Construction, Closures & Cutbacks at Epcot

Epcot has been a construction zone for the past several months, but even more closed recently as Walt Disney World prepares to gut and redo the central core of Future World behind Spaceship Earth. In this post, we’ll tour Future World and offer thoughts on navigating this sea of walls and how to approach rope drop at Epcot.

The latest closures are Electric Umbrella and Pin Central, which themselves aren’t significant losses over which anyone should shed tears. Sure, we’ve had a couple good meals at the notoriously bad Electric Umbrella–and we harbor a bit of nostalgia for anything with such a long legacy–but Electric Umbrella was way past its sell-by date. A mid-1990s aesthetic in the worst possible way that was well over a decade overdue for replacement.

Pin Central was arguably a bigger offender. This typified the clutter added to Epcot in the 1990s, with angled poles and triangular shade panels soaring above it. The stand itself occupied what was previously a clean path between reflecting pools, and competed with Spaceship Earth for attention. Pin Central already has a new home under Spaceship Earth in the Camera Center, and Electric Umbrella will be replaced in the future by a restaurant in the same location that will almost certainly be superior. The substance of these locations isn’t the big blow of the closures…

Rather, the issue is that the center of Epcot’s Future World is now closed. Previously, the two sides connected via the Innoventions breezeways, which flanked the sides of Pin Central (and before it closed last fall, the Fountain of Nations). Now, there is no central corridor.

This means that there are essentially three separate zones of Epcot, each with minimal overlap. There’s World Showcase, which has always only connected to Future World on its two ends–near Canada and Mexico.

Now, there are essentially two halves of Future World, each of which also only connect to one another at their ends. You now can only access one side from the other near the park entrance and near World Showcase plaza.

With these three distinct areas, there’s the potential for lot of backtracking and walking during a visit to Epcot. And will be for the foreseeable future, as these bypass corridors are unlikely to go anywhere anytime soon. This may not make a ton of sense explained via text, so here’s how it looks on the park map:

While that map accurately reflects the two halves of Future World and the long and meandering loop required to get between the sides, there’s one thing it undersells: walls.

All of the green space inside the monorail loop on the map above is actually construction. Those paths are not peaceful promenades lined with trees, they are expanses of shadeless concrete lined with construction walls.

Not that we’d expect Disney’s official maps to show the reality or details of construction, but it’s worth underscoring this because it does make a difference when walking through Epcot. Making the long trudge through Future World is not pleasant, especially on a hot day with the sun overhead.

Moving along, when you get to Spaceship Earth, you need to choose whether you want to head towards Mission: Space and Test Track or the Seas, the Land, and Journey into Imagination. (Both routes continue on to World Showcase.)

If you go left under Spaceship Earth, you’ll come to this seemingly dead end with Pin Central ahead behind the construction wall.

Although you can’t see it, there’s a hard left turn right before the entrance to Guest Relations. This will take you towards Mission Space and Test Track.

This bypass corridor is a zig-zagging path.

It goes under the monorail track and behind the old Electric Umbrella location (which will be repurposed into a new dining venue) as well as the temporary MouseGear shop.

It also offers an up-close look at the old Universe of Energy building, which has been repainted for its future attraction.

What remains to be seen is how long this will be used. Our expectation is that this bypass corridor will be open for the next couple of years, meaning this will eventually by the rope drop route for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind and the Play Pavilion.

The plans for the central core of Epcot are fairly elaborate, including the multi-story festival center and Moana: Journey of Water, plus a ton of green space and landscaping that’ll replace Fountain of Nations, Pin Central, etc.

While it’s possible a temporary corridor could reopen through the center of the park once demolition and construction reach a certain point, it seems just as likely that the Play Pavilion and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind will be ready to open next year before any of the central core is in finished form.

We think this is especially likely given the upcoming 2-Year Closure & Reimagining of Spaceship Earth. At that point, work will need to be done around (at least) the exit area of Spaceship Earth in addition to everything else that’s happening.

That means that at rope drop, the left side serves (or will serve) Mission Space, Test Track, Play Pavilion, and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. Most guests heading for Frozen Ever After will probably also head this direction, although going right is potentially the faster route due to the indirectness of the paths on this side.

Here’s a look at the closed off Innoventions breezeway and the temporary MouseGear store on this side of Future World.

As a reminder, none of this is being demolished–only the other side. MouseGear will return to its previous location once the interior is remodeled and the inner area of the central core reopens.

Facing the exact opposite direction, we can see walls blocking routes to Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind and the Play Pavilion.

With Test Track also closed for refurbishment, the only reason to head this way right now is for Mission Space. Soon, that won’t be the case and this route will be much busier.

If you’re heading to the Land, Seas, or Journey into Imagination, you’ll take a right back at Spaceship Earth.

