Originally published in Theme Park Tourist Monday, December 12, 2016 07:20
It would be fair to say that the last decade has seen a quiet reinvention of Epcot. The introduction of The Seas With Nemo and Friends back in 2006 brought a ride based on film properties to this park for the first time, and since that time we’ve seen characters from Inside Out, Big Hero 6 and of course most recently, Frozenmake their way to this park to varying degrees. And though reaction from fans to these changes has been mixed, Epcot has continued to see its attendance climb since implementing these changes, which led to a stunning announcement earlier this year.
Last month at the D23: Destination D event held at Walt Disney World, Disney Parks and Resorts chairman Bob Chapek confirmed to hundreds of attendees that Epcot is now in the process of being reimagined, and this park will be getting an overhaul sometime in the coming years (similar to what is happening now at Disney’s Hollywood Studios).
Though no timetables regarding this nascent project were given, Chapek said that Imagineers are being encouraged to “dream big” in regards to their plans to revive this park, suggesting that this new project will be fairly large in scale. And though we’ve heard some interesting rumors in the past few months about the Guardians of the Galaxy moving into this park, Chapek did say that the current plans (which are still coming together) will be both uniquely Disney and true to Epcot’s original vision.
So what might we see from the relaunch of this park? Here’s a quick rundown of what we know for sure, and what we’re expecting based on current trends:
1. Illuminations will either be improved or replaced
When Rivers of Light finally opens in 2017, it will be the fourth new nighttime spectacular to debut at a Walt Disney World park in less that a year. Thought Disney’s Hollywood Studios got two nighttime shows and the Magic Kingdom debuted the new Once Upon a Time projection show in 2016, Epcot has been holding on to Illuminations in essentially the same form since 1999. Fortunately, it looks like that is changing very soon.
Back in 2014 rumors surfaced that Disney was pursuing drone-based technology for use as part of a brand new show, reportedly inside Epcot. Though this rumor lost traction in the years since it first surfaced, with Disney’s new Starbright Holidays drone show at Disney Springs now providing a solid proof of concept for drone-based entertainment at Walt Disney World, this rumor has resurfaced in recent weeks, and this time, it seems likely that Disney will indeed announce either substantial changes for Illuminations to incorporate this element or a brand new nighttime spectacular altogether as part of its plan to reinvigorate this park. But that’s not all…
2. A whole new Future World is in the works
Earlier this year rumors surfaced that seemed to indicate that the Universe of Energy (which houses Ellen’s Energy Adventure and has to be one of the least traversed corners of any Walt Disney World park) was going to be demolished to make way for a Guardians of the Galaxy thrill ride. The presence of height balloons in the park just days after this rumor surfaced seemed to confirm this development, but the project was reportedly abandoned soon after it was pitched to reports due to budget concerns.
However, even though this particular project might not be a part of the confirmed Epcot relaunch, we’d expect that much of Future World will be reinvented, with the last part of Innoventions (which currently only houses one exhibit) and the Universe of Energy demolished to make way for… something in this part of the park.
And while plans are still coming together, you can bet that the new attractions that will be coming to Future World will be based on film properties, continuing the trend of adding characters to Epcot, which began over a decade ago when Nemo and Friends sailed onto the scene. However, Future World isn’t the only place that could be getting more characters when this park is relaunched in the coming years.
3. The World Showcase could be changing as well
Up until 2016’s addition of Frozen Ever After, the World Showcase area of Epcot remained remarkably unchanged for nearly 20 years. Though there were little tweaks made here and there (such as the addition of the Three Caballeros in the erstwhile Rio del Tiempo attraction), by and large this area of the park stayed true to its initial function as a perpetual world’s fair. However, that all changed in 2016.
No matter how you feel about the addition of Frozen Ever After (and the Royal Sommerhus character meet and greet) in the Norway pavilion, the fact is that these fictional additions have injected a new life into this part of the park, causing Epcot to change its opening procedures just to accommodate the throngs of guests fighting to be the first to get to this section of the park.
With this in mind, it seems obvious then that this new “phase” of Epcot will include more characters in the World Showcase, and there seem to be some indications that Disney is preparing for such a development. Eagle-eyed guests have already noticed a big influx of Ratatouille-inspired merchandise in the France pavilion, and another overlay of the boat ride in Mexico (potentially to incorporate characters from the new Pixar film Coco) has been rumored for nearly a year now.
Although we have to reiterate that plans are still coming together for the “reimagined” Epcot, we feel confident in saying the “next phase” of Epcot will be very character-focused. Do you think this is a good direction for this park to be moving in as it continues to evolve, or do you think this type of transformation is contrary to the original intent of Epcot? Let us know what improvements you would like to see come to this park as it enters its next phase!
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