Epcot ‘Reimagining’ Details Announced
Epcot is going to be reimagined, and details have been shared about some of what that will entail for Walt Disney World’s second gate.
The big news Guardians of the Galaxy replacing the Universe of Energy (which will close August 13, 2017) as what appears to be a total overhaul of Future World. In addition to an aesthetic overhaul of Future World, this will also include substantive changes and additions to both Future World and World Showcase.
This was just announced during the Walt Disney Parks & Resorts panel at the 2017 D23 Expo in Anaheim. This was easily the most announcement-dense D23 Expo ever, and we’ll have updates on everything in the very near future…
In addition, it was confirmed that a Ratatouille dark ride (see our Ratatouille Trackless Dark Ride Coming to Epcot post for more info) will be added to the France pavilion.
From the concept art (see below), it appears that the permits uncovered were correct, and the Ratatouille dark ride will be an expansion to the France pavilion.
Both the new Guardians of the Galaxy attraction and the Ratatouille dark ride will open by 2021, according to the Disney Parks Blog.
Also announced was a new ‘green’ version of Mission: Space that will have guests orbiting our planet. It was described by Imagineer Tom Fitzgerald as “Soarin: Around the Earth.” This is being created by Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Lucasfilm’s VFX and animation studio.
Directly adjacent to that will be a new themed “Space Restaurant” that will offer guests the opportunity to travel into space for amazing dining experiences with views into the stars.
The new space restaurant will be operated by the Patina Restaurant Group, which has multiple other restaurants at Walt Disney World and Disneyland.
The only other World Showcase announcement was that Reflections of China, the classic CircleVision attraction, will be receiving a new film, shot with state of the art technology.
Tom Fitzgerald also teased that there was a lot he wanted to share about Epcot, but that some of the plans needed to be shared at a later date. We are pretty confident that several other rumors on our 8 Huge Epcot Rumors list will be part of this overhaul.
The inference was that the goal was to have Epcot’s reimagining complete in time for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary in 2021…
I’m not really how much I can say about Epcot, its mission statement, and its loft aspirations that I have not already said. In my Why We Can’t Let EPCOT Go post, I think I succinctly (at least as far as my writing goes) covered why so many of the changes to Epcot made in the last two decades miss the mark, and why this park is so important. I won’t rehash all of that here, but I will cover some thoughts on this latest announcement, specifically.
Okay, I will say a bit more…
I’ll start with the good. The first thing they shared–the piece of concept art showing a new aesthetic vision for Future World–gave me goosebumps.
Even though there are a lot of vague brushstrokes and it’s hard to tell what, exactly, is happening in some areas, this art feels reminiscent of Ryman’s original EPCOT Center art and some of what was created for WESTCOT. Perhaps that was an intentional choice to tug at the heartstrings and give it unearned goodwill (in which case, it work), but it was oddly reassuring.
It was probably reassuring, at least in part, because it signified that key parts of Epcot are not changing, and there’s the potential for reinvention in areas that have stagnated and are showing their age–I’m looking at you, tombstones and pin trading shades.
I was also relieved to see that Guardians of the Galaxy would be occupying the existing Universe of Energy building. Don’t get me wrong–I am not excited to see Guardians of the Galaxy enter Epcot–but if it’s going to happen, at least it’s not visually intrusive like at Disney California Adventure.
Likewise, I can get behind the changes at Mission: Space and the addition of the Space Restaurant. Mission: Space is hardly anyone’s favorite attraction, and breathing some life into a concept that has so much (squandered) potential is definitely something I can get behind.
As for Ratatouille coming to France, I’ve already offered extensive commentary on that in our recent post on the attraction. I don’t think it’s the best attraction, but with some tweaks, it could be great. The concept art also looks promising, and it’ll be a nice expansion to France.
A closing date for Impressions de France is conspicuously missing from the Parks Blog post (the same one that does provide a closing for Universe of Energy), so I’m wondering if maybe we won’t lose it? I’m still preparing myself for the worst–I would personally miss that great film, but I can recognize that it has had a good run.
In other World Showcase news, I can get behind a new Reflections of China film. I just hope someone besides Tom Fitzgerald is behind this. We do not need Reflections of CGIna.
Now, the bad. The whole concept of Guardians of the Galaxy in Epcot bothers me. I also find it downright insulting that Tom Fitzgerald used a “found photo” of a young Starlord at Epcot to help explain how the attraction fits.
If someone visiting EPCOT Center makes them thematically appropriate for an attraction in the park, you should all look forward to a ride based on my great grandpa reciting passages from Reader’s Digest in the near future.
