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!