Disney World Rumors: Wonders of Life Replacement? New IllumiNations?
We’re back with another round-up of the latest Walt Disney World rumors, this time with a focus on Epcot. There have been rumblings about IllumiNations and Wonders of Life in the last week; we’ll give a synopsis on those, along with our take on their likelihood of coming to fruition in the near future. We also have an update on Club 33 at Walt Disney World.
There has been chatter of late that IllumiNations is destined for a replacement in the near-term, potentially as soon as this year. An IllumiNations replacement has been rumored for ages, but between upgrades made to the existing show a few years ago and the concept art for Epcot’s re-imagining, it was largely assumed that the current show would continue until Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary in 2021.
From the best we can tell, the new timeframe for a replacement is predicated upon leaks on social media from someone involved with the recording of a new soundtrack for IllumiNations’ replacement. To our knowledge, that’s the only basis for the “rumors” (but we could be wrong on that). While this certainly suggests a new show is on the way, it doesn’t mean that a replacement is imminent.
For one thing, sound demos can be made early on, and form the basis for the rest of the work, and there’s nothing that clearly indicates what was recorded is the final show audio. Moreover, zero work has been done to World Showcase Lagoon. What we’ve heard in the past is that IllumiNations’ replacement would lean more heavily on fountains and other effects in the Lagoon, and all of that would take several months to install, at the very least.
It’s possible Epcot could unveil an interim “IllumiNations 5.0” show as an interim replacement for IllumiNations ahead of a larger scale production that features water fountains and other mixed media. IllumiNations 25 had a relatively short run for Walt Disney World’s 25th Anniversary in 1996, but that was ages ago.
We have zero basis for this, but we think a replacement for IllumiNations is still at least a year away. In our view, even that would be an aggressive timeframe. We expect to see a totally new show (dropping the IllumiNations branding) in Late 2020 or 2021.
Sticking to Epcot, “something” is happening with Wonders of Life, and whether that something is of substance or ongoing maintenance is an open question. The pavilion is not being used as the Festival Center for the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, and there have been multiple sightings of Imagineers and senior leadership around the pavilion.
This has led to speculation that work is starting on the Space Restaurant previously announced at the D23 Expo. While that’s a logical deduction, we doubt it’s true. We had heard pretty reliable word that this restaurant would be built on the other side of Mission: Space, on a plot much smaller than Wonders of Life.
It’s within the realm of possibilities that these plans have changed (it’s been a while since we heard anything at all about the Space Restaurant), and reusing the Wonders of Life building presents a cost-savings. It’s also a huge building–far larger than what this restaurant would need. Moreover, Wonders of Life has become valuable real estate for these Epcot Festivals, and it’s hard to see Disney giving that up for a restaurant, rather than just constructing a new building.
If the building is going to be repurposed, it’s more conceivable that it’d serve as attraction space. One possibility on this front is that Imagineering plans to repurpose the two main attractions inside Wonders of Life. Although Body Wars was largely dismantled and gutted for Star Tours: the Adventures Continue testing, Cranium Command is still back there. It’s likely both of these attraction spaces are beyond the point of no return, though.
Given the nature of those extinct attractions, one of the natural fits for Wonders of Life has been viewed as Inside Out. Even before the film was released, its creators talked of potential theme park integrations. If Cranium Command could be refreshed, that film seems like a natural fit.
Worth remembering, though, is just how poorly Wonders of Life aged. The last of the original EPCOT Center pavilions to open, it felt very much like a time capsule of the late 1980s–more so than attractions that opened several years before it. I remember going on the attractions around 2001 and thinking even then that they were overdue for a replacement.
Personally, I question whether Imagineering has any interest whatsoever in the remnants of these attractions. If this pavilion is to be used for attractions in the future, I suspect it’s a matter of gutting the building and saving on construction costs. If that’s the case, Inside Out is no longer the most logical fit. (As much as it pains me to say it, I could see another one of the contractually-safe Marvel properties going into that space given its adjacency to the Guardians of the Galaxy attraction.)
Or, there could be nothing to this at all. As a facility that is routinely used for special events, Wonders of Life needs regular maintenance, and that occurring is not–in itself–necessarily a sign of anything. With only a few months per year that are not “Festival Season” perhaps necessary maintenance was more extensive than roof work, and it must overlap with one event. From Disney’s perspective, better that event be Flower & Garden than Food & Wine.
Right now, there’s some ‘smoke’ as to questions about Wonders of Life’s future. If the building is not used as the Festival Center for Food & Wine come this fall, we’ll consider that some ‘fire.’ As we’ve said since the Epcot re-imagining was unveiled at the D23 Expo last summer, there are more attractions and pavilions planned for Epcot than what has been announced thus far. We do not know whether Wonders of Life is one such planned pavilion, though.
Finally, membership solicitations and interviews have begun for Walt Disney World’s Club 33. (We reported what seems like ages ago that Club 33 was coming to Walt Disney World in lounge form.) This started with residents of Golden Oak, but has now progressed to others who signed up to hear back when the Club 33 announcement was first made last year. An official opening date has not been released, but it’s likely to be within the next few months.
We’ve learned (unofficially via construction work and the installation of doorbells) that the locations will be Adventureland Veranda in Magic Kingdom, the upstairs lounge at American Adventure in Epcot, upstairs near Hollywood Brown Derby in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and adjacent to Tiffins in Animal Kingdom. As expected, there is no reciprocity between Walt Disney World’s Club 33 and the locations in Anaheim, Tokyo, or Shanghai. In a surprise twist, corporate memberships are not available.
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What do you think of these news & rumors? Are you ready to say goodbye to IllumiNations? Do you think new attractions will make their home in Wonders of Life, or is this destined to be perpetual Epcot Festival space? Any interest in Club 33 at Walt Disney World? Any questions about Epcot’s re-imagining or any of the other developments ahead of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary? We love hearing from readers, so please share any other thoughts or questions you have in the comments!
