Walt Disney World
---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(11/26/2023) Facinating Video About The Creation of EPCOT (MORE...)
(11/22/2023) Construction Progress Update (MORE...)
(11/6/2023) Luminous Show Barges Now In The Lagoon (MORE...)
(11/5/2023) Listen To New Music Created For Luminous (MORE...)
Ride Rