EPCOT 40th Anniversary “Event” & Merchandise
Walt Disney World has revealed the EPCOT 40th Anniversary merchandise collection plus an “event” to commemorate the occasion. This post shares new photos of the products and details about the day-of festivities, plus my commentary about this and the 50th Anniversary celebration…which is basically just one long rant.
Let’s start with the “event,” which is now sold out. Before you berate me for not notifying you sooner, there’s a reason I’m using air quotes around “event.” Below are the official details of the D23: Official Disney Fan Club’s celebration of 40 grand and miraculous years of EPCOT.
Join D23: The Official Disney Fan Club in celebrating 40 years of EPCOT—from its initial conception in the first stages of the Florida Project as Walt Disney’s Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, to its current reimagining celebrating the Magic of Possibility.
As a D23 event guest, start your special D23 EPCOT celebration at 7:30 a.m. for priority park check-in. Enjoy free time to celebrate the 40th in your own way—including the opportunity to check out some of the new EPCOT 40th Anniversary merchandise at Creations Shop.
Then from 9:30-10:45 a.m., meet up with fellow EPCOT lovers at World ShowPlace for a D23 Member Mixer reception with a continental breakfast. After the reception, explore the park for the rest of the day. Also exclusive to D23 event guests, get priority entrance to one of EPCOT’s original attractions, Living with the Land, to use at your convenience during the day.
EPCOT 40th Anniversary Event includes:
- Complimentary park admission (including reservation) and parking for EPCOT on Saturday, October 1, 2022
- Priority park check-in
- $25 Disney Gift Card to enjoy the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival and commemorative merchandise (or any other Disney dining or retail location of your choice)
- Exclusive Event Credential
- Living with the Land priority line access for one (1) ride during operating hours with your event credential
- Exclusive entry to World ShowPlace for D23 Member Mixer, including continental breakfast, coffee, and photo opportunities
Before you re-read that several times trying to find the event (as I might’ve done), let me stop you. That’s it.
If you’re interested in events that actually celebrate EPCOT, two other fan sites are hosting ones that sound good. There’s Celebration 40 by WDWNT, which offers panels and group activities.
There’s also DIS Con 2022, which features panels, an EPCOT after party, celebrity appearances, and a collectibles auction. All proceeds for this benefit Give Kids The World Village, which is a wonderful charity and a great cause!
Next, let’s take a look at some of the new merchandise inspired by the historic milestone EPCOT will celebrate on October 1, 2022. In honor of the 40th anniversary, the company is debuting the EPCOT 40th Anniversary Collection at Creations Shop, with select items available at shopDisney.com.
Although the collection will debut on October 1, additional items will arrive throughout the month. (Suggesting that supply chain disruptions and delays aren’t totally in the rearview mirror!)
We’ll scatter stock photos of this EPCOT 40th Anniversary Collection throughout our commentary…
The D23 “event” and merchandise for EPCOT’s 40th Anniversary is all underwhelming, but also unsurprising.
When it came to Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary on October 1 last year–the actual date–nothing happened. There was the livestream with Iger and Chapek the previous night, but the morning itself consisted of a brief “moment” that occurred over the loudspeakers. I can’t recall anything else to acknowledge the milestone.
The tens of thousands of fans who booked homecoming trips and park reservations months in advance to be in Magic Kingdom on 10/1 might as well have visited any ole day in November (or beyond).
What happened–or didn’t–last October 1 alone should have disabused anyone of the notion that Walt Disney World would do anything to celebrate EPCOT’s 40th Anniversary.
It’s been a similar story with EPCOT’s 5-year anniversaries for a while now. Fifteen years ago, we were just getting into the online fan community; back then, a few vocal voices literally guilted Walt Disney World into acknowledging EPCOT’s 25th Anniversary.
By the 30th Anniversary, the D23 Fan Club had been established and it held a single-day event. We’ve been attending these major Walt Disney World anniversary for the last ~15 years, and that was the best. There were free panels with legendary Imagineers and even a ground-shaking tag to IllumiNations. The 35th didn’t offer up quite as much, but it was definitely better than what’s promised for EPCOT’s 40th Anniversary.
