatouille: Kitchen Calamity".
(6/26/18) A couple of new aerial photos of the Ratatouille ride building under construction at Epcot can be seen below. Looks like things are moving along very quickly as they put up the steel framework. Now there is still a lot of work left to do, but if you compare the progress of the structure in Orlando to the construction speed of the original ride built in Paris, we are still looking at about another 18-20 months until Ratatouille could be ready to open in Orlando. Translation... expect a very late 2019 to early 2020 opening date.
(6/13/18) Take a look below at the latest aerial shot of the new Ratatouille attraction construction photo, which will expand the current France Pavilion at World Showcase into a much larger and more popular attraction.
(4/21/18) The rising steel framework for the Ratatouille building in Epcot’s World Showcase is now becoming very visible from the park’s pathways.
(4/14/18) A couple of fun new photos from Epcot were posted over at WDW News Today this week, including a look at steel beams rising from the France pavilion for the new Ratatouille dark ride expansion project, along with the first tower on site behind Epcot for the Disney Skyliner next to the International Gateway.
(10/12/17) According to the OBJ, Walt Disney World has filed for a new permit for a “Project MI” which appears to be for the announced Ratatouille dark ride coming to Epcot’s France pavilion in World Showcase. The permit appears to be for the building of the basic building shell, foundation and utilities needed for the expansion project.
(7/20/17) Disney confirmed at the D23 Expo that a Ratatouille themed dark ride will be added to the France pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase. Note that Disney doesn't say that it will be a clone of the Ratatouille ride built for Paris, they only say that it will be "Similar to the 4-D attraction Ratatouille: The Adventure", which makes me wonder if we could see some changes and improvements made to the ride experience. The rest of the description sounds pretty on-target for being a near-clone of the existing ride where "guests will be able to shrink to Remy’s size and scurry to safety in a dazzling chase across a kitchen with the sights, sounds and smells of Gusteau’s legendary Parisian restaurant."
While an exact date is not given, Disney did promise that the new Ratatouille attraction would be open in time for the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World in 2021.
(7/10/17) Much like the rumored Guardians of the Galalxy attraction, permits to allow for an expansion to the France pavilion have already been submitted and our sources tell us that as expected, the Ratatouille dark ride should indeed be on the way very soon.
(6/24/17) As heavily rumored, it seems Disney has now filed the first permits that involve future construction around the France pavilion at World Showcase. According to the permit the area involved includes the entire area backstage of the existing France pavilion as well as the mostly empty pad that sits between France and Morocco, which you can see in the first attachment from the permit.
Next take a look at the next image posted and I've overlayed the existing Ratatouille attraction from Paris over the available space in Epcot and you can see that they've got plenty of room to drop it right in, as is, if they wanted to within the work area and still have extra room to improve it, make it bigger, or whatever they intend to do here.
By 2021 - Play Pavilion - (8/24/20) A new collection of construction photos from Epcot can be found at MouseSteps this week, which includes a look at the dome panels being changed out on the Play! Pavilion along with a brief look at the nearby Guardians of the Galaxy building at the end.
(2/21/19) Disney announced some fascinating new items coming to Epcot in the near future just a little bit ago. The news included the confirmation that a new “First-of-its Kind” Play Pavilion attraction was coming and would inhabit the inside of the former Wonders of Life pavilion in Future World. The new pavilion will be devoted to “playful fun and feature an innovative city that’ll come to life”, “bursting with interactive experiences, your favorite Disney characters, hands-on activities and engaging entertainment”. Look for it to open to guests in time for the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World.
(5/12/18) Remember back awhile ago we mentioned there was a parade of Disney big-wigs touring the long-closed Wonders of Life pavilion shortly before it was announced that it also would also not be used any longer for the various festivals that take place throughout the year... which is pretty much all that goes on there anymore. Well, shortly after all this took place, guests began to notice crews cleaning and repainting the outside of the pavilion's golden dome. Jump ahead a few months later and the work is still ongoing, as seen in a new report to WDWNT, as the triangle panels are also being resealed to prevent leakage as well. The question is... just what is Disney's future plan for this building?
By 2021 - New Park Entrance - (2/21/19) Disney confirmed that the entrance plaza to Epcot will soon be remodeled. The revised entrance plaza will be themed into a lush area with sweeping green spaces, new pathways and a reimagined fountain that will “pay homage to the original park entrance with fresh takes on classic elements”.
