Like a kitten that excitedly returns to its saucer to lap up mouthfuls of milk, Disney Parks fans have eagerly awaited and devoured each announcement morsel regarding the future of Epcot. Whether it was the announcement of the Guardians of the Galaxy-themed roller coaster, Epcot Forever, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, the Beauty and the Beast sing-along, the space-themed restaurant, the new signature dining in Japan, or the updated 360 films in both China and Canada, each upcoming addition has attracted attention and led to intense debate regarding the history and future of the beloved theme park.
The newest concept art release is no exception. Released on February 21, 2019, these two images ushered in a couple of surprising and unexpected announcements.
First, Epcot will be welcoming a “first-of-its-kind play pavilion.” This new innovative concept will be filling the dome formerly known as the Wonders of Life pavilion. After over sixteen years of teaching Guests about the inner workings of the human body, this pavilion officially closed its doors in 2007. While it reopened its doors each year to serve as the “Festival Center,” its interior remained relatively unchanged. Now, the Disney Parks Blog reports that this area will be “devoted to playful fun and feature an innovative city” and “the pavilion’s city will be bursting with interactive experiences, your favorite Disney characters, hand’s on activities and engaging entertainment…”
Second, the Leave A Legacy monoliths that have adorned the Epcot entrance plaza since the Millennium Celebration will be moved outside the park’s entrance, leaving room for a complete transformation of the area just inside the gates. The Disney Parks Blog noted that this revamp will include “new pathways, sweeping green spaces and a newly reimagined fountain.”
At this time, the concept art and these brief descriptions are the only pieces of information Guests have been given, and this undoubtedly leaves onlookers with many wonderings. After taking a few days to intensely contemplate both images (with zoom employed), here are the biggest questions to consider regarding the implications of these artist renderings:
1. Does this new entrance plaza bode well for the future of Epcot by giving a nod to the past?
Spend any time at all discussing Epcot on social media, and it will not take long for someone to lament the future of the park and the perceived loss of the ideals, direction and story associated with “Epcot Center.” Walt Disney was known for his belief that theme parks are not museums. In his mind Imagineers had to “keep moving forward” and that meant updates and changes, but many longtime Guests fear that, in an effort to innovate and integrate new intellectual properties popular with the masses, Epcot will lose what made it truly unique. However, the concept art depicting the new entrance plaza evidences two important nods to Epcot‘s past: the flags displaying the original Epcot Center logo and the central fountain adorned with what appears to be the same crystal sculpture present in the park’s early days. What does this mean for the park going forward? It is hard to say, but clearly, there is a desire to honor and not abandon Epcot’s history.
2. What does this mean for the Festival Center, The Odyssey and World Showplace?
With the new “play pavilion” taking over the Wonders of Life pavilion, the Festival Center no longer has a home. Activities such as The Chocolate Experience, Celebrity chef signings and demonstrations, gardening presentations, festival merchandise and much more were located in this area. Going forward, where will these offerings be found? Will they be phased out, broken up and integrated into other smaller locations. Or, will Guests see more festival activities take place in The Odyssey, or possibly World Showplace. Currently, World Showplace is used for the Party for the Senses events during the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, but perhaps that area could somehow be revamped in order to accommodate all festival activities.
3. Will the “play pavilion” include a larger attraction?
The unnamed “play pavilion’s” description sounds like it will include a number of interactive areas which is reminiscent of what was once the central area of Wonders of Life. While that pavilion was much more low-tech than what Guests can expect to see in this upcoming revamp, it sounds like this will be a similar free-roaming, open experience, perhaps even a 21st century version of the original ImageWorks (Can we have a new Rainbow Tunnel please?!). While the concept art depicts what was the main portion of Wonders of Life, the area beyond those individual facades is a mystery. Could one of them be the entrance to a larger attraction? Body Wars was located beyond the bounds of the central dome, so could a new simulator attraction be on the horizon?
4. What does this mean for the future of Innoventions?
“Hand’s on activities and engaging entertainment” sounds like it could easily serve as the description for many of the temporary attractions that have called Innoventions home over the past decade: Colortopia, SpectacuLAB, StormStruck, Sum of all Thrills. Will Innoventions cease to exist once this new pavilion opens, and if so what will become of the structures? Concept art released at D23 caused many to speculate that these buildings would be replaced with open areas or green spaces. Or with the loss of a location for the Festival Center, perhaps it could find a new home in this more centrally located area.
5. Those are not normal sized Meet and Greet characters…is that significant?
Mickey Mouse has never been depicted on screen or in real life as the size of an actual mouse; however, his “real life” size was made cannon when he was shown on-screen opposite Leopold Stokowski in Fantasia. This famous scene was later used to approximate Mickey’s size as compared to Walt Disney for the Partners Statue by Blaine Gibson. In the “play pavilion” concept art, Mickey is depicted at this same size, that of a child. Also, on the right side of the image, Nick Wilde can be found standing alongside a group of Guests, and he appears to only reach the shoulder of an adult. These are clearly not the size of typical Meet and Greet characters, so what does this mean? It may be tempting to say this was just an artistic choice; however, would Walt Disney Imagineering allow the artist to make such a choice? Mickey is prominently featured in this concept art, so it could be said that those viewing the image are supposed to notice his size and that it will be significant. In 2018, Disney filed patents for holographic figure technology that everyone assumed would be used for some type of Force Ghost effect in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Even if that is the case, a successful deployment of such technology would undoubtedly be used in other attractions.
6. Will this solve the issue of double bag check for those arriving via Monorail?
Clearly the most utilitarian question of the bunch but definitely an important one is whether or not the entrance update will impact the security situation at Epcot. Currently, Guests boarding a Monorail to Epcot from the Transportation and Ticket Center are required to go through bag check and security before boarding. Upon exiting the Monorail at Epcot, those same Guests (with bags) are ushered through security a second time. Hopefully, the revamp will allow for a funneling of these Guests directly to the tapstiles instead of having to waste time (on the part of Guests and security) with a second check.
What is your biggest question after viewing the new concept art? Are you looking forward to these changes?
(Images copyright Disney)
To learn more about Kendall and read her recent posts for the WDW Radio Blog, visit her author page by clicking the link on her name at the top of this post.