I was planning to update my D23 Expo post with all the Parks, Experiences, and Products news announced on Sunday, August 25, but there ended up being SO much EPCOT news, it needed its own post. For those who were not following along on social media or at the Expo itself, there were about 13 new announcements or opening dates revealed yesterday, so it was a bit overwhelming to take it all in! In previous years, we have been given some exciting news, like New Fantasyland, Galaxy’s Edge, and Toy Story Land among others, but 13 things about ONE park alone is unprecedented! Let’s break down all the news with the official Disney releases – and I’ll add some commentary along the way – all images are in most cases concept art released by and copyright Disney, some were taken at the presentation at the Expo by Scott, who was there representing Zannaland, but the content is of course, still Disney’s images:
“Epcot will be unified with four neighborhoods that each speak to important aspects of the world
and its people: World Showcase, World Celebration, World Nature and World Discovery.
These neighborhoods will be filled with new experiences rooted in authenticity and innovation
that take guests to new destinations, where the real is made fantastic in a celebration of
curiosity, hands-on wonder and the magic of possibility.”
• World Showcase will continue to be a celebration of culture, cuisine, architecture and
traditions – infused with new magic.
• The United Kingdom pavilion will welcome the first attraction inspired by Mary
Poppins. Guests will step in time down Cherry Tree Lane past Admiral Boom’s house,
then enter Number 17, home of the Banks family, where their adventure will begin.
So this was probably the most shocking and exciting of the announcements. Many had speculated what the last “to be revealed on Sunday” attraction poster would be, since most of us assumed one of the two would be Brazil, which was NOT announced at Expo at all. Whether it will be announced in the future remains to be seen. Maybe at the WDW 50th celebrations? Maybe in another 37 years? Anyway, the Mary Poppins announcements were suitably vague in classic Disney style. Will it be a dark ride? A show? An interactive walk-through experience? Nothing official has been announced except the above, so we’ll just have to wait and see. It is interesting to note that the images in the poster and concept art both seem to be referencing the NEW 2018 version of Mary Poppins…hmmm.
Additionally, as an EPCOT Center kid and purist, it is strange to me to see a fictional place represented in World Showcase, which was supposed to be a World’s Fair-esque sort of cultural exploration of other countries and their traditions, food, and shopping…but that time has long passed, especially with the addition of Frozen to Norway, and of course Remy is on his way to France as well. So, as Bob Chapek shared both at this Expo and 2017’s, they are making EPCOT into a place where families “can see their favorite Disney stories come to life”. And yes, I would love to say “But that’s not what EPCOT is all about,” but as we all know, it hasn’t been about what it was about in 1982, for a long, long time. I think what is so difficult for us, as EPCOT Center diehards, to let go of; we know EPCOT *could* have been updated and plussed and kept current throughout the past 35+ years. Disney had the technology, the wherewithal, and yes, the money, to keep the heart, the soul, and the vision of EPCOT Center alive. Sure, some things would have had to change over time, but the message and the hope for the future could still have been there, instead ripping bits and pieces out over the years, and making it so the story of Future World no longer made sense. And that’s why we were all on pins and needles with these announcements, because it could have been the final crushing blow for a park we still held out hope for, or it could’ve been an amazing salvation and promise for the future of EPCOT. And what we got was a kind of “hmmm, oookaaay?” So without being too much of a Debbie Downer about this overall theme/feel change to my beloved EPCOT Center, I am cautiously optimistic about this and other changes to the park…but let’s move on, there’s a lot left to share!
• In 2020, following the limited-time run of “Epcot Forever,” the new “HarmonioUS” will
debut as the largest nighttime spectacular ever created for a Disney park. It will
celebrate how the music of Disney inspires people the world over, carrying them away
harmoniously on a stream of familiar Disney tunes reinterpreted by a diverse group of
artists from around the globe. “HarmonioUS” will feature massive floating set pieces,
custom-built LED panels, choreographed moving fountains, lights, pyrotechnics, lasers
I am hopeful for the new HarmoniUS show, but most excited for EPCOT Forever. I realize Disney didn’t HAVE to give us any tribute to anything from the original EPCOT, so I am very grateful that they are, and plan on crying non-stop and going to as many EPCOT Forever shows as I can get to. I AM excited for the updated technology that will no doubt be featured in HarmoniUS, and look forward to seeing what unfolds.