For those inclined to counter that Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary received a full 18-month event, I’d respectfully disagree. There is a celebration, to be sure, but what is being celebrated is up for debate.
Ostensibly, it’s Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. At least, that’s what all the banners with “50” on them and the castle medallion claim. If you look at the actual substance of the event, the World’s Most Magical Celebration has been salute to all things Disney…but mostly characters that are popular on the Disney+ streaming service!
There hasn’t been much in the way of tributes to the man who made the magic possible or the rich history of the Vacation Kingdom of the World. The best element of the 50th so far has been the Disney Enchantment Florida Project pre-show that was added about a month ago. So who knows, maybe Harmonious will get an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow tag a few weeks before it’s retired in 2023!
In short, there hasn’t been much to actually celebrate 50 years of Walt Disney World. That is, unless you want merchandise…then Disney will happily sell you some park nostalgia!
I used to be pretty forgiving of that dynamic. Despite the substantive devoid, I would purchase anniversary products. Lots of them. I knew the design group teams working on merchandise were passionate fans and had fought hard to bring those collections to fruition.
While some fans were cynical that there was a top-down desire to monetize nostalgia while delivering something different in the parks, that was not the case. Walt Disney World is managed like dozens of separate business units, many of which are siloed off and do things without regard for the impact elsewhere.
To say one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing is often an understatement–they’re often directly at-odds with one another. The strong retro merchandise lines were not the cynical plan of some executive team, it was in spite of them.
While still true, this distinction matters less and less to me.
My perspective has morphed from wanting to purchase specific merchandise to demonstrate “support” for certain initiatives to one of indifference, at best. While I’m still heartened to see things like the popularity of the Figment popcorn bucket earlier this year (high profile successes like that do get executive attention, and are not ignored), it’s difficult to maintain that enthusiasm on a smaller scale.
Honestly, my attitude now is: If they don’t care, why should I?
Why should I buy anniversary items that pay tribute to Walt Disney World’s past when the company neglects to do so in a sincere way? What’s the point of celebrating attractions that are long-gone and never coming back despite inferior replacements? Why continue to buy Figment merchandise for each festival while the Imagination pavilion languishes?
There has been a lot of Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary merchandise that I’ve really liked. Great throwback styles, creative color choices, and a superb marriage of old and new. The design team deserves a round of applause, as they’ve knocked it out of the park on a lot of the Vault Collection. (The other product lines…not so much!)
Despite that, I haven’t felt compelled to buy much of anything. Even though I’ve liked a fair amount of the stuff, it hasn’t felt like much of a celebration, so why spend money to “honor” or remember an anniversary that I don’t recall being celebrated in the first place?
To be clear, this is not me taking some principled stand. If there were must-own merchandise for the 50th, I would’ve bought it. That would’ve been enough to overcome my lack of celebratory feelings. This is more a matter of indifference toward the event, and by extension, the merchandise. There was a time I would’ve bought just to buy, overcome by excitement around the anniversary. I’m very much “over” that feeling.
I’d hazard a guess that I’m not alone in this sentiment. There is still a ton of Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary merchandise on shelves, and this is even after 50% off for Cast Members and 30% off for Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club members. It’s possible that Disney ordered too much stuff, but it’s also possible that they didn’t do enough celebrating, consumers took notice, and didn’t feel “inspired” to open their wallets.
Perhaps that’s also why the EPCOT 40th Anniversary stuff is underwhelming or scaled back–not enough people bought the Vault Collection products from the 50th.
If all or some of these assumptions are correct, it’s something of a vicious cycle. An underwhelming celebration leads to subpar merchandise sales, which leads to future events being scaled back or ignored, which leads to even fewer product purchases. Maybe none of that’s accurate at all.
Ultimately, I don’t really care. Well, I do care to the extent that I want Walt Disney World to be a great place that forges fans, honors its history, and continues to change in positive and productive ways. The substance is something about which I care deeply, and will for decades to come, even as leaders come and go. Walt Disney World is bigger than any executive, and will outlast them all. (So too will my fandom.)
