Walt Disney World
---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(7/20/17) New Guardians, Ratatouille, China, Mission: SPACE and New Outer Space Restaurant Details
(7/15/17) New Projects That May Be Announced Today (MORE...)
(7/10/17) All The Future Project Rumors Updated (MORE...)
(7/3/17) Siemens Out and Remembering Horizons (MORE...)
Ride Rehabs - The following information is not guaranteed to be 100% accurate.
Mission: SPACE - NOW CLOSED through July 28, 2017
Coral Reef Restaurant - Starting August 27, 2017 through ????
Click here to read: EPCOT HAS FAILED
General Park News - (7/15/17) According to Screamscape sources the presentation at D23 later today will bring up a lot of new projects for Epcot, though maybe not everything they have in development. The projects expected to be confirmed include the addition of Ratatouille to the France pavilion, a new 360 movie coming to the China pavilion, the Guardians of the Galaxy coaster replacing Universe of Energy and they may even mention plans for the next generation of the IllumiNations nightly fireworks spectacular.
(7/10/17) With the D23 Expo right around the corner and everyone has high hopes for some detailed announcements for the planned Epcot renovation, lets take a look at the latest rumors about what we can expect. Scroll down and we’ll list each one individually now while we add in the latest rumors and updates.
(7/3/17) While I reminised about some of Epcot's past attractions that have now passed into Yesterland... a link to a cool look back at the history, creation, and experience of the Horizons attraction popped up over at ThemeParkUniversity that is worth checking out, which also has a link to 71 minute video showcasing it all in an easy to view history of Horizons. They even show off how the ride itself was laid out within the building structure as well as all three of the finale scenes where you could choose your own trip back to the "Futureport".
The video really got me thinking that in spirit, Horizons really did serve as a true centerpiece of the entire FutureWorld experience at the time, touching upon the themes of Imagination, The Land, The Living Seas, the transportation theme of World of Motion, Communication, space travel and even some of the history of how technology was viewed to change our lives throughout the years. It really would have made for a fine attraction to have severed as the centerpiece of Epcot if they had installed it inside the Spaceship Earth structure at the front of the park. The fact that Horizons did not open until October 1st, 1983, a year after the rest of Epcot, kind of made that impossible however.
Speaking of Spaceship Earth however... news has come to light that Siemens has now officially dropped out as the sponsor of Spaceship Earth, leaving the icon attraction sponsor-less for the time being following their 10-year run. Siemens contract included not only Spacehship Earth, but also sponsorship of IlluimiNations: Reflections of Earth nighttime spectacular.
While the attraction could remain independent for years to come, as many other attractions have done in the park, the fact that Epcot is preparing for a huge rebirth does fall into play here, and may serve as a lure for several new sponsorship opportunities for the park and future attractions... and likely another evolution of the Spaceship Earth experience that will hopefully re-imagine the finale portion into something new as well.
(6/24/17) While we know there are big plans for Epcot in the works, the question on everyone's mind is when they will happen, and when will Disney make the big announcements. With Pandora finally open, and crews hard at work at the Studios on Star Wars and Toy Story lands, most are hoping that Disney may finally reveal what they have in store for Epcot at the D23 Expo taking place in California next month.
We've mentioned many a rumor about possible future projects, including Guardians of the Galaxy, Ratatouille in France (see today's other rumor), a new Illuminations show and more... and now WDWNT has compiled a list of the various rumors.
They start off with the mention of a total remodeling of the front entrance to Epcot, which probably is true. The big rumor is that the Epcot renovation is another big 5-year project, similar to the one performed on Disney California Adventure, and a modern looking park entrance is very likely, along with renovations to Spaceship Earth and and rumored plans to gut much of the former Innoventions spaces and upgrade the whole central Communicore area in Future World.
They mention a possible upgrade to The Land pavilion, but based on previous history, I'd say the upgrades added here will likely be minor at best. Perhaps an upgrade to the food offerings, some needed upgrades to the boat ride, a new show in the Circle of Life theater, but the pavilion's central focus is now all about Soarin' and that wont change.
The Living Seas has seen a bit of a turnaround over the last decade already, shifting focus away from the old SeaBase Alpha theme and now entirely invested in the Finding Nemo themes. It would be nice to see the park add a copy of the new SeaRider simulator ride that just opened at Tokyo DisneySea, but I really haven't heard much in regards to this happening at all.
Nearby, the big rumor for quite some time has simply been to see the Imagination pavilion closed and replaced with an all new attraction themed to the Inside Out film and characters. Again... not much traction on this rumor, other than those fussing about if Figment will be a part of it or not. We'll just have to wait and see.