• In summer 2020, the France pavilion will offer even more for guests to discover,
including the much-anticipated attraction Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, where guests
will shrink to the size of Chef Remy and race through Gusteau’s restaurant on a wild
adventure. Summer 2020 will also see the debut of a delicious new restaurant in the
France pavilion, La Crêperie de Paris, offering both table- and quick-service options
featuring a menu from celebrity chef Jérôme Bocuse.
I will admit, I’m very excited for the Remy ride. Mostly because I’ve seen clips of how cute it is in Disneyland Paris, and I’m not heading there any time soon. I realize I’m being totally hypocritical about bringing Disney IP’s into EPCOT, but again, it’s a lost cause at this point. I’m excited for the Creperie, and think this will make France have the MOST food offerings in any pavilion?? Chefs de France, Monsieur Paul, Les Halls, Artisans de Glace, and now the Creperie. Is there another pavilion with more than 5? Let me know if I’m forgetting any. I also hope they have something I can enjoy there as a recent convert to a vegan diet from vegetarian. But France isn’t exactly known for healthy options haha.
• Also in the France pavilion, the classic Impressions de France film will be joined by the
new “Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along,” debuting in January 2020 and directed by
Don Hahn, producer of both the animated and live-action versions of this tale as old as
Excited for Don Hahn’s involvement, but NOT happy about any remote possibility of Impressions de France being edged out over time. I will be heartbroken if that happens, but I hope it sticks around for us EPCOT Center fangirls and boys.
• “Canada Far and Wide in Circle-Vision 360” will debut in January 2020 in the Canada
pavilion with new scenes and a new story.
I’m totally ok with this. The other 360° movies in World Showcase have never really stood the test of time because they always had people in them and really showed things which easily looked out of date, whereas Impressions de France was always more of an art piece, sure parts are outdated, but it’s a beautiful time-capsule, not a caricature.
• In the China pavilion, “Wondrous China” will take guests on a spectacular journey
across the country, filmed and presented in a completely seamless 360-degree digital
Again, I’m okay with this. SOOO much has changed in China since the early 80’s (or late 70’s when it was probably filmed – I know they updated it once but still). I’m excited to see the modern look at China mixed with the historical past and cultural aspects.
• World Celebration will offer new experiences that connect guests to one another and the
world around them.
Ok, first of all, I’m really not a fan of these new names. World implies, well, the World, like World Showcase, but not everything relates to the entire world like that, especially if it’s going to involve Disney animated feature characters, but I guess their definition of “world” can be interpreted in many ways, like “the magical worlds of Disney animation…”. Anyway, I dunno, Celebration just seems the most out of place of those names. Nature and Discovery I get. Maybe Celebration could’ve been lumped in to Discovery and that way keeping Imagination and Spaceship Earth in that group would’ve made more sense? More on Celebration later…
• The iconic Spaceship Earth will remain a voyage through time as the journey
transforms to reflect the power of storytelling to unite the human experience. New
narration and an entirely new musical score will focus on the moments and ideas that
define the story of humanity. Guests will follow a magical “story light” that brings the
entire experience to life in dynamic ways, giving each scene energy and beauty that ties
the entire journey together.
So this is another curious update, because we can all agree that Spaceship Earth needs some TLC and major updates, however, what’s most beloved about it is that it retains many of its original scenes and concepts. So I think the destruction of any of those will be very sad, but if those areas can truly be “plussed” with updated technology or effects that BLEND with the existing scenes, and maybe update the ending which is pretty much non-existent, that would be good. I’m also okay with having a ‘guide’ because Disney has certainly done that and done it well before, however, I don’t think there needs to be any Disney IP or characters within the ride. We all know the stories that Disney movies have to tell, but I’d be fine (and interested in) an historical view of storytelling in general, and how that’s changed over time. So I’m again cautiously optimistic with this one.