What I don’t particularly care about anymore is the dynamic between merchandising and the parks. Whether selling more of a certain popcorn bucket will spark a change or if a particular product line outperforming bodes well for the future. Five or 10 years ago, I was deeply interested and invested in all of that. Now, the only thing of consequence is the end result. I’m not trying to be overly cynical when it comes to how Walt Disney World leadership honors its past and views nostalgia, but it’s hard to be optimistic given what they’ve done. What I’m seeing here is a second consecutive milestone anniversary that Walt Disney World has chosen to ignore in a meaningful way. For me, that’s the bottom line here–and all that matters.
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What do you think of the EPCOT 40th Anniversary merchandise? Do you have a favorite product? How do you feel about recent anniversary “events” at Walt Disney World? Share my disinclination to buy celebratory souvenirs when nothing is really being celebrated? Or, do you not really care…and simply buy stuff with designs that you like? Do you agree or disagree with my assessment? 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!
I felt the same way about all the Merch at Disneyland last week. We started the trip by telling our daughter we weren’t going to buy anything right away because we were waiting for the 30% off merchandise sale for key holders. But by the time it arrived, there was actually VERY little we saw that we actually wanted to buy & use said discount for. And it’s not like I wasn’t going shopping & looking for things to get. Pretty sure we spent more at the Lego store getting two hard to find sets than we did on all Disneyland merch for 4 people… It all just felt so tired or generic and I kept seeing better things being carried around by people that were either sold previously or elsewhere.
Compared to WDW’s “Year of a Million Dreams”, 2006-2008 (18 months in there) , where Disney gave Guests presents. Everything from a 1 night stay in the Castle to a cruise, fastpasses, or Mickey Bars, the 50th is a complete letdown. Pay more for less nowadays. Yes that was 15 years ago, but with all the hype about the 50th Anniversary I kinda expected more. And now, with the 40th at EPCOT , we get a firework show that has only 2 to 4 good view points, and just wearable Anniversary merchandise?
To me this is extremely disappointing.
Tom, excellent review as always! I do like the figment sweatshirt! As I am a SUCKER, I am attending BOTH D23 and DIS CON! I have even attended the D23 EXPO and OOGIE BOOGIE last week in Anaheim! Both were huge disappointments too! If I am lucky, I’ll bump into the WDWNT group on October 1st too! I decided to attend D23 EPCOT event for posterity and history!
See I have another take on this. I wish Disney did NOT celebrate all these silly milestones. I am very much looking forward to seeing the castle and main street without the number “50” plastered everywhere (also Disney learn to count—a 50th anniversary is one day, not 18 months). There are 4 parks at WDW so if we celebrated every park every 5 years there would be a “milestone” 4 out of every 5 years. It’s overkill. I prefer the vanilla parks without all the overlays and silly shows.
I wonder if Cheapek celebrates his wedding anniversary by selling his wife a spirit jersey and mug with his picture on it? Just asking.
I have to say the Dis Con event looks amazing. It actually blows my mind what a cool looking event they put together, especially allowing at it next to Disney’s own paltry offering.
If I had to guess, I’d say that Disney couldn’t pull anything together because all of the local celebrities were booked far in advance for Dis Con or the WDWNT event.
I wonder if some of these mess ups are a result of post-COVID turnover in the corporate offices. Plenty of places are seeing employees quit as they try to move people away from remote work. Just like the teacher shortage, passion for your work can only fuel you for so long if the working conditions are deteriorating. People who work at Disney tend to do so because they love the brand, so when I see the ball dropping like this I have to assume working conditions must be pretty unpleasant. But hey, maybe I’m assuming too much.
To your first point, Disney still controls a lot of the talent. Most current creatives don’t do fan events (understandably), so D23 could easily have something with them if it wanted to.
Your last paragraph makes a good point that is generally true, but that’s not what is at play here or with Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary.
You bring up some good points! I could easily see a flip side of Disney not wanting to create an event that competes directly with a charity event featuring such a full lineup of Disney talent.
Blog failed to mention – what did Disney charge for this EPCOT event?
$99 plus $7 processing fee.
