Epcot Future World Changes
The Epcot that you’ve known since childhood is no more. The Walt Disney Company has shut down many of the offerings that you identify with the park. Specifically, Disney has wiped out a significant portion of Future World with the intention of modernizing it. And, if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s a decision that’s long overdue.
During the 2019 D23 Expo, Disney executives revealed what they have planned for Future World. The changes are exciting, but let’s be clear. They will take time to accomplish. Here’s what the future of Future World will look like based on what we just learned at D23.
The Four Worlds of Epcot
The most significant change at Epcot is the one that will take some time to accept. Like the old sitcom theme song says, it’s a different world from where you came from. Specifically, Epcot is now comprised of four different worlds.
We already had one, the World Showcase. Moving forward, Future World will introduce three others. Those sections are Celebration, Nature, and Discovery. Almost as if worried about potential backlash, presenter (and Parks chairman) Bob Chapek explained this major redesign of Future by quoting Walt Disney.
The applicable words are: “Epcot is an experimental prototype community that will always be in a state of becoming. It will never cease to be a living blueprint of the future.”
Those words are a direct quote from Walt Disney. He spoke them during the original declaration of the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Chapek reminded Disney fans of these words almost as a defense mechanism against impending criticisms of the cataclysmic change. Let’s break down the specifics of each new, different world.
World Discovery at Epcot
You’re a dinosaur now. You remember a time when Epcot featured a section called Future World East. By 2021, this place will no longer exist. Instead, the new themed land is World Discovery. While you’ve thought of the various sections of Epcot as distinct pavilions, they will share a concept from now on.
The theme is, of course, Discovery, but the presentations have a distinct outer space focus. World Discovery starts with two attractions, Mission: SPACE and Test Track. It’ll soon gain another E-ticket ride, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. We’ve known for a while that this roller coaster would replace Ellen’s Energy Adventure.
During D23, we learned a bit more about the attraction. It’ll start with an explosive backward acceleration, which explains the name. The presence of a Guardians of the Galaxy underscores another aspect of the Epcot changes. Various Disney intellectual properties will anchor several rides, a change that started at The Seas with Nemo & Friends.
Outer Space Themes
The Guardians of the Galaxy premise will go beyond Cosmic Rewind. The show building is something park officials have called the first “otherworld pavilion” at Epcot. Sure, it’s a joke, but the theme will support the notion.
The building’s interior highlights Galaxeria, a “planetarium-like presentation that will take you from Earth to Xandar and back.” Once you’re done exploring, you will have the opportunity to fly a Nova ship into outer space and gaze at the Earth from there. If this concept seems familiar, it should.
Another reveal for World Discovery involves the Mission: SPACE area. At the 2017 D-23 Expo, Disney announced a space-themed restaurant that is due to open by the end of 2019. We just learned that its name is Space 220 Restaurant. When you dine here, you will “board a unique elevator for a journey to connect to a space station.” Yes, you’re eating in outer space while looking down at the Earth from 220 miles above it.
While World Discovery sounds like an outer space section, the presence of Test Track proves that it has more. Also, another pavilion is coming, one that will explore a different kind of discovery.
The PLAY! pavilion will open by Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary in 2021. This themed building is the de facto replacement for the character meeting spots, the ones that Disney is closing for good. Park officials promise that both real and virtual character interactions will be possible at PLAY!
Also, this space will host interactive games. During the Parks & Resorts panel, Disney showed pictures of Huey, Dewey, Louie, and Webby engaged in a poolside water balloon fight. The implication is that kids can jump right into the battle. The phrase “digital metropolis” is how the company describes the pavilion. When I hear it and see the pictures, I can’t help but think of the virtual city in Ralph Breaks the Internet. Until Disney says otherwise, I’ll presume it’s at least partially the inspiration for the PLAY! Pavilion.
World Nature at Epcot
This section will be most comfortable for you to accept as Future World changes. The area formerly known as Future World West will become World Nature. The theming here really doesn’t change inasmuch as it coalesces into a new form.
Future World West featured three pavilions: Imagination!, The Land, and The Seas with Nemo & Friends. Nothing will change in the short term, but Disney has crystallized the underlying concept of The Land and former place known as The Living Seas.
Both of them explore humanity’s connections to nature. To reinforce the point, Imagineers will introduce one show-stopping new attraction. The Journey of Water, Inspired by “Moana” is an interactive water feature based on memorable scenes from Moana.
In the movie, Moana shares a unique relationship with the ocean. As the chosen one of her people, she talks with the water almost as if it’s a real person. It moves and reacts to her. Somehow, Disney will introduce this same concept in the World Nature section!
The goal is to persuade park visitors to meet and play with magical living water. Obviously, kids won’t need much convincing. They’ll learn about the importance of the natural water cycle while discovering that water has a life of its own.
Out of everything mentioned at D23, Journey of Water, Inspired by “Moana” sounds like the attraction that fits best with the initial plans for Epcot as an infotainment park.
World Nature will receive one other new attraction. The Land Pavilion gets a new film entitled Awesome Planet in January of 2020. Disney states that it “showcases the beauty, diversity, and dynamic story of Earth.” But let’s be honest. The water feature is the most significant addition to World Nature.
World Celebration at Epcot
The entrance to Epcot and the throughways to Innoventions East and West are no more. Replacing them is World Celebration, a re-imagining of the space that began when park officials announced a new home for the Leave a Legacy monoliths.
The plan here is to rebuild the spine that runs through the center of Future World in an exciting, more timeless way. Of course, Future World will no longer exist when the change comes to fruition. It’ll take some adjustment, but Epcot is now comprised of four themed lands rather than two. World Celebration is the first one you’ll enter…unless you arrive via the International Gateway.
The first change here involves Epcot’s principal landmark, Spaceship Earth. Imagineers will redesign the interior of the attraction to modernize it. According to Chapek, it’ll still highlight significant moments in human history.
However, Spaceship Earth will focus more on storytelling. The ride will maintain several of its current scenes, updating them with improved technology to liven up the presentation. New scenes will also be added and will follow something that Disney’s describing as “the Story Light” to tie everything together.
Spaceship Earth will also receive new narration as part of the change. But that’s just the interior. For the exterior, pictures reveal that Imagineers have plans in place to emphasize the beauty and spectacle of the park weenie in new and exciting ways.
New Additions to the Former Future World
During D23, Disney unveiled pictures of a planned three-story festival center overlooking World Showcase Lagoon. This yet-unnamed pavilion features an outdoor plaza level, a mid-level interior expo, and a botanical park on the top level.
The picture of this structure has a WOW! factor, and the idea seems pragmatic, too. Park visitors will have their choice of where to spend time at the pavilion, depending on the weather and their mood. And the rooftop views are breathtaking.
The plan is for this area called Dreamers Point to reside close to a new exit at Spaceship Earth. Fans of Disney will love this new section for a different reason than the pavilion, though. A statue paying tribute to Walt Disney will reside here. Since Epcot was the project closest to Uncle Walt’s heart toward the end of his life, this addition is long overdue.
Disney confirmed one last element of World Celebration. You’ll notice that I listed World Nature as two pavilions rather than three. The current Imagination! pavilion space is listed with World Celebration. Park officials didn’t expound on the reason why yet. We’ll all need to stay tuned over the coming months to learn why.