Disney Provides Update on EPCOT Projects; PLAY! Pavilion and Spaceship Earth Missing, Moana Continues Forward

    Following their D23 virtual presentation on the future of EPCOT, Disney sent out a press release with updates on various projects. With COVID-19 throwing a wrench in the plans and slashing budgets, let’s take a look at what Disney decided to double-down on, and what they left out of the press release.

    Four Neighborhoods

    Disney continues with the “four neighborhoods” concept to the EPCOT transformation: 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, discovery and the magic of possibility.

    World Showcase

    Plans for World Showcase remain largely unchanged with one big exception – no Mary Poppins. Disney was happy to provide updates on Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, which is poised to be the big draw in the first half of 2021. Disney didn’t provide an opening date, but they appear to be mostly finished with the project and could just be waiting to time an opening with a dip in COVID-19 cases – that is, when travel can resume in large numbers.

    Out on World Showcase Lagoon, Disney once again pushed Harmonious, which will be the long-term Illuminations replacement. Not only will these massive set pieces have an imposing presence during the nightly spectacular, but Disney also confirmed that they would be out on World Showcase Lagoon permanently. To hide them, Disney will turn them into daytime fountains.

    This artist concept rendering shows how the floating platforms for “Harmonious” will feature daytime fountains, providing new energy to World Showcase Lagoon before evening falls and the forthcoming nighttime spectacular begins at EPCOT

    Disney also talked about the three new World Showcase films – Canada Far and Wide, Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along, and Awesome Planet. These films are relatively old news at this point, but still part of the EPCOT overhaul plans.

    Notably missing from the press release was any mention of the Mary Poppins mini-land and attraction that was scheduled to come to EPCOT. Earlier this summer, we broke the news that the Mary Poppins preview was taken out of The EPCOT Experience preview center, and Disney later confirmed that the project was postponed. It’s unclear if this project has a future or if it’s dead in the water.

    Disney also failed to mention anything about Wondrous China, an update for the Reflections of China attraction.

    World Celebration

    Moving over to the heart of the park, we have World Celebration. This area, also known as the EPCOT spine, will contain a few different projects that were all pretty much represented in the press release.

    Disney was happy to discuss the EPCOT entrance project, which is all but finished. Crews are finishing up work on the prism pylons and feature fountain, which will be unveiled later this year.

    Disney also confirmed that the Dreamers Point project is still alive and well. As guests pass Spaceship Earth, they will discover a breathtaking new view of World Showcase from Dreamers Point. World Celebration will also feature a new statue honoring the legacy of the original dreamer, Walt Disney, plus beautiful natural environments and global design elements filled with Disney magic and surprises, including a story fountain celebrating the power and music of iconic Disney storytelling.

    It seems like a lot of the originally announced elements such as the “story fountain” and enchanted garden will continue.

    Disney confirmed the presence of “new retail and dining locations” which are likely in reference to the MouseGear overhaul which recently hit a new milestone, and the Electric Umbrella reimagining nearby.

    There are two major question marks in World Celebration – the Spaceship Earth overhaul and the World Celebration Festival Center.

    Starting with Spaceship Earth, Disney didn’t mention the project at all. Back when they confirmed that the Mary Poppins attraction was “postponed”, Disney also said that the Spaceship Earth overhaul was also postponed. That, combined with the recent omission from the press release, might not spell out good news for the overhaul.

    That said, Disney is still working on Spaceship Earth to provide an all-new nighttime lighting package to make the icon stick out even more when the sun goes down.

    The next big question is: what does the World Celebration Festival Center look like when Disney completes its value engineering on the project.

    Previously, Disney had an ambitious, multi-level structure that would not only provide a centralized location for festivals and events, but also a pretty great view of World Showcase Lagoon and the upcoming Harmonious nighttime spectacular.

    Back in July, Disney announced that they would be “taking a different approach” to the previously announced Festival Center. In the most recent press release, Disney stated that there would be a “newly reimagined festival area that will be home to ever-changing events in a unique new environment.”

    It’s coated in PR-speak, but at it at least got a mention. Of concern here is that Disney calls it a “festival area” and not a “festival center”. Hopefully Disney is still able to pull something off with this area that can fit into the existing EPCOT overhaul plans.

    World Nature

    Moving over to World Nature, fans of Moana will be happy to hear about the project’s presence in the press release. We’ve seen Disney work on demolishing the northwest section of CommuniCore to make way for the interactive experience.

    Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana will be the first Disney Parks 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. Just like Moana’s friend the ocean, water will have a personality of its own, helping guests learn how to protect the natural water cycle in a fun and engaging way.

    Disney also touted the Awesome Planet film, which we discussed earlier, but technically resides within The Land Pavilion in World Nature.

    World Discovery

    The cool, new place to be will be World Discovery with Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind as the anchor. Disney has not provided an updated timeline for the roller coaster, so we have to go by their most recent statement that the roller coaster will be open “in time for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary” – that is, before October 2021. It’s an ambitious timeline, but the project has reached some important milestones such as a push-pull test for the ride vehicles. Here’s a look into a portion of the massive “gravity” building.

    Disney also talked about Space 220 Restaurant, which promises the “height of dining”.

    In an expansion of the Mission: SPACE pavilion, the new restaurant Space 220 will be a culinary experience offering the celestial panorama of a space station, including daytime and nighttime views of Earth from 220 miles up. Guests will board a space elevator for a journey to the Centauri Space Station, 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. Space 220 will be operated by the Patina Restaurant Group.

    Once again, we don’t have an opening date, but Disney appears to be targeting a first-half 2021 timeframe.

    Just like Spaceship Earth and Mary Poppins, we have to look at what Disney didn’t say as much as what they did say. There was no mention of the PLAY! Pavilion project, which was slated to open before October 2021 as one of the 50th Anniversary projects.

    More Announcements Coming

    To wrap up, Disney stated that they will be providing more updates on some of the previously announced projects at a later date. They did not say if projects omitted from this press release such as Spaceship Earth and Mary Poppins would be on the list of updates, but we hope Disney is able to paint a clearer picture of EPCOT’s future soon.

    As always, keep checking back with us here at BlogMickey.com as we continue to bring you the latest news, photos, and info from around the Disney Parks!

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    1. Since it was announced, I’ve been 100% in the camp that believed the Festival Center would never get built. Now that it’s been summarily canceled, I’m upset but not surprised that a garbage “Festival Area”- which will likely be a series of tents, kiosks, and/or temp buildings (like the current Starbucks) is going to be slapped into what was supposed to be a multi-million dollar enhancement.

      Epcot just keeps getting the dregs of imagineering and will continue to be little more than a strip mall with some rides for the foreseeable future.

    2. I’ll again suggest an economical few options (relative to a massive overhaul) for Spaceship Earth that would keep the flagship ride going while adding a bit more interest.

      1) Update the last few scenes now occupied by a barely visible look at Steve Jobs’s back, and an even less visible and utterly dull Ford Pinto, to something much more modern. Just a small update of the tail end could really brighten the whole experience and make it more relevant to people under 50 years old.

      2) Record a new narration for the existing ride (with or without a refreshed final tableau or two). I can imagine a Morgan Freeman version in his wonderful voice. How much could that cost compared to total ride overhaul?

      3) Even less costly, revisit former narrations, such as the fondly remembered Jeremy Irons or Walter Cronkite versions. (I don’t know if the ride itself changed after either or both of those narrations were last used, though.) Heck, you could even switch them up randomly with minimal down time.

      I just think there have to be options other than Judi Dench/ride as it is now or wait two years for some cartooned-up “modern” version.

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