This path has been open for a couple of months now, so it’s not really anything new. It’s definitely getting more traffic these days, though, because continuing past Spaceship Earth is no longer an option.

The big winner of all of this has been the Seas with Nemo & Friends, which is seeing considerably more foot traffic as a result of the bypass corridor.

We’ve seeing a huge spike in wait times for this attraction, particularly before 1 pm. It’s not at the point where we’re recommending this as a Tier 2 FastPass+ selection (yet), but we’ll continue monitoring wait times here.

Here’s a look at the closed off Innoventions breezeway on this side of Future World.

Half of this has already been demolished, and it’s safe to assume the other half will be gone within a few months, with construction on both the festival center and Moana: Journey of Water beginning later this year. In case you’ve forgotten, here’s how all of this will look once finished:

The remaining question is Should You Skip Epcot? As before, we cannot give a one size fits all answer to that. There’s no sugarcoating it: walking around Future World is a pretty miserable experience right now, and the backtracking required to hit both sides plus World Showcase is tedious and frustrating.

However, this almost exclusively impacts Future World. Once you’re in World Showcase, there’s nothing noticeable–not even for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, which is occurring almost exclusively backstage in an expansion to the France pavilion.

We’ll simply reiterate what we recommended there: enter through International Gateway if at all possible. This should be easy if you embrace our Park Hopper Strategy for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.

Normally, I’m not averse to walking. I typically log over 20,000 steps on a normal day at Walt Disney World, and frequently do multiple laps around World Showcase. However, I enjoy pleasant strolls through atmospheric locations. Future World in its current state is anything but that–I cannot stress just how tiresome navigating the front of Epcot is right now. I’d rather walk around Walt Disney Studios Park. (For those unfamiliar with WDSP, that’s saying a lot.)

Since the guest experience at Epcot was still just a little too good, Walt Disney World did the logical and totally understandable thing: cut hours for seven attractions.

Beginning on February 23, the following attractions will all close earlier than the rest of Epcot:

  • Kidcot stations: will close at 8:00 pm
  • American Adventure: last show at 8:15 pm
  • Awesome Planet: last show at 8:00 pm
  • Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along: last show at 6:00 pm
  • Impressions de France: operating from 6:30 to 8:00 pm
  • Canada Far and Wide in CircleVision 360: last show at 8:00 pm
  • Reflections of China: last show at 8:10 pm

February 21, 2020 (12 noon EST) UPDATE: Walt Disney World has reversed this reduction of hours–all of the above attractions will continue to operate as normally.

However, American Adventure, Canada Far & Wide, and Awesome Planet will no longer be offered during evening Extra Magic Hours.

I’m not naive. I know Walt Disney World will never discount tickets to Epcot due to all of the construction. If they didn’t for Disney California Adventure or Disney’s Hollywood Studios, they certainly won’t start now. However, it’s a bit insulting to cut again after closing a huge section of the park for the park’s massive overhaul and right after increasing ticket prices.

I’m personally fairly excited for the future of Epcot. The sea of walls doesn’t bother me a ton because I can avoid them, I’m invested in the “long game,” and think the payoff will be worth it. Frankly, I’m happy that Disney is going big on this as opposed to taking a more conservative route. (With that said, I do blame Walt Disney World for letting Epcot stagnate for far too long, necessitating large scale work we’re seeing now rather than incremental improvements over the decades.)

However, I’m not the average once in a lifetime visitor who is paying high ticket prices and also ‘paying’ in terms of a diminished guest experience (the fruits of which they’ll never enjoy). Walt Disney World should be viewing the current Epcot guest experience with these families in mind. It’s probably fair to say that the last hour of the day, most of said families are not experiencing the aforementioned attractions. It’s probably a pretty slow timeframe for those experiences.

From that perspective, making some cuts to underutilized experiences is a pragmatic business decision. However, Disney has been making a lot of those “pragmatic business decisions” lately, resulting in a surplus of incremental cuts. The way Walt Disney World continually “trims fat” you’d think that this is a regional amusement park teetering on the precipice of bankruptcy. Obviously, that couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, attendance and prices both continue to increase, as do corporate earnings.

Rather than further scaling back, Walt Disney World should be doing everything possible to offer temporary enhancements, entertainment, etc. at Epcot to make those once in a lifetime trips special in spite of the construction. If it’s sensible to make a cut in one area, an increase elsewhere of corresponding proportionality is only appropriate. The guest experience desperately needs to be bolstered in Epcot, not diminished. Walt Disney World making further cuts to Epcot with so much already under the knife is simply a bad look.

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Your Thoughts

What do you think of the latest changes at Epcot? Will the bypass corridors and the lack of the central core of Future World being open impact your itinerary? Will you still visit Epcot on your trip, or is all of this simply too much? Thoughts on the cutbacks? Do you agree or disagree with our commentary? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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