I get that Disney is making decision for Epcot with a larger demographic than hardcore fans in mind, but do not insult us by making up some excuse as to how this fits the original vision for EPCOT Center.
It does not matter how much lipstick you put on it or layers of backstory are flung onto the walls of the queue and post-show, a Guardians of the Galaxy attraction has no place in Future World. These characters are an inorganic fit for Future World, and any attraction featuring them necessarily will be shoehorned into Epcot.
I can already anticipate the responses defending these additions: that Future World is stale, that the edutainment component of the original EPCOT Center has failed, that people go to theme parks to be entertained. I think these are some fair, but arguable, points. That’s why I’m so eager for a reboot of Future World–I just want one that stays true to the spirit of the original.
I’d add more to that: the edutainment component of EPCOT Center “failed” because of an extreme imbalance in the nature of attraction and due to Disney ignoring Epcot for decades. Moreover, pure “entertainment” attractions that were shoehorned in were likewise failures.
Finally, educational topics are as relevant as ever. As with anything else, it’s a matter of presentation.In their heyday, the original EPCOT Center attractions resonated with guests, who learned something while being entertained. Learning has not suddenly become boring. “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey,” was watched by an audience in the hundreds of millions. Americans are transfixed by SpaceX’s every move, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk is treated like a rock star. The tech companies of Silicon Valley are a driving force of American innovation, and they rank as some of the world’s most admired companies.
As such, my ultimate conclusion would not be that Epcot needs thrill rides or a new mission statement to be relevant. Future World stopped being “relevant” when Disney started ignoring its mission statement, not due to that mission statement being broken. The problems Epcot faces today were not caused by its lofty ambitions, but of Disney “updating” it by shoehorning in characters and going the cheap route on keeping the park fresh.
Edutainment remains as viable as ever. What isn’t viable is trotting out woefully outdated attractions, shoehorning characters into existing attractions in a half-baked manner as a bandaid, and spending hundreds of millions of dollars on new attractions that are just flat out weak.
I really hope that the Guardians of the Galaxy attraction replacing Universe of Energy will be great. I suspect it will be, as the rumors about it indicate it has a real wow-factor. However, it still perturbs me, and that this is deemed appropriate for the park makes me question the long-term vision for Epcot.
I also worry that this approach of ‘putting whatever, wherever’ will have long term consequences. The net result is that 10-20 years from now every park will look the same: like a hodgepodge of attractions not designed with theme in mind, but on the basis of which franchise could fit where in any given year. If all four parks follow the Magic Kingdom model because it’s the most “successful” park at Walt Disney World, it weakens and cheapens all of them.
For Epcot fans, I know it might be easy to accept attractions that are poor fits if it means a significant overhaul to the park, as the park has been neglected for so long. Surely, whatever is to come must be better than the current stagnation, particularly in Future World, right? Personally, I do not think so.
The park needing significant changes (and I don’t think that’s in dispute) does not mean we should just gladly accept whatever. Theme still matters, especially at the most unique theme park ever created. After years of stagnation, the answer to Epcot’s problems does not lie with quick shots in the arm, but with a comprehensive vision that re-establishes its unique identity in ways that entertain and capture the imaginations of guests.
On the plus side, I think we are also going to get that. I’m optimistic (perhaps to a fault?) that some of the yet-unannounced reimagining of Epcot will maintain the original spirit of the park, and serve to further the original vision for the park. I suspect that Imagineering wants to toe the line with changes to Epcot, adding some crowd-pleasing favorites that do not fit, while also attempting to reinvent the park in the spirit of EPCOT Center’s original vision. The former is clearly going to happen. Whether I’m just delusional about the latter or not remains to be seen.
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What do you think of the Epcot announcement at the D23 Expo? Do you agree or disagree with my assessment that this is not the change that Epcot needs? Are you excited about this, or do you wish Epcot would return to the vision of the EPCOT Center era? Hearing your feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!
While agreeing with your theming argument, the pavilions have in fact just merged to become under the global theme of space. We have sea, land, sky (soarin’) and imagination on the right, and space and motion on the left (aka space exploration and the technology leading to it). I am glad that the pavilion is being replaced rather than abandoned. It was the remaining pavilion waiting for a thrilling version of itself like its neighbors did with planet landing and transportation simulators. The Life pavilion that we “lost” looked like a generic shopping mall and featured a controversial ride about sex. Energy was also a strange “theme” to begin with. If you liked the dinosaurs, they fit the animal theme better in the Animal Kingdom park and remember that the ride existed before the 1998 attraction was created. I am fine with the theme overhaul.
