In late 2016 Bob Chapek, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Chairman, confirmed that Epcot would be getting a massive overhaul
in the coming years. This weekend at Disney’s biennial company-wide convention D23, Chapek shared some of the specifics of what this "dream big" redo at Disney World’s second theme park would entail.
Joining Chapek on the stage was Imagineering Vice President and Senior Creative Executive Tom Fitzgerald, a lead Imagineer for the Epcot project. Fitzgerald led Imagineering’s updates at Disneyland Paris, including the addition of the Ratatouille
attraction in Walt Disney Studios Paris. He was part of the team that worked on the opening of Epcot and had an animatronic in Horizons created in his image.
Fitzgerald began by stating that, “Epcot has always been, from day one, an optimistic celebration of the real world brought to life by the magic of Disney. It’s really kind of a living showcase of the world we’ve created and the world we continue to create together. It’s a place where the real becomes fantastic, and the fantastic becomes real.”
trackless, dark-ride at Walt Disney Studios Paris was confirmed
for the new France pavilion. This attraction has been strongly rumored
for months with permits already pulled for the project. An entirely new area of the France pavilion will be built to accommodate the attraction and will include *possibly* moving the Eiffel Tower. The ride will
also be in World Showcase, and the China pavilion will be getting a new Circle-Vision 360 film that will be filmed using the latest high definition 360 digital video technology. The new film will use a brand new seamless Circle-Vision 360 format. Some rumors point to Mushu, the dragon from Disney’s animated film Mulan.
These updates are “just a glimpse” of what Disney has planned for World Showcase, according to Chapek.
The biggest transformation at Epcot though is taking place over in Future World. Guardians of the Galaxy
was finally confirmed for the Universe of Energy pavilion, which will close August 13. It may also possibly replace part of the Wonders of Life pavilion.
No details were shared on what the attraction will be, rumors have suggested a coaster, but Disney has confirmed that it will be an "E-ticket" or signature attraction.
“The Guardians will take our guests on an out-of-this-world adventure, but it will still be very rooted in an Epcot story,” according to Fitzgerald. Disney also showed a picture of a young Peter Quill in front of Spaceship Earth and said this is why the Guardians were visiting the park. Concept art released by Disney shows the tapered design of the Universe of Energy building remaining but with a major sci-fi design update.
Industry insider Jim Hill has been on record recently stating that the attraction will keep much of the old building in place, with a massive gift shop taking over part of the building. An elevated ride track will go through a tunnel over the service road behind the attraction to a new large ride building, the outline of which can be seen in recent water management permits.
Next door to the future Guardians attraction is Mission: Space, which is currently closed for an update. When it reopens, it will feature updated videos for both sides with the Orange side getting an updated Mars mission storyline while the less intense Green side is getting an even more family friendly version of the ride where instead of going to Mars guests will now fly over the earth, looking down upon it from space.
In a surprising "one more thing" moment of the Epcot presentation a brand new, table service restaurant
next to Mission: Space. The space station themed sit-down restaurant will feature large "windows" looking out into space where in the renderings an astronaut is performing a spacewalk.
The sleek, sci-fi looking dining room has a bar area visible on one side and high ceilings throughout. Chapek slide in a small Horizons reference while discussing the new space themed restaurant, causing some to speculate that this new dining option might have some Horizons references within it.
Image via Scott Gustin | Twitter
Disney shared some "blue sky" artwork on what they have planned for Future World and the most significant change in the plans is the entirety of central buildings where MouseGears, Starbucks, Innoventions, and Club Cool are completely missing. In their place is a large garden-like area with numerous water fountains, trees, and sculptures. A large sculpture and fountain along the bridge on the main path near where the monorails pass overhead. The concept art for Future World shows a dramatic shift from the current design, confirming that this will be one of the most ambitious land updates Disney has have ever done at any of their parks.
Various smaller buildings dot the newly landscaped Future World including one odd round shaped building that looks to have a wave pool on the roof of it. Every single Future World pavilion is represented in the concept art, even the gold dome of the former Wonders of Life pavilion. A small corner of a building is visible where the Imagination pavilion is located, but few details are visible.
Also in the concept art, Test Track seems to have lost its large shade awning out front with just the cylinder like building visible. Smaller, bubble like buildings, similar to the design aesthetic seen in Shanghai’s TRON attraction can be seen in the artwork. What looks to be a hedge maze is visible between The Land and Imagination pavilions.
A large building can be seen at the top of the image just to the right of Spaceship Earth. No details were given on what this is but with the demolition of the central courtyard Epcot will be losing a major gift shop and a busy counter service restaurant, so this building may be the replacement for one of these.
Other Epcot updates include a station for the Disney Skyliner gondola system
at Epcot’s International Gateway, and various yet to be confirmed updates rumored to be heading to nearly every pavilion at the park.
All of the updates shared will likely open by WDW’s 50th anniversary.
Fitzgerald said “Epcot is a reassurance that we are part of something greater,” while Chapek said the updates will "stay to the DNA of Epcot, particularly those ideals of optimism, hope, and awe and wonder of our world” and that these updates are “just the tip of the iceberg for what we’ve got in store for Epcot.”
When all is said and done, many estimate that this will be the most expensive park update ever attempted by Disney.