Written by Matthew Krul, June 13, 2019
At D23 Expo 2017, held at the Anaheim Convention Center near the Disneyland Resort in California, Bob Chapek, Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Consumer Products, announced several changes and additions coming to Epcot at the Walt Disney World Resort as part of a multi-year overhaul of this nearly 40-year-old theme park. With Imagineer Tom Fitzgerald leading the park-wide overhaul, Chapek classified Epcot’s changes as “more timeless, more relevant, more family, and more Disney”.
As of June 2019, we have already heard about several confirmed updates:
- Epcot’s first roller coaster, which will be based on the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, is under construction (replacing the Universe of Energy pavilion in Future World) and is expected to open in time for Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary celebration in 2021.
- Leave a Legacy, the monuments at the front of Epcot, are being moved further outside the park to provide a more open entrance experience.
- A new space-themed restaurant, operated by Patina Restaurant Group, will be opening adjacent to Mission: Space.
- Spaceship Earth will close by early 2020 to make way for its largest refurbishment ever, which is expected to take at least 2 years to complete. The scenes up through the industrial revolution are expected to remain mostly the same, but the second half of the ride is projected to get a major overhaul, and I’d expect other incremental changes, including a new narrator (currently Dame Judi Dench).
- Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, a copy of the Ratatouille trackless dark ride at Disneyland Paris, is under construction as part of a France pavilion expansion at World Showcase and is expected to open in 2021. The France pavilion will also add a Beauty and the Beast sing-along in the Impressions de France theater, although the classic film through the French countryside is expected to continue as well.
- Reflections of China, a 360 CircleVision movie at the China pavilion, will get its first refresh in over two decades.
- O Canada!, another 360 CircleVision movie at Epcot, will get an update (last updated in 2007).
- The Wonders of Life pavilion, which originally held attractions like Body Wars and Cranium Command before changing to a seasonal Epcot Festival Center, is transforming into the Play Pavilion, which will feature interactive games, hands-on activities, character meets, and other entertainment options for the whole family.
- IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth will see its last showing on September 30, 2019 as the Imagineers work to develop a new nighttime experience for Epcot. For a limited time starting October 1, 2019, Guests can experience Epcot Forever, a fireworks spectacular dedicated to the classic attractions of Epcot.
With D23 Expo 2019 quickly approaching (August 20-25), I’m sure we can expect many more announcements regarding the future of Epcot, although I imagine Disney will have more updates in store beyond the event. Given Chapek’s classification of Epcot’s future (“more timeless, more relevant, more family, and more Disney”), it seems likely that the Imagineers are hard at work planning many more changes for Epcot.
While nobody except the Imagineers and Disney’s executives know for sure what Epcot will look like in the next decade, I have a few predictions for what we might find at Epcot by the year 2025.
(DISCLAIMER: all of these ideas are purely speculative and are my own opinions. None of these ideas are confirmed or even rumored at this point, and I have no insider knowledge about the future of Epcot.)
- Imagination pavilion overhaul: ever since the original Journey Into Imagination attraction was replaced, wait times for this attraction have remained (on average) at 10 minutes or shorter. In addition, the Disney Pixar Short Film Festival was pitched as a temporary 4D film, and ImageWorks has become mostly a walkthrough post-show experience. While I don’t know for sure what would make sense in its place, it seems likely that the Imagination pavilion will see some significant changes by 2025. I only hope the pavilion’s lovable mascot, Figment remains with us for the foreseeable future, and perhaps Tom Fitzgerald’s team will even bring back the Dream Finder in some shape or form.
- Innoventions refresh: if you walk through Innoventions these days, you’ll find only a few experiences remain, but the once busy pair of pavilions (Innoventions East and Innoventions West) is now mostly vacant. Innoventions takes up a large piece of Future World, so I expect the Imagineers will want to create new experiences in this space. I could also see them shrinking the pavilions slightly to allow for additional horticulture and Guest flow.
- Soarin’ entrance: this one is the farthest stretch but is aligned with similar projects at Disney, like Project Stardust, aimed at improving Guest flow. Anyone who has visited Epcot during the busiest days of the year in particular knows how difficult it can be to get to the entrance of Soarin’. The escalators and narrow walkways down to the first floor of the Land pavilion can make for a claustrophobic experience entering and exiting the attraction. With the new e-ticket attractions coming to Epcot (and thus the increased attendance), I expect the Imagineers will need to expand the walkways to some of Epcot’s more popular attractions. I strongly believe the Land pavilion will remain safe (Living with the Land, Garden Grill, and Sunshine Seasons will likely stick with us), but I could see Soarin’s entrance being rerouted in some way, perhaps up to the second floor of the Land, to improve flow.
- New World Showcase pavilion: I’ll admit I’ve heard this rumor for more than a decade, and there has been no movement on the matter since, nor have there been any further announcements about the subject. Still, I believe now is the time for Disney to announce a 12th pavilion for World Showcase. While I’m not completely sure what country Disney might add, I predict that with Chapek at the helm we’ll see a country that inspired a Disney franchise or two. If I were forced to guess, my top prediction would be India. The architecture, cuisine, and shopping would add a completely new element to World Showcase; the population of India is the second largest in the world (behind China, which is already represented); and applicable Disney franchises include the Jungle Book and Indiana Jones, which is expected to see its fifth installment in the next few years.
What do you expect to see at Epcot by the year 2025? If you were a part of Walt Disney Imagineering, what changes or additions would you make to this park?