It’s time for another EPCOT update as we take a look at a range of changes in Future World and World Showcase. This Walt Disney World park report will offer photos & commentary about construction progress on Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind, Play Pavilion, Harmonious, Italy pavilion, mystery project, and more. Plus, the return of Leave a Legacy, Flower & Garden Festival, and crowds.
As is probably evident from the photo above, the 2021 Taste of EPCOT Festival of the Arts is still ongoing through February 22. It’s not covered extensively here, but see our 2021 EPCOT Festival of the Arts Review for thoughts and photos if you’re visiting in the next week.
Although totally unrelated, Mardi Gras 2021: International Flavors of Carnaval began on February 6 and runs until March 28, 2021 at Universal Studios Florida. That’s mentioned here because it and Festival of the Arts are two of the best events of the year at Orlando theme parks, despite being overshadowed by Halloween and Christmas.
On top of the fact that Festival of the Arts and Mardi Gras overlap by several weeks, it’s also worth noting that flowers and decorations typically begin going up a few weeks early for the EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival. This is already happening, as you’ll see below.
Just something to consider for those already contemplating early 2022 Walt Disney World and Universal vacations. You could aim for February 12-18, 2022 and “triple dip” on these events. While it’s still way too early to predict crowds, Presidents’ Day isn’t until the following week: February 21, 2022.
Our past few visits to EPCOT had been almost totally devoid of crowds, but that changed heading into the holiday weekend.
The worst of the holiday attendance surge should now be behind us, but expect Walt Disney World crowds to be elevated for the remainder of the week as compared to the last month-plus. With no Mardi Gras festivities in New Orleans, expect an even bigger than normal exodus to Florida. We’ve been warning of this for months–it’s old news at this point.
On the construction front, we’ll start with another “roofing report” from Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind.
Work continues on the metal supports that will hold solar panels. There’s also a variety of new scrim and progress on the facade and in front of the eventual attraction marquee.
From what we can see, the Play Pavilion’s roof replacement is finally finished.
This was moving at a fast pace last summer, before stalling for what seemed like months at ~90% done. We still have absolutely zero insight into how far along Play Pavilion’s interior is, or when it will open. Based upon its interactivity and the lack of any updates from Walt Disney World, our guess is that this has been delayed into 2022.
Testing continues on the Harmonious barges that have already made their way into World Showcase Lagoon.
Right now, this is the most active construction project at EPCOT. It’s obviously difficult to tell from static photos that appear largely the same from one week to the next, but there’s visible programming and testing occurring on a daily basis–even over the holiday weekend.
Continuing around World Showcase, work appears to be nearing completion on the permanent gelato stand (“La Gelateria”) in the Italy pavilion.
Our totally uninformed speculation is that this opens around late March or early April. It could almost certainly be finished before then, so the real question is when Disney (or Patina; I can’t recall whether this is theirs) wants to open an ice cream stand during the winter off-season.
Speaking of Patina, I received an update from them with the subject line: “The Italy Pavilion in Epcot is Not Currently Hiring.”
Apparently, there have been some reports that state Patina Restaurant Group is currently hiring at The Italy Pavilion in Epcot and this news is “completely incorrect” per Patina. I have no clue whatsoever about the specifics of the rumor here…but apparently it’s incorrect? So there you have it.
WHOA, STOP THE PRESSES, WE’VE DISCOVERED A HUGE MYSTERY PROJECT.
Not sure what this mystery project could be, but safe to say it’s something major. Perhaps laying the groundwork for monorail expansion, Villain Mountain, or a fifth gate. Maybe all of the above.
As noted in our last EPCOT update, merchandise for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure was released early. Most of this was already out of stock last time we checked.
It’s back now–or at least was when we visited.
Continuing our stroll around World Showcase Lagoon, we catch a glimpse of the centerpiece mosaic floral quilt for the 2021 Taste of EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival.
This is always a welcome addition, although the colors this year appear a bit more muted and earthy.
I’ve been advised that maybe I should keep my uninformed flower talk to a minimum after the weird rambling in our recent Magic Kingdom Report.
However, I can’t help myself. I prefer more vibrant colors that scream “SPRING!”
Topiaries are also being installed around Future World.
We have these butterflies, Bambi, and even a dinosaur (?) garden over by Mission Space and Test Track.
Pretty flower beds (now these are the vibrant types of colors I dig!) are also starting to pop up around Future World.
As a reminder, EPCOT’s springtime festival doesn’t officially kick off until March 3, 2021. We cover everything you need to know in our Guide to the 2021 Taste of EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival.
Finally, late last week Leave A Legacy returned to EPCOT. This caused outrage on social media from all directions among Walt Disney World fans.
Unpopular opinion time: we like this. In fact, I’ll go a step further: I honestly do not get this criticism in the least.
This is, very transparently, a “contractual obligation” solution. Like when I have to write a blog post after convincing Sarah to go to the All-Star McDonald’s or buy a dozen doughnuts for the sake of research.
The end product is somewhat minimalistic…but what was anyone expecting?
More to the point, what do Walt Disney World fans suggest as a superior alternative?
Keep in mind that you have to work within the parameters of a bunch of faces and corresponding numbers on a grid. Also be cognizant of the fact that any budget spent on this cannot be spent elsewhere.
It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of Leave A Legacy. Past posts frequently derided the Leave A Legacy monoliths as tombstones, and pointed out the irony that the first thing guests saw upon entering the theme park rooted in optimism and the future evokes a cemetery or war memorial. Several readers, presumably Leave A Legacy buyers, objected to my jokes.
With that said, my reaction to the new Leave A Legacy is that it’s a “lemonade out of lemons” solution.
Obviously they look very temporary. Because they are.
The panels have been installed overnight and can easily be removed overnight. These Leave A Legacy tiles expire over the course of the next 6 years, and you better believe they’ll all be gone by 2027.
They’re also criticized as being like 9 feet tall, as if that’s some ill-conceived design flaw. Did you ever consider the possibility that the upper panels are all owned by the Na’vi?
Or that space at the front of EPCOT is finite, and Disney calculated that to fit all of the tiles on these walls, this was the necessary height?
At least the new design is colorful so it doesn’t instantly evoke a memorial. The new Leave A Legacy is also tucked out of the way, so guests arriving via Disney transportation (who are more likely to be first-timers) won’t ever even see it.
Those who want to seek out Leave A Legacy can head over towards the far parking lot, and search for themselves or their favorite celebrities there. (Pretty sure I spot Jay & Silent Bob in separate squares above. Or maybe just dudes with similar 1990s styles.)
I’m not an ardent defender of every half-baked decision Disney makes. However, it’s pretty obvious this one was only cooked halfway on purpose, and fans critiquing all of the “flaws” are sort of missing the point. It’s also very odd to me that those who also disliked the Leave A Legacy monoliths are criticizing this. Again, what did you expect? What’s a superior (low-cost) solution?
Beyond that, pick your battles. When you criticize everything, it undermines legitimate critique–and there’s no shortage of opportunities for that right now when it comes to Disney’s decisions. Complaining about everything makes it easier for Walt Disney World and Imagineering leadership to paint diehard fans with a broad brush as being averse to all change, ignoring all of our feedback as a result.
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What do you think about what we’ve covered in this EPCOT update? If you’ve visited recently, what was your experience like at EPCOT? Are you okay with the new “lemonade out of lemons” Leave A Legacy installation, or do you think the criticism is justified? Thoughts about construction progress on Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind, Play Pavilion, Harmonious, Italy pavilion, etc? Guesses as to what the major mystery project could be? Excited for the start of Flower & Garden Festival? 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!