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News & Rumors


Walt Disney World




----    THE LATEST BUZZ    ----
    (6/16/2024) Today Is Your Last Day To Ride Test Track 2.0
    (6/13/2024) Disney Says The Epcot Transformation Is Complete, But So Much Is Missing
    (4/6/2024) Disney World Confirms Test Track Closing Date at Epcot
    (3/27/2024) Epcot Rumored To Be Planning Footage Update For Soarin'

Ride Rehabs - These dates are not guaranteed to be 100% accurate as refurbishments are subject to change.
Test Track - June 17 through TBD


Click here to read: EPCOT HAS FAILED


icon_STOPGeneral Park News - (6/13/2024) The good news is that Disney has reported that their multi-year transformation and update to Epcot is now complete, with the opening of CommuniCore Hall and CommuniCore Plaza. Of course, the bad news is that just so many of the large-scale projects that were announced prior to the pandemic that would be part of an epic overhaul of Walt Disney World’s second gate failed to materialize at all.
    Many of these projects were either quietly canceled, or said to be put on indefinite hold. The list included an expansion to the UK pavilion in World Showcase that would have added a Mary Poppins themed attraction where guests would have walked into the Banks family home and rode on what looked to be an indoor tea-cup style ride, surrounded by extensive projection mapping scenery. Think of it as if Disney were to place the Mad Tea Party ride inside one of the show rooms from Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway and you sort of get a good idea of it would have been like.
    Another major project said to be on hold was a total renovation and upgrade to the iconic park’s Spaceship Earth dark ride. The ride has undergone a few updates over the years since it opened in 1982, and the current version is well overdue for an update, so I’d expect Disney to eventually get back around to this project before too long. Perhaps once they are finished with the upcoming overhaul to Test Track that will start this Summer.
    Canceled very early into things was the Festival Center, a multi-level structure that was to be placed near the center of the former Future World area. The structure would have served as an elevated platform to look out over the revised land, but would have also served as an event and performance space. The newly finished CommuniCore Hall / Plaza projects essentially became a lower-cost replacement for the former Festival Center concept.
    Then there is the elephant in the room… the former Wonders of Life pavilion, a giant golden dome that has been sitting quiet and empty since 2007. For the next decade the space would occasionally be opened for special events, but that stopped around 2019 when the plans for a new Epcot announced that it would be transformed into a rather vague sounding attraction space called the “Play Pavilion” in 2021. At first crews were spotted working all around the outside of the domed structure, making things look nice and shiney once again. And then nothing… the pandemic came, work stopped and any sort of “coming soon” signage all vanished, but the giant golden dome still sits like a beacon, begging something to come here, as it lies right on the pathway between Guardians of the Galaxy and Mission: Space, not far from Test Track. With all that foot traffic, I can only imagine that Disney would want to build something new here, though they may be looking to address what to do with the Imagination pavilion space on the opposite side of the park first.
    (3/27/2024) According to a post from Orlando Theme Park Zone, Disney is apparently making plans to film some new aerial footage of Epcot to be inserted as a new finale scene for the version of Soarin’ in use at Epcot. The footage currently shown was shot before the pandemic and since then the entire “core” of the Future World side of the park has been entirely rebuilt, so obviously as flying over the park serves as the finale of the ride-film, they want to update this scene to properly reflect the updated look of the park.
    Now, if they really want to “fix” the current version of Soarin’ Around the World, I’d also make an argument to get out the re-shoot the Eiffel Tower scene with a proper lens to avoid that awful warping of the tower itself. Just saying…