• A new pavilion will be the perfect place for live events, and the home base for Epcot’s
signature festivals. It will provide a stunning elevated view of the entire park and an ideal
spot to witness Epcot’s nighttime spectacular. This beautiful three-level structure will
have one of the most remarkable architectural designs at any Disney park, featuring a
plaza level, a middle expo level, and a park that sits in the sky on the top level.
Ok so this is concerning to me. I mentioned right when I saw this concept art, I said, “Hmm, looks like that top area will be prime dessert party real estate…” and yes, it looks amazing, and yes, I’d love to go up there and get sweeping views of whatever’s happening at EPCOT, or watch fireworks. But let’s be real here, look at the last 5 years, separate ticketed, upcharge events have been more and more prevalent and I’m SURE this was designed with that in mind. I mean, what do I know, but that’s what I think anyway. It just makes sense. I hope that I’m wrong, and everyone can enjoy this new green space with spectacular views, but it just seems a little toooo perfect given Disney’s upcharge event tendencies lately. Time will tell (which seems to be the mantra with all of these updates)
• As guests exit Spaceship Earth, they will discover a breathtaking new view of World
Showcase from Dreamers Point. World Celebration will also feature a new statue
celebrating the legacy of the original dreamer, Walt Disney, plus beautiful natural
environments and global design elements filled with Disney magic and surprises,
including a wishing tree in an enchanted forest and a story fountain celebrating the
power and music of iconic Disney storytelling.
Ok, I actually love the statue. I think perhaps it was put there to ensure that any naysayers of these new changes will be appeased by “Uncle Walt” but I’m still okay with that, true or not. I think there is a risk of people taking very weird photos if they are able to basically climb all over Walt (we all know no one reads the “do not climb” signs), but I just like the statue itself, the age of Walt they chose, his pose, etc. Does it belong in EPCOT? Probably not, because “Walt’s EPCOT” is not and never has been this EPCOT, but it IS created with his ideals in mind, so I get it. I like that it’s casual, a reminder that he was a real, human guy, with visions and dreams, like all of us.
As far as these other updates, I’m all about wishing trees and story fountains, y’all. That seems very EPCOT Center to me, both visually and description-wise. (Feels like it could’ve gone in an Imagination area but…)
• Epcot’s entrance plaza will be transformed with new experiences that connect guests
with the world around them, welcoming them with a reimagined fountain, new pathways
and sweeping green spaces that beautify the entryway. The design will pay homage to
the origins of Epcot.
• World Nature is dedicated to understanding and preserving the beauty, awe and balance
of the natural world. It will include The Land and The Seas with Nemo & Friends
• Journey of Water, Inspired by “Moana” will be the first experience inspired by the hit
Walt Disney Animation Studios film. This lush exploration trail will invite guests to meet
and play with magical, living water. The water will have a life of its own – just like
Moana’s friend, the ocean – and guests will learn about the importance of the natural
• The Land pavilion’s new film, “Awesome Planet,” which showcases the beauty, diversity
and dynamic story of the planet, will begin welcoming guests in January 2020.
I don’t have too much commentary on World Nature. It makes sense, it goes with the existing pavilions of The Land and Seas (with Nemo and Friends), and I think the Moana Journey of Water will be a nice addition, but again, I love any sort of water feature, and I think there are some great uses of technology that would work here, while sharing a conservation and ecological message as well. I’m hopeful, and excited.
• In World Discovery, stories about science, technology and intergalactic adventure come
This makes sense and works with the existing science/space theme that exists over on that side of things.
• Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind will be the first “other-world” showcase
pavilion at Epcot. The adventure starts in the “Galaxarium,” a planetarium-like exhibition
that explores the similarities and mysteries of the formation of Earth’s galaxy and
Xandar. Guests will be invited to learn more about the treasures Xandar has to share –
until the moment when the Guardians of the Galaxy arrive, and adventures across the
cosmos ensue. The attraction will feature a new innovation from Walt Disney
Imagineering – a storytelling coaster that rotates 360 degrees to focus guests on the
action, including the first reverse launch on a Disney coaster.
