After years of leaks, hints, and piecemeal steps, Disney has finally revealed plans for the multi-year update in store for Epcot. In 2016, at a Destination D event, Bob Chapek, the Chairman of Parks, Experiences and Products, announced a "major transformation" to WDW's second theme park, Epcot. The following year at the 2017 D23 Expo, a piece of concept art for a reimagined Future World quickly flashed onto a large screen during the Parks and Resorts panel. The panel also announced Ratatouille and Guardians of the Galaxy rides, but the Future World updates were only mentioned in passing. Despite the two major new attractions, it was still unclear what the overarching project for Epcot would entail. Now we know.
Leading up to this past weekend's D23 Expo, the Disney Parks Blog has been steadily posting small details regarding the transformation while Disney fan sites have been running wild with speculation and supposed 'leaks' regarding the plans. With a new tagline, "The Magic of Possibility," Disney is shifting WDW's 2nd theme park into something that Chapek calls "more Disney, more family, and more timeless." The park also unveiled a new logo.
The entrance plaza will get a transformation, replacing the tombstone-like "Leave a Legacy" courtyard with a piazza reminiscent of the park's original 1982 plaza, including an updated version of the original fountain in front of Spaceship Earth. World Showcase will remain mostly intact, but Future World has now been split into three separate "lands," with Future World East being known as World Discovery, the central spine area becoming World Celebration, and Future World West now known as World Nature.
As was expected in 2016, the central 'spine,' now known as World Celebration, will be radically altered with the west side buildings being completely demolished. On the east side, Mouse Gears, the park's primary gift shop, and Electric Umbrella, a child-friendly fast-food restaurant near the park's entrance, will both be remodeled, and possibly renamed, but their current locations will remain. The 1980s-designed business-park-inspired current version of Future World will make way for a lush, park-like central corridor. Spaceship Earth's storyline will shift from one focused on technology to that of stories that unite humanity from our earliest times through today. A "story light" will link the attraction to a nearby Dreamer's Point where guests exit. Dreamer's Point will include Epcot's first statue of Walt Disney, and the first statue in a Disney park of Walt Disney sitting down.
Towards the end of the central World Celebration land, connected to Spaceship Earth via a "light trail," will be a modern looking, multi-level Festival Center building with a shaded ground-level plaza, a glass-enclosed "expo level" that will host festival events in a space designed for live events, and a rooftop garden where firework viewings will be offered, likely via the various up-charge dessert parties. It should also be noted that, while previously in the previous Future World West area, the Imagination pavilion will now be found in the World Celebration area. During the presentation, the Imagination pavilion's Figment character was mentioned, but no details regarding the attraction's future were shared.
In the former Future World East, the Guardians of the Galaxy thrill ride, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, is well underway, as is the Space-themed restaurant, Space 220, that is connected to the Mission: Space pavilion. Space 220 will open this winter. With a backward launch and spinning ride vehicles, the Guardians of the Galaxy ride will be the most thrill focused ride in Epcot's history.
In February, a new Play pavilion was confirmed for the former Wonders of Life pavilion. This updated version of the previous Innoventions attraction will be the first new Future World pavilion since Mission: Space opened in 2003. Multiple smaller, Innoventions style attractions will be found in the Play pavilion including a touchscreen-based design-focused attraction hosted by Edna Mode and a screen-based Disney Ducks attraction. The Play Pavilion will open by the WDW 50th Anniversary in 2021.
Nature World will house The Living Seas and The Land pavilion. Already a chief focus throughout the park, water will take on an even more paramount role thanks to a new "Moana inspired" attraction, Journey of Water, that will tie Nature World and Celebration World together. This walkthrough attraction will mix waterfalls, dancing fountains, and jumping water, all of which have previously been used at Epcot, in a new uniform attraction. A previously announced film, Awesome Planet, will open in January in The Land.
World Showcase will be getting plenty of attention as well. Canada's new film, "Canada Far and Wide," opening next year. China will see a new seamless 360-degree film, "Wondrous China," and France will see the Ratatouille expansion that includes the new trackless dark ride, a new Beauty and the Beast singalong, and a new restaurant, La Crêperie de Paris, that will offer both counter and table service. All of the France offerings will open by summer 2020.
Over in the U.K. pavilion, the on-again, off-again long-rumored Mary Poppins attraction was confirmed. While the details on what the attraction will entail were scarce, the Disney Parks Blog explained that the "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."
A new permanent nighttime show will replace Illuminations, which will have its final showing on September 30, beginning in 2020. Known as "HarmonioUS," the new show will celebrate how music connects humanity. Billed as the largest nighttime spectacular ever done by Disney, the show will join the fireworks and lasers that Epcot is known for with "massive floating set pieces, custom-built LED panels, choreographed moving fountains" in a Disney music-focused show. Prior to HarmonioUS, Epcot will host a temporary nighttime show, Epcot Forever, that will focus on Epcot's history and original musical scores.
HarmonioUS isn't the only place guests will hear newly imagined music. An all-new anthem for the park is being created by Pinar Toprak, known for his work on Fortnite and Captain Marvel. With all of the projects in the works for Epcot, guests can follow along with the transformation via a new "Walt Disney Imagineering presents the Epcot Experience" center in the former Odyssey restaurant. This temporary museum will include models, videos, and interactive exhibits that help showcase the story of Epcot from Walt's original vision to the future projects now in the works for it.
While not shared by Disney, the multi-year transformation of Epcot is expected to cost well above a billion dollars, the cost of the now-open Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge land at Hollywood Studios. Not mentioned at the Expo was the rumored new Brazil pavilion that many expect to be in the works for World Showcase. Neither were the updates thought to be in the works for The Seas, Mexico's boat ride, the Imagination pavilion, and the rumored entrance hotel. It's unclear if these projects have all been canceled or are being held off until a future phase. Most of the larger projects at Epcot will be ready for WDW's 50th Anniversary in 2021 but the full transformation of the park, the largest reimagining ever for a Disney park, is expected to take at least an additional three to five years. It's expected that the full multi-phase project will be finished by the mid to late 2020s, just in time for Epcot's 50th Anniversary in 2032.
Stay on top of Tampa Bay news and views. Sign up for our weekly newsletters.