Continuing updates from our Walt Disney World trip, Epcot is our next stop. There are currently several projects under construction: Guardians of the Galaxy and Ratatouille attractions, the Space Restaurant, and Skyliner gondola transportation. Despite this, it doesn’t feel intrusive to the guest experience.
This visit to Epcot was our first in a while outside of Festival Season. We enjoy these events (especially Festival of the Arts) but it was nice to see Epcot free of temporary booths and vending spaces, and have a bit more breathing room in World Showcase.
Sometimes you just want the lighter, lower-calorie “Diet Epcot” available for a limited time in June and July. In this update, we’ll take a stroll around Epcot to take a look at how work is progressing on all of the projects, and also share some other random changes that are probably months old, but are still new to us…
Aside from experiencing the lower-calorie “Diet Epcot,” our main reason for spending a few evenings in the park this trip was to see IllumiNations as many times as possible before it’s retired. I anticipate having one more chance to see it, but I also anticipated an official announcement on the rumored IllumiNations replacement and interim show by now, so who knows. Better safe than sorry.
For what it’s worth, I’ve received a few messages since our rumor post about IllumiNations: Window on the World (which likely won’t be the show’s final name), and it’s absolutely happening. Tech work has already started and it’s a poorly-kept secret at this point.
In the past, we’ve said that right now is the “calm before the storm” at Epcot. That’s still partly true, as the Epcot Central Spine Redesign project that will re-imagine the aesthetics of Future World has yet to begin, as have other smaller projects meant to inject new life into World Showcase.
This is also because the biggest projects at Epcot are removed from guest areas. The show building going up for the Guardians of the Galaxy coaster is colossal, but it’s outside the existing footprint of the park’s boundaries.
It’s true that there are construction walls around the old Universe of Energy building, but it’s not as if guests are stumbling by that pavilion in the normal course of their visit to Epcot. The out of the way location of both Universe of Energy and Wonders of Life might have something to do with the lack of popularity of both pavilions during their existences, but that’s another topic for another day.
The Guardians of the Galaxy coaster seems like a good place to start with this update. Here are a couple photos shot from the monorail:
I had seen a handful of photos of this on social media and had assumed the apparent size was deceiving. It’s not. This thing is going to be huge.
(We’ve also heard that it has a gargantuan budget to match–significantly larger than any ride currently under construction that’s not part of Galaxy’s Edge.)
Next to the old Universe of Energy building, work continues at the old Wonders of Life building. We reported on the Wonders of Life rumors a few months ago, and I haven’t heard anything since.
I have heard that everything for Epcot that’s not already greenlit is in flux, with additions/cuts/changes to the scope of several previously unannounced projects. My guess is that there is a long term plan for Wonders of Life as attraction space (it is definitely not the Space Restaurant), but what the substance of those plans may not yet be certain.
It’s hardly exciting news, but a few menus around Epcot have been refreshed, including at Sunshine Seasons and Electric Umbrella.
My go-to sandwich at Sunshine Seasons is now different, and is somewhat reminiscent of what was there almost 10 years ago. (I’m a fan of the new version.)
As for the Epcot Central Spine Redesign, the last we heard was that there were multiple competing ideas for how this aesthetic re-imagining would occur, which is why only vague concept art was shared at the D23 Expo last year.
As you might’ve noticed, that was the one piece of concept art that was not released on the Disney Parks Blog, which was an intentional omission. (The art below is a photo I took of the art on the screen at the event.)
The commonality to all Epcot Central Spine Redesign plans was the demolition of both Innoventions buildings. Beyond that, there’d be large swaths of open space that would be modeled after the Gardens of Imagination at Shanghai Disneyland. (Not in substance, but in style.)
Irrespective of all that, we expected further developments on the Epcot Central Spine Redesign by now. We haven’t heard anything about the Epcot Central Spine Redesign in a while–no rumors, nothing.
If this redesign is still slated to occur–and we really hope that it is–work will need to begin on it at some point later this year or early next year to finish by Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. Even if each half of Innoventions is demolished and the work is done in stages, the Epcot Central Spine Redesign will present a massive impediment to guest flow.
The bigger concern for Disney is that the demolition might impact Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival, which spills out into Future World more and more each year. Presumably this project will occur through at least one Food & Wine Festival (and that’s the best case scenario if work starts immediately after the festival ends), and will require shifting some event offerings into the Wonders Festival Center or into World Showplace.
Speaking of which, we believe the above work is for Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival, which starts next month.
Now let’s move on to World Showcase…
Before we start with construction, I’ve got to give a quick “plug” to the Signature Poutine (“French Fries with Canadian Cheddar and Bacon Sauce with Cheese Curds”) at Refreshment Port between the entrance to World Showcase and the Canada pavilion.
I’ve mentioned this snack when I updated our Snacking Around the World Showcase post, but haven’t done a new post or review of the poutine. This is one of my Walt Disney World guilty pleasures. I wouldn’t say it’s high quality, but I think it tastes incredible (Sarah disagrees). Perhaps not the best dish for a humid summer day, but I enjoy it so much that I ordered it anyway!
Speaking of non-construction updates, there’s also some World Cup-inspired soccer merchandise.
I have zero interest in soccer, but I think this is cool. It’s nice to see Walt Disney World target special events and niche interests (calling the World Cup a “niche interest” is a huge understatement, but you get the idea).
From across World Showcase Lagoon, a couple of construction projects are somewhat visible. The first is the Ratatouille: the Adventure trackless dark ride show building, which is partially visible above Morocco.
This will be accessible from a new avenue behind the France pavilion.
Behind France, a couple of pillars for the Skyliner gondolas are visible.
This has been pretty controversial on social media, and I’ll have a full “take” on this in our Skyliner update later this week. Suffice to say, the Skyliner support is hardly the most prominent sightline issue behind France. While I hope an effort is made to conceal this (and maybe elevate the Eiffel Tower), I have a difficult time getting too worked up over a couple pillars when the damage was already done ~20 years ago.
The Stave Church Gallery in the Norway Pavilion is now showcasing an exhibit called “Gods of the Vikings.” This features legendary Norse gods and goddesses, including Thor and Loki, who influenced the ancient Vikings of Scandinavia.
It’s a pretty clever way to weave some Marvel ‘inspiration’ into Epcot that would be forbidden if the comic or film characters were used. The historical versions of Thor, Odin, Freyja, and Loki are all pretty cool, and I joked that Disney should just forget the Marvel angle and make an attraction based upon them.
That’s it for this Epcot update. As you can see, a lot is happening here–and it’s happening at a fast pace. Even if we won’t see the most significant fruits of this for a few more years, we should start seeing smaller changes next year. Part of me is disappointed that the new park will barely resemble the EPCOT Center I fell in love with as a kid, but I also think it was long overdue for a refresh. We’ll start doing these construction updates much more regularly, especially now that work is so clearly visible at Epcot.
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What do you think of the current state of Epcot, and its construction projects? Thoughts on the colossal show building for Guardians of the Galaxy, and how/whether it’ll be concealed? What about Ratatouille or the Skyliner? Have you tried the poutine? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!