Ellen’s Energy Adventure and The Great Movie Ride both share the same vehicle technology and closed together on August 13, 2017 to make place to Epcot’s first and much needed roller coaster, as plans for both The Land and Spaceship Earth (Time Racers) have been scrapped. You can still ride Spaceship Earth for your omni-mover trip through the ages of man. But I suspect that it will get the same treatment of The Great Movie Ride somewhere beyond 2021. Disney was never meant to be a museum. You can view the idea of Disney as a human scale Miniatur Wunderland, and Walt dreaming that while his pirates of the Caribbean aren’t real, his science showcase can be. But the sponsorship model failed. Disney must move on and bet on what worked so far. The immersion and experience.
And I am very more concerned about budget cuts than showcase concepts.
I’m hoping that the GotG ride is given a kind of thematic fit… maybe there is ‘pre-ride’ content about the Guardians looking for a new energy source for a planet, or maybe they cover the science behind warp speed travel – then we travel at that speed through the attraction.
I’m (clearly) not an imagineer, but I think if they could try and get a bit of edutainment into the GotG ride, then it wouldn’t hurt so much that they’re kind of ignoring the original mission statement of EPCOT.
EPCOT is my favourite part and the dilution of the theme with random IP and ‘whatever fits’ worries and bothers me too.
Fingers crossed we get something wonderful AND fitting AND appropriate.
My 5 yr. old son adores mission space. He shed tears when I told him it was being changed. While I understand the need for a reboot it’s sad to see an attraction you love close or be completely changed. As far as GOTG I absolutely cannot get behind it.
“Future World stopped being “relevant” when Disney started ignoring its mission statement, not due to that mission statement being broken.” Well said. Great thoughts well-expressed, as always, Tom.
Epcot has always been my least favorite park, excluding the World Showcase side, so I welcome the changes and am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. While I’m not a huge fan of Guardians, I’m thrilled that Guardians won’t be replacing my favorite all time ride (Tower of Terror).
I like the idea of the sky gondolas because I’m not a huge fan of the buses either, and since my family loves Pop Century we won’t have to drive as much.
I’d rather see almost any kind of change than continued decline and stagnation.
Thanks for keeping us informed. You do a great job.
Agreeing totally with “Tabitha”! Epcot used to be the elevated park, incorporating beauty in nature and architecture, along with science, the world as it is at its best, and the exciting future ahead. We, too, now tell our grandchildren, who are Tabitha’s children’s ages, how wonderful Epcot used to be. We currently take each child for their own first time to Disney World trip, including the next one this Sept. So sad to see sell-outs as each park has it’s improvements. Guardians is a total misfire…
I’m also disappointed to see Epcot moving farther away from its mission statement. I’m 36 now, but remember visiting Epcot at 12 for the first time and being blown away by Cranium Command and the Wonders of Life Pavillion. In fact it was that trip to Epcot that started my lifelong love of manatees and led me to learn more about efforts at conservation. We’re now locals, so visit all the parks often. I find myself saying “In my day Epcot had …” and in this case my 9 and 5 year olds ask “why would they get rid of that.” I’llshow them old videos and they say they’re sad to have not seen it. Also my kids are suckers for edutainment, as am I. In fact their happiest days at Epcot are when rides temporarily shut down so they can have the areas after rides like Spaceship Earth and Figment to themselves. We all preferred the old Innoventions games to rides. My son prefers the Orlando Science Center to the parks now, which is sad in my opinion. Epcot is missing out on a huge niche. Maybe we are in the minority (I am the mom who makes my kids complete junior guide badges after all), but edutainment could keep Epcot fresh and innovative if they spent the time and money to get it right. I loved Epcot because it used to be a theme park without the theme park feel. I can only handle Universal (excluding Harry Potter worlds) only every few years for that reason, but Epcot in its heyday I could have visited weekly. I want to have hope it won’t turn into just another theme park, but not holding my breath.
I wholeheartedly agree about everything. The one thing I’m thankful for is that Guardians will be confined to the Energy building and isn’t going to be a whole land. As such, there is potential for another re-theming down the line when Guardians is no longer as popular. (Which, let’s face it, is only a matter of time and my biggest reason for hating any Guardian addition to any Disney park.) When it comes to Marvel and these comic book franchises I don’t see much lasting enthusiasm, it’s constantly shifting and changing, as such permanent additions to Disney Parks from them don’t make a heck of a lot of sense to me, unless they’re trying to be Universal Studios. Unfortunately, Universal Studios already exists. Cautiously optimistic is how I’m feeling about all the park announcements, but I gotta say, not a single one has me overly excited.
