Epcot at Walt Disney World Resort is currently undergoing what Disney Parks Chairman Bob Chapek described at the D23 Expo on Sunday as the “biggest transformation of any park that we’ve ever accomplished.”
The park will be getting an entirely reinvented core, new “neighborhood” designations for separate lands, new shows and experiences, and more. Let’s dive into all of the Epcot announcements made over the weekend, as well as some of the rumors and opening dates for each of these additions.
New Logo, Branding, and Neigborhoods
During Friday’s media preview for the D23 Expo 2019, a new logo was revealed for Epcot, as well as new icons for each of the park’s attractions and pavilions. The new logo is reminiscent of the original EPCOT Center logo, but with some minor, curvier modifications. The attraction icons not only include classic icons like those for Imagination and Living Seas, but new ones for additional experiences that have yet to open. While the icons were revealed (and limited edition pin sets were sold at the event,) they did not actually address them during the panel presentation.
One of the biggest changes coming to Epcot will be the introduction of “neighborhoods.” The “World Showcase” name will remain, but the term “Future World” is being dropped in favor of three new separate neighborhoods instead. These lands will essentially be new names for what used to be called Future World East, Communicore/Innoventions, and Future World West.
Joining World Showcase, the other three neighborhoods will be World Discovery, World Celebration, and World Nature. As you can see in the map above, World Discovery will contain rides like Mission: Space and Test Track, along with the new Guardians of the Galaxy roller coaster and Play! pavilion. World Nature will include The Living Seas with Nemo and Friends, The Land, and an all new Journey of Water garden attraction. World Celebration will be everything in the middle of the former Future World area, and includes the entry area, Spaceship Earth, and a new massive festival center structure.
Let’s take a walk through each of the four neighborhoods and talk about all of the new experiences and changes we can expect to be added in the coming years.
Disney says: “World Celebration will offer new experiences that connect us to one another and the world around us.” The removal of the Leave a Legacy stones, and the return of a fountain that is reminiscent of the original EPCOT Center fountain, were things that were previously announced earlier this year. One of the first new announcements for this area of the park on Sunday was for upcoming changes on the way for Spaceship Earth.
The ride will remain a “story through time,” however the theme of the attraction will (once again) be shifting. This time the theme for the ride will be focused on the power of storytelling, (replacing the current theme of inventing the future). Not many details were confirmed during the presentation, but we do know that the ride will receive an entirely new narration and a new musical score.
One of the new aspects of the updated version will be a magical “story light” that will guide us on our journey through the attraction. Some vague concept art shown during the presentation seemed to make it look like this could be achieved through projection mapped effects that soar across each scene as we move through them. Projection effects have been long rumored to be added to the attraction during its next refurbishment.
No other details were given, including a closing and reopening date for the ride’s re-do. Rumors have the first half of the attraction staying mostly intact, as has been the case in previous updates. Usually only minor changes happen from the first scene until the last third of the ride. Rumor has it this iteration will change everything from the invention of the printing press on, moving away from inventions and communication, and instead somehow focusing on storytelling. We will cover more rumors and news on this project in the coming years.
Dreamers Point, Hub, and New Festival Pavilion
After exiting Spaceship Earth you will enter a newly redesigned area called Dreamers Point. This area will feature a new statue “celebrating the legacy of the original dreamer, Walt Disney.” It will also include natural environments and unique elements including a wishing tree and a story fountain.
Making our way further into the center of World Celebration, a new pavilion will be built on our right, just before World Showcase. This large three-level structure will be the official home base for Epcot’s many festivals throughout the year. It will feature a unique design made up of a plaza level on the ground, a middle expo level, and a park that sits on the top level. The garden park level will also be utilized as a special viewing area for the nighttime shows over the lagoon each night.
Heading to the right after leaving the center of World Celebration, we enter the World Nature neighborhood. This area is “dedicated to understanding and preserving the beauty, awe and balance of the natural world.” It will include the existing pavilions: The Land and The Seas with Nemo & Friends.
A new addition for World Nature will be Journey of Water, Inspired by “Moana,” an exploration trail and garden area leading from World Celebration to an area in front of The Living Seas. This walk-through outdoor attraction will invite you to play with “magical, living water.” Disney claims that the “water will have a life of its own – just like Moana’s friend, the ocean – and you’ll learn about the importance of the natural water cycle.”
We also learned that previously announced Awesome Planet film replacing the former Circle of Life movie at The Land pavilion will debut in January 2020.
On the opposite side of the park, World Discovery is filled with “stories about science, technology and intergalactic adventure come to life” This is home to attractions like Mission: Space and Test Track, along with a couple new attractions set to open by 2021.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind
The Guardians of the Galaxy roller coaster attraction finally has an official name. Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind will be what Disney is calling Epcot’s first “other-world” showcase pavilion. Before we board the coaster, the attraction will start in the “Galaxarium,” a planetarium-like exhibition that explores the similarities and mysteries of the formation of Earth’s galaxy and Xandar.
