Epcot Update: Construction & Controversies with Impressions de France & New Music

We’re back at EPCOT for the first Walt Disney World construction update of 2020. Now that the Christmas season is over, work picks up pace here as the park enters its off-season (even with Festival of the Arts beginning very soon). Let’s take a stroll around Future World and World Showcase to see the current state of EPCOT, which is currently short for “Endless Projects: Construction of Tomorrow.”

For this update, we arrived via the Skyliner from Disney’s Hollywood Studios after grabbing our boarding pass (more on that tomorrow) and entered through the International Gateway entrance. Unfortunately, we had a wrapped gondola (line was too long to request an uncovered cabin)…which means no aerial photos of the new Gusteau’s sign added to Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure or of Future World from the Highway in the Sky.

Before we start with the update, let’s start with something that can’t be photographed: new World Showcase background music. Last week, a few new instrumental tracks were added to the ~60 minute background music loops in France, China, and Mexico. In the France pavilion, tracks can be heard from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Ratatouille, and Beauty and the Beast. In the China pavilion, there are now songs from Mulan. Outside of the Mexico pavilion, there are now songs from Coco…

Unsurprisingly, this was met with a lot of angst on social media. Some of this I can understand–but I also think there’s an underlying “if we give them an inch, they’ll take a mile” mentality. Didn’t we all love The Story of Coco with Mariachi Cobre? Isn’t Gran Fiesta Tour generally well-received? It may not be ideal, but a few songs dabbled in background music is also hardly intrusive or going to be the straw that breaks theme. It could even lead more guests to appreciate the under-appreciated music loops that fade into the background.

Beyond that, I think hardcore EPCOT fans need to do a better job of picking their battles. These songs aren’t a matter of the writing being on the wall or Disney eroding the thematic integrity of EPCOT. Characters from animated films have been a stable presence in World Showcase since the mid-1990s, or over half of EPCOT’s existence. Freaking out about every little change because it doesn’t perfectly square with the 1982 version of the park is a recipe for constant frustration and heartache, especially when Disney has made it abundantly clear where this park is heading.

This blog has had posts about the difficulty of “Letting EPCOT Go,” so I get it. I still have a tough time with some of the decisions about the direction of the park, but (as I wrote in our Epcot Forever Review) have mostly come to terms with it. EPCOT has been heading down this path for decades; being the old man shouting at a cloud over every little questionable change isn’t accomplishing anything. I’d prefer to enjoy the new park on its own terms, for what it is and could be, rather than lamenting something that once was but will never be again.

That brings me to the next EPCOT-related social media controversy: Impressions de France showtimes. For years, it has seemed like a foregone conclusion that Impressions de France’s days were numbered. At first, it was feared the theater would be consumed by the expansion of Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. When it was granted a reprieve from that, many figured it was only a matter of time before that needed the space, either for a shop or supporting offering to help with crowds.

When the Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along was announced, it was a shock that the new offering would alternate showings with Impressions de France. Even when that announcement was made, I assumed it’d be a year or less until a blog post with, “due to its overwhelming popularity and feedback from our guests, the Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along will now have even more showtimes so more guests can enjoy this beloved attraction…”

I still think that’s the inevitability here. As such, I’m not surprised to find out that Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along will be shown daily from 11 am to 7 pm, with Impressions de France from only 7:30 to 9 pm. We see Impressions de France more than we do literally any other attraction in Epcot. We’ve made a concerted effort to visit every one of its filming locations in France (we’re getting close–mostly just spots around the French Alps remain!).

We’re probably the closest thing Impressions de France has to super fans. I maintain that it’s the best film-based attraction in Epcot (better than Soarin’), almost completely timeless (only a couple of 80s outfits), as well as a beautiful and effective ‘sales pitch’ for visiting France. I think a sing-along is a lame replacement and this being Disney’s idea of “alternating” is very disappointing. Nevertheless, Impressions de France has had a good run–longer than anyone could’ve ever expected. When it does inevitably end, I’ll be sad but understanding.