As long rumored, the Leave A Legacy monuments will be removed from this area, however Disney will not scrap them, instead they will be moved into a new beautiful setting just outside the park’s gateway.
???? - New China Circle-Vision Movie - Confirmed - (7/20/17) Disney confirmed at the D23 Expo that a brand new film is coming to the China pavilion in World Showcase. The new film will put some brand new technology to work with the development of a brand new digital camera system able to shoot the footage for a seamless new Circle-Vision show. No word on when this may be ready to open.
???? - Journey of Water - Announced - (8/23/19) During a preview of D23 last night Disney’s Bob Chapek announced details about another new attraction or sorts is coming to Epcot. It will be called “Journey of Water inspired by Moana” and based on the concept art, it seems more like a lush tropical landscape setting full of small waterfalls and water-jet fountains. Details are slim, and perhaps this is all there is to it, but this is just a preview of it, not the full reveal. All they did say is that guests will “interact and play with magic living water”.
???? - COCO / Mexico Pavilion - Rumor - (7/10/17) Our sources have confirmed that a new update in indeed in the planning stages for the Mexico Pavilion, where the current boat ride system will get revamped and transformed to now be themed to the new upcoming COCO animated film from Pixar, which follows the musical adventures of a young boy who crosses over into the Land of the Dead and a meeting with his family members from the other side.
???? - UK Pavilion / Mary Poppins Ride - (7/20/20) According to a report from the Orlando Business Journal Disney has put their planned renovation of Spaceship Earth on hold, along with the previously announced plans to create a new Mary Poppins attraction in Epcot’s World Showcase. This comes as no surprise as the rumor-mill has been buzzing for weeks now about how most of the previously announced Walt Disney World projects that had not already started construction would likely be put on indefinite hold, with some likely to be cancelled entirely.
(9/21/18) According to WDWNT, the UK pavilion in World Showcase is still under consideration for a ride. Earlier we had heard rumors of a possible Brave themed ride, or a Mary Poppin's themed carousel, but according to the newest rumor the ride may be some kind of Dumbo style spinning flat ride themed to Mary Poppins instead.
(8/9/17) While the rumor I had heard before involved expanding the UK pavilion to include a small Scottland themed area along with a Brave themed attraction, a new article posted here claims that the rumored expansion being planned for the UK pavilion may instead focus on building a Mary Poppins character meet & greet area themed to Cherry Tree Lane.
???? - The Living Seas / Marine Life Institute - Rumor - (11/7/18) Disney has apparently been sending out some surveys asking questions about The Living Seas pavilion at Epcot. We know there are major plans to refurbish and update much of the park so we may be looking as some early signs about what they could be planning to do with this particular attraction area. Some claim Nemo and Friends could be removed to revamp it all with an entirely original theme and concept, to possibly tie into a new dark ride to be built behind it, others say that they could be looking to link up the rumored Epcot Resort project so that a few very expensive suites would actually have windows directly into the massive aquarium itself. Others believe that they could even go so far as to remove the attraction entirely, but that seems to be the least likely scenario. From the sound of things, even Disney isn’t quiet sure what to do with it yet, thus the guest feedback surveys, so even if something happens, it sounds like it may not happen for quite awhile, while they focus on other projects within the park first.
(7/10/17) According to the latest Screamscape rumors, we can expect to see a little remodeling and several small updates take place at The Living Seas as the attraction will attempt to take on the look and theme of the Marine Life Institute attraction seen in the film, Finding Dory. Don’t expect to see a copy of Tokyo DisneySea’s new “Sea Rider” simulator attraction added in, but I’m hearing we’ll see some of the new characters introduced in Finding Dory added to the various existing attractions, and I’m betting we’ll even get to hear voice over recordings from Sigourney Weaver as you stroll around inside.
???? - Imagination Pavilion / Inside-Out Attraction - Rumor - (7/10/17) One of the big new rumors I’m hearing is that rather than waste money on trying to upgrade the old Imagination ride system one more time, instead the park may opt to close it down for good. Previous rumors suggested that the location would eventually become home to a new attraction concept themed to the film Inside-Out, but I haven’t heard any more about this lately, so we’ll have to sit on that rumor for awhile longer.
