Sometimes it takes over 4 years to fill in a dirt pit. There can be good reasons for that, such as shovel shortage. Many rainy days. Ghost of Card Walker haunting the pit. Many meetings held to determine best course of action to eliminate the pit. Unable to stop Andy Dwyer from camping in the pit. (Legend has it that’s where he stayed while filming for Cosmic Rewind!)
While we’ll never know what, exactly, was causing Walt Disney World delays in filling in the Giant EPCOT Dirt Pit and reopening it as regular land. Nor is it clear how they’ve managed to overcome these obstacles. Hopefully someday someone will make a motivational movie or write a book about the against-all-odds tale of perseverance. For now, Walt Disney World has made the triumphant announcement that its pit problem will soon be resolved. The World Celebration Gardens will open on December 5, 2023.
Here’s the official announcement from Walt Disney Imagineering–their words, not mine:
In celebration of Walt Disney’s birthday on Dec. 5, guests visiting EPCOT will be able to visit Dreamers Point in the newly-opened World Celebration neighborhood and see our company’s original dreamer in a completely new light. Everyone is invited to imagine alongside Walt himself and look out over World Celebration Gardens together.
This new statue, entitled “Walt the Dreamer,” represents Walt later in his life when he was dreaming up the overall Florida Project and the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. He sits with a sense of fulfillment, enjoying the beauty of his realized dream: a park that represents pure optimism and truly celebrates the magic of possibility.
This new statue of Walt is one of many areas to visit as a part of World Celebration Gardens where guests will be able to relax, unwind, and connect – to EPCOT, to nature and to each other. Each of the gardens found in the center of World Celebration, including Dreamers Point, will connect back to the areas surrounding them, drawing on the architectural legacy of EPCOT, modern lighting elements and a variety of natural textures.
Dreamers Point is named not only for the dreamer that has and continues to inspire us, but also for all of us who visit EPCOT every day to celebrate the endless potential and possibility of our world.
Turning to commentary, I’ll start by saying I’m trying to be a more optimistic, upbeat, and grateful person. But Walt Disney World is really testing my resolve with all of this. I’m not going to dwell much on anything in particular because…what’s the point? Really, what could be said that hasn’t already been said before countless times, including in the commentary to past construction updates about CommuniCore Hall and the EPCOT overhaul?
There is one correction that I, personally, think is important: Walt Disney cannot be enjoying his realized dream, because he never dreamed of EPCOT being a theme park. The EPCOT Center that was built was a moonshot, but it was nevertheless a different project altogether.
This isn’t to say it and the Florida Project as a whole weren’t imbued with Walt’s spirit and elements of his experimental city–they absolutely were! To this day, Walt Disney World is one of the top 5 cosmopolitan metropolises in the United States, and the company should be proud of that. Contemporary projects like the Skyliner advance Walt’s vision and deserve to be celebrated.
Filling in the Giant EPCOT Dirt Pit does not. Especially not over the course of 4+ years. That is, arguably, the antithesis of Walt’s vision for an experimental community, and more a lesson in bloated bureaucracy than an efficient futuristic city.
Look, I love EPCOT Center–I think my posting history speaks for itself–but I also think it’s okay to acknowledge that the EPCOT Center that was built in the 1980s was not the EPCOT envisioned by Walt. And the EPCOT of today certainly is not it, either.
As I’ve said countless times, I don’t like Walt Disney being used as a corporate mascot. His quotes shouldn’t be used as a shield or sword to justify whatever business decision or change the company has decided to make. And a statue of him, while a nice tribute, should be the icing on the cake and not the cake itself.
It’s hard to see anything else in the World Celebration Gardens, which I guess is what we’re calling these trees and paths, that qualifies as cake. If there were, Disney probably would’ve shared photos of it instead of multiple images of the sitting Walt statue.
Some diehard Walt Disney World fans who are eternally optimistic might call this overly cynical, and claim we should step foot in the World Celebration Gardens before passing judgment. I generally agree with the ‘wait and see’ attitude, but here, my first question would be: for what?
