Epcot Summer 2020 Construction Update: Pain & Gain
We’re back at EPCOT for the first construction update since Walt Disney World’s reopening. This follows our Beautiful & Bizarre Epcot Reopening Report and Review of Taste of 2020 Epcot Food & Wine Festival. Let’s take a stroll around Future World to see the current state of projects at EPCOT, which is currently short for “Endless Projects: Construction of Tomorrow.”
Let’s start with the backdrop against which this is all set. The day that the park reopened, the Epcot Experience returned with two scenes cut, plus models and posters removed from the exhibition space. This impacted the Festival Center, Spaceship Earth Reimagining, and Marry Poppins Cherry Tree Lane expansion in the United Kingdom.
Almost immediately, Disney released a statement that the company was reevaluating long-term project plans and postponing development of the two projects. Then, along with details of other Walt Disney World cutbacks and cancellations, the company indicated it will “take a different approach” with the new Festival Center. However, it’s a bit more complicated than that…
The Spaceship Earth and Mary Poppins projects have been delayed indefinitely (read: cancelled), which is pretty straightforward. As for the “different approach” being taken with the Festival Center, that actually extends to the entire Central Spine redesign.
In short, just about everything you see in the below concept art is now up in the air:
It’s our understanding that the World Celebration aspect of Epcot’s reimagining has gone back to the drawing board, with the aim of scaling it back.
This means aspects like Dreamers Point, wishing tree, enchanted forest, story fountain, and other interactive features may not make the cut. I don’t believe Disney ever released detailed concept art for these aspects of World Celebration, but they were all shown during the D23 Expo. At the time, it seemed like I wasted 45 minutes repeatedly watching this video loop to photograph it all. Now it looks like I’ll get the last laugh as one of the few people with “rare” and “highly coveted” shots of things like the wishing tree below.
There are not any credible rumors as to what will happen with World Celebration. This area is already torn up and the park is in need of a festival center (which directly generates revenue), so something will happens. It just remains to be seen what, and how ambitious, that is.
It wouldn’t surprise us if Imagineers are scrambling to come up with new designs–meaning even Disney doesn’t know what shape this area will ultimately take. Accordingly, our expectation is that work won’t resume on this area of the park until October 2020 at the earliest. That’s (some of) the pain, now for the gain…
Entering Epcot, we can see visible progress on the front entrance redesign.
Shortly before the park reopened, this work picked up again, with the center planter being revealed and both sides now being done.
Here’s the same view at night. I’m a big fan of more trees in Epcot, but not sure this is the ideal way of accomplishing that aim.
Perhaps it’s just familiarity with the old look, but I preferred the feature topiary display in the middle, with a cleaner view of Spaceship Earth. I suppose it could be argued that this provides for a more awe-inspiring “reveal” once you get closer, but that’s really not the case. Spaceship Earth is visible along the entire approach, and this just sort of obscures the view.
Ultimately, I don’t like it…but I also don’t have a super strong opinion disdain for it. Still better than the new-look Cinderella Castle. What do you think?
Getting closer, the only thing in the entrance area still behind walls is the fountain itself.
This more or less reflects the concept art released last year, but now with hand sanitizer stations.
The same scene from the side.
The main differences between what we see today and the concept art are that the splashes of color, personality, and character (flags, topiaries, flowers, lucite pylon, etc.) have not yet been added. Consequently, it looks somewhat bland up front. Still much better than before, but it doesn’t make a memorable first impression…yet.
From the front, there are still two bypasses around Spaceship Earth and the Central Spine.
The right side (pictured above) leads towards the Seas pavilion and still features walls around the former Innoventions building that was previously slated to demolished to make way for the Moana Journey of Water walk-through. The status of that project is now unknown.
Instead, we’ll go the other direction as that’s where most relevant progress has occurred.
In this direction, there’s a labyrinth of construction walls between Guest Relations and the old Universe of Energy building.
All of this is unchanged from March.
There have been reports of solar panels being installed on the roof and new permits have been filed for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. However, we’ve yet to observe visible progress or construction workers during any of our visits to Epcot in the last 2 weeks.
Heading towards Mission: Space, this large area around Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind and Play Pavilion is still entirely walled-off.
Directly to the right is an outdoor Relaxation Station.
