There’s a vast array of changes afoot at Epcot at Walt Disney World in Florida. The third-most visited theme park worldwide, Epcot was initially imagined as a utopian city with cutting edge technology – and the latter is certainly still true.
One of the changes at Epcot is a new Guardians of the Galaxy attraction to be added to Future World. According to Bob Chapek, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, the ride will be a large indoor roller coaster, one designed as a family attraction. It won't open until 2021; the long construction and design time has undergone some criticism, with other new rides on a much faster track at Disney. By 2021, the last in the Guardians of the Galaxy film trilogy will be complete; the story-line for the coaster will be unique from the films, a concept developed by Walt Disney Imagineering. That concept is likely to build on Epcot’s mission of inspiring optimism.
Along with the new roller coaster, the new Ratatouille ride, and a new film in the China area, Epcot will see changes such as a redesigned entrance area, and a new Future World pavilion, among other changes and additions. They’ll all happen before Walt Disney World’s 2021 50th Anniversary.
One change will be a shift in the location of the Epcot parking lot to the east with the western side of the lot being replaced with an 84-acre lake and new buildings that appear to be a long-discussed entrance hotel behind the Living Seas pavilion.
The Wonders of Life pavilion will no longer be used as the location for a festival center. Instead, it will transform, being rebranded as the Play pavilion. While the name may not yet be official, the design idea is: it will look like an innovative indoor city that’ll come to life with interactive experiences. Those experiences will include Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse, along with a variety of characters from iconic films such as Inside Out, Zootopia, the Aristocats, Sleeping Beauty, Peter Pan and Frozen.
The Play Pavilion’s futuristic city design will have a child-friendly area filled with activities, activations, and character appearances. Renderings of this area indicate a vibe and look that recalls the Oh My Disney area viewed in Ralph Breaks the Internet, based around colorful building exteriors. While no correlation to that film and the pavilion have been made, anything may be possible.
According to Zach Riddley, portfolio executive at Walt Disney Imagineering “This innovative, new pavilion is beyond anything we’ve ever created and is completely unique to Epcot. Built on the power of play, it introduces an immersive and interactive ‘city’ where you can explore, create, and interact with some of your favorite Disney characters.” He terms it a signature example of Epcot’s upcoming “transformation.”
And speaking of that transformation, the entrance to Epcot itself is being redesigned. The Leave a Legacy metal wall displays are being removed, and new walkways are being introduced. The Leave a Legacy displays will be moved outside the front gates of Epcot, but without the massive granite slabs that now hold the display. Removing the slabs should allow more space and a more modern feel while maintaining the iconic imagery of the displays.
At the new entrance, there will be a restored fountain and a design that will feature the Walt Disney World monorail system as well as Spaceship Earth. The fountain-filled area that stretches between Spaceship Earth and the World Showcase, is also planned for redevelopment.
The redesign of the main entrance plaza is just in time for the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World, and its design will pay homage to the original park entrance.
The former Odyssey restaurant location will become an Experience Center – at least semi-permanently, to showcase the many changes to Epcot occurring over the next five-year period.
Another big change is marked at Future World East, where Ellen’s Energy Adventure was closed in 2017, in preparation for the new Guardians of the Galaxy indoor roller coaster. There will also be a space-themed, but as yet unnamed restaurant near Mission: Space. Reportedly, the restaurant will include special viewing windows that provide a simulated look at the galaxy itself, creating the illusion that diners will be soaring above the earth while they eat.
The combination of these two major changes should make what will be a completely transformed area of the park by 2021, and one that will be good company for Mission Space with its simulated Mars shuttle experience. The immersive interactive ride allows guests inside four person pods to collaborate, assimilating the roles of an intergalactic space launch team including hypersleep. There’s a tame version and then there’s the Orange Team with its G-force thrills, depending on riders’ inclination.
The Central Hub of Future World should also see changes, with the potential removal of buildings such as Club Cool, Mouse Gears, and Innoventions. Details have not been forthcoming about these proposed changes, however.
And in yet another change, Illuminations: Reflections of Earth, the long-running nighttime show at Epcot, will come to a close in 2019, with a big evening fireworks spectacle using vintage music, effects and “special effects kites” that reflect on history. What will replace it? Guests to the park attending the final performance won’t have long to wait: the new show is scheduled to debut directly following the final showing of Illuminations, which debuted back in 1999. Speculation is rife that the nightly show’s successor will include characters such as those seen at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and the Magic Kingdom itself. It’s also rumored that drones may be a part of the new production’s design plan. Including iconic Disney characters at the initially tech and science themed park? That fits in certainly with the updating of Epcot to be more family-friendly as well as forward-looking over all.