Yesterday, Disney announced the first set of plans that will be part of Epcot's major overhaul, predominately in Future World. Back at the D23 Expo in 2017, a panel discussed new attractions coming to the park. This included the announcement of the Guardians of the Galaxy coaster and the Ratatouille attraction inside the France Pavilion. But a more obscure announcement was that Future World would receive a major overhaul. Bringing new life to the park, while still maintaining the original mission of Epcot. While we received little details then as to what would happen in Future World, we've now learned at least a few changes that will come to the park by 2021.
First of all, the previous Wonders of Life Pavilion will soon become a new 'play pavilion'. The pavilion will maintain the classic dome structure, but inside the pavilion will be...
Built on the power of play, it introduces an immersive and interactive ‘city’ where you can explore, create, and interact with some of your favorite Disney characters.
There are several details to pick up on here. First of all, it's worth noting that this new pavilion has no official name yet. It could be because a name could reveal more than Disney is willing to do at the moment. When I first read this description, I wondered if this city would somehow pay homage or resemble Walt's original vision for Progress City. Disney has been repeating the idea that while new things are coming to Epcot, these new additions will be, "...keeping true to the original vision of the park'. But looking at the concept art revealed with this announcement, it is clear that the design of this interactive city resembles the world of the internet seen in the recent Wreck-It Ralph 2 film.
Which first makes me wonder if Ralph and Vanellope, who are currently and oddly place inside the Imagination Pavilion, will move to this new play pavilion and serve as the anchor of the new experiences inside. One also can't help but pick up on the emoji-style signs in this interactive city that show Joy from Inside Out and Edna Mode from The Incredibles. Could this pavilion also be the home of other character meet and greets currently located in other areas? Will Joy and Sadness and Baymax move over to this new pavilion? Remember that the Future World reimagining concept art revealed at D23, showed that the central buildings in Future World that used to house Innoventions and Communicore, could be completely demolished. So these guys may need a new home soon. Most importantly, will Disney utilize the old infrastructure and space that housed Body Wars and Cranium Command for new attractions?
So many questions, that we just have to wait and see. But I will say that this pavilion is clearly aimed for younger kids, possibly even those too small to ride Test Track, Mission: Space and the future Guardians Coaster. It is a smart move to build a more family-friendly pavilion on this side of Future World, specifically for groups who will use child swap at these big attractions and need something to keep younger guests entertained.
The second announcement made yesterday was a reimagining of the Odyssey building. This most recently served as the Festival ShowPlace at the 2019 Festival of the Arts. Disney has previously used this space at Festival of the Holidays as well. But later this year, Disney has stated that the Odyssey will be transformed into the new Experience Center. A sort-of preview center that will detail the park's future projects more. But both this and the announcement of the play pavilion leaves me wondering, where will the Festival Center at Food & Wine or Flower & Garden be located once construction gets underway?
Finally, the last detail mentioned in this recent announcement could be the first in a multi-phase redesigning of Future World that will eliminate large, concrete areas with more topiaries and green spaces. Disney has revealed that the Leave a Legacy photos will be removed from the entrance plaza in front of Spaceship Earth to a new location. The entry space will return to the original design and feature several topiaries and plants making the entrance feel more inviting and less cold. But more importantly, that beautiful glass structure at the fountain in front of Spaceship Earth could return. (A great throwback to the 1980s) This will likely expand the floral displays that are created here at the different festivals and provide more PhotoPass opportunities for guests arriving instead of bottlenecking at the central topiary.
Following this, Disney has reiterated that similar work will also be carried out in the plaza between Future World and World Showcase. Which again, if you look at that reimagining concept art could feature some sort of fountain display and new circular buildings that could be dining locations and/or shops. But we have to wait a little longer for these details.
There is no word on when construction of these plans will be begin, and no official date for when these new experiences will be complete. Like most of the additions coming to Epcot, Disney has only stated that these ideas will be completed in time for Walt Disney World's 50th anniversary in 2021.
Other exciting new developments underway at Epcot include:
Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure attraction in the France pavilion, patterned after the number-one family attraction at Disneyland Paris
“Beauty and the Beast” sing-along in the France pavilion, showing in addition to the pavilion’s current film, Impressions de France
Circle-Vision 360 film for the China pavilion and updated O Canada! 360-degree show
Signature Dining experience inspired by the natural beauty of Japan
Space-themed table-service restaurant adjacent to Mission: SPACE, inviting guests to travel high above the earth for an unforgettable dining experience
Epcot Forever, a 2019 limited-time nighttime experience over World Showcase Lagoon set to classic Epcot tunes, followed by an all-new nighttime spectacular debuting in 2020