At almost 37 years old, Epcot might be a little young for a midlife crisis, but based on its impending updates, it certainly seems to be in the throes of some serious life changes. At the 2017 D23 Expo, concept art depicting the revamped Epcot was accompanied by several announcements and the following words from Bob Chapek, Chairman of Parks, Experiences and Products, “…we want to keep it true to the original vision while making it more timeless, more relevant, more family, and more Disney.”
Since that time, information regarding these enhancements has trickled out via the Disney Parks Blog and on the Walt Disney World website. In fact, there have been upwards of twenty announcements of things to come in the last two years. Some of these, such as Takumi-Tei have already been introduced, but others are still on the horizon. Here is the rundown of the 23 confirmed changes still coming to Epcot, and few unofficial ideas of things to keep an ear to the ground for at this year’s D23 Expo.
1. Entrance Plaza
The Leave a Legacy monoliths have been removed, but the changes to the Epcot entrance plaza are not yet complete. Concept art shows a revamped fountain, permanent topiaries and a number of flags bearing the original Epcot logo, all of which are still to be installed.
2. Guardians of the Galaxy Coaster
Peter Quill is making his return visit to Epcot as part of what will be one of the world’s largest indoor coasters. The unique ride system has been described on the Disney Parks Blog as, “a one-of-a-kind storytelling coaster that connects the adventure of the story with the thrills of the coaster.” This will be accomplished by making each individual car capable of being rotated and directed toward the show scenes present along the coaster track. This “awesome mix” of storytelling and technology will be launching in time for Walt Disney World‘s 50th anniversary in 2021.
3. Innoventions Exhibits
In 1994, CommuniCore closed to make way for Innoventions. Since then, interactive experiences such as Sum of All Thrills, Stormstruck, Spectaculab, The Great Piggy Bank Adventure, Tom Morrow 2.0’s Playground, and others have all come and gone. What was once two buildings filled with activities is now only two exhibits found in the east building, Colortopia and Nanooze Break. These both will close on September 8, 2019, “as part of the ongoing transformation of Epcot.” Currently, no official information is available on what will be taking the place of these structures. But the interactivity aspect of these attractions will not be lost, as #14 on this list will find engaging, high-tech play as its central theme.
4. Character Spot
Character Spot has been Epcot‘s go-to place to find characters both new and classic, including Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Joy, Sadness, Baymax, and others. As part of the yet-to-be expounded upon changes coming to the backside of Spaceship Earth, characters will be temporarily relocated to other places in the park. The use of the word “temporarily” on the Walt Disney World website may infer that a new character Meet and Greet location will be a part of this large update.
5. Electric Umbrella
Known as one of the safest places in Epcot for less-adventurous diners, the Electric Umbrella has been serving Guests for two and a half decades. The Walt Disney World website currently states that this quick-service dining location is set to close “this winter” and that “new options will be available in the future.” It does not specify whether that means new options throughout the park as a whole (see #22) or a new option in that specific location.
6. Fountain View Starbucks
Many Americans cannot start their day without a cup of coffee. For those visiting Epcot, a good morning begins at Fountain View for a Venti Frappuccino or other fresh-brewed Starbucks® offering. However, as of Fall 2019, Guests will need to seek out Starbucks® in its still-to-be-determined temporary location. The current Fountain View will be closing for a period of time as a part of the massive Future World core refurbishment.
7. Club Cool
Pour one out for the current iteration of Club Cool because the My Disney Experience app reports that the merchandise location known for its free samples of international sodas will close on September 8, 2019. It also goes on to say that it will “reopen in a new capacity at a future merchandise location.” This would seem to indicate that there will still be an opportunity for Guests to trick their unsuspecting friends into downing a glass of Beverly.
8. Art of Disney
Located near the exit for Spaceship Earth, Art of Disney has been the place in Epcot to find paintings, sericels, figurines, and other collectible pieces of Disney art since moving from its second-story location in Mouse Gear. Now, these items will be available temporarily at Heritage Manor in the American Adventure pavilion. Again, the use of the word “temporarily” on the My Disney Experience app seems to suggest that Art of Disney will reopen in Future World.
9. Fountain of Nations
Of all of the forthcoming changes Epcot will be undergoing, none has been met with more sadness than the realization that the 200 pneumatic shooters that make up the Fountain of Nations will no longer be putting on their musically synchronized show. On July 3, the official Walt Disney World Twitter account, @WDWToday, announced that the Fountain of Nations will close on September 8, 2019. Notice that it did not say “temporarily close” or “be reimagined” or use any other verbiage that would indicate that this fountain will return. Based on the aforementioned Future World concept art, it does seem that a new fountain will be found at the rear of Future World. Possibly nearer to the World Showcase entrance, but nothing has been officially announced.
10. Pin Central – Future World and The Camera Center
In the day of high-resolution cell phone cameras, a camera shop seems almost anachronistic. This small store found on the right when entering the park once sold camera film, batteries, disposable cameras, and even offered film processing. But with the decrease in demand, it will close this fall to become the new home of Pin Central – Future World. The current Pin Central location, which offers a wide variety of pins as well as Cast Member/Guest pin trading opportunities, will close as part of the re-imagining of the Future World core.
11. Mouse Gear
Known as one of Walt Disney World‘s largest merchandise locations, Mouse Gear will be temporarily relocated this winter while its current site is refurbished. It is hard to imagine what could serve as the short-term home for such a large amount of merchandise, and no official announcement has been made. With only a few substantially sized areas available outside of the work being done on the core (The Odyssey or Festival Showplace, perhaps), it would likely be safe to assume that the large amount of merchandise will either be significantly downsized or split between several locations.
12. Awesome Planet
In April of 2018, Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable closed in The Land pavilion and was left to serve as a Cast Member training area. Now, it has been announced that a new film will be joining The Land. The Disney Parks Blog reports that Awesome Planet will feature “spectacular nature photography, immersive in-theater effects, and space sequences created by none other than Industrial Light & Magic (which provided the cinematic foundation for the Star Wars franchise).” The opening date for this film has not been announced.
13. Space Restaurant
Originally announced at the 2017 D23 Expo, this unnamed space-themed restaurant will be located between Mission: SPACE and Test Track. It will be operated by the Patina Group, which is responsible for other Walt Disney World dining locations such as Via Napoli, Tutto Italia, Morimoto Asia and Maria and Enzo’s Ristorante. Menu details have been relatively vague to date. But it has been mentioned that it will have internationally-inspired cuisine as well as over 1,000 bottles of wine from across the globe and several craft beers. It has been announced that this new dining opportunity will open sometime later this year.
14. Play Pavilion
This past February brought a surprise announcement. Epcot will see the transformation of the former Wonders of Life pavilion/Festival Center into an entirely new pavilion focused on the concepts of interactivity and play. Currently given the generic moniker “play pavilion,” the interior space will depict a city “bursting with interactive experiences, your favorite Disney characters, hands-on activities, and engaging entertainment.” Little information has been released as to the exact attractions or activities that will be present inside, and the concept art provoked more questions than answers for many. It has been announced that the pavilion will open in time for Walt Disney World‘s golden anniversary.
15. Epcot Forever
With so many changes going on in Epcot, it is good to know that some beloved originals are making a comeback, even if only for a short time. On September 30, 2019, Guests will say a tear-filled goodbye to IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. Then on October 1, 2019 (Epcot‘s 37th anniversary), they will welcome Epcot Forever. This nighttime spectacular will feature a musical score by composer Don Harper who has created new arrangements of Epcot‘s classic songs specifically for this show. Fireworks, lighting, lasers, kites, and jet skis will all accompany these fan-favorite tunes.
16. New Nighttime Show
Epcot Forever will not be around forever, as an all new nighttime show will grace the World Showcase Lagoon in 2020. This unnamed nighttime spectacular will focus on the ways in which Disney music inspires individuals across boundaries and cultures. It will incorporate large floating sets, LED screens, fountains, lights, fireworks, lasers and more. The debut date for this new show has not been released yet.
17. Skyliner Station
The International Gateway station of the Disney Skyliner will open with the rest of the transportation system on September 29, 2019. This will connect Epcot via the gondola system directly to Disney’s Riviera Resort, and by extension to Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Pop Century Resort and Disney’s Art of Animation Resort.
18. Canada Film
The Canada pavilion’s O’ Canada! 360-degree film will be receiving its first update since 2007 when Martin Short was made its narrator. Whether or not the new film will feature the comedian or its theme song, “Canada (You’re a Lifetime Journey)” is unknown, and no premiere date has been given.