???? - India Pavilion / Jungle Book Ride - Rumor - (9/20/18) WDWNT has posted an interesting new rumor for Epcot this week, claiming that a possible new World Showcase pavilion themed to India could be in the works. Even better, it would come with a massive new E-ticket attraction that would essentially bring the technology used for Shanghai Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean to life in the US, with new a new story themed around the live action Jungle Book movie.
I like the concept... but after all these years I'm a bit hesitant to think that Disney will ever add a new country to the World Showcase after trying so many times over the years only to end up with nothing after the opening of the Norway pavilion in 1988.
2021/22 - New Spaceship Earth - On Hold - (6/21/20) The Disney Parks Blog has confirmed that Spaceship Earth’s planned refurbishment is currently on hold and that the Epcot attraction will be open for guests to enjoy when the park opens on July 15.
(2/26/20) Walt Disney World has confirmed that Spaceship Earth will close on May 26 to undergo yet another ‘reimagining’ of the ride experience. No date has been set for it to reopen, but I won’t be surprised if it stayed closed until sometime in mid to late 2021, maybe even 2022. According to the Disney Parks Blog this will be the fourth update to the attraction since it opened in 1982. While it will continue to “focus on the story of humanity” many scenes will be updated and mixed in with some brand new scenes to add to the “story about our human experience.”
One update mentioned will be to the Egypt scene which will be “transformed through the power of light” into a “new Egypt like you’ve never seen before”. Through visuals and the new narration you will “see how light plays a central role in our shared human journey, coming to life in dynamic ways in a celebration of the magic that’s possible when we all come together. ”
(12/10/19) The Orlando Sentinel breaks down some new details about the transformation of Epcot this week, including information on some of the more curious aspects seen in the concept art released thus far. For starters, there was that new three story building structure on tall legs, shown with a roof-top garden. This odd looking structure will actually be built somewhere within the monorail loop, between Future World and World Showcase, and will serve as a headquarters building for the park’s various festival events throughout the year. The building will showcase various events inside and can accommodate small concert performances on the floor level, as well as more “intimate” events in the rooftop garden level. Don’t look for construction to start on that one just yet however as the design work is still in progress for that one.
A few more details about the future of Spaceship Earth were also mentioned, as the primary theme of the revised version of the attraction will focus on humans as storytellers, and how this has evolved over the centuries. So look for some scenes within to be revised or updated with new story elements or technology, while some entirely new show scenes will be added into the new version of Spaceship Earth.
(10/12/18) With lots of projects already under way at Epcot, Disney has always hinted that many more updates and new projects were also being prepared to begin in order to update the park experience for future guests. The most likely one we’ve been waiting to hear about would be for yet another massive renovation to come to the park’s iconic Spaceship Earth attraction at the front of the park.
According to a new update from WDWNT, plans may be moving forward for just such a renovation, but done in such a massive way that Spaceship Earth could be closed down to guests for 24-30 months. If this turns out to be true look for the attraction to close in early 2020 and remain shut until the 40th anniversary of Epcot begins on Oct. 1st, 2022.
Given the amount of time this is rumored to take, this sounds like we could very well see the entire attraction gutted and rebuilt, possibly as something entirely new. Thinking back to the last time Disney began planning a new concept for Spaceship Earth, the plan at one time was to gut the attraction to turn it into some kind of indoor roller coaster style ride that would have been called “SSE: Time Racer”. Early planning and design on SSE: Time Racer was actually taking place at one time until a study of the existing sphere-shaped structure determined that it was unlikely to survive such a transformation and the new internal stresses it would have to endure, so SSE: Time Racer was shelved. With a Guardians of the Galaxy themed coaster under construction next door, I doubt we’ll see the Time Racer coaster concept revived, but it should be very interesting to see where Disney takes this iconic experience next if this transformation goes forward.
The Failure Of Epcot
(10/8/14) I’m going to throw this right out there first so it has time to sink in…
Epcot has Failed.
There, I said it. It is worth noting that I actually wrote most of this piece way back in July… long before it was ever confirmed that Maelstrom was going to close down to make way for a Frozen themed makeover, but for whatever reason, I just wasn't ready to finish it until now.