I personally feel that Epcot is long over do for a revamp. With that being said additions are great if they retain that mission based vibe and feel. I loved universe of energy and what about the other pavilion that has been closed for ever! Does anyone remember cranium command! Not sure about Gaurdians fitting in but disney rarely disappoints with its attractions. It’s hard to move forward and live in the past at the same time. We’ll see what the future holds.
Cranium Command was the first Disney World attraction I ever went on. (I had been to California’s Disneyland many times.) They could have turned it into Inside Out.
Let’s see what the imagineers have in store. They are as interested in seeing the concept succeed as us fans are. If there goal is to “stay true to the original vision, make it more timeless, relevant, family, and more Disney” isn’t that what we would set out to do if we could? We all agree an upgrade is way past due. EPCOT yearns for a creative use of space and the ideas placed on them. Let’s face it, deep down inside we are excited because what we love about Walt’s legacy is the willingness to take a creative risk.
I’m totally with you on this:
“Finally, educational topics are as relevant as ever. As with anything else, it’s a matter of presentation.In their heyday, the original EPCOT Center attractions resonated with guests, who learned something while being entertained. Learning has not suddenly become boring. “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey,” was watched by an audience in the hundreds of millions. Americans are transfixed by SpaceX’s every move, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk is treated like a rock star. The tech companies of Silicon Valley are a driving force of American innovation, and they rank as some of the world’s most admired companies.”
My parents took me to Epcot the year it opened and I can’t tell you how blown away I was. We’d been to the World’s Fair in TN earlier that year and Epcot seemed to me to be an extension of that. I loved it.
I don’t love how neglected poor Future World is now. So much could be done there, and I totally agree that edutainment is not dead; people do want to learn. Right there with you!
So it may not be very likely, but has anyone considered that the guardians of the galaxy attraction will have an edutainment angle? Wouldn’t that be great? Nothing about Ellen, Bill Nye, or Jamie Lee Curtis really scream Epcot to me. So maybe we can get energy edutainment from more interesting characters, on a more interesting ride.
And maybe they can work back in some dinosaurs somehow.
It seems that “Future World” is being transformed into “Out of this World”, and in that case, Guardians makes sense. Mission Space now has a green ride that orbits the earth, there’s a space restaurant, Spaceship Earth already exists, and now Guardians adds to that. The new direction seems to be a celebration of the world through the World Showcase and The Land, and a celebration of space through the old Future World. I do wonder if we’ll see Test Track get a re-theme eventually in this vain.
Is there any word on what the GOTG ride will actually be? That makes a big difference to me.if it’s going to be some motion sickness inducing simulator, I will be sad. 🙁
I don’t believe GotG belongs in Future World, but I can accept and warm to the idea depending on the execution of the attraction. If it is going to be another soulless, 3 minute thrill ride, I will be deeply disappointed. However, if they tie it into the future of energy and the duration of the attraction is longer than a blink of the eye, it may have potential. What are the odds of the latter happening?
Well, it’s going to be a roller coaster. Fortunately, Disney has indicated it’s going to be one of the longest enclosed coasters, so it should have at least two show areas where the trains are stopped to move the plot forward. I would be shocked if it’s like Rock ‘n Roller Coaster – Disney should be using this ride to adequately compete with the Harry Potter/Forbidden Forest coaster at Universal.
So in terms of theming and story, it should be much better than Hulk or Expedition Everest. Hopefully the queue can discuss futuristic energy sources that could make interstellar travel possible. And the show areas could involve characters discussing energy options (for fuel and weapons systems) as part of the plot.
It is disappointing that Disney described the attraction as “replacing the current Universe of Energy attraction”, and there have been no subsequent press releases about this ride that reference Universe of Energy. But we’ll have to see. The genetics lab queue for Flight of Passage is incredible, so I’m hoping Disney brings that technical detail to GoTG to pay homage to its predecessor.
I read another Disney Blog that stated that Journey to Imagination is becoming an Inside Out themed ride. I’m really glad that this ride is getting a re-do and am even happier that Epcot is getting a long overdue upgrade. When I walk through Future World in the day, it seems tired and sad. At night it’s so much better due to the lighting effects (which I love). Although I am apprehensive about movie based rides being stuck into Epcot, it’s still good that the renovation is going to happen. I just wonder why they need to base so many rides on the movies when some of the enduring classics had nothing to do with movies, at least when they where made, are still popular and loved. Think Pirates of the Caribbean, the Huanted Mansion, Small World, even the Tiki Room. They are timeless and although they get refreshed, they have never needed to be completely scrapped. I hope for some more classics like these in Epcot someday. Classics that adhere to the original mission of Epcot.