Walt Disney World
---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(7/31/21) A look inside the creation of Harmonious (MORE...)
(7/24/21) Crush's Turtle Talk Returning in August and More (MORE...)
(7/18/21) The 2021 International Food & Wine Fest Has Begun!
(6/27/21) New Harmonious Details (MORE...)
(6/24/21) Harmonious Rehearsal Photo (MORE...)
Ride Rehabs - These dates are not guaranteed to be 100% accurate as refurbishments are subject to change.
Other Attractions CLOSED due to COVID Safety Protocols Include:
Turtle Talk with Crush, Advanced Training Lab and Bruce’s Shark World
Click here to read: EPCOT HAS FAILED
General Park News - (7/24/21) Walt Disney World has confirmed that more of their live entertainment offerings will soon be returning. At EPCOT you’ll find Turtle Talk with Crush reopening on August 21st.
Disney also confirm that the current “EPCOT Forever” nighttime show will end on Sept. 28th to make way for the premier for the new “Harmonius” show on October 1st.
(7/18/21) The 2021 EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival kicked off on July 15 and will run for an epic 129 consecutive days! The Disney Parks Blog has posted a quick update showing off some of what you can expect to find at this year’s Food & Wine Fest.
(6/22/21) This has certainly been a weird day for theme park news, and Disney was not spared from their own embarrassing video. It seems some guests riding on the Living with the Land boat ride in Epcot began to jump off the boat into several of the exhibits. At one point apparently a woman jumped out to steal a cucumber, and was falling over herself trying to get back into the boat. Based on the unsteady footwork (see the video below), I’m inclined to believe alcohol or some other substance may have been involved here.
A couple of different videos have surfaced catching part of different excursions off the boat, and you can see two of them below. What made matters worse however, is according to witness reports, the group were able to get off the ride and just walk away without an encounter with Disney Security to haul their butts out of the park, so lord only knows what other mischief they got into over the rest of their day in the park.
(6/19/21) Disney park fans, Disney has confirmed that fireworks will be returning to their theme parks this July. Look for fireworks to return to The Magic Kingdom (Happily Ever After) and a new temporary show at EPCOT (EPCOT Forever) in Walt Disney World starting on July 1st. Fireworks will return at Disneyland on July 4th with Mickey’s Mix Magic to be presented nightly for the rest of the summer.
(4/14/21) The EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival is going to start VERY EARLY in 2021. How early you ask? Well, traditionally it used to just take place in the Fall, but in 2021 it will actually kick off on July 15th and run all the way through to Nov. 20, 2021, making this the bigger and longest EPCOT International Food & Wine Fest of all time.
(3/3/21) It’s been awhile since we’ve had a good look at what Disney has been doing to the old CommuniCore / Innoventions areas in Epcot’s Future World. MouseSteps stopped by the park a few hours ago and posted some new pictures of the Innoventions West demolition taking place, as well as what is going on at the old Innoventions East side. As they describe, there isn’t much left of the old of the old West side, which makes sense as that is the future location for the Journey of Water attraction. Make the jump and check out the photos as Epcot’s transformation continues.
(2/2/21) A new video that covers all the construction taking place at Epcot was posted by our friends at Orlando Experience. They look over the finished entry plaza, over sites where future projects will go, like Moana’s Journey of Water, as well as get a good look at Guardians of the Galaxy, the major remodeling of the center of Future World, Ratatouille and more.
(1/14/21) A new micro-attraction themed after the Pixar’s latest film Soul, is set to open at The American Pavilion inside Epcot called “The Soul of Jazz: An American Adventure”. The attraction features the Joe Gardner character from the film who invites you on a musical tour of America to learn all about Jazz. Look for the The Soul of Jazz to open in February 2021.
(12/16/20) Epcot fans, have you heard about FuturePort82? We’ve been sent word about this fascinating digital project that has been in the works for the past two years or so. According to the creator, “ I've been working on a project to recreate Future World in EPCOT Center as of just before opening day in 1982. I'm nearing full release of a walkthrough in Unreal Engine 4, hopefully in the next few weeks, and I wanted to drop a line.”
“The project currently includes only the exteriors of attractions, along with the interiors of Communicore East / West, Earth Station and Journey Into Imagination. Right now the only rideable attraction is my version of the WEDWAY Peoplemover (named the SMITHWAY Peoplemover after Martin Smith), but over the next few years i'm hoping to add opening day rides. I've also built some alternate concepts into the park on release, with the intent of expanding this substantially over the next few months.”
When it is ready, the project will be completely free to download, though be warned that users will likely need a pretty “hefty computer” to run the simulator, but they hope it will be worth it. You can follow along with the updates at FuturePort82.com
(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.
2021 - Space 220 Restaurant - Delayed - (UPDATE - Opening Delayed To Unknown Time in 2021)
(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.
2021 - Harmonious - (7/31/21) Walt Disney World has released a new video that shows off some footage of the new Harmonious show coming to Epcot’s lagoon starting on Oct. 1, 2021. The creative people behind the show discuss the three acts of the show, what the represent and what you can expect to see and feel in each segment of the show.
Let’s hope it can live up to the epic, Reflections Of Earth show that was probably my all time favorite Walt Disney World night show of all time.
(6/27/21) According to the latest info from Disney, the new Harmonious night show will premiere on October 1 as one of the largest nighttime spectaculars ever created for a Disney theme park.
“This new show will bring the globe together at World Showcase Lagoon in a celebration of Disney music that inspires people worldwide. It’s a grand, powerful tribute to the stories and songs that unite us, embracing new technical magic that incorporates pyrotechnics, choreographed moving fountains, lighting and media in new ways. “Harmonious” will invite you to travel the globe through new interpretations of classic Disney songs as you’ve never heard them before, reimagined in more than a dozen languages by a diverse group of 240 artists from around the world.”
(6/24/21) A new IG post from Zach Riddley confirms that the new Harmonious night show at Epcot will indeed kick off starting October 1st, 2021 as part of the 50th anniversary celebration. He also posted a picture from one of the show’s rehearsals giving us a good look at all the lights, colors and fountains in action.
(5/15/21) Our friends at Attractions Magazine have posted an interesting new video from the Epcot lagoon where the main Harmonious float (aka: the Stargate) was seen testing the four massive truss arm, moving them up and down, and firing off water cannons along the way.
(2/28/21) Lots of progress taking place in Epcot’s World Showcase lagoon as the giant six-story tall “ring” for Harmonious has now been placed into public view, in addition to all those other gigantic floating fin looking structures. I believe that The Stargate… err…. “the ring” structure is supposed to be the central focus of the new night show, much like the globe was for Illuminations: Reflections of Earth.
According to Disney the ring structure (also referred to as the “Icon Ring”) contains a number of special effects equipment, including a ton of moving lights, pyro, fountains and a “high-density water curtain”. You can see more about it the video below.
(1/9/21) Attractions Magazine spotted the Harmonius show crew testing out of the massive metal arms raising up and out of those new show barges sitting in Epcot’s World Showcase lagoon. Check it out below.
(12/13/20) According to photos posted to Instagram by Zach Riddley, the first of several massive barges for Epcot’s new “Harmonious” night show has been floated out into position on the World Showcase Lagoon to begin testing. According to the post these massive barge platforms will stay out in the lagoon, day and night, and add new visual energy to the Lagoon by day with fountains, and by night they will be a very important part of Epcot’s new night spectacular.
(10/13/20) A few pictures showing off the new massive barges being set up behind the scenes at Epcot for the park’s new nighttime spectacular, HarmonioUS. Four of them seem to have a large rolling hill shaped structure on them, two seem to be mostly empty, but then there is the one barge with the massive ring structure that bears a striking resemblance to a Stargate device, from the popular Stargate film and TV series. Much like the Stargate in the SciFi series, I can only imagine that some kind of water, mist or smoke based projection effects will be taking place within the ring.
(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.
2021/2022? - Guardians of the Galaxy - (1/10/21) WDWNT News Today has posted a couple of pictures someone grabbed of what appears to be the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind roller coaster cars being transported onto Disney property. I say, ‘appears to be’ because the cars are wrapped up tighter than a Mummy in black plastic, but the size and shape do line up with what Disney has already shown off. Nice pictures of the exposed Vekoma wheel assemblies though, as they were able to get very close to those.
(11/22/20) A new post from WDI’s Zach Riddley shows off one of the trains on the Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind coaster in the main show building as they are performing the pull-through of the train through the layout.
Usually this is about the last step of the process before the coaster is allow to begin full speed testing through the layout, but in this case, full speed testing may have to wait as it looks like the various pieces of scenery are also now arriving for installation and they will want to also pull the trains through the layout with the scenery in place to ensure there is proper clearance for riders and vehicles.
(11/18/20) As part of a construction update for the park, Disney released a glimpse of the inside of the Guardians of the Galaxy roller coaster building with the lights on in a video. I zipped a couple of screen captures together to get a slightly wider look at the inside of the ride’s twisted track layout.
They also released a video clip of one of the new coaster cars taking a spin around a Vekoma test track facility to give you an idea of how the cars will rotate in mid-ride.
(11/7/20) Our best look yet at the coaster cars that will be used on Epcot’s new Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind has been posted to Zach Riddley’s instagram channel. The nice high angle shot gives us a look inside the cars at how the seats and restraint system look (lap bar only thank goodness). This includes a view of what appears to be a nice beefy speaker cluster placed about head-and-shoulder height between the two seats. After all, it wouldn’t be a Guardians of the Galaxy ride without a rocking soundtrack to enjoy while you soar through the cosmos.