In the meantime, we’ll be seeing it every night to end our evenings at Epcot. Hopefully other fans of the film will also make a point of seeing it as much as possible, as numbers are ultimately the only thing that’ll prolong its run.

Moving along to a more positive note, the food booths around World Showcase appear prepared for the start of Festival of the Arts.

As we’ve stressed countless times, this is the best event of the year at Epcot. Read our 2020 Guide to Epcot’s Festival of the Arts for more info & planning tips.

Speaking of food, work continues on “Regal Eagle’s Distinctly Patriotic Smokehouse: A Salute to All Foods, But Mostly Barbecued Meats ~ A Sam Eagle Craft Drafts & BBQ Joint” (name not official…YET!)

We shared the full menu & prices last week, which presents good news whether you’re on the Disney Dining Plan or paying out of pocket, as there are a range of entrees that will make Regal Eagle a great ‘bang for buck’ restaurant.

This is follows the announcement by Walt Disney World that Sam Eagle of the Muppets will host the restaurant.

It’s difficult to say how much work remains to be done, but we’re still anticipating that this restaurant opens in late February or March 2020. The start of Epcot’s Flower & Garden Festival seems like as good of a prediction as any.

Moving to the front of World Showcase, we have the new Refreshment Port restrooms that opened late last month.

These are a huge improvement over their now-demolished, undersized predecessor.

Between the new restrooms and the Refreshment Port is the temporary Starbucks Traveler’s Cafe.

This has a modern modular design style that you might see featured in Dwell. Fitting for EPCOT, but not so much for this particular corner of the park. Either way, it’s temporary.

Continuing along this same path, we can see the remnants of Innoventions.

The argument could be made that this is poor show, but short of erecting gigantic walls and huge scrims for the next 2+ years (which wouldn’t even be practical during storm season), I’m not sure how this is avoidable given the location. I personally enjoyed watching the in plain view transformation of DCA several years ago, and also find this fascinating.

It takes you aback the first time you see this demolition in person, but I say good riddance. Then again, I have no sentimentality towards Innoventions.

At no time in my adult life have either of these buildings offered anything even remotely justifying the prime real estate they consumed in Epcot. My only disappointment is that the other side isn’t being demolished, too.

Back over by the Seas pavilion, the front entrance bypass has opened. We’d expect this pathway to be open for the next couple of years.

On the right side of the frame here is the Innoventions building that will be demolished to make way for the Moana Journey of Water walk-through.

Bouncing over to the other side of Future World, here’s a current look at the Space 220 Restaurant by Mission Space.

Walt Disney World still hasn’t provided an official opening date for this beyond “this winter.” It remains to be seen whether a debut by March is realistic–we’re hopeful it’ll be open by May 2020.

This area is now pretty quiet, as Test Track has closed for its refurbishment, which runs through the end of February.

For more info on this and other closures, see our 2020 Refurbishment Calendar for Walt Disney World.

Nearby, MouseGear has set up temporary shop in the portion of Innoventions behind Electric Umbrella.

Electric Umbrella still has not closed, and we’d now anticipate it won’t until the two new restaurants debut (and perhaps not until Spaceship Earth begins its 2-year overhaul).

Here’s a look inside the temporary MouseGear.

It’s nothing special, but gets the job done. It follows the similar open floor-plan approach used in the World of Disney remodels, right down to the signs on the walls with popcorn lights indicating what’s in each area.

We’ll wrap up this construction update at the front of Epcot, where half of the entrance area has reopened with the Leave a Legacy monoliths removed and new planters and pavement installed. It remains to be seen how faithful this is to the concept art released last year. So far, so good!

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What do you think of the current state of Epcot and its construction projects? Thoughts on music from animated films in the World Showcase BGMs? What about the limited showtimes for Impressions de France? Looking forward to visiting Endless Projects: Construction of Tomorrow during your next WDW trip, or dreading visits to the park while it’s an active construction site? 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!

63 Responses to “Epcot Update: Construction & Controversies with Impressions de France & New Music”
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