This really speaks for itself, and all that’s left is for me to wonder how I will ever survive riding this attraction.
• An expansion of the Mission: SPACE pavilion, the new restaurant Space 220 will be a
culinary experience featuring the celestial panorama of a space station, including
daytime and nighttime views of Earth from 220 miles up. Guests will board a special
elevator for a journey to a space station that is home to an incredible dining experience.
Along the way, viewports will give guests real-time perspective as they travel high above
the planet. Once they arrive, guests will enjoy fantastic meals and drinks while taking in
views that are truly out of this world. Opening this winter, Space 220 will be operated by
the Patina Restaurant Group.
I’m excited for this. I hope it’ll be like a space version of the Good Turn, or Garden Grill restaurant. Very “vision of the future in a movie” kind of feel to it, and I like it.
• The PLAY! pavilion will open in time for the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World. In
this digital metropolis, guests will discover an interactive city bursting with games,
activities and experiences that connect them with friends, family and beloved Disney
characters – both real and virtual – like never before. As part of this new pavilion, guests
will have the chance to help legendary fashion icon Edna Mode on her quest to rid the
world of uninspired style, or make a splash competing in a water-balloon fight hosted by
Huey, Dewey, Louie and Webby.
I mean, anything is an improvement to Wonders of Life’s current state. This definitely has an early Communicore if they had the technology feel to it, and I’m totally okay with it (I hope it goes without saying that I realize me saying “I’m okay with it” is not to imply me not being okay with anything would have any effect at all on things, but simply sharing my opinions on each of the updates.)
- Guests will be able to visualize these exciting plans for Epcot when doors open Oct. 1, 2019, for
Walt Disney Imagineering presents the Epcot Experience in the Odyssey Events Pavilion.
They will discover engaging and interactive exhibits that showcase the relentless innovation,
energy and excitement driving the park’s future throughout this unprecedented period of
While “Walt Disney Imagineering presents the EPCOT Experience in the Odyssey Events Pavilion” is perhaps the longest title we’ve gotten to date, I am excited for this space. I’m glad the Odyssey name is staying on that building, hopefully the exterior design will remain in all its 80’s glory, and I love a good preview center with models and concept art and all that good stuff. I anticipate spending a lot of time in here over the next few years.
And with that, we complete our EPCOT updates have drawn to a close. It’s a LOT right? Honestly, it took me writing all of this out to really process all of the info and digest the changes. It’s very easy to get excited by “NEW UPDATES FOR EPCOT” and not stop and realize what it means and how it fits into the overall feel and message of the park. So that’s what I tried to do here. My opinions are, as always, my own, and may differ greatly from yours. I’d love to hear your thoughts on all of this news. What are you most excited about and what are you most worried about? If you don’t want to leave a comment here, feel free to track me down on instagram, twitter, facebook, youtube, my cell if you have it…haha I kid, but I’d love to hear from you and what you think. Thanks as always for reading, and for visiting Zannaland. <3 If you need to say goodbye to EPCOT Center, read my Love Letter to EPCOT, written in 2013, and updated today. Because we all need to remember.
OK. I have been WAITING for your thoughts on this b/c you know I love the old EPCOT, too.
First of all, in general, I agree with your cautiously optimistic attitude. I think the areas easily fall into the space/tech and water/earth/land categories. I actually really dig the whole Moana thing. I think it’s b/c of the jumping fountains in Imagination that still delight me?! Ha!
I don’t have the same amount of optimism for the World Celebration–seems like an undefined catch-all. And, I’m not sure I like/understand the new Spaceship Earth at all. The “power of storytelling to unite the human experience”? What does that mean?
And YES to all the up charge areas. Sigh. I guess we’ll just have to be the poor folks who look at the top level with longing…
Oh, and I can’t be mad at Mary Poppins. I’ll take her any way I can get her.