A look at the future Play Pavilion with the Cosmic Rewind gravity building peeking out behind it. We have zero insight into what’s happening with Play Pavilion, but Disney probably isn’t fast-tracking a pavilion with the premise of kids touching stuff and interacting with characters right now.
Nevertheless, the Play Pavilion should be far enough along that it won’t be cancelled. However, it being scaled back remains a possibility. Our assumption was/is that it’s a fairly low-budget offering to make Epcot more family-friendly, so we expect it to pretty much proceed as planned albeit on a delayed timeline. That’s just a guess, though.
Here’s a closer look at Mission: Space.
As you might recall, the wall to the right is for the entrance to Space 220 Restaurant.
Here’s a look at the restaurant building for Space 220 Restaurant.
No inside information, but I’d be shocked if Space 220 Restaurant opens in 2020. With Patina Group’s woes, panel problems, dining capacity reductions, and the difficulty of marketing this anytime in the near future, it seems like it could be a while before Space 220 “blasts off.”
On the other side of the Central Spine, we have more walls. This one with blue Figments on it was recently voted the #8 attraction in Epcot by TripAdvisor readers.
Over the top of that, you can see what’s left of the Innoventions building.
Here’s an elevated and wider look of the same thing. While it might look like we climbed up into a random planter, this was actually shot from the Journey into Imagination dancing fountains area. (Here’s hoping the Epcot monorail returns soon for better views!)
Aside from the nearest Innoventions building that is/was slated to be removed, demolition and land clearing are complete here, leaving a mostly blank slate for whatever the future plan is going to be. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised to see that Innoventions building remain. Electric Umbrella fans might also rejoice, as that space could also theoretically return relatively unchanged.
One last look back at Spaceship Earth as we head towards World Showcase, where there (thankfully) isn’t much to see in terms of construction. (In case you missed it, we already separately covered the France pavilion in our Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure Construction Update.)
Not the most exciting update, we realize. However, we have been and will be spending a disproportionate amount of our time in Epcot, and this type of content is the fruits of that. We usually just breeze through the front, making a stop for Spaceship Earth before heading to Future World West, which feels fairly normal. There you’ve got the Seas, Land, Journey into Imagination, and Winnie the Pooh hunting butterflies or whatever bears eat.
It’s hard to describe how it feels in the Central Spine and Future World East right now. “Active construction zone” isn’t quite apt since there are no audible or visible signs of construction. It also doesn’t feel like a dead mall, given that most signs of that are behind walls. “Placid paved maze” is how I’d succinctly describe it; calm and peaceful but in a weird and confusing sort of way that’s more unsettling than it is good. Suffice to say, after wrapping up in Future World West, we’re spending 75% of our Epcot time in World Showcase.
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What do you think of the current state of Epcot and its construction? Thoughts on the entrance area trees? What do you expect to happen with World Celebration, Moana Journey of Water, Festival Center, Play Pavilion, and other projects at Epcot? Looking forward to visiting Endless Projects: Construction of Tomorrow during your next WDW trip, or dreading visits to the park while it’s an active construction site? 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!
I like the greenery.
The trees look much better for Spaceship Earth than drab concrete slabs.
Yes! I hate the expanded (again) mega-Hub at MK in front of the castle.
I have been trying for optimism, but feeling resigned regarding the previously announced Epcot renovations. The idea of seeing fewer additions and value engineered modifications to the original designs just makes me sad. This comes right behind a depressing conversation I had with my daugher yesterday. She’s 11 and has been binge watching Disney’s Fairytale Weddings on Disney+. (Prior to seeing that show, she was planning on a wedding in our backyard, with a “sweatpants” dress code…thank a lot, Disney!) She turned to me and said, “If I was getting married in Disney World, the one place I would most want to do it would be in front of that Epcot fountain that has water from all the different countries in it.” I replied, “The Fountain of Nations? I don’t know how to tell you this, but…”
Well, the new trees out front are far better than the misplaced sorceror’s hat at DHS. That was a huge eyesore. I hope they replace the Jacaranda trees that were right in front, many of which have died. Always like seeing the purple flowers.
SO now that they’ve demoed most of Communicore West, I guess we’ll be seeing construction walls for some time… I didn’t like the non-symmetrical plan, but was kind of excited to see the multi-level platform as a structural engineer, and trees on top as a gardener.
