Epcot Overhaul & Re-Imagining: 8 Huge Rumors

Beyond the Epcot Re-imagining Details that were announced at the D23 Expo, there are a lot of rumors for new rides and re-themed areas of Future World and World Showcase. Without a doubt, Epcot is the focus of Walt Disney World’s plans prior to 2021.

There are still several concepts are floating around for an Epcot “re-imagining” that have yet to be announced. No matter what does end up being built, it’s an interesting time for the park. Big plans for Epcot are most definitely going to change the look and feel of the park. Imagineering has put Epcot veterans at the helm with the intent of restoring the park to its former grandeur, and even Parks & Resorts chairman Bob Chapek indicated that he’s told the Imagineers to “dream big” with regard to an Epcot overhaul that would stay true to the park’s original vision while offering something “timeless, relevant, and family friendly.”

In other words, we know things are on the horizon for Epcot: some of these things have been confirmed since we originally shared the rumors (and will be marked as such), while other possibilities are still on the table. A steady stream of rumors continues to trickle out, all with varying degrees of credibility. For this post, I thought I’d assemble the “best” of these rumors, and share them in the order of least-likely to most likely, along with my own commentary on each rumor…

Note that this list is based upon a combination of permits that Disney has quietly filed, insider sources, and credible rumors that have started floating around. I’m compiling everything here on the basis of what I deem most likely to come to fruition (based upon track records of those who have shared the info and a general smell-test). That does not mean that all of these changes will occur.

In other words, this is basically no better than Second Hand Disney News, and I’m correspondent Anthony Crispino. “Did you hear this thing where Spaceship Earth is changing its name to Golf Ball Racers? I’m pretty sure it’s gonna be like the hit attraction Rocket Rods; I got it from a reliable source.” 😉

Frankly, at this point I’m not inclined to believe any Epcot rumors until they’re officially announced by Disney, and even then, I have a sense of healthy skepticism. Even the things that were announced at the D23 Expo could be canceled or changed–it happens all of the time with Walt Disney World announcements. I’ve been burned plenty of times believing something that was a “sure thing,” most notably with the overhaul of the Journey into Imagination pavilion a couple of years ago that got pushed aside when Frozen proved to be a smash hit. (The rest of that, as they say, is history.)

Anyway, with regard to an Epcot reimagining, the question is not “if” but rather “what?” and “when?” Beyond the timeframes for specific attraction updates and additions, this more generically also pertains to what the overarching vision (if there is to be any) for Epcot will be going forward.

Does restoring the park to its former grandeur mean trying once again to “entertain, inform and inspire and, above all, may it instill a new sense of belief and pride in man’s ability to shape a world that offers hope to people everywhere.” Or, does it simply mean making the park popular and “Disneyfying” the attractions? Time will tell.

While we cannot answer that overarching question, what we can offer are a glimpse into rumored proposals for Epcot…

Note: This post does not cover everything that was announced at the D23 Expo. For more on what else is coming, including the Outer Space Restaurant, new Reflections of China film, Central Spine Redesign, and more, read our Epcot Reimagining Details Announced! post.

One of the most exciting things about the D23 Expo with regard to Epcot is that a lot was teased, but left unannounced. Parks & Resorts Chairman Bob Chapek indicated that they have other surprises up their sleeves, and even hinted at a possible return of the Tapestry of Nations parade (hence the above photo–from a performance during the presentation.) He and Imagineer Tom Fitzgerald shared many details, as well as some timelines for the projects. Additionally, we offer some predicted timetables for this work in our Construction Impact at Walt Disney World post.

7. Figment Refresh – The most unlikely of all these rumors, and yet there’s still a pretty decent chance of this happening. The new-look Epcot will continue to use Figment as its mascot, and the park’s iconic character having an attraction worthy of his legacy just seems logical.

The latest fanning of the flames on the Figment speculation came over the weekend by way of WDWNT’s posting about survey questions pertaining to Figment. Personally, I cannot envision a scenario where Epcot receives a large-scale overhaul and the current incarnation of Journey into Imagination survives that. The attraction is not a big draw, and its guest satisfaction scores are not high.

With Journey into Imagination, it’s more a question as to whether the future holds a new attraction with Figment and Dreamfinder, or Disney intellectual property, such as Inside Out. I don’t think the survey is telling either way: management is already aware that Figment is quite popular with Annual Passholders and serious fans, but his selling power with regular guests is more of an unknown.

