2023 Destination D23 Recap: EPCOT Opening Dates & Reimaginings (Journey of Water, New Fireworks Show, Test Track 3.0, and FIGMENT)

    With the 2023 Destination D23 weekend behind us, we wanted to recap what we learned and discuss the changes coming to EPCOT. In this article, we’ll cover what was said, what was unsaid, and what we thought about it all!

    The EPCOT update was provided by Scott Mallwitz of Walt Disney Imagineering and EPCOT VP Kartika Rodriguez.

    Journey of Water Opening Date

    After nearly four years of construction, the Journey of Water – Inspired by Moana nature trail has an opening date: October 16, 2023! The self-guided walking trail is a serene addition to EPCOT and will be enjoyed by many guests who are looking to slow down their day a bit and add some relaxation time to their vacation. It’s not an E-Ticket attraction, but we think these types of relaxing, easily accessible experiences (read: no long waits or Virtual Queue madness) are a must-have for any Disney World theme park.

    At Destination D23 2023, it was announced that beginning Oct. 16, 2023, Walt Disney World Resort guests visiting EPCOT will be able to voyage into an all-new adventure with Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana. Guests can explore a beautifully landscaped walking trail with fun and surprises around each turn, as they engage with water in magical ways like Moana did with the ocean. The new walk-through attraction is located in World Nature – the EPCOT neighborhood dedicated to understanding and preserving the beauty and balance of the natural world.  

    Also on Oct. 16 – Moana will arrive in World Nature and make her first appearance in her own dedicated space near Journey of Water. 
    Disney World press release
    So, speaking of World Nature, I hope everyone is looking forward to Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana. This beautiful new walk through trail will teach you all about the water cycle and you’ll get to play and become friends with water just like Moana did in the film.

    We know you’re going to love this experience, which is why I am thrilled to share Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana will officially open on October 16th.

    …I have one more for you, one more, because I can share for the first time Moana herself is coming to World Nature too! Beginning October 16, she’ll begin greeting guests in our own new dedicated space near Journey of Water. 
    Kartika Rodriguez, EPCOT VP

    Yes, it’s overdue, but it’s good to have an official opening date for Journey of Water – Inspired by Moana. In a perfect world, it wouldn’t have taken this long to build, but the space is lush and relaxing – perfect for World Nature.

    Luminous: The Symphony of Us

    The new EPCOT fireworks show name was revealed by Walt Disney World President Jeff Vahle. The new show, which debuts December 5th is called Luminous: The Symphony of Us and it will feature fireworks, fountains, lasers, lighting effects, and music.

    All right, you guys may know that we’re working on our next time nighttime spectacular at Epcot. You heard about that? All right, well, here’s some news. The show is going to debut on December 5th of this year. You want to hear the name? Alright, name of the show is going to be Luminous: The Symphony of Us. 

    The brand new show filled with fireworks fountains, lasers, lighting effects, fabulous Disney music. Luminous is going to touch your heart, and it’s going to continue our long tradition of amazing nighttime entertainment at Epcot. I cannot wait for you to see it. 
    Jeff Vahle, Walt Disney World President
    At Destination D23 2023, it was announced that a new nighttime spectacular at EPCOT called “Luminous: The Symphony of Us” will debut on Dec. 5, 2023. The brand-new show will feature fireworks, fountains, lasers, lighting effects and music. “Luminous: The Symphony of Us” will continue Disney’s long tradition of amazing nighttime entertainment at EPCOT
    Disney World press release

    I’m excited for this show. It feels like it could be a Harmonious 2.0 meshed with beats from Illuminations: Reflections of Earth. With movable infrastructure that aims to wow guests during the nighttime performance while preserving daytime views, it feels like Disney learned an expensive, but valuable lesson about the importance of World Showcase daytime vibes. Yes, the infrastructure was impressive for Harmonious and we actually really liked the show, but the armada of steel in the Lagoon was unforgivable. It will be interesting to see what Disney presents here and what kind of longevity it can have with fans and guests as Disney is likely trying to find something that will stop the outflow of money into the Lagoon.

    Test Track 3.0

    Perhaps the most surprising announcement of the entire Destination D23 parks panel this year was that Test Track will receive a reimagining. Test Track 2.0 debuted in 2012 and more than 10 years later, we learned that Test Track 3.0 is in development. No date was given on when the overhaul will begin or debut.