19. Beauty and the Beast Sing-along
The live-action Beauty and the Beast released in 2017 features a number of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman songs made popular by the animated classic. These will be the focus of the new sing-along show that will be sharing a theater with Impressions de France. The Beauty and the Beast sing-along is being created by Don Hahn who served as producer of both the live-action and animated versions. To date, no information has been given as to how the new show’s schedule and that of Impressions de France will co-exist. But it is expected that this addition will be in place in time for Walt Disney World‘s 50th anniversary.
20. Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
Announced at the 2017 D23 Expo, this new attraction will be located in an expanded France pavilion. Much like its Walt Disney Studios Park (Disneyland Paris) predecessor, it will be a trackless, indoor adventure where Guests will feel as if they are scurrying across Gusteau’s kitchen just as Remy did in Pixar’s Ratatouille. This attraction will make its debut in 2021.
21. Authentic Crêperie
As a part of the expansion of Epcot’s France pavilion, the locale around Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure will be home to an authentic crêperie from Chef Jerome Bocuse, who is responsible for the fine dining found at both Chefs de France and Monsieur Paul. This new area will offer a table service and a quick-service location serving up savory crepes (known as galettes) and sweet crepes. While neither establishment has a name yet, it has been announced that both will be open in time for Walt Disney World‘s 50th anniversary.
22. Regal Eagle
The American Adventure pavilion is ready to welcome a new quick-service dining location. On July 8, the Liberty Inn closed to make way for the Regal Eagle Smokehouse: Craft Drafts and Barbecue, which will feature a large smoker, craft brews on tap, and a new patio for outdoor seating. So far, no opening date has been announced.
23. China Film
The 360-degree Reflections of China film was released in 2003, and it will be receiving an update soon. The Disney Parks Blog reports that the all-new Circle-Vision film will be shot with a “next-generation digital camera system” allowing for an entirely seamless show. This revamped attraction has not yet been given an opening date.
Look to the Horizon
Disney has officially announced each of the 23 changes above. With the D23 Expo just a short way off, Epcot devotees cannot help but ponder what other revelations may be in store. With everything listed above, it is hard to imagine that time, budget, and space would allow for even more refurbishments or additions. However, considering that many of the items on this list were closures to prepare for updates to the center of Future World, it can be expected that the D23 Expo will offer some insights as to what will be replacing those shuttered locations. While announcements regarding Future World‘s nucleus are a safe bet, it is fun to ponder what other ever-so-slightly more outlandish commitments could be made…
- It has long been believed that the Imagination pavilion is ripe for an update. While the Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival was initially seen by many as a placeholder attraction, it has been in place for four years. Will this 4-D theater and Epcot‘s original character Figment see an update or possibly a complete replacement?
- Disney has confirmed via @WDWToday that the Seas with Nemo and Friends and The Land pavilions will not be closing. But their proclamation left an opening for the attractions within the pavilions to be either refurbished or replaced. Awesome Planet has been confirmed, but will there be changes made to Living with the Land?
- Rumors are circling Spaceship Earth like a flock of turkey vultures. While the Epcot classic most certainly does not deserve to be tossed aside like roadkill, it could definitely benefit from an update. In fact, buzz regarding a refurbished first act and an overhauled second act was so prevalent earlier this year that many Epcot fans believed it was official.
- What does the future hold for the Odyssey Center? It seems likely that any transformations of this opening day location will be tied to whatever takes place in the center of Future World. Will it be transformed into a festival center, serve as host for special events, become a DVC Member Lounge, or be revived as a restaurant?
- The list of potential World Showcase pavilions includes a spectrum of countries which were either halted in development all the way to those that barely saw the drawing board. Could the Expo bring an announcement of an exotic locale such as Brazil, Spain, or India?
- Even if an entire pavilion is not added to the rear of Epcot, that does not necessarily mean that World Showcase will walk away empty-handed. Could Gran Fiesta Tour see a Coco overlay?
Which of these Epcot changes are you most excited about? Which rumor do you hope will turn out to be true? Is there any experience in Epcot you hope remains unchanged? Share your thoughts on the WDW Radio Box People Facebook Page, or in the comments below!
To learn more about Kendall Foreman and read her other posts on the WDW Radio Blog, visit her author page.
(Lead photo from the personal collection of Maureen Petrone. All other images copyright Disney.)