During our exhibition about Xandar, the Guardians of the Galaxy arrive, and adventures across the cosmos ensue. This ride will feature Disney’s first backwards launched coaster. The coaster train vehicles will be able to rotate 360 degrees to focus your attention on the action throughout the ride. An opening date for the coaster was not given, but it is expected to open some time in 2021.
As we have previously reported here, the official name for the new space restaurant being built at the Mission: Space pavilion is “Space 220.” It gets that name because the restaurant is supposedly orbiting Epcot at 220 miles above the Earth’s surface.
To access the restaurant, guests will first need to board a special space elevator. Along the way, viewports (screens) will give you a real-time perspective as you travel high above the planet. Once aboard, guests will dine with out-of-this-world views.
Space 220 is scheduled to open this winter, and will be run by the Patina Restaurant Group. They are responsible for several other restaurants throughout Walt Disney World, including Tutto Italia and Via Napoli at Epcot and Morimoto Asia and Maria & Enzo’s Ristorante at Disney Springs.
PLAY! is taking over the former Wonders of Life pavilion, a space that had been utilized as the Festival Center in recent years. Themed as a digital metropolis, this multi-purpose space will feature hands-on activities for kids, character meet and greets, and small-scale shows featuring beloved Disney characters.
During the presentation it was announced that guests will have the chance to help legendary fashion icon Edna Mode on her quest to rid the world of uninspired style, and make a splash competing in a water-balloon fight hosted by Huey, Dewey, Louie and Webby. The PLAY! pavilion is set to open sometime in 2021 at the latest, in time for Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary.
Updates to shows, a new attraction, and some opening date confirmations were announced for World Showcase during the presentation. Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, the new ride coming to the France pavilion has been confirmed for a summer 2020 opening.
Summer 2020 will also see the debut of a new restaurant in the France pavilion, La Crêperie de Paris, offering both table and quick-service options featuring a menu from celebrity chef Jérôme Bocuse. This will be located in the same area where the new ride will be found, behind the current pavilion.
Also in the France pavilion, the classic Impressions de France film will be joined by the new “Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along,” debuting in January 2020 and directed by Don Hahn, producer of both the animated and live-action versions of the Disney classic. The new sing-along show will alternate throughout the day with the original Impressions de France film.
Updated Circle-Vision Shows
Both of World Showcase’s Circle-Vision shows are being updated. The first to open will be for the Canada pavilion. ‘O Canada is being replaced with “Canada Far and Wide in Circle-Vision 360,” which will be opening in January 2020. The show will feature new scenes and a new story.
In the China pavilion, “Wondrous China” will take guests on an all-new journey across the country, filmed and presented in a completely seamless 360-degree digital format. This will mark a first for the Disney produced Circle-Vision films. An opening date for Wondrous China was not announced.
Attraction Inspired by Mary Poppins
One of the biggest announcements from this weekend’s event, was for an addition to the United Kingdom pavilion in World Showcase. This recreation of Cherry Tree Lane from the Mary Poppins films will allow guests to step into the fantastical world of Mary Poppins.
An opening date and details were not revealed, other than this ominous line: “You will step in time down Cherry Tree Lane past Admiral Boom’s house, then enter Number 17, home of the Banks family, where your adventure will begin.” The vagueness of the description has led many to wonder if the “attraction” will merely be an enhanced meet and greet experience, similar to that of Enchanted Tales with Belle at Magic Kingdom. We will follow this attraction as more rumors or information is released, so stay tuned.
The long-running IllumiNations show will be ending on September 30, 2019. Beginning on October 1st, Epcot Forever will take over. This limited-run interim show will celebrate the colorful history of Epcot and EPCOT Center. Featuring music and characters from classic and current attractions, as well as special effects and pyrotechnics, Epcot Forever will be “a celebration of what Epcot has been and what Epcot is going to become.”
In 2020, following the limited-time run of Epcot Forever, the new “HarmonioUS” show will debut as the largest nighttime spectacular ever created for any Disney park. It will celebrate how the music of Disney inspires people around the world. It will feature familiar Disney tunes reinterpreted by a diverse group of artists from around the globe. HarmonioUS will include massive floating set pieces, custom-built LED panels, choreographed moving fountains, lights, pyrotechnics, lasers and more.
Walt Disney Imagineering presents the Epcot Experience
Guests will be able to get a closer look at all of these projects and more when the new Epcot Experience opens on October 1, 2019 in the Odyssey Events Pavilion. Here you’ll find interactive exhibits showcasing the “innovation, energy and excitement driving the park’s future throughout this unprecedented period of transformation.” We should expect to see a model of some of these changes, along with concept art and photo op dioramas that make it look like you’re in an attraction that hasn’t yet opened.
Stay tuned for more news and rumors on all of these projects as they happen! With so many new things coming to Epcot and Walt Disney World between now and the end of 2021, it has never been a better time to plan your next Orlando vacation!
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