The trees could be the “train station” of Epcot – giving way to the big reveal. Personally I like the way they cradle Spaceship Earth – at least from the angle Tom shot it.
I do think more trees is a good thing in Epcot, especially if they add benches underneath. It really needs more shady areas to sit–I remember when my youngest was a baby, it felt like such a challenge to find a good place to sit with him in his stroller while he napped in Epcot’s Future World while my husband and I took turns taking the older kids on rides. Would have been nicer if they could have found a way to do it off to the side without blocking the view of the golf ball, but I don’t hate it.
“Here’s hoping the Epcot monorail returns soon for better views!”
Tom, this is the first I have heard of this. Can you elaborate? Seems like a big deal if the Epcot monorail line is not operating.
The Epcot monorail is not running.
With attendance so low and park-hopping suspended for now, VERY FEW guests have any reason to travel between the TTC and Epcot. As such, Disney is just running Epcot buses from the Grand Flo/Poly/Contemporary, and has kept the monorail line closed.
The monorail is not running to Epcot at all, so one needs to find alternative transportation to the park from any location, including the Poly.
I’ve been to Epcot frequently over the last 2 weeks and observed workers on the Wonders of Life roof hammering away, so they are at least actively working on that part of the building. I also observed new material added to the roof of the Universe of Energy building and could hear workers making noise inside the building, so something is going on in there.
Has there been any new information regarding The Void in Disney Springs? I am asking because my family was speculating that that technology would be used in the new Play pavilion, and since that is on hold, would Disney relent on their decision to “throw them out”? I was hoping to do The Void next August when we re-scheduled out 2020 vacation, and i am still hoping there is some resolution before then…
Nothing that has been widely reported, no.
The VOID in Anaheim’s Downtown Disney, meanwhile, is permanently closed, with a straight-up tenant eviction notice taped to the door. The notice cites a “breach of contract,” but what remains unknown is if this contract dispute is between Disney & The VOID in general, or solely about the Anaheim location and its lease.
It seems odd that Disney might publicly and unceremoniously *evict* the VOID from one location while keeping it around in another, but we’ll just have to see…
I just can’t wait to get there but I am hoping the rest of it opens before November
The rest of what opens?
As Tom noted, we should not expect any significant work/changes/progress to occur until AT LEAST early October. Disney has reduced every expense that it can thru the end of September (i.e. their fiscal year), before resuming whatever work they choose to resume.
I agree with everyone. The topiary themes in front of Spaceship Earth were fun and different. Loved them.
I do not understand why they are blocking one of my favorite iconic Disney views with those trees?
All this makes me more excited about using the skyliner and going in through the back door.
I know it is short, but this is actually a very pertinent update for me. I was wondering what Space 2020 was up to. Your educated guess makes sense. Thank you.
You did not mention the France expansion. Any headway there? I am guessing that the shops will be open in the Fall, but they will hold off on opening Remy until October 1, 2021 since it is unlikely a new attraction in EPCOT will increase overall attendance or room occupancy before then.
I was not aware that the Monorail was not operating. Thank you for that tidbit. I have a Poly DVC reservation next weekend with the idea that I can get to EPCOT and MK via monorail. I may need to change that to a more economical accommodation.
From what I’ve seen online, the monorail is running (with covid precautions in place). However, it must not be running through Epcot where you can look down and see the park. You should still be able to get from the Contemporary to Epcot via monorail though. Someone correct me if I’m mistaken?
Sorry, I meant the Poly
The epcot monorail is not running at all currently. Only the MK monorail.
Yes they bus you to Epcot from the Poly but the MK monorail is running but stops at 8pm. Had to take an Uber from the Contemporary back to the Poly at 9 last night.
I hope the reimagined Epcot doesn’t turn into the first CA Adventure disaster.
I believe the once to be demolished Innoventions building will be updated and made into the new festival center. It is in the spot they want it to be so it will work for a few years.
I will miss the topiary themes in front of Spaceship Earth as well, not a fan of the trees. Its been a perfect photo op in the past.
… i swear, disney does not know how to handle trees. if they aren’t ripping them out needlessly, leaving vast concrete deserts you risk crossing with no promise of oasis on the other side, but now when they do put some in, they decide to block iconic sightlines?
I echo the above. Why oh why are they blocking my beautiful Spaceship Earth?!? 🙁
Thanks for the chuckle about the figment wall!