Walt Disney World
---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(1/21/2023) Epcot Revamps Their Parking Lot Sections (MORE...)
(1/11/2023) Harmonius Is Ending Sooner Than You Think (MORE...)
(1/8/2023) 2023 Epcot International Festival of the Arts Details (WDW - EpcotMORE...)
(12/11/22) Te Fiti Has Arrived (MORE...)
(12/4/2022) Journey of Water Construction Update (MORE...)
Ride Rehabs - These dates are not guaranteed to be 100% accurate as refurbishments are subject to change.
Nothing is known to be planned at this time…
Click here to read: EPCOT HAS FAILED
General Park News - (1/21/2023) According to the Disney Parks Blog the parking lot sections at EPCOT are currently being renamed. The lot is being thematically divided in half into Earth and Space themed sides, with each side to be divided into four different sections themed by new characters.
(1/8/2023) The 2023 EPCOT International Festival of the Arts will kick off on January 13 and run through to Feb. 20th. The long-running art festival at Epcot gained new popularity in recent years when they added a renewed focus on food offerings throughout the park. As a result the once “Arts” focused festival has now become a sort of an abbreviated version of the ultra-popular International Food & Wine Festival that takes place in the Fall.
The Earth side with green signage will feature parking sections for Moana, Heihei, Crush and Dory. The Space side with purple signage will feature parking sections for Wall-E, Eve, Rocket Racoon and Gamora.
(1/11/2023) Well, well, well… Epcot’s Harmonious nighttime show is coming to an end sooner than previously thought. The final performance of Harmonious will take place on April 2, 2023 and starting on April 3rd, the park will bring back the previous interim show, “EPCOT Forever”.
A new update from the Disney Parks Blog this week showcases a whopping 50 new menu items that will be available at this year’s International Festival of the Arts, along with locations of some brand new food booths locations: Moderne near Test Track and Figment’s Inspiration Station at the Odyssey: Art, Food, and Little Sparks of Magic.
While I previously compared it to the offerings at the Food & Wine Festival, one thing that sets the food offerings at the Festival of the Arts apart is the presentation of the food itself, where how it is placed on the plate is just as important as how the food looks.
(10/20/22) Interesting times at Epcot these days. While Disney may have announced that the Harmonious night show will eventually close to may way for a brand new show by late 2023, it seems the current show decided to put on a little revolt of its own. According to a report at Orlando Theme Park Zone one of the many Harmonuious fireworks barges caught on fire last night.
Those with experience in the pyrotechnics field know well that potential fires go hand-in-hand with fireworks shows. Fire, explosions, sparks flying everywhere and not to mention the fallout from misfires when rockets fail to launch into the sky and instead explode in the launch tube. As such, rest assured, there are procedures in place to handle this kind of thing, and explain why crews might let the fire burn part of itself out before trying to put it out right away, especially if there is risk of other pyrotechnic items on the barge going off.
(9/29/22) Walt Disney World has announced the official list of celebrity narrators coming to this year’s “Candlelight Processional” at Epcot that will kick off on Nov. 25th.
11/25 – 11/26: Simu Liu (NEW)
11/27 – 11/29: Edward James Olmos
11/30 – 12/1: Raul Esparza (NEW)
12/2 – 12/3: Whoopi Goldberg
12/4 – 12/6: Isabella Rossellini
12/7 – 12/9: Daymond John (NEW)
12/10 – 12/12: Josh Gad (NEW)
12/13 – 12/14: Gloria Estefan (NEW)
12/15 – 12/18: Neil Patrick Harris
12/19 – 12/20: Mariska Hargitay (NEW)
12/21 – 12/23: Cal Ripken Jr.
12/24 – 12/26: Marie Osmond
12/27 – 12/28: Courtney Vance
12/29 – 12/30: Angela Bassett
(9/5/22) For those wondering just what is included in the returning “Behind the Seeds” tour set to return to EPCOT starting Oct. 2, Orlando Theme Park News has posted a report showing off what you can expect to see. This includes a ton of photos taken in the behind the scenes areas the tour will travel through shot earlier this year.