So what’s wrong with Epcot you ask? Historically, Epcot was Disney’s big experiment, opened in 1982 by Disney management after Walt’s death, to create a permanent World’s Fair style theme park environment, with a unique sponsorship focused business plan concept. To this day Epcot is a theme park like no other, and is often cited as the favorite park for many Walt Disney World fans.
But I tell you that Epcot has failed… or perhaps it is more accurate to say that the business model created for it has failed.
While the Magic Kingdom (and Disneyland before it) were designed to run as huge cross-promotional marketing machines, sharing and promoting the various Walt Disney Studios films, TV shows, and characters, Epcot was designed to be a different kind of beast. Inspired by the temporary World’s Fair / Expo events that took place across North America during most of the 20th century, Epcot was designed to run under a similar business model, with each pavilion being sponsored by a company, or approved along with a similar co-sponsorship deal by the world nation it represented. In the case of the later, the staff of the World Showcase pavilions are part of a Cultural Representative Program, where natives of that country agree to come work at Walt Disney World for a year at a time and represent their native homeland. Some are sponsored directly by their governments, while most use a mixture of private funding from select native corporate entities.
The business model worked at first. Each pavilion was built and later maintained through various sponsorship deals and for many years Epcot worked like a well oiled machine, with guests traveling from across the globe to visit, inspired by the messages of global unity, great technological progress, and the overall concept of “If you can dream it, you can do it.” It wasn’t until the 90’s when the first signs of trouble started, and the problem only got worse as we crossed through the waves of financial and political turmoil of early 21s century.
Like many deep set problems, the first signs of change started to bubble up from the core… CommuniCore. In the early 90’s, it became clear that the now decade old futuristic technology on display within CommuniCore was starting to show it’s age.
The huge costs of a full pavilion sponsorship made it difficult for many early technology companies to justify the cost to buy their way into Epcot, so the old CommuniCore was removed to make way for Innoventions, a midway of small sponsorship opportunities that could be changed out as quickly as needed. Innoventions had the right idea at heart, but the cheaply made temporary display areas were a turn off to many guests. The American public too had begun to wise-up and sour on the idea of having too much corporate sponsorship.
It wasn’t long before many of the Future World pavilions began to lose their sponsorships as previous deals expired and the sponsors would opt out of renewing. While the exact details of these deals are closely guarded secrets, I’ve been told that sponsorship length is typically for a 10 year term. Currently however, there are more pavilions without official sponsorship than those with, and some of the current deals are estimated to be approaching the end of their terms very soon.
- Horizons, while no longer in the park, was the first to lose a sponsor, seeing the relationship with General Electric go dark in 1993 as soon as the 10 year deal came to an end. Horizon stayed open for a time without a sponsor, closed down, only to reopen while Test Track was under construction next door, then close again for good in 1999. It was replaced by Mission: Space in 2003 which was sponsored by Compaq, who was purchased by rival HP (Hewlett Packard) before the attraction even opened. I’m actually not sure of the attraction’s current status to know if they have signed an extension of some kind, or if the terms of a new deal are actively under negotiations.
- The Wonders of Life pavilion which opened in 1989 with a sponsorship from Met Life, also lost their deal at the end of the first term. Before long it too would experience a sporadic operational schedule, opening in the busy months, before it was closed entirely in early 2007.
- Universe of Energy was sponsored by Exxon (later ExxonMoble) up through 2004, and while it hasn’t closed down, it has remained sponsor-less ever since.
- Imagination’s longtime sponsor, Kodak, ended their relationship with the attraction in 2010, and it has thus far remained open and sponsor free.
- World of Motion is one of the big success stories, as it started out with a sponsorship by GM (General Motors) who has managed to maintain their sponsorship with the attraction through the transformation into Test Track, and even through their own bankruptcy problems, renewing the deal again with the latest update to the Test Track attraction (Version 2.0) just a few years ago.
- Spaceship Earth has gone through a series of sponsors over the years (BELL, to AT&T and then Siemens in 2005) but as the icon of the park itself, it has been lucky enough to be a popular sponsorship opportunity. But the question is, will Seimens stay on beyond 2015?
- The Land has also had a number of sponsors over the years: Kraft from 82-92 and Nestle from 93 to 2009. Nestle dropped out however, and it wasn’t until 2011 when Chiquita signed a larger deal with the entire resort and cruise line, that they became the sponsor of the Living with the Land ride.