    (2/24/2024) Guests at Epcot have been enjoying the return of the original Soarin’ Over California ride film since last fall, but unfortunately that will all come to an end very soon. According to insiders, Soarin’ Around The World will return to the flying theater’s screens starting on February 28th.
    (1/7/2024) Several new images from Epcot showing off the ongoing construction to finish up Epcot’s CommuniCore areas can be found at MouseSteps this week.
    (1/1/2024) While Epcot fans visiting the park these days are enjoying the new Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind attraction, those who have been long time fans of the park can’t help by feel a sense of remorse when they spy the former Wonders of Life pavilion sitting closed next door. The pavilion was built as a massive golden dome and features a number of interactive stations in the main hall, a clone of Star Tours called Body Wars that shrunk riders down to microscopic size and inserted them into a human body for a wild adventure.
    While Body Wars got the bulk of the attention there, there was another very popular attraction that had a nearly cult-like following called Cranium Command. Cranium Command wasn’t a ride, but rather was an innovative show style experience full of humor that began with an animated pre-show before leading you into the main show-theater that used a combination of projection screen and animatronics. Before it shut down forever on Jan. 1, 2007, the story was about the Cranium Commandos who served as “pilots” inside every human brain to help you deal with your daily life’s activities.
     If this sounds familiar, the concept was essentially renewed with the creation of Disney/Pixar’s Inside-Out in 2015, and will be expanded upon in Inside Out 2 coming to theaters later this year. While it would seem to be a “no brainer” to bring back the concept someday themed to the Inside Out films, if you never saw the original Cranium Command you missed out on something special. Unlike other attractions, the experience was not something that would have fully been experienced if you were to just view a video of it. 
    Until now… because the RetroWDW channel on YouTube has posted an incredible re-creation of the whole Cranium Command experience, including a CGI re-creation of the queue, the pre-show video, and through unique editing, they have managed to recreate the feel of the actual show experience as well, featuring video footage of real show performances. Check it out below to enjoy one more trip through this classic lost Disney attraction experience, including the lost performances of several well known celebrities who participated, playing the roles of the various human body functions.

    (12/29/2023) Crews are attempting to wrap up the massive construction project at Epcot that has been taking place over the past few years. The latest photos can be found at MouseSteps this week with a look at the CommuniCore Hall and CommiCore Plaza areas. Due to construction delays, these last two areas will continue to be worked on into 2024, with no estimated date of completion at this time.
    (12/24/2023) Earlier this month Epcot launched the park’s new nighttime spectacular: Luminous - The Symphony of Us. As I haven’t seen it in person, I’ve been hesitant to comment on it, as so often these mega spectacular shows need to be seen in person to really get a feel for them, as well as to judge how they made you feel while viewing. Epcot’s last attempt at a new night show (Harmonious) failed at making guests feel much at all and was quickly canceled in favor of rebooting to try something new once again.
    I said it back when they first announce that the epic “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth” show was being retired in late 2019 after a nearly 20 year run that I didn’t envy the creative team that was tasked with coming up with a suitable replacement show. Even after 20 years of performances, I still found a viewing of Reflections of Earth to be moving experience, and something that I would tell guests who had not seen it before that it was a must-see attraction. Musically… visually… and emotionally, Reflections of Earth was just a powerful experience that quite literally stood the test of time, lasting even longer than the park’s original IllumiNations show that only ran from 1988 to 1996.
    So if you want to see a great video showing of the new Luminious - The Symphony of Us show, then check out the video below from Attractions Magazine.

    (11/26/2023) When you can clear an hour from your schedule, Walt Disney World fans will enjoy watching a fantastic new production put together from Defunctland about the creation of EPCOT Center and how things went after Walt Disney announced the concept as a futuristic city of tomorrow before his death, and 16 years later the Walt Disney Company opened the EPCOT Center theme park in 1982. Truly fascinating.

    (9/10/2023) Disney has confirmed that the original Soarin’ Over California experience will return to Epcot’s Soarin’ attraction for a limited time starting on Sept. 22, 2023. If you get a chance to visit, you’ll want to see this while you can, as many enthusiasts agree that between this and the current version of Soarin’, the original California version is the superior attraction. It just seems to hit better on all the emotional notes, plus the footage is simply beautiful and stunning, and almost completely free of CGI enhancements (jumping killer whales, the CG Taj Mahal) as well as any visually jarring lens distortion like the bendy Eiffel Tower sequence.
    Fun note: There has long been a quiet movement to permanently switch the Disney California Adventure park’s version of Soarin’ back to the Soarin’ Over California film full time. Instead Disney has simply been saving it for limited encores use during special occasions at DCA and Epcot. In this case, they are bringing it back to Epcot as part of the Disney 100 Celebration.


