Epcot is going away. At least the Epcot we’ve known. It has been in its current iteration for a long time, perhaps longer than acceptable for Disney standards. Nonetheless, people still go to Epcot by the hordes, spend money, and have a good time. The time has finally come for the changeover from what Epcot has been to become something else. Disney unveiled all the signs, both subtle and not in the last couple of weeks.
On October 1 st, we saw the Odyssey reopen in time to be a part of Food and Wine. The Odyssey has, in recent years, been a location of craft beers, small plates, and Disney led panels and presentations. It closed for a short period and then suddenly reopened again on 10/1. It wasn’t in time to be a part of Food and Wine entirely, but rather strangely opened in the middle. There are still a few new craft drinks and snacks available, but the rest of the building’s interior has changed. There is now a presentation about the future of Epcot. The exhibition takes place in a newly built 360 theater with an impressive model of Epcot in the center. During the 12-minute presentation, video is shown around the room, while different layovers project onto the Epcot model.
This video and narration tell of the future of Epcot. It begins by showing old footage of Epcot and its attractions and then over the exciting new ones that will be coming over time and where they will be. The new properties mentioned in the video are Moana, Guardians of the Galaxy, Ratatouille, and Mary Poppins. An update to Spaceship Earth and a wholly made over Wonders of Life pavilion that will now be an interactive digital playground make an appearance as well. The presentation is positive, and the technology used is impressive, so it does leave you feeling excited about the future.
Around the outside of the theater, there are posters from former attractions. These are nice, but also a way to show all that has come and gone before. More substantial than all of these, though, is a large and detailed map of the new Epcot. This painting looks very impressive and shows the futuristic rendering of what the park may become. There also some photo opportunities and props from the upcoming attractions to make the excitement more tangible. Included here is a model of the ride vehicle from Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. Finally, there is a stand with merchandise for the new show Epcot Forever, which coincides with the 360-theater show and additionally opened on 10/1.
Epcot Forever is the new nightly show that has taken the place of Illuminations. We’ve already learned that this is a limited run show and will be replaced in 2020 by HarmoniUS, a completely new show. Epcot Forever takes place once a night on the water, just as Illuminations. The show begins with a musical montage of all the classic Epcot attractions that have come and gone. Many of these same attractions have posters up outside the theater in the Odyssey. After this montage brings back all the old emotions and nostalgia, the show ends with A Whole New World from Aladdin. This sequence, to me, confirms that Epcot Forever is a full nightly show in tribute to what Epcot was and will no longer be. It seems to have been made to help ease the transition of the park from Epcot into something else. The reimagining is significant if someone at Disney felt this show necessary.
Epcot is something special and always has been. It never became what it was intended to be when created. It’s become something more over time and done more than serve as a futuristic place to live. It’s a hopeful, strange, futuristic, retro, educational theme park experience. Schools go to Epcot for field trips because of its educational significance. There is information on conservation, history, diversity, and technology. It is also a unique and incredible experience to be able to walk through snippets of eleven countries in one day. Although some of the park may feel outdated, there is still value in the attractions there. Some of the attractions even serve as a look into the past just due to their age.
Unfortunately, Epcot’s current iteration seems to have run its course. The unusual park looks to be transitioning towards more of a theme park. The countries are all remaining, but there will be some Disney-based new aspects. The updated attractions will bring in state of the art new rides and popular properties, which will bring an influx of new crowds. These properties could make Epcot more popular and likely busier than it has ever been. Much of Future World will be changed. It will be updated, and there will be new technology, but will it all be for thrills rather than knowledge? The park will be more exciting and be more of a place for kids to want to go to have fun. If this wave of updates is a financial success, who knows what they will add to the rest of the countries or what else will change. I’m all for staying modern and relevant, but once the flood gates are open, it could be hard to close them.
At this point, the walls are already up around the park, and the transition has begun. The first store at the front of the park, along with the large fountain, Club Cool, and Starbucks, are all closed, and that’s just the main entrance area. For now, we will deal with a lot of construction and closed areas until the new park begins to come together. Perhaps the Odyssey and Epcot Forever are a way to try and deflect some of the complaints and guest dissatisfaction about all these closures and walled-off areas. It seems like a full-scale campaign with a lot of moving parts. I hope that the new Epcot will be a reinvigorated version of what we’ve seen for all these years. The park needs a little updating, but it doesn’t need to transform. We still need a historical, educational, and culturally diverse theme park that’s more than just fun rides. We have plenty of other theme parks with those, especially in Orlando, but there is only one Epcot.