    We have a longstanding relationship with Chevrolet – one of our corporate alliance partners who helps us [enhance EPCOT]. They’re very focused on innovation and the future of how we will travel across this planet of ours, which is why I’m so pleased to tell you that we’re working with Chevrolet to once again reimagine the Test Track experience.

    We’re reaching back in to the history of the pavilion, taking inspiration from the original World of Motion and bringing that spirit of optimism to this next iteration of Test Track.
    Scott Mallwitz, Walt Disney Imagineering
    At Destination D23 2023, it was announced that Test Track will be reimagined at EPCOT in Walt Disney World Resort. Imagineers, along with teams from Chevrolet, are reaching back into history for inspiration from the original World of Motion and bringing that spirit of optimism to the next iteration of the Test Track attraction. More details to come in the future.
    Disney World press release

    It almost doesn’t feel real that Chevrolet and Imagineering will focus on an update for Test Track until you look at their most recent partnership – TRON Lightcycle Run. The new TRON ride is modern and the aging Test Track attraction, while still popular, can use a new vision for what cars of the future, and traveling, will look like. In the concept art, it looks like the layout of the attraction will remain, with updates to the ride vehicles and sets.

    World Celebration Opening Timeframe

    While other theme parks received a lot of forward-looking announcements, construction at EPCOT needs to be wrapped up. To that end, an opening timeframe for World Celebration was finally announced by Scott Mallwitz.

    Mallwitz: We are so excited to share that the last of our three new neighborhoods world celebration will begin welcoming guests this December.

    Rodriguez: Epcot is all about celebration. It has always been the people park, and it continues on as a celebration of our global community.

    Mallwitz: And wait until you see what World Celebration is all about when it’s finished. Really close. It unites the front of the park, which I hope you guys love. Tying together these other two lands, and two neighborhoods, that we’re talking about now: World Discovery and World Nature.
    World Celebration will unite the front of the park, tying together the other two new EPCOT neighborhoods, World Discovery and World Nature.  The completion of the last of the park’s three neighborhoods is the latest major milestone in EPCOT’s multi-year transformation.
    Disney World press release

    It will be really nice to have construction walls removed from this part of EPCOT. Frankly, it has taken way too long and involved a budget cut change that I’m quite disappointed about with the removal of the World Celebration Festival Center, but we move forward.

    Figment Is Back!

    In an announcement that is already old news, the Figment meet and greet debuted September 10th in the Imagination Pavilion! The news was saved for the end of the presentation as a “one more thing”-style announcement. Destination D23 event attendees were not only the first to see Figment in person at the end of the presentation, but also the first to meet Figment during an exclusive after-hours event at EPCOT later that evening.

    For more on the Figment meet & greet that is now open in EPCOT, check out our opening day report and photos of the lovable dragon!

    PHOTOS, VIDEO: Figment Meet & Greet Debuts at EPCOT to 3-Hour Waits
    The king has returned. The Figment meet & greet is now open in the Imagination Pavilion at EPCOT

    Soarin’ Over California Returns!

    While not announced at the Disney Parks presentation, Kartika Rodriguez announced that Soarin’ Over California would be returning September 22nd for a limited time as part of the Disney100 celebrations kicking off that same day and running through the end of 2023.

    The Magic of (Unrealized) Possibility

    While the EPCOT announcements were nice to have, it’s hard not to sit back and think about what the overhaul could’ve been. Back in 2019, there were a handful of announcements for EPCOT that would never come to be.

    To be clear, Disney executed on a lot of the ideas presented, but there were a few that didn’t make the cut. Here’s what wasn’t mentioned on stage at the 2023 Destination D23 event that was previously announced or mentioned at the 2019 D23 Expo:

    Spaceship Earth Overhaul

    Hopefully this is still in the works, but with Disney Parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro not afraid to announce projects that are seemingly little more than concept art drawings, we’re guessing a much-needed Spaceship Earth overhaul has been kicked down the road.

    PLAY! Pavilion

    Announced in 2019, the PLAY! Pavilion remains a mystery – walled off and seemingly abandoned in World Discovery. EPCOT’s only new capital investment project announced at Destination D23 is using sponsor money, so greenlighting the resumption of projects like Spaceship Earth and the PLAY! Pavilion appears to be out of reach at the moment.

    Mary Poppins Attraction

    Also snubbed at the presentation was the Mary Poppins attraction which would’ve been an indoor teacups-style attraction in the United Kingdom Pavilion.

    Wondrous China

    Also not talked about was an update to the country film in the China Pavilion.

    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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