Over in the World Showcase side of the park, other than a Ratatouille ride coming to France, there are the rumors suggesting that the boat ride in the Mexico pavilion that just added a new finale scene could be closed and replaced with an all new storyline involving Pixar's next film, Coco. Other attraction are also said to have been talked about as possible additions to Canada, UK, Germany and Japan... but once again... this is mostly wild speculation. Nothing solid, though it would be nice to see more attractions in World Showcase.
I wouldn't count on seeing any new country pavilions added however, as this has been looked at for decades and never seems to get any traction.
(5/9/17) An odd report posted to WDWNT claims that guest surveys about Figment and possibly the future of the Imagination Pavilion may be taking place inside Epcot near the attraction area. Anyone visit the park lately and notice anything like this? I'd love to know what they are trying to determine, though some of this report claims some of it is a general information survey about Figment himself to determine if the typical park guests even still know who he is.
(4/10/17) Walt Disney Imagineer George McGinnis has past away at the age of 87. According to a couple of wonderful posts over at Disney & More this week, they mention that George was a primary creator behind not only the first two Space Mountain coasters, but also what may be Walt Disney World's most beloved extinct attraction... Horizons.
While you can see a quick overview of George's career highlights in Part 1 of their tribute post, I'd like to really point out Part 2 where they go into detail on Horizons itself. While Horizons was sadly replaced by Mission: SPACE in 2003, to me Horizons itself was perhaps the biggest loss of a dark ride yet at a Disney theme park.
Ok... well perhaps tied at least, hitting the top of the list right up there at the top next to the loss of the original Journey into Imagination dark ride, also at Epcot's Future World, and the nearby World of Motion. The combined back-to-back loss of these three dark rides from Epcot (World of Motion in 1996, Imagination in 1998 and Horizons in 1999) really just altered the entire personality of Future World going forward, but in many ways the loss of Horizons pained me the most. While Spaceship Earth was always the icon of the park, to me Horizons was really the attraction that best captured the true spirit of the Future World half of the park. If you never had a chance to see it, follow the second link to see what it was all about, and while your at it, click here to listen to the "Horizons Loop and Remix Tribute" audio-track while you read the tribute article. Kinda gets you right in the feels...
(4/5/17) So what's going on with Mission: SPACE? In a surprising twist it was announced through the various channels that Mission: SPACE will be closing for an unexpected rehab... that will see it closed for almost the entire summer of 2017. Yep... Mission: SPACE will be closed for an unknown rehab that starts on June 5th and will last through to July 31st.
While this could just be a good old fix-it-up rehab... Mission: SPACE isn't your typical Disney attraction. As a simulator experience with four separate but identical ride-units inside the attraction building all major rehab work on the ride can typically be done without closing it down at all, and simply just closing each of the ride units individually and then moving on to the next. So closing the whole thing down kind of speaks to this being a much larger and much more involved rehab project... perhaps one that could see some big changes made to the overall attraction experience.
While I wouldn't expect this to suddenly become a surprise makeover into a Guardians of the Galalxy themed attraction (though that would be cool) I am very curious about what the future holds for Mission: SPACE. Anyone know more?
(11/28/16) The first piece of the puzzle of what Epcot could be planning for the next generation version of Illumination has leaked out. While Disney has been all about projection mapping technology as of late, the lack of any sizeable structure in the center of World Showcase pretty much means that projecting mapping is out. That said, according to the latest rumor, the next Illuminations will jump on the new 'Drone' bandwagon concept, and is looking into ways they can use a flying army of coordinated light-up drones around Epcot's sizeable airspace. Epcot also presents what may be the perfect place to put on just such a show, as the drones could be kept flying over the large central lake, giving them a safe location to crash into if something were to go wrong.
Now I've got to wonder how well they can mix drones and fireworks... as it just wouldn't be Illuminations without some really killer pyro to go with it. Meanwhile it looks like WildGravityTravels is hearing a little info that helps support this as well, claiming that some drones could be added into the existing Illuminations show as a test as early as next Spring as they continue to develop and refine the technology.
In other news, Disney has confirmed that the 2017 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival will take place from August 31, 2017 through to November 13, 2017. So make your plans now so you too can eat and drink your way around the world at the park's most popular annual event.
(11/21/16) During a presentation Disney's Bob Chapek mentioned that Epcot would be the next park to undergo a "major transformation" in the near future. According to some of our sources, nothing is 100% set in stone yet for Epcot, but there are major plans in the works with a multi-year budget that is said to dwarf what Disney spent on fixing Disney California Adventure.
