EPCOT Overhaul is Over

Ahead of the grand opening of CommuniCore Hall and Plaza, Walt Disney World shared new information about the transformation of EPCOT and its completion. This post covers a rundown of what to expect in the reimagined front of the park–including new food offerings and more–now that construction walls are fully down, along with some thoughts about the end of EPCOT’s overhaul.

For starters, the news that the EPCOT overhaul is over comes via park VP Kartika Rodriguez who declared the following: “after years of creative vision, innovation and dedicated work, I’m thrilled to share that the historic transformation of our park is complete.”

The construction walls are around World Celebration; CommuniCore Hall & Plaza, plus Mickey & Friends are now open to all. According to Rodriguez, these new spaces speak to the heart of the World Celebration neighborhood, which focuses on experiences that bring communities together.

Rodriguez also added the following: “If you can dream it, CommuniCore Hall can do it… the future of this gathering and event space is limited only by the boundaries of imagination. We’re all about the magic of possibilities here at EPCOT, and our imaginations are pretty spectacular. ” (Emphasis not added.)

“Since the first construction walls went up in 2019 through today, I can’t tell you the amount of time, talent, energy and passion that went into this current transformation,” the EPCOT Vice President continued. “EPCOT cast and Walt Disney Imagineers poured a lot of love (and art and soul!) into the beautiful park you see today.” The announcement also includes an obligatory Walt Disney quote.

I was able to attend the media event for the grand opening of CommuniCore Hall & Plaza, and my description of the spaces would not be nearly as charitable. But I’ll have a full review later this week once I’m able to explore the venues during the day and see how their being put to use during normal ops for Diet EPCOT. For now, I’ll just say…uh…there’s so much space for activities, I guess?

Turning to the new additions debuting alongside CommuniCore Hall & Plaza, the space adds two venues for performances. On the CommuniCore Plaza Stage, guests can enjoy “¡Celebración Encanto!”, the first show to debut in this new space for a limited time from now through September 6, 2024.

Bring the whole family for a fun sing-along to some of your favorite songs from Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Encanto.” I don’t have any intentions of reviewing “¡Celebración Encanto!” separately since it’s a fairly minor offering, but it’s fine. Pretty much what you’d expect. The only oddity (at least to me) is that Mirabel and Bruno don’t appear until towards the end of the sing-along, shortly after which it turns into a quasi dance party.

I wouldn’t be surprised if “¡Celebración Encanto!” evolves over time, as Mirabel and Bruno are–I assume–why the target demo would want to watch this in the first place. Without them on stage (or mingling in the crowd), a lot families are just going to pass right by this sing-along. It’s not the same as the Frozen sing-along over at DHS, since that has a semi-captive audience and thus can build to the character reveal.

You can catch the story of the Family Madrigal during the day, and at night, a Latin groove band will fill World Celebration with music and fun. While “¡Celebración Encanto!” is the headline addition, I found the Latin groove band to be the much more enjoyable, and something that could potentially maintain some energy in the former Future World as crowds otherwise start heading for World Showcase. (I also thought the music was way too loud, but I feel that way about every single performance at EPCOT–so hardly a unique critique. I guess I’m old…or perhaps value my hearing too much.)

On the other end of CommuniCore Plaza, there’s room for another performance space. According to Walt Disney World, this “will be perfect for open-air entertainment… you’ll have to stay tuned to see how we’ll bring that stage to life!” I assume this is a teaser for future use at the 2024 EPCOT Food & Wine Festival? Color me intrigued.

Speaking of festivals, right next to CommuniCore Plaza Stage, there is a new quick-service food and beverage destination that’s called “Festival Favorites.”

You can find an ever-changing assortment of some of fan-favorite items from the four EPCOT Festivals here to enjoy now. This summer, it’ll include a few treats inspired by the Disney Animation Studios Film “Encanto,” including a Cheese-stuffed Arepa with cilantro-lime crema and cotija cheese, and the Coconut Tres Leches, which is a vanilla cake soaked with oat, almond, and coconut milk topped with toasted coconut.

