Disney World News: EPCOT’s Stargate, Poly Construction, Dining Updates

We’re back with another Walt Disney World news roundup. Among other topics, this one covers construction at the Polynesian, Stargate installation at EPCOT, holiday brunch menus at resorts, and more restaurants returning.

Let’s start with a couple of special brunch menus coming to resort restaurants at Walt Disney World. During Easter Weekend (April 3-4, 2021) and Mother’s Day Weekend (May 8-9, 2021), Whispering Canyon Cafe at Wilderness Lodge will be offering brunch cocktails and press pot coffee, plus an “All-You-Care-To-Enjoy Brunch Skillet complete with Pastries, Mickey Waffles, Pulled Pork and more.” (To me, this one sounds underwhelming as compared to their normal skillets.)

Those same weekends, Ale & Compass Restaurant at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort will be serving a New England-inspired menu with cocktails, press pot coffee, and “All-You-Care-To-Enjoy Blueberry-bacon Pancakes, Breakfast Protein Bowl, Shrimp and White Cheddar Grits or Main Lobster Roll” (I assume that’s supposed to be Maine?).

Next, it’s a big week for Walt Disney World’s phased reopening, with Blizzard Beach water park returning on March 7, 2021. There are still a lot of unknowns, but we do know there will be a looser water park face mask policy (pretty much akin to the hotel pools) and that several dining options will return when Blizzard Beach reopens.

The two big ones are Avalunch and Lottawatta Lodge, the latter being Blizzard Beach’s main counter service restaurant. Lottawatta Lodge’s revised menu is now up on DisneyWorld.com, with some (ahem) interesting new options. I’ll let Sarah be the guinea pig for test out the Tofu “Crab” Cake, and I’ll do the important research of confirming that the Blizzard Burger is still delicious.

Turning to the main stories, we have two construction updates. First, from Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, where the Moana-inspired refurbishment continues.

It’s been a few months since we checked in on this, so we thought it’d be worth revisiting.

By way of recap, this project entails a makeover to guest rooms and “enhancements” to the Great Ceremonial House that will keep the hotel closed until Summer 2021.

New furnishings are actively being “loaded” into some of the longhouses, but the rooms are still covered with tarps and the buildings where work is happening remain walled-off.

Most significantly, the monorail station is being rebuilt with a new porte-cochère added.

The new support columns are going up, but there’s still a ton of work to be done. Walt Disney World has not yet set an official reopening date for the hotel, but the one we heard (a couple months ago now) was in the first week of July 2021. Here’s hoping everything is done by then.

One new-to-us component of the construction is at Kiki Tikis Splash Play Area. This is closed for refurbishment “through March 2021.” While Kiki Tikis is unavailable, Guests at Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows may enjoy the Lava feature pool and slide and the Oasis pool.

The big Walt Disney World construction news is that the 6-story tall central ring structure for Harmonious has been installed in World Showcase Lagoon.

(For more details on this upcoming nighttime spectacular, including an anticipated opening timeframe, see our post covering Everything You Need to Know About Harmonious at EPCOT.)

While poking fun at their Waterworld-inspired appearance and war machine-like quality, I’ve advocated for a “wait and see” approach with the Harmonious infrastructure in multiple past posts. I’ve also suggested that the World Showcase sightlines were far from unspoiled before. My main rationale for this was that the fountains could add nice kinetic energy and a visual centerpiece to World Showcase Lagoon.

I feel a bit foolish now.

I don’t know what I was expecting–I knew the central structure was a 6-story tall ring–but for some reason I didn’t anticipate it being this prominent.

There’s no photographic or perspective trickery in these images. The Harmonious central ring is the focal point of World Showcase Lagoon.

It also looks very much like a Stargate. That “joke” might feel played out by now, but so too is calling Spaceship Earth a golfball. That doesn’t stop people from making those snarky comments nearly four decades later, and you can expect the same of the Stargate jokes. So get used to it.