So what's rumored to be in the works? We've heard a number of things so far... including the obvious and long-in-the-tooth rumor about installing a brand new edition of "Illiuminations" to entertain park guests each and every night around World Showcase. Speaking of World Showcase... despite what people may be hoping for, I'm hearing that new country pavilions are NOT being planned right now. However, I am hearing that a new dark ride IS being planned for World Showcase that will be added into an existing pavilion. While I'm not sure exactly what this would be right now, perhaps the easiest idea may be to clone the Ratatouille dark ride that was built in Paris at the France pavilion, though I'm all for something brand new as well.
So with all that in mind, it seems obviously that the lion’s share of the budget will go towards a complete overhaul of the Future World side of the park, including some much needed overhauls to many of the existing pavilions. The rumor that has been getting the most attention latest has been a plan to build a Guardian of the Galaxy themed dark coaster ride to take the place of the Universe of Energy pavilion, and I can only assume this plan will likely move forwards sooner than later. Then to address the elephant in the room, the idle former Wonders of Life pavilion is also in dire need of being given a new purpose. Other projects I'm guessing we'll see is another upgrade to Spaceship Earth, maybe Mission: Space, fix up the old Innoventions/Communicore areas and time to try something new at the Imagination pavilion.
August 2017 - Mission: SPACE Upgrade - Confirmed - (7/20/17) Mission: SPACE will reopen sometime this August at Epcot and feature some new improvements. The original intense ride experience which was later named as the "Orange Mission", will return with a number of new visual updates to the footage and display screens to make the entire experience a more "visually stunning" trip to Mars.
As for those wanting a more mellow ride experience, an entirely all new Green Mission will be added to the attraction when it reopens, perfect for families, that will take you on a scenic orbital mission around the planet Earth.
Originally the official Disney rehab calendar had the attraction closed through to July 28th, so it may be possible that soft openings could begin after that, but not promises.
???? - Outer Space Restaurant - Confirmed - (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.
By 2021 - Guardians of the Galaxy - Confirmed - (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?
(5/22/17) In an interesting update, WDWNT reports that the first permits have been filed for work at Epcot that seem to indicate that the end may be near for The Universe of Energy. Like what seems to always happen in Florida, the first signs of an impending construction project involve the paperwork and permits involving how the project will handle the issue of drainage and if any existing water retention ponds need to be moved, adjusted, or replaced.
In this case the work site mentioned includes the removal of a water drainage canal that runs behind Universe of Energy and the closed Wonders of Life Pavilion which will be replaced by adding bigger ponds (or expanding the existing connected canal) that runs through a green area out into the last section of the parking lot behind there.
One fun item of note however is the marking that show off the overall construction site for the project includes not just the huge green area where the new ponds and drainage canal will go, but mentions that the existing canal route (which will be filled in) but the project site boundary also includes the entire Universe of Energy structure, the area behind it, and a substantial section of the park's pathways in front of it. Essentially everything north of the pathway that runs from the Electric Umbrella / MouseGears area over to Mission Space will be affected. In another image there is a rather large rectangle shaped new structure, about the size of the Universe of Energy building, to go into the space directly behind Wonders of Life. Something that big must surely be for a major new attraction of some kind.
And we know previous rumors were pointing to the arrival of the Guardians of the Galaxy in this general area not too long ago.
(9/22/16) According to the latest rumors the Universe of Energy pavilion at Epcot could close down forever as early as January 2017, just after the busy winter holiday period is over. The persistent rumors claim that the attraction will be demolished to make way for a new Guardians of the Galaxy themed attraction, also heavily rumored to be some kind of new indoor roller coaster. Anyone able to confirm the upcoming closure?
(8/22/16) Remember those rumors about a Guardians of the Galaxy themed ride coming to replace the Universe of Energy? The latest rumor claims that the ride will actually be an indoor high speed roller coaster style ride that would likely see the old attraction building taken down and a new structure rise instead. This is still a pretty far out rumor however, so I'm not sure how much truth there is to it, especially after Epcot just added two major new rides this summer. We'll have to wait and see I guess.
By 2021 - Ratatouille Attraction / France Pavilion Expansion - (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.
???? - 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.
???? - New Illuminations - Rumor but Highly Likely - (7/10/17) Another confirmation about the one project that we all know is going to happen… a new version of Illuminations is confirmed to be part of the Epcot renovation plan. No word on if this happen sooner or later just yet.
???? - 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.
???? - England Pavilion / Brave Ride - Rumor - (7/10/17) Screamscape sources tell us that a new attraction is planned to be added somewhere next to or behind the existing United Kingdom pavilion. We don't’ know much about this one, other than it is expected to be a more simple flat-ride style experience, most likely to be themed to the film Brave.
???? - The Living Seas / Marine Life Institute - Rumor - (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.
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.