Epcot will get an extensive makeover in the next few years, including a reorganization of Future World into three new neighborhoods — World Nature, World Discovery and World Celebration — and two new attractions inspired by Disney movies, “Mary Poppins” and “Moana,” the Walt Disney Co. announced Sunday.
Disney also announced the opening date for the Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along at Epcot — January 2020; a new restaurant in the France pavilion opening in summer 2020 along with Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure; a few more details of the Guardians of the Galaxy roller coaster and the Play! Pavilion, but not the opening date for either; and other news.
The announcements came Sunday from Bob Chapek, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, speaking at D23 Expo 2019, the annual convention of Disney’s official fan club. The Epcot makeover and new attractions made almost the only news for Walt Disney World, although new information was released about other Disney resorts and the cruise line.
Disney had already said that the entrance to Epcot would be reworked, but the announcement that its front half, Future World, would be divided into three neighborhoods, was the more significant news that the company had been teasing fans about for a couple years, commenting on “big plans for our multi-year transformation of Epcot” while releasing only dribbles of information.
Chapek said the makeover would be the biggest transformation of any Disney park in history. Epcot, which opened in 1982 as Disney World’s second park, has long been its second most popular in terms of admissions. But with the opening of Pandora: The World of Avatar, Animal Kingdom edged past Epcot last year. With the addition of Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Galaxy Edge at Hollywood Studios, Epcot is the only Disney World Park that hasn’t had major additions or makeovers lately.
“The park will be unified with four neighborhoods that each celebrate a unique aspect of what makes Epcot so special,” Disney said in a press release. “World Showcase will continue to celebrate culture, cuisine, architecture and traditions from around the world. And where Future World currently stands, three new neighborhoods will spring up: World Nature, World Discovery and World Celebration.
▪ World Nature is about the natural world. It will include The Land Pavilion, which houses Soarin’ Around the World and will get a new film, “Awesome Planet,” which will debut in January. It also will include The Seas with Nemo & Friends, an aquarium and ride.
World Nature also will get one of the new attractions, “Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana.” A Disney release described it as an exploration trail where guests can play with water and learn about its importance.
▪ World Discovery will bring science, technology and intergalactic adventure to life. It will include Mission: Space, and in the same pavilion, the new Space 220 restaurant opening this winter, as well as Test Track.
The Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind roller coaster will also be in World Discovery. The coaster will have a reverse launch into space and it will be what Disney calls a “storytelling” coaster, with a car that rotates 360 degrees to face the action. In the queue, the story will start with “Galaxarium,” a planetarium-like exhibition on Xander, the capital planet of the Nova Empire in the movie, its treasures, and its similarities with Earth and the formation of Earth’s galaxy.
World Discovery will also have the PLAY! pavilion where Wonders of Life was. Disney describes it as “an interactive city bursting with games, activities and experiences.” Among them will be a change to help Edna Mode, the eccentric fashion designer from the superhero film “The Incredibles,” rid the world of uninspired design, or get in a water balloon fight with Huey, Dewey, Louie and Webby.
▪ World Celebration, “which will offer new experiences that connect guests to one another and the world around them,” will include Spaceship Earth, which will get new scenes, new narration and a new musical score; and a three-level pavilion that will be home base for Epcot’s festivals. A new outdoor area called Dreamers Point will have a statue of Walt Disney (“the original dreamer”), an enchanted forest with a wishing tree, and a story fountain, near the Spaceship Earth exit.
Also in World Celebration, the entrance plaza is getting a makeover. The Leave A Legacy photos will be moved outside the park gates and replaced with new walkways and green spaces. The fountain will be reimagined.
In World Showcase, the other half of the park, the United Kingdom pavilion will get the first attraction inspired by Mary Poppins, although Disney didn’t say whether it will be a ride or a walk-through attraction. “You will step in time down Cherry Tree Lane past Admiral Boom’s house, then enter Number 17, home of the Banks family, where your adventure will begin,” Disney said.
In the France pavilion, where the Ratatouille ride is under construction and scheduled to be completed next summer, the Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along will debut in January and alternate with the “Impressions de France” film. A new restaurant called La Crêperie de Paris, with both table service and quick-service options, is set to open next summer.
“IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth,” a nighttime show that has been running at Epcot since 1999, will close Sept. 30. A temporary replacement, “Epcot Forever,” combining music from Epcot with a fireworks spectacular, will debut Oct. 1. Its permanent replacement, “HarmonioUS,” which Disney describes as the largest nighttime spectacular ever created for a Disney park, will open in 2020 and will celebrate the music of Disney.
Two other pavilions are getting new movies. The film “Canada Far and Wide in Circle-Vision 360” will debut in January in the Canada pavilion with new scenes and a new story. In the China pavilion, “Wondrous China,” a film in 360-degree digital format, will take guests on a journey across China; opening date not announced.
Starting Oct. 1, plans for the Epcot makeover will be on display in the Odyssey Events Pavilion.
On Friday, opening day of D-23 Expo 2019, Disney unveiled new information about the Star Wars themed hotel under construction next to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Called Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, it will feature a two-night adventure aboard a glamorous starship called the Halcyon. Once onboard, guests will interact with characters and become active participants in stories that unfold around them.
In other Disney news:
▪ Opening dates were announced for a new Cirque du Soleil show at Disney Springs created in conjunction with Walt Disney Imagineering and Walt Disney Animation Studios. Previews will begin March 20, and the premiere will be on April 17.
▪ Mickey and Minnie’s Runway Railway, scheduled to open next spring at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, will open in 2022 at Disneyland Resort. The ride, based on Mickey Mouse cartoon shorts, will have a whole new cartoon, “Perfect Picnic.”
▪ The first Disney ride-through attraction to feature Spider-Man will open at the Avengers Campus, beginning in 2020 at Disney California Adventure and later at Disneyland Paris.
▪ Hong Kong Disney will get two “Frozen”-related attractions: Frozen Ever After, which is at Epcot, and a new coaster called Wandering Oaken’s Sliding Sleighs.
▪ Disney Cruise Line’s fifth ship, debuting in January 2022, will be named Disney Wish. The character on its stern — all Disney ships have a character on the stern — will be Rapunzel.