This is the best free advertising for Stargate SG-1 in years, and that’s not a joke. The appearance is so uncanny that I wouldn’t be surprised if Netflix decides to reboot that show thanks to increased brand awareness and viewership of the original.

Of course, the Stargate will end up being a 6-story tall fountain, which will help to conceal its infrastructure. It’s difficult to visualize what that’ll look like. I am still hoping for the best, but it’s impossible to maintain my previous ‘cautious optimism.’ The barges are just so gigantic and full of tech. It’s going to be hard to hide that. The fountains are going to have to be seriously impressive and do some heavy lifting.

There’s also the fact that the Stargate is off-center in World Showcase Lagoon! Presumably, it’s centered to what would’ve been the Festival Center, but that has gone back to the drawing board with the likelihood that it’ll be scaled back and less vertical.

I honestly do not get this. I’ve seen tons of comments that “nowadays” Imagineering doesn’t care/has lost its touch or Disney is cheap. That can happen on certain projects, especially smaller ones, but neither are true as generalizations or here, specifically.

Harmonious is one the most expensive nighttime spectacular ever developed by Disney, on par with or possibly even surpassing World of Color. The situation is similar for Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind, which has that ugly and obtrusive blue show building. That’s rumored to be one of the most expensive attractions Imagineering has ever built. So it’s not really a matter of money. The company has invested a ton into Walt Disney World over the last decade–far more than the decade before it.

As for Imagineering not caring or having lost its touch, that’s a difficult argument to make when you look at the rock-work in Pandora – World of Avatar, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, or Cars Land. Those are some enormous show buildings, but the average guest would never know that because serious effort was put into concealing them. It’s hard to deny the attention to detail put into that trio of lands, among other additions.

It’s difficult to reconcile all of that with what we see at EPCOT. From the outside looking in, it seems like there have been some scenarios in recent years where Imagineering has embraced a technology-first mentality, letting the tail wag the dog. The allure of innovation has trumped good show from time to time, with what’s operationally pragmatic being glossed over due to ambition.

Beyond that, it’s possible that Imagineering views EPCOT differently from Walt Disney World’s other parks. EPCOT has never followed the same rules of themed design; it’s more of a tech expo meets a World Fair that has always offered some peeks behind the curtain.

Also conceivable is that Disney is doing what’s necessary to make EPCOT more appealing to the general public, with the assumption being that most casual guests simply do not care about that big blue box or the Stargate. They just want Cosmic Rewind to be exhilarating and Harmonious to be spectacular. It’s difficult for many of us diehard EPCOT Center fans to process this, but the past version of the park just does not resonate the same way with the general public.

Ultimately, it’s difficult to say what led to an off-center Stargate in World Showcase Lagoon. I’ve tried to keep an open mind about the EPCOT overhaul, especially as I realize that the park has been stagnating for years and the version of it I fell in love with has been gone for two decades. In general, I’m still optimistic about a lot of the changes and additions–without question, I’ll take the EPCOT of 2023 over the one of 2013.

Nevertheless, it’s tough to watch the Harmonious progress–even knowing it’s a blockbuster addition–and be totally happy with what’s happening. I’m still hopeful that all of this will end up looking okay and “worth it” but I’m no longer cautiously optimistic that’ll be the case. To end on a positive note, between the brisk pace of construction and testing here, plus permits and testing on Fantasmic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it’s likely that nighttime spectaculars will be back at Walt Disney World this summer!

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!


What do you think of this Walt Disney World news? Thoughts on the Harmonious Stargate? Think it’ll blend in better once the installation is finished and the fountains are activated? Expecting the nighttime spectacular to debut for the start of summer, closer to fall, or not at all in 2021? Looking forward to seeing the finished “Moana Makeover” of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort? Excited for the reopening of Blizzard Beach water park? Do you agree or disagree with our assessments? 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!

77 Responses to “Disney World News: EPCOT’s Stargate, Poly Construction, Dining Updates”
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