Three years after announcing sweeping changes for EPCOT’s grand transformation back in 2019, Disney is finally revealing how some areas of the updated park will actually look. A worldwide pandemic later, and some things have changed, some things have been quietly forgotten, and some things have been completed.
Let’s take a look back and a look forward at how the massive transition from Epcot to EPCOT has changed in the last few years, and where we think the company stands on some of those forgotten additions.
One of the biggest changes EPCOT saw in recent years was the creation of new “neighborhood” designations for separate lands within the front half of the park. Future World East, Communicore/Innoventions, and Future World West are now known as World Discovery, World Celebration, and World Nature, to better go along with the existing World Showcase.
With Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind officially opening at the end of this month, World Discovery will see its second new addition since the announcement. The restaurant attached to Mission: Space called Space 220 opened last year. However, no new details on the announced PLAY! Pavilion have been revealed, which was to replace the former Wonders of Life building.
Over in World Nature, not much has happened since the announcement, but they are building the Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana walk-through attraction. That will lead guests between World Celebration, behind Spaceship Earth, and World Nature, near The Seas with Nemo and Friends.
Disney describes Journey of Water as a “lush exploration trail that will invite guests to meet and play with magical, living water. Just like Moana’s friend the ocean, water will have a personality of its own, helping guests learn how to protect the natural water cycle in a fun and engaging way.”
World Showcase saw the opening of Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure last year in the France Pavilion, plus a Beauty and the Beast sing-along before that, and a new film for Canada’s 360 theater. World Showcase lagoon also saw the debut of the nighttime show Harmonious in 2021 as part of the resort’s 50th anniversary celebration.
A new CircleVision show for China was announced in 2019, but never opened. And of course, the biggest omission from World Showcase’s announced plans was an expansion to the United Kingdom pavilion based on Mary Poppins. Many believe this project has been canceled outright, but with Disney, ideas never really die, so it could be brought back years from now for all we know.
The park’s entry courtyard was revamped, as promised, bringing back greenery and the iconic fountain with prism pylons. The Leave a Legacy stones were removed, but participants in the program can still find their etched images on colorful walls situated just outside the park.
Now, the biggest change to the overall shape of the park was promised for the central hub of the area formerly known as Future World. Now known as World Celebration. this area from Spaceship Earth to the World Showcase lagoon has been completely reimagined. (And then somewhat reimagined again.)
Directly behind Spaceship Earth, will be a small section of World Celebration named Dreamer’s Point. Here is where a new statue of Walt Disney himself will sit, looking over all of EPCOT.
Dreamer’s Point’s plans had to be altered, and some elements that were previously announced may not be missing, including something called a “wishing tree.” This is because the planned Spaceship Earth update has been postponed indefinitely. As part of those plans, the ride’s post show area was going to be partially removed, allowing for more space behind the building.
The center of the new World Celebration area appears to be covered in trees (although it’s still mostly dirt at this time). Disney says this area will be divided into several different gardens, with a central planter based on the five-ring EPCOT logo. “Each of these gardens will have their own identities, and they’ll change along with the festivals throughout the year.”
To the east are two of the original CommuniCore buildings that have been retained, and restored to look closer to their classic appearance, at least on the outside.
Connections Cafe and Connections Eatery recently opened on this side of the area. Featuring a large Starbucks with plenty of inside seating, and a new quick service location with gorgeous picture window views overlooking World Discovery, the Connections dining areas replaced Electric Umbrella and the former Innoventions East.
Next door to Connections you can find a completely redesigned main gift shop for EPCOT, now named Creations Shop. This former location of MouseGear offers an open floor plan design, making it much easier to navigate. Plus, big picture windows will (eventually) overlook the garden areas at the center of World Celebration.
And that leaves one more area in World Celebration, the proposed Festival Center. Originally announced as a three-story multi-purpose structure, this area’s concept art has been drastically revised as of today. Originally designed to feature a garden area with nighttime show viewing area atop its roof, the new version looks dramatically flatter.
The map shown to media today at Walt Disney World, seen above, seems to show this new festival area as containing a Mickey and Friends meet and greet area (just like the one that was torn down with the rest of the Comminicore West structure), as well as something called “Comminicore Hall.”
The Map and new official concept art also shows a purpose-built stage area that can be used for entertainment during events and festivals. The area named “CommuniCore Hall” will also be utilized as a multi-use space for festivals. Disney says the entire festival area will be officially named “CommuniCore Plaza.”
While the larger, multi-story Festival Center may have been swapped out for these new plans, at least the park is going to build something here, after demolishing this side of EPCOT’s central spine.
Even though there has been no word on some announced projects, like the Mary Poppins attraction for World Showcase, the company has mentioned the PLAY! Pavilion in recent years. It is even still listed as “coming soon” on EPCOT park maps.
The same cannot be said for the large Spaceship Earth update however. Named “Our Shared Story,” the new version of this classic attraction would have saw a new “storylight” story telling device, that would travel through time with us, connecting our shared human experiences with one another.
According to rumors, nearly the entire second half of the Spaceship Earth attraction would have seen major changes, and the entire ride would have seen new narration, special effects, and music. You can learn more about what this update would have entailed in our previous story, or the video below.
Regardless of what may have changed from its initial announcement at D23 Expo in 2019, when all of the final changes are complete, this will still be, as Bob Chapek said in 2019, the “biggest transformation of any park that we’ve ever accomplished.”
That’s all for now, but if you’d like to take a bit of the parks home, Souvenir Scents offer candles and wax melts inspired by theme park attractions like the Burning Rome scent on Spaceship Earth, the baking bread smell on Ratatouille, and all the scents on Soarin’. Use promo code PARKSTOP to save 15% every order at SouvenirScents.com.
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