icon_STOP???? - Test Track V3 - (6/16/2024) Just a reminder that today is the final day to ride Test Track (2.0… aka Tron Track) at Epcot before the ride is closed down for an extensive remodel. The reopening date for the next version of the ride has not been posted, but I’d expect it to be closed for the next 6 to 12 months.
    While I’m of the opinion that Test Track 2.0 was the better version, there were still elements of the original ride that I did miss as well. Solid details about what we can expect from Version 3 have not been made public, other than to say that Disney and GM will be taking inspiration from the original World of Motion ride that came before Test Track.
    (4/6/2024) An official update from Disney confirms hat the current version of Test Track at Epcot will close starting on June 17th. The news was attached to a post showing off the latest reimagined look at the attraction’s entrance plaza, ahead of the upcoming re-model of the attraction experience.
    While we don’t know exactly what to expect will be changing on the inside to create this third version of Test Track, the artwork does make it clear that the entry plaza will be cleaned up, removing the current truss-style roof over the entrance in favor of creating a smaller but more permanent looking overhang that looks to be part of the main building structure.
    The current overhang was first added when they opened the first version of Test Track and expanded / modified for the second edition. The revamped entrance for TT-V3 actually will make the entrance to the attraction look more like it did when the attraction was first built as World of Motion. The retro look is likely deliberate, as the only thing we do know about TT-V3 is that Disney Imagineers and Chevrolet were tasked to be reviewing the original World of Motion attraction for inspiration in designing this newest edition.
    It isn’t known exactly how long Test Track will remain closed at this time… but a June 17th closing is going to make things a little rough in Epcot this summer, as the crowds that normally flock to this ride won’t have anywhere else to go. We can only hope that perhaps Disney may be ready to release Guardians of the Galaxy from the shackles of the Virtual Queue dungeon.

    (9/9/2023) In what seems like a series of announcements about Epcot made at DestinationD23, Disney announced that Test Track will be reimagined once again. In the tweet it claims that Disney Imagineers are working with Chevrolet and looking back at the original World of Motion attraction for inspiration for ‘bringing that spirit of optimism to the next iteration of the attraction.” No more details, or even a timeline, were released at this time.
    This would make this the 3rd iteration of the Test Track attraction since it first opened in December 1998 as a replacement for the park’s former World of Motion attraction (1882 to 1996). While the ride layout has remained the same, the theme and presentation inside has been changes over the years, with the first version of the ride featuring a more practical and industrial factory style theme running through to early 2012.
    The second edition of Test Track opened in late 2012 and was updated to feature a more futuristic / cyberspace style design theme. The queue was revamped and new terminals to custom design your ideal vehicle were added to the pre-ride experience. As for the attraction itself, a number of themed changes were made to remove the more industrial look of the theming to one that made it appear as if you were experiencing the ride within a computer simulation.
    A popular thought is that the new “cyberspace” style theming of Version 2 of Test Track was was used as a sort of proof of concept for a number of themes and effects Walt Disney Imagineering intended to put to use on the first Tron Lightcycle Power Run coaster that they would begin working on right after Test Track to open at Shanghai Disneyland in 2016.
    Keeping that in mind, it is interesting now that Tron Lightcycle/Run has finally opened at the Magic Kingdom in 2023, that Disney Imagineers are ready to re-do Test Track once again, and this time as a possible throw-back experience to the former World of Motion attraction.



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.

2014_1008_Epcot   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.

2014_1107_NemoEpcot   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.

2014_1008_NorwayEpcot   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.



Track Record

Orlando, Florida
Walt Disney Theme Parks

Abbreviation: EC
Opened: October 1st, 1982

Prices are now “Seasonal Based” with Value, Regular and Peak Day Pricing

The park is open Year Round

Newest Attractions:
2023 - Journey of Water & Luminous - The Symphony of US
2022 - Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind

2021 - Harmonious, Space 220, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
2017 - Mission: SPACE Update and Earth Mission Added

2016 - Frozen Ever After & Soarin’ Around The World

2012 - Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure,
Test Track 2.0

2010 - Captain EO (Limited)

2009 - Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure & Sum of All Thrills

2008 - Spaceship Earth Update

2007 - The Seas with Nemo & Friends, Three Caballeros, New Canada CircleVision Film

2005 - Soarin’

2004 - Turtle Talk with Crush

2003 - Mission: Space



Copyright © 1996 - 2024 by Lance Hart &  All rights reserved.