Living with the Land is NOT an original attraction: it debuted in December 1993, the same month EPCOT Center became Epcot (or in some instances Epcot ‘94). It replaced Listen to the Land, which did begin its run on opening day October 1982. The rides are quite similar but Robert Moline’s catchy “Listen to the Land” song was eliminated in the revised ride. This is not a huge deal, but it’d be nice if Disney would sweat the details.
The D23 “event” was only for gold members- so definitely not something you could call a general celebration (even if it is the official fan club). Love the line “why spend money to “honor” or remember an anniversary that I don’t recall being celebrated in the first place?”
I agree with your assessment of the “celebrations” of these important milestones. I have been looking forward to the WDW 50th for several years, thinking that it was going to be over-the-top spectacular. I kind of understood and blamed COVID-19 when it did not materialize, but there is no excuse for ignoring Epcot’s 40th. The 30th and 35th anniversary celebrations were great, and the 35th may be the very best day(s) we have ever spent at WDW. The Lake Buena Vista Historical Society had a whole weekend of events that were awesome, sandwiched around two D23 events, one where we had a progressive dinner with a different course in each VIP lounge in the park, ending up with a walking tour of Spaceship Earth with the lights on! I have been looking for events celebrating the 40th and have been puzzled that none were announced. Then it’s like D23 said, “Oh, crap! We totally forgot! Quick! Let’s throw together something. Uh….how about we let people wander around on their own and shop, maybe give them some coffee and a donut, and..uh..we can’t actually give them passes for the any of the newer rides..how about Living With the Land? We can say that has ties with history…or something…” Anyway, I’m disappointed and am not at all interested in any of the merchandise. I am more willing to open my pockets to buy things when I get to have real parties, exclusive experiences, panels, special tours, etc.
I’m really hoping for some shopDisney availability for the apparel as traveling in early October is just not practical. As someone born in October 1982, I’m a sucker for Epcot and really want the hoodie to celebrate my own 40th. I feel like a lot of general WDW merchandise lately and even a lot of the 50th merchandise is underwhelming, but the Epcot merchandise has been pretty good.
Announcing this less than two weeks out is almost hilarious, though it did sell out and I *would* have considered something as weak as this if it were an add-on rather than admission included. My favorite part showing how little thought this got: “Please note: No exclusive merchandise opportunities will be available as part of this event. D23 Members will have the opportunity to purchase merchandise along with all park guests.”
I really need to dig up some video of the 30th. I always thought they should have used the video they took of the Marty Sklar presentation (and the video he used) from the 25th somewhere, but I figure if Disney didn’t use them they must be leaked somewhere. Fun fact: If there’s park video from the 25th, I’m the jerk at the front of the rope getting yelled at by his supervisor on his cell instead of joining in the sing-a-long.
No planned Tom Bricker appearances at any of the fan events? I’ll send a contribution to Give Kids The World Village through their link, but we’re doing too short a visit to break out for anything else, even the second best Batman. Maybe we’ll see you at Impressions de France?
Priority access to Living with the Land? I’m a big fan of the ride, but that’s not going to save anyone more than, what, 10 minutes?
This event is pretty sad, especially when you consider what was done for anniversaries in the past and the fact that there is basically nothing but a free muffin and cup of coffee for people already with tickets to the park. However, I’m not a passholder and wasn’t originally planning to be there, but I’m within driving distance and this was basically a $74 park admission when you factor in the gift card, so it actually turned out to be a good deal for me lol. I still love going to EPCOT, warts and all, so I’m still excited just to be there and enjoy what’s left that I love. Also, I’m digging that red/white raglan shirt, so I’ll be snagging one of those!
You’re all missed noting the most important part, the event includes free parking. Now i’m upset I didn’t book it. I’m going to remember that when I eagerly pay for my parking early on Oct. 1
This is an “event” for sure…. In fact they have an afterhours party for Discon on Oct 1st at EPCOT as well which is a lot better than this D23 one. The merch is cool looking though!
Thanks for the reminder about DIS Con–I’ve gone back and added details about that and another event in the post. If fans want to pay tribute to EPCOT, those are the way to go!