(8/18/22) Walt Disney World has confirmed that three popular tours will return to EPCOT in October 2022, just in time for Epcot’s 40th Anniversary. Over at The Land pavilion the “Behind the Seeds!” tour will return, offering an hour-long walking tour through the exhibits and greenhouses inside the attraction. As The Seas with Nemo & Friends, the popular DiveQuest adventure tour will return, allowing SCUBA-certified guests a chance to dive inside the 5.7 million gallon saltwater environment inside. For those who are not SCUBA-certified, you can enjoy the Dolphins in Depth program, which offers a chance to meet the bottlenose dolphins at The Seas exhibit. Tickets to partake in all three new tours will go on sale starting August 22 on the DisneyWorld.com website, or through the My Disney Experience app.
2022 - Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind - (11/26/22) The “Holiday Remix” version of Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is now here with a fun rock ‘n roll mix version of holiday music to enjoy. Check out a video of the new experience below.
After you take a listen, or if you’ve experienced it yourself… what do you think? Was it a fun temporary holiday addition, or not quite the “Holiday Remix” audio you were hoping for? Would you want it to return next year as is, or try again with a new audio track?
(11/13/22) I’m told that the ‘Holiday Remix’ version of Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind will begin starting November 25th and thrill park guests through to December 30th. Of course, this is making me wonder why it won’t be running through to at least New Years Eve (Dec 31) or even New Year’s Day (Jan 1), but it is what it is.
(10/9/22) Marvel and Disney have shared the new logo for the winter holiday version of Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind this week. As previously mentioned, the normal six randomly selected music tracks will be replaced for the holiday season with a single new track that was described as “a mash-up of seasonal jams.”
The exact timeline for this has not been announced, HOWEVER… Epcot’s official start date for the park’s International Festival of the Holidays event begins November 25th.
(6/25/22) Don’t say I didn’t warn you before (see the end of our 4/30 update), but the Disney Parks Blog has confirmed that Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind will indeed feature a special winter holiday mode. According to the post, “the Guardians will trade in their classic hits playlist for a mash-up of seasonal jams at Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at EPCOT. Guests will blast off to the tune of an awesome holiday single, bringing joy to Xandar and Terra, too.”
(5/7/22) While the media day for the new Guardians of the Galaxy attraction at Epcot has taken place, those hoping for some more video footage are still out of luck, as Disney PR did not allow anything to be shot on the ride itself. You will start to see footage of the pre-ride and post-ride experience however at least, but so far on-ride video has been limited to a few seconds of reverse-POV showing off the faces of bloggers flying through the void.
Below we will share some videos showing off some of this reverse POV footage, the queue and pre-show experience for those who can’t wait to know more, while still keeping things mostly spoiler free. Speaking of one spoiler… the pre-show experience with Nova Prime does include an interesting experience that fans of the former Star Trek: The Experience in Las Vegas are sure to appreciate.
Oh, and check out the last clip where Star Lord talks about having visited EPCOT as a child before heading off into the stars, and gives some love to his favorite attractions, which unbeknownst to him are sadly now all retired. Gotta give some props to the Disney script writers for including references to Horizons, Universe of Energy and Food Rocks.
For those who have to see the full on-ride experience NOW and can now wait, I’m including a link to a pretty high quality video I found that shows off the whole ride experience. Follow this link to check it out with the Conga soundtrack playing.
(5/5/22) You thought you may have seen the end of the “virtual queue” at Walt Disney World when they retired it from use at the Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure attraction last year. Sadly, this is not the case, and the dreaded virtual queue (aka: the lottery) will be returning once again when Epcot opens the new Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind attraction on May 27th.
While it is great not to stand in line for 5 hours, the downside is what many feel is the more “lottery” aspect of it all, because if past performance of the system when used for Rise of the Resistance is anything to go by, all the boarding groups for the day vanish almost instantly. Making things worse, there is no stand-by line you can stand in, so if the entire reason you are trying to visit Epcot is to ride the new Guardians roller coaster and you don’t get a boarding pass, you wont get a chance to ride at all, unless there is a second Boarding Group window in the afternoon where you may get a second chance.
Also, Disney has confirmed that guests can enter the virtual queue ONLY ONCE per day, so if you wanted a chance to ride it over and over to try out the 6 different songs… that isn’t going to happen. You get one ride per day only… if you are lucky enough to even get a boarding pass at all.