We already have a really good idea of what’s behind those 4-year-old construction walls. Walt Disney World has released concept art and progress is plainly visible from the monorail. So I’ll ask you this: is there realistically anything hiding behind those walls that would be worthwhile payoff for the front of the park being torn up for 4+ years?
I already know the answer. There is not. I hope to be pleasantly surprised with the look and feel of area, but there is zero chance of it being good enough to justify 4+ years of the park being a veritable construction zone that paying guests had to navigate. There’s absolutely no excuse for this taking so long, especially given the end product.
Ground was broken for EPCOT Center on October 1, 1979. When the park opened exactly 3 years later, an article in the Orlando Sentinel stated that “the nation’s top construction experts say the impossible had been done.” It was a herculean effort and impressive accomplishment that is still celebrated to this day. What a difference a few decades makes.
Speaking of things that have zero chance of happening, there’s also the issue of CommuniCore Hall. Walt Disney World previously stated that the EPCOT overhaul and World Celebration would wrap up this December. CommuniCore Hall is part of both. It will not open on December 5, 2023.
Again, if it were, Walt Disney World would’ve said as much instead of just commenting on the statue and gardens. Speculation isn’t really necessary here, as bioreconstruct recently shot aerial photos (above) that show new construction walls going up around CommuniCore Hall, as the gardens around it prepare to open.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to any regular readers, as we’ve repeatedly commented on the slow pace of that project and how photos taken ~6 months apart were virtually indistinguishable from one another. After a lot of visible progress earlier this year, this construction slowed to a crawl back before the new fiscal year started.
Since then, it’s picked up a bit, but not enough to have this be done by December 2023. I was actually pleasantly surprised to see it look dramatically different at the start of the Christmas season (my photos above and below from this month) than it did the last time I saw it in September. The outside is coming along and could conceivably be done by January 2024. It’s really a question of where the interior stands.
I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the first festival to use CommuniCore Hall is the 2024 EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival. Maybe it’s done in time for Festival of the Arts, but I think the fact that Walt Disney World has already made a flurry of announcements for that and mentioned the Odyssey instead of CommuniCore Hall suggests it won’t. Hopefully I’m wrong, though.
Ultimately, I’m just ready for this all to be over and, I guess, I’m glad that the walls will be down soon. This EPCOT overhaul began in earnest on September 9, 2019 and it won’t completely finish until 2024. That’s a ridiculous amount of time to have the main corridor of the park out of commission. The pace of the project has been too slow from the outset, but it’s only gotten worse post-reopening.
At least it was going to be ambitious at one point, overhauling a park that had been stagnating for far too long while adding unique architecture and interactive features. All of that was scrapped over 3 years ago, though. At the very least, as soon as Disney knew that was no longer the plan–back in Summer 2020–they should’ve fast-tracked the filling in of the Giant EPCOT Dirt Pit and just walled-off Moana’s Journey of Water and CommuniCore Hall.
It’s incredibly discouraging to go through 3 rounds of redesigns and 4+ years of enduring a maze of walls to end up with this. Not only that, but it seems incredibly short-sighted to build something roughly equivalent to what they tore down (minus the symmetry)–a tremendous amount of time and money have been wasted for a difference amounting to “more trees!” and “one fewer fountain!” Oh, and a statue.
This is going to be around for decades to come, and it looks wholly unambitious and uninspired. It is wildly ironic that this project, of all things, is what they’re trying to spin as the realization of Walt Disney’s dream, a park representing pure optimism and truly celebrating the magic of possibility. Does it really, though? I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed. Walt Disney World is capable of so much more.
Are you excited for the trees, paths, and statue that Walt Disney World will open on December 5, 2023? What do you think of CommuniCore Hall and Plaza? Think it’ll also be done by Late 2023, or agree that it won’t be ready until the first (or second) festival of 2024? Is this an exciting development, or underwhelming as compared to the previous multi-level festival center? Disappointed about anything that has been delayed or cancelled? 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!