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.
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!