Unlike what we saw with Rise of the Resistance however, apparently Disney IS planning on making the option to purchase an individual Lightning Lane pass for the attraction an option. (Of course they are, because… $$$$)
No price has been set, but I’d expect it to be $15, unless they increase the price option to $20 to match the pricing used at Disneyland Resort on their premium attraction Lightning Lane passes.
(4/30/22) SPOILER ALERT - If you want to remain fully unaware of what happens on this attraction, stop reading now. Otherwise…
While I haven’t seen any sign of a full POV video of the new Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind attraction just yet, a short was shared on YouTube showing off what looks to be the first few scenes after the train dispatches from the station and runs past video screens showing off the various characters making a plan of action for the events to come.
The train rises up a small lift, passing through a portal at the top to enter space, turning to go through a jump point (those hex-shaped energy portals) and into a space projection space where you and the Guardians encounter the celestial. I’m not quite sure exactly what is happening between the Guardians and and the Celestial, but a glowing green object called the Cosmic Generator goes into the Celestial’s hand, only for the actions taken by the Guardians to knock the Cosmic Generator away.
The celestial says, “It was useless to follow me...” and then seems distracted by music coming from the Guardian’s ship says, “What is that noise?” Suddnely the energy object is knocked from his hand and sent flying into the cosmos.
Star Lord - “Noise? No one is going to stop Rock ‘n Roll from existing!”
Celestial - “What have you done?”
Rocket - “What have we done?”
Gamora - “I think we jumped back...”
KABOOM— music stars and looks like this is where the backwards launch takes place.
Ok, end of the Spoilers, but as a Disney fan, a Marvel fan and definitely a roller coaster fan, I’m very excited about this so far and can’t wait to get down to ride it myself.
Oh... and if past history of the Guardians and Disney theme parks is any indication, there just might be a special “Holiday Version” of the ride waiting in the wings. When the Guardian’s themed “Mission Breakout!” attraction came to Disney California Adventure, the team wisely used their time to also create the media needed for the “Monsters After Dark” halloween version of the attraction. Since we know that before Guardians of the Galaxy 3 hits theaters, a Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special will be arriving on Disney+ later this year, it just seems like that could be the perfect opportunity to possibly add a little holiday spirit to Cosmic Rewind, don’t you think? Even if it is nothing more than a new holiday themed soundtrack, a few Christmas lights and maybe a Santa hat on Drax. But no Christmas Trees... it might be a little hard to explain that tradition to Groot.
(4/28/22) A fantastic teaser video for the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind has been posted to Disney social media a few hours ago. Check it out below and see if you aren't excited to ride it yourself!
Speaking of the new coaster, the list of six possible songs you will listen to while riding was also posted by Disney. Apparently they tested out hundreds of songs, and narrowed the list down to six essential songs. From what I’m told, the way the attraction works is that one of these six songs will randomly be selected and that one song will be played throughout your ride, from start to finish.
The list of songs came down to:
September - Earth, Wind & Fire
Disco Inferno - The Trammps
Conga - Miami Sound Machine
Everybody Wants to Rule the World - Tears for Fears
I Ran (So Far Away) - A Flock of Seagulls
One Way or Another - Blondie
Color me curious… some of these would obviously make for a fun ride experience, but I’m really intrigued by the concept of Tears for Fears’ 80’s boppy “Everybody Wants To Rule the World” being presented alongside the dark threat of actual world domination. It kind of reminds of how another Tears of Fears song was given this treatment, when a darker / slower cover of their “Mad World” track by Gary Jules became the promo-song for the first Gears of War video game. Of course, I think I’m equally as excited by the idea of “I Ran” or “One Way or Another” as well, but hey… I was a teen who grew up in the 80s, so why not. (Though a pity we don’t have Oingo Boingo’s Weird Science in there, but maybe they’ll add a few more songs in the years to come.)
So there you go, you’ve got the song list, so time to make your own Awesome Mix Tape while you wait for your chance to ride.
(4/24/22) According to a close Screamscape source who has had the chance to ride the new Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind attraction, Disney’s latest attraction is “the best ride at Walt Disney World” featuring a perfect blend of technology, projections, storytelling and music in sync with the thrills of a roller coaster. The praise doesn’t end there, as they also speculate that it may be “the best ride Disney has ever built.”
So Rise of the Resistance better watch out, there is a new contender on the rise!
(4/18/22) As we start to approach the opening of Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind, a growing batch of lucky people out there (many are CMs) have had the chance to ride it and tell the tale. While spoilers are being kept to a minimum right now, from what I was told in my own conversation is that not only is it an incredible ride experience, but that it is easily the best roller coaster in all of Walt Disney World. Or at least until Tron Lightcycle/Run opens… and then we will have to revisit this topic again.
Overall, from the ride to the music to the theming and fun story told with the Guardians of the Galaxy characters, it seems a sure thing that this will be the most in-demand ride in all of Walt Disney World once it opens, which will finally give Rise of the Resistance some much needed competition.
More Earthlings will soon get the chance to ride, with ongoing waves of CM previews begin to take place, followed by Passholder Previews in early May… and who knows… maybe they’ll have time for some soft opening times for the general public just ahead of the grand opening on May 27, 2022.
(4/17/22) Minor Spoiler Alert - Minor Spoiler Alert
According to a post on social media, an image said to be released by Marvel shows off that the cosmic force behind the strange happenings in Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is actually a member of the Celestials named Eson.
Thus far in the MCU, we’ve seen that another member of the Celestials was responsible for the creation of the Eternals, and going back we first saw glimpses of them in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie depicted as some of the first wielders of the Infinity Stones. Eson in particular was said to once wield the Power Stone. When the Guardians first go to see Tivan (The Collector) in the first film, they travel to Knowhere, where what appears to be a space station is revealed to actually be the decapitated head of a long dead Celestial that is being mined of the remaining organic matter by Tivan, who also uses the location as vault for some of his vast collection of rare items.
In the MCU thus far, any interactions between any of the Celestials and the planet Earth has been limited to the millennia-spanning events told during The Eternals film.
Oct. 1, 2022 through Late 2023 - Epcot 40th Anniversary Celebration & Additions - (10/1/22) DuckTales: World Showcase Adventure is coming! What sounds like a new interactive adventure game will be coming to Epcot later this year as part of the park’s 40th Anniversary celebration. Stay tuned for more details.
In other news, would you believe that Harmonious, the new nightly lagoon show at Epcot will be replaced in 2023? This news was apparently confirmed at the D23 Expo a couple of weeks ago. This was a bit of shocking news to everyone… as Harmonious was intended to be the long term replacement for the epic “Illuminations: Reflections of Earth” show. Epcot even put on a short-term temporary show between the shutting down fo Illuminations and the start of Harmonious, but it has been no mystery that Harmonious has simply failed to generate the same level of fan appreciation that Illuminations did.
I said long ago that I didn’t envy the huge task that was put on the plate for the Harmonious crew, as any show that was going to replace Reflections of Earth was going to have some epically huge shoes to fill. The extremely mixed relations from park guests in reaction to Harmonious was obviously enough for Disney management to press the RELOAD button on the park’s nightly show once again. It should be interesting to see if this is a complete redo, or simply more of an upgrade that will repurpose a lot of Harmonious’ new hardware.
What needs to happen more than anything is that the new show should emotionally connect with the park’s guests, as one of the main complaints I’ve heard about Harmonious was simply a lack of heart or connection being made. It was all eye candy, with very little soul, especially compared to Illuminations: Reflections of Earth where the music and visual spectacle was capable of making enough of an emotional connection with the audience that it could bring tears to the eyes of many guests. Look for this new show to launch sometime in later half of 2023.
Late 2024- Play Pavilion - (7/20/22) According to this article Disney has filed work permits indicating that they are ready to proceed once again with their announced plans to turn the former Wonder of Life pavilion into a new “Play! Pavilion” attraction. It was thought by many that the pandemic would cause this previously announced new attraction to get scuttled, but it is back on the books again for an opening by late 2024.
Play! Pavilion will be home to many small mini attractions and interactive character experiences. This will include a Disney kid-friendly version of an ‘escape game’, working with Judy Hoops and Nick Wilde to stop a hotel heist, learn how to be a Disney cartoon artist and other attractions featuring characters from The Incredibles, Wreck-It-Ralph, Inside Out and Big Hero 6.
(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?
???? - 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.
Late 2023 - Journey of Water - Under Construction - (12/11/2022) A new post from Walt Disney Imagineering on IG shows off the placement of the massive new Te Fiti figure in the Journey of Water attraction construction site. A lot still needs to be added here, as they say the experience now won’t be ready for guests until Late 2023.
(12/4/2022) A couple of good pictures showing off the progress on the Journey of Water rockwork going up at Epcot have been posted to Twitter by Bioreconstruct this week.
(9/24/22) Orlando Theme Park News has posted a new update from Epcot showing off the progress on the Moana themed Journey of Water area, along with a look at the construction taking place in the old CommuniCore area.
(8/27/22) The Disney Park Blog has released some amazing new shots of their crew working to put in amazing new details into the rockwork at the Journey of Water Inspired by Moana exhibit at Epcot. This includes a look at models created as examples to be followed when sculpting the rockwork for the final in-park that include Moana’s spiral symbol and a version of Moana herself in the rockwork.
(7/10/22) A few great picture showing off the progress of the Moana inspired, Journey Of Water area under construction at Epcot was posted to Twitter this week.
(5/8/22) New concept art from Walt Disney World shows off the new Moana inspired area, Journey of Water, in greater detail than before. Along with the media day for the opening of the Guardians coaster, came newly revised descriptions of what we can expect to see built around the former Future World side of the park.
As before the former “Future World” area has been divided into three new zones: World Discovery, World Celebration and World Nature, which will fit right in with the park’s existing international half, World Showcase.
Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind along with Mission: Space, the new Space 220 restaurant and Test Track will make up the World Discovery side of the park. I haven’t seen any mention of the previously announced “Play Pavilion” in quite some time however, do I don’t know where things stand with that.
The Living Seas, The Land and Imagination pavilions will make up the World Nature side.
The park entrance, Spaceship Earth, CommuniCore areas down to World Showcase will make up the World Celebration area, along with the upcoming new Journey of Water area. Again, no update on plans to revise Spaceship Earth again, so it seems that project is still on hold.
Many of the latest updates will be coming to the World Celebration area, as some plans have changed from what was announced prior to the pandemic. Dropped from the plans for now was a three story new structure that would have also served as a site for various entertainment performances. Instead this area will taken up by CommuniCore Hall and CommuniCore Plaza. The former will serve as an indoor multi-use space that can take on various exhibit roles throughout the year, while the Plaza will become an outdoor event space perfect for musical performances overlooking an array of lush garden spaces. Don’t worry, the Disney characters will also appear nearby at a new Mickey & Friends location.
(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”.
???? - UK Pavilion / Mary Poppins Ride - On Hold - (3/11/22) During the Disney shareholders Q&A session the other day questions arose about a couple of attractions Disney had announced, but hasn’t made any forward progress with yet. In this case, the previously announced Mary Poppins attraction at Epcot’s UK pavilion and an Avenger’s attraction meant to come as a Phase 2 for the Avengers Campus lands.
As one might expect from such a meeting, the answers were a bit of a mixed bag that started off by deflecting the question a bit to point out all the attractions they have opened or were about to open in the near future. Then they confirmed that these projects were essentially put on hold some time back due to the pandemic. Lastly, it was implied that maybe the projects could be put back into play in the future as the financial performance of things returns more back to normal, but there was no promise to do so.
While Disney could easily just opt to forget about the proposed Mary Poppins project entirely, it won’t be as easy to keep an Avengers project on hold, especially as the characters and themes are pre-built into the Avengers Campus lands, leaving guests already clamoring for the expansions to get under way. If not in the original form intended, we’ve heard there may be an alternate project or two (likely at a lower budget) being held for possible consideration. So long as Disney continues to put out Marvel movies, there will always be a demand for more Marvel themed experiences in the parks.
(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.
???? - New Spaceship Earth - On Hold - (10/3/21) I haven’t said much about it yet as I’ve enjoyed the visuals from afar, but the new glowing Spaceship Earth icon at Epcot may be the best thing yet about the Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary. It’s just so soothing to watch… and I can’t wait to bask in its glow myself in the future. Epcot at night was always one of my favorite places to enjoy and this makes it even better.
(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.