- The Living Seas opened in 1986 and was sponsored by United Technology up through 1998, but this is where things get interesting however. Unlike the other pavilions which could be closed down if Disney chose to do so, The Living Seas is inhabited by a large number of marine animals ranging from fish to dolphins to protected manatees. Closing down the pavilion was not an option as the pavilion would still have to be staffed and the animals fed and taken care of, regardless of sponsorship status. It also helped by the pavilion is home to the popular Coral Reef Restaurant, which offers underwater viewing into the main exhibit tank. Unable to find a new sponsor, Disney cut the pavilion’s budget where they could for a few years… axing the preshow film as well as closing the “Seacab” omni-mover ride in 2001 when it started to fall into disrepair.
What happened next with The Living Seas pavilion may be paving the way for the future however. Disney found themselves with a huge hit on their hands, thanks to Pixar’s Finding Nemo film hitting theaters in Summer 2003, reeling in the second highest gross for the year at $936 million world-wide. The marine life themed film was the perfect fit for The Living Seas pavilion and Disney began to experiment by adding Finding Nemo themed decorative elements to the pavilion starting in late 2003 and by late 2004 they opened the first Nemo themed attraction within, “Turtle Talk with Crush”. The mini attraction was a smash hit with guests who overwhelmed the limited capacity of the theater it was in, which led not only to it’s own expansion, but the transformation of the entire pavilion into “The Seas with Nemo & Friends” by late 2005. At this point Disney opted to go all in here, and began work transforming the attraction’s old entrance, pre-show theaters, hydrolators and the closed Seacab ride into a new Nemo themed dark ride experience that opened in early 2007.
While this was the first time that an Epcot pavilion has been entirely re-themed to tie into a Disney or Pixar animated films, this was not the first time that a Disney film has been brought to life in Epcot.. that honor would go to the 4D “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience” attraction at the Imagination pavilion that opened in 1994 and closed in 2010, with the theme of the 4D film’s “Imagination Institute” was used as the theme for the 1999 version of the revamped dark ride experience.
While Future World has thus far received most of the attention in terms of sponsorship and new attractions, the World Showcase pavilions are aging. They have been quietly getting small updates when they can get the countries to agree to help pay for them, but none seem very eager to do so anymore. The last World Showcase pavilion to be added to the park was Norway which opened in 1988 and all negotiations to design and build new country pavilions have failed since then due to disagreeable financial terms for both the building of the pavilion as well as ongoing annual operating expense payments. For example, until the government of Norway opted to step away from their deal with Disney, they were said to have paid $200,000 a year to keep the Norway pavilion running.
While Canada and China have all received new films for their show theaters, and Mexico revamped their boat ride about five years ago as well, which saw the introduction of the Three Caballeros characters to lighten the mood and bring a little more entertainment to the experience. However, their presence is said to be scaled back quite a bit from the initial proposal, as the Mexican government resigned a new deal with Disney and asked to keep more of the cultural information in the attraction intact.
Norway however, found themselves on the block as the last untouched major attraction in World Showcase, but as the government opted out several years ago and Disney found themselves sitting on top of another runaway animated hit in the form of Frozen this past year. They tested the waters with something small (Anna & Elsa character Meet & Greet in Norway) in much the same way they did with Finding Nemo at The Living Seas, and the response was huge… and now the rest is history as Maelstrom has now closed and a new large Frozen themed attraction will open in 2016.
It is with this in mind that I say that Epcot has failed… but it is fixable. The old business model isn’t working anymore as we’ve seen Disney forced to take over more and more pavilions… and this isn’t a bad thing, as otherwise I think Epcot would sit stagnant. So while there are those who are upset at Frozen coming to Norway… I’m not one of them and I’m looking forward to it. I look at it with the eyes who remember what happened over at The Living Seas and that pavilion is not only better for it, but I’m hoping we see Disney start to take more of a creative role throughout Epcot, especially in World Showcase, where it would only make sense to add a copy of the new Ratatouille dark ride that just opened at the Paris resort as a starting point, and then look how they can expand into the other World Showcase pavilions as well to breathe some new life into the park.
Because Epcot IS a great park… it just needs to evolve and grow to realize it’s true potential.