6. United Kingdom Attraction – The variations of this rumor do not seem particularly credible to me, but there are multiple sources indicating that various concepts are being kicked around for the UK pavilion. Depending upon who you ask, this is everything from an attraction featuring the Loch Ness Monster or Mary Poppins.

Rather than choosing between Loch Ness Monster and Mary Poppins, I’d like to humbly propose to Imagineering an attraction that features both. Just think of the possibilities: you fly above Nessie as Mary Poppins, while engaged in an epic battle for the ages. Everyone knows Poppins’ umbrella doubles as a laser stun-gun and all sea monsters have laser eyes.

Joking aside, it seems like this is a pavilion that is having blue sky ideas pitched for it, but I don’t see it being a top priority. Especially with the pavilion next door being the surest bet to receive a new attraction on this list.

Post-Expo Update: Despite no announcement at the D23 Expo, this “rumor” seems to be gaining traction in the fan community. We have heard nothing from reliable sources. It seems the conversation about a potential attraction in the United Kingdom is being intensified because of the pending closure of Great Movie Ride, which could supply Audio Animatronics for this attraction. While that is definitely possible, it’s not an actual rumor coming from folks in the know–at least it’s not something we’ve been told.

6. Coco in Gran Fiesta Tour – If Coco is as authentic in its depiction of the culture surrounding “Dia de los Muertos” as Moana was with Polynesian cultures, this seems like it would be a natural fit. A no-brainer, in fact. The real question is whether it’d be worth making a reasonably popular attraction (with limited queue space) even more popular.

I think this one probably hinges upon Coco‘s box office success this fall. If it’s a smash hit, it might behoove Disney to find a way to integrate the film into the attraction and somehow accommodate larger crowds. If not, that money would be better spent elsewhere, especially considering the Gran Fiesta Tour has enjoyed a surge in popularity since its Audio Animatronics were added.

5. Spain – Most longtime Disney fans are aware of World Showcase’s history of unbuilt pavilions, most notably Equatorial Africa, Spain, and Israel, all of which were actually announced by Disney. If you’re not familiar with these concepts, there’s a lot about them in Walt Disney’s Epcot Center: Creating the New World of Tomorrow. At the time this book was written, it was still believed that these pavilions were coming to EPCOT Center, so the book spends time discussing them.

They were such sure things that Danny Kaye spoke with Alex Haley, author of Roots, about the Equatorial Africa pavilion, which would be opening in “about a year” as they stood over a detailed model of the pavilion at its future site in EPCOT Center Opening Day Celebration TV special:

Africa would now be redundant, and I don’t think modern-day Disney would deem Israel stable enough or sufficiently free from controversy to build that pavilion. (For the same reason, Russia, Greece, Egypt, and Iran are also highly unlikely candidates at this point, even if they were once considered.)

Of the unbuilt pavilions that were planned, Spain is now the most sensible. Its name has popped up a lot when insiders discuss a World Showcase expansion, with some pointing to Gigantic as the concept for the ride. With that now having been delayed multiple times, I think Imagineering would take a wait and see approach with the movie.

This means that a decision on Spain would either be delayed until Gigantic‘s popularity is known, or the pavilion have a non-IP concept. The original plans called for a cultural dark ride, film, and tapas restaurant. Films are becoming passé for Disney, so I don’t see that happening, but a restaurant and high capacity dark ride seem plausible.

Post-Expo Update: While we don’t have any concrete updates on the Spain rumor, specifically, we’ve heard that a second new World Showcase country is still on the table. It now seems less likely to occur in general, and also more likely that if it does, it won’t be Spain.

Regardless of whether Spain comes to fruition, expansion in World Showcase makes a lot of sense. It does not seem like there’s any end to the perpetual “Festival Season” in sight, and expanding World Showcase would provide some breathing room and added capacity for guests during these popular (and financially lucrative) times of year. Even if Disney cannot find sponsors for new countries, it seems like building-out World Showcase (even if it’s in the model of Italy) makes complete sense. To that end, I suppose another possibility for Spain would be building the pavilion first, and the attraction later…although that didn’t work out so well for Germany or Japan! We’ll cover the Top 4 rumors for Epcot on Page 2…

145 Responses to “Epcot Overhaul & Re-Imagining: 8 Huge Rumors”
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