According to the notes with the post, you’ll notice that each of the cars has a unique paint design, so that each “coach” appears to have suffered slightly different wear and tear issues. A little scorch mark here, a paint scrape there, these coaster trains will look like they’ve toured the galaxy.
(10/26/20) I’m not sure how valid this rumor is, so please take this one with a grain of salt for now and as a warning if you’ve been planning a visit to Walt Disney World for the later half of 2021, hoping that the new Tron or Guardians of the Galaxy coasters would be open.
According to the rumor the construction crews working on Tron Lightcycle/ Run (Magic Kingdom) and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind (Epcot) will continue their work only until all the major structural and outdoor construction aspects are finished. At that point, they say that construction may come grinding to a halt with Disney leaving the interior work and theming of the rides unfinished. The plan would be to put all the rest of the construction work on hold until October 2021, the start of Disney’s next fiscal year, where it would start up again with the goal of finishing up the attractions in time for late Spring or Summer 2022 instead.
Again… this is just a rumor right now, but one that definitely sounds like something that could be Wall Street driven as a cost-cutting measure meant to stop the financial bleeding by being able to cut various contracted team members working on these projects right now with the goal of hiring those they need back in a year’s time by essentially pushing the pause button on the spending needed to finish these two major attractions for almost a year.
Can anyone else with insider knowledge confirm or deny this rumor?
(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?
2021 - Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure / France Pavilion Expansion - (3/9/21) Sorry to be the bringer of bad news for everyone hoping and planning trips to Walt Disney World this summer, but Walt Disney World has confirmed that they will not open Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure (along with the new Le Creperie de Paris restaurant) at Epcot until October 1, 2021. Despite all the rumors and speculations and just flat-out eager Disney fans who have been hoping that Ratatouille could be ready to open any day now… everyone is going to have to wait a little longer.
This falls right in line with the rumors from a few months back that the opening of Tron Lightcycle/Run at the Magic Kingdom was being delayed until at least Summer 2022, allowing them to push back the budget costs of finishing it until next year’s budget, while still letting them open it as part of the 50th Anniversary celebration that is stretched out until the end of 2022.
(1/24/21) Today we get another quick look at the Ratatouille themed expansion to Epcot’s France pavilion thanks to MouseSteps. The view of the expansion was mostly taken during a ride on the Disney Skyliner, giving us an aerial view of what’s going on over there, following by some photos taken on the ground.
(1/14/21) According to our friends at Orlando Experience the construction walls are now down for the new Ratatouille attraction area at Epcot offering a new look at the entry into the expansion.
(12/31/20) Apparently Disney chose a TicTok creator who made up a song about Remy and gave her a tour of the new Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure attraction. They’ve posted the video to their YouTube channel below giving us a brief look inside the new attraction at the France pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase. We don’t get to see much, but the sections they do show off make it appear that the attraction within could be operational whenever Disney chooses to give the green light. I’m sure there is some work left to be done while they finish up the outside as well, but it is good to know that the attraction looks very close to being finished.
(12/10/20) A new construction update from Epcot showing off the France Pavilion expansion was posted to MouseSteps this week, so go check it out!
(11/18/20) While there is only about six weeks left in 2020, it seems Disney Park’s Chairman Josh D’Amaro decided to confirm for the record that Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure would not be ready to open until sometime in 2021. Originally the attraction was expected to open in Summer 2020, but that was before COVID-19 shut down the theme parks and construction crews for months, so officially the new timetable is sometime in 2021.
(11/1/20) According to a newer update from MouseSteps the official marquee attraction sign for the “Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure” has now been placed on the building at the France Pavilion expansion.
(10/28/20) MouseSteps has posted a new construction update from Epcot showing off the progress of the France Pavilion expansion work as well as preparations to start up the boat service once again just outside the International Gate next to the Skyliner station.
(10/8/20) A new construction update from Epcot showing off the progress of the France Pavilion expansion which will include the new Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure dark ride can be found at MouseSteps this week.
(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 - (2/10/21) Disney has announced that the first sections of the new Leave a Legacy photo displays have now been put into place just outside the entrance to EPCOT. The new large panel displays have also been given a touch of color, said to match the park’s new color pallet. I have to admit, since my wife and I do have a picture on there, I can’t wait to come back to EPCOT to find ourselves once again.
(12/23/20) The Disney Parks Blog has posted a new update regarding the new entrance fountain at the front of Epcot which “Celebrates the Past, Present and Future of EPCOT”. The construction walls around the area have been taken down revealing the revitalized area with the three acrylic pylons at the center. The design takes us back to the creation of EPCOT and designed to look like the feature that millions of guests passed by each day for years, but these will feature some modern upgrades over their past counterparts.
Our friends at MouseSteps dropped by the park earlier and has posted a video of the area now that the walls are down which you can check out below.
(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 - On Hold - (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.
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.