Happy anniversary, Epcot! On this day in 1982, Walt Disney World held the grand opening for EPCOT Center. Fittingly, today the park unveils two new experiences celebrating its past, present, and future. In this post, we’ll take a look around Walt Disney Imagineering presents the Epcot Experience, and preview the new Epcot Forever nighttime spectacular.
In terms of basics, the Epcot Experience is located in the Odyssey, which is the over-the-water building between Test Track and the Mexico pavilion. The Odyssey was a restaurant way back in the day and more recently has been an events pavilion for Epcot’s various festivals.
The Epcot Experience is a lot like the Disney Parks Pavilion: Imagining Tomorrow, Today exhibit at the recent D23 Expo. A lot has been reused from that, but a decent amount has changed and been added. Additionally, there’s a shift in tone, which is presumably reflective of the differences between audiences…
Because I’m a sucker for all things EPCOT, I caught the Skyliner from Disney’s Hollywood Studios after doing Extra, Extra Magic Hours there this morning, and rope dropped the new exhibit. While most guests raced over towards Test Track or Frozen Ever After, I made my way to the Epcot Experience to catch its first few showings.
In a way, Walt Disney Imagineering presents the Epcot Experience is like that D23 Expo booth, but amped up. It’s more flashy and interactive (which is impressive since the Expo booth was already pretty strong), and something you’ll definitely want to make a point of checking out on your next visit to Walt Disney World.
This version has a theater in the round type set-up, with a stylized Epcot model in the middle (with artistic liberties taken) that’s surrounded by a seamless, 360-degree, floor-to-ceiling screen. On that, a continuous 12-minute film offers vignettes about new experiences coming to EPCOT.
This film is totally different from what was at the D23 Expo, which primarily showcased ‘animated’ concept art for Future World and the new attractions that had been announced prior to the Parks & Resorts panel. This is an actual video, and while it plays, the model in the center of the room changes with it thanks to projection mapping technology.
It’s definitely an Imagineered experience, and the coolest preview center I’ve seen in any Disney park. I’m actually impressed at the amount of effort that went into the project mapping on the model, and now the style of the model makes more sense.
Photos and video don’t do this justice, but here are some from the various scenes, just the same:
Scenes include Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, Play Pavilion, Mary Poppins in the United Kingdom, Wondrous China, HarmonioUS, and Spaceship Earth: Our Shared Story (it’s unclear if this is going to be the new name of the attraction, or is just a tagline in the film).
There aren’t any big reveals in the 12-minute video, but it’s cool and fun, nonetheless. It’s more like a long teaser to get guests hyped for the future of EPCOT than anything else. Some of the clips are definitely not aimed at EPCOT Center purists, but it’s likely to be well-received by the general, park-going public.
The minute-long Mary Poppins segment doesn’t reveal anything (we still don’t even know what kind of attraction this will even be), but it drew the most audible reactions while I was in the Epcot Experience.
Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure is probably the most substantive portion of the film, which makes sense given that this attraction has already been operating for a few years at the Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris.
Perhaps the most interesting thing is the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind segment, which suggests that the attraction might use Xandarians educating humans as a narrative framing device, before their video feed is disconnected by Rocket Raccoon, who deems it boring.
There’s the potential for that to be an effective (at least, to the extent possible) way to maintain thematic consistency with EPCOT, but I hope the self awareness and irreverence is handled tactfully. Mission Breakout already has a bit of this, which works in that park…but EPCOT isn’t DCA.
Moving along, the Epcot Experience also features new dimensional photo locations, all of which are pretty cool. My favorite is the one that replicates the iconic photo of Mickey Mouse standing atop the Spaceship Earth geosphere.
Beyond that, there are the same attraction posters that were on display at the D23 Expo. (See them all here.) Unfortunately, they are still not for sale. (Yet?)
Today also marked the debut of the Donut Box, which will undoubtedly go down as one of the true milestones in EPCOT’s storied history.
Of course, we were on hand to try one of everything, and will soon be adding that booth to our Booth Menus, Food Photos & Reviews for the 2019 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. (I know you’re all on the edge of your seats!)
A bunch of new merchandise also debuted today, much of which is the same stuff people waited in line for 3+ hours to purchase at the D23 Expo. Three hours is about 2 hours and 50 minutes longer than I’ll wait in line to buy things, so I’m pretty pleased by this.
There are also several new items for Epcot Forever, which the new nighttime spectacular above World Showcase Lagoon that replaces IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. This new show debuts tonight, and features fireworks, lasers, and colorful glowing kites that dance through the sky above the water.
The Disney Parks Blog has a special Livestream of Epcot Forever tonight, so check that out starting at 8:50 pm if you want to watch the new show. Personally, we always like to see things in person before watching on video. However, Epcot Forever is only set to perform until an undisclosed date in 2020 before it’s replaced by HarmoniUS, so you might not have that luxury.
Ultimately, I’m cautiously optimistic about Epcot Forever. I know it’s going to have a ton of fan service, but it seems like considerable effort (especially for a temporary show) is being put into it. We’ll have a review of Epcot Forever, a tribute to IllumiNations (after watching it hundreds of times together over the last decade, we still haven’t quite come to terms with it ending), and more on changes at EPCOT later this week, so stay tuned!
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