What’s with all the Marvel hate?
Like it or not, Marvel is part of Disney and is a huge moneymaker for them. It only makes sense that Imagineers continue to add Marvel-related attractions to Future World in keeping with the theme of technology.
First Disney needs Universal’s/Comcast approval for Marvel in Orlando. Now just may be Disney can swing a deal with Comcast with some acquired Fox IP.
While I would love to see illuminations replace, I expect that would be done in time to complete around the time that the bulk of the parks renovation would be completed.
I stand by my theory that the space themed restaurant needs to be called Mission: Plate, the moment it was announced as coming, that was the name i saw in my mind.
I honestly think the ‘festival’ pavilion is going to become Mouse Gear, given its size, it makes sense for them to convert the space into that. As they are currently restoring the roof, the odds of them building a new attraction inside of it are slim, but with the proposed redesign of epcot, and the removal of the mouse gear and fountain of nations being demo’d, I think they would use that large space for retail. They would cut down costs too, by axing the seminars for the festivals too.
What makes, or I guess I should say “made” Club 33 so special is it’s direct link to Walt Disney and, of course, it’s exclusiveness. To me, the clubs at WDW are just knock-offs designed to generate income. And that’s fine, companies are meant to make money, but there is no appeal for me. Now in the interest of full disclosure, I could not easily afford membership, if at all. But even if I could, the only one that would interest me would be the original.
The latest rumor for a Wonders of Life replacement is Black Panther.
I find it odd that you would completely rule out Wonders of Life including the Space restaurant especially if Disney wants to save money on construction, it can be used for festivals, and you say it aged terribly and it should be gutted.
If foods and festivals are it’s primary purpose, the Space restaurant conversion is logical especially since the Wonders building round and concave so they can simulate a space environment. That extra space will add show space for added dimension.
The added proximity to Guardians and Space means they can create an integrated experience by incorporating both attractions to the restaurant so Inside Out no longer makes sense being there.
I must have missed something on club 33. Is it a sit down resturaunt or is it a lounge with food and drinks?
If they are doing a lounge that does not seem to have the same draw for me. Reminds me more of a airport lounge. Place to grab a bite and rest the feet while waiting for next fast pass time. WIth DVC people already having a lounge.
Now club 33 Its going to be lounges all over the place if this keeps up.
I can’t wait to see if all of these rumors come out to be true! They’re so fun to talk about, well anything Disney related is fun to talk about. I have my own blog that talks about everything Disney related! Please feel free to check it out if you want! Here is the link to my site:
I find it ironic that they are putting a restaurant right next to the only ride in which I literally lost my lunch. Does anyone really feel like eating when they disembark?
Guess it could be worse could eat a big meal before you go on
We had lunch with an Imagineer at the start of February and he happens to be heading up the outer space restaurant and said it was going to be over near Mission: Space. It could have changed in less than a month but that was his statement at that time.
I agree with Bob about Illuminations. The globe being too small is about the only complaint I could have about it – everything else is nearly perfect. I’d love it if they updated the show but kept the original score.
I have a memory of Wonders of Life and Star Tours being open simultaneously. I didn’t realize Body Wars was dismantled for it.
I’m happy to hear they aren’t taking corporation memberships for Club 33. Let people pay their own money if they want access.
Body Wars was used to test Star Tours 2. Wonders of Life had been closed for a while at that point.
Ah, that makes sense. I don’t really remember the shift from Star Tours 1 to 2.
I had heard that the Universe of Energy building will only house a ginormous queue, pre-show, and load/launch for the Guardians coaster, with the Wonders of Life pavilion will host the majority of the track. Given the epic size of these structures, one would assume that this coaster will be massive. Granted, I can’t even remember my source, so that’s a problem, but it would make sense, especially considering the backstage area behind/below these attractions.
It’s true that very little of the coaster will be in Energy, but the current plan is for a connected show building behind Energy, accessible via a launch corridor. Very similar to Rock n Roller Coaster.
Good to know! That makes me much more excited, as I would hate for the new attraction to overtake two pavilions! Hopefully something amazing will be incorporated into the space! I wonder where the new coaster building will go, as directly behind Universe (Ave of the Stars) is the access point for the tunnel that goes underneath FutureWorld. Very exciting stuff!
Even if the WOL building is only used for festivals, I would like to see it remodeled to bring it up to standard Disney quality. The last time I was in the building was for the Food and Wine Festival. It reminded me of those pop up Halloween stores that are put in an old Circuit City. The space is being used, but it could look better than it does now.
I almost see this as what they are doing and all us hopefuls are wishing it is more. I would not be surprised that they are just “renovating” inside and creating a more immersive area for the festivals. Permanent stages for presentations, seating for demonstrations, ect. I wish and hope that I am not right but with festivals running the majority of the year I wouldn’t be surprised. However, I have heard the Odyssey will be undergoing renovations for the same purpose so who knows? Fun to speculate!
So many Club 33s …
but I’m sure there will be plenty of folks to buy in.
Space restaurant sounds awesome, especially if they were able to incorporate a view of Spaceship Earth into it. Do you have any other info aobut it?
Doesn’t having so many locations of Club 33 take away from the “specialness” of the original? Couldn’t they have named these cash grabs(I mean restaurants) something else?
I’ll be ready to say goodbye if the new illuminations has beautiful original music and no IPs or Pop singers.
If they ever reopen WOL with similar theme, I hope they bring back Goofy about Health (and the song by the voice of Sonny Eclipse).
I doubt I will splurge on Club 33. If I ever have disposal income, i would buy more DVC points before Club 33.