I actually love the idea of a Festival Favorites walk-up window like this–I hope it does, in fact, serve actual favorites from festivals. Have this be an ever-evolving menu and rotate in a few extinct dishes and it could be a real winner–that draws locals and fans to EPCOT at times of lower attendance (like right now!). It’s also in a good location with shade and indoor seating nearby. This might be the best aspect of CommuniCore Hall & Plaza, which is saying something.

After you’ve tried something tasty from Festival Favorites, be sure to visit some of your best pals at the all-new character greeting location, Mickey & Friends. This bright and colorful space is the perfect place to capture new memories with Mickey Mouse and more.

We had the chance to step inside Mickey & Friends during the CommuniCore Hall preview, where we met Mickey Mouse, Goofy, and Minnie Mouse–all in their iconic attire. The meet & greet is very similar to the Awesome New Character Spot at EPCOT that debuted in Innoventions West back in 2019 when that began its phased closure. Different murals, very similar idea.

One thing worth noting is that Mickey & Friends has both a standby line and a Lightning Lane. To my knowledge, Walt Disney World hasn’t yet announced this as an addition to the Genie+ service, but I’d expect to see it in there soon (today?). We’ll be watching to see how quickly Lightning Lane inventory goes for this–a similar capacity meet & greet at Animal Kingdom is quite popular, but those are also unique costumes…and it’s DAK, which is its own beast.

Finally, Walt Disney World shared a list of everything that has been added to EPCOT as part of the so-called historic transformation:

  • Takumi-Tei
  • Regal Eagle Smokehouse: Craft Drafts & Barbecue
  • Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along
  • Canada Far and Wide in Circle-Vision 360
  • Awesome Planet
  • Creations Shop
  • Club Cool
  • Space 220
  • Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
  • La Crêperie de Paris
  • Main Entrance Fountain
  • Beacons of Magic on Spaceship Earth
  • Connections Café and Eatery
  • La Gelateria Toscana
  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind
  • DuckTales World Showcase Adventure
  • Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana
  • World Celebration Gardens
  • Dreamers Point

While Walt Disney World will never be finished, EPCOT will always be in a state of becoming, and so forth…it is interesting to note that the company is declaring “mission accomplished” on this overhaul despite so much of it not coming to fruition. A lot more was planned and shelved, some of which we discussed recently in Here’s What EPCOT’s Overhaul Needs in Phase 2.

I’m not shocked that the Wondrous China film or Mary Poppins ride in the United Kingdom pavilion aren’t happening, and think fans had built the latter up to be something more than was actually planned, anyway. However, I am surprised that the much-needed (literally) Spaceship Earth refurbishment and the Wonders of Life pavilion transformation have been cancelled.

That’s to say nothing of the original three-level festival center that would have “one of the most remarkable architectural designs at any Disney park, featuring a plaza level, a middle expo level, and a park that sits in the sky on the top level.” Or, for that matter, the original and more ambitious plans for World Celebration.

I’ll always wonder what could’ve been had March 2020 not happened. But in fairness to Disney, it “only” took an additional 4 years to create buildings, bushes, and placemaking roughly equivalent to what they demolished. To end on an optimistic note, at least we are getting Test Track 3.0, which sounds pretty promising…and will hopefully usher in a second (and needed) phase of the EPCOT overhaul.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

YOUR THOUGHTS

What do you think of EPCOT’s overhaul ending? Is this an exciting development, or are you underwhelmed by the end results? Looking forward to any of these changes and additions? Disappointed about anything that has been cancelled? Agree or disagree with any of our assessments? 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!

40 Responses to “EPCOT Overhaul is Over”
  1. Noreen Walsh June 14, 2024
  2. Bob June 12, 2024
  3. Aaron June 11, 2024
  4. Bryan June 11, 2024
  5. Mark June 11, 2024
  6. Kenr June 10, 2024
    • Kenr June 10, 2024
  7. Mike C June 10, 2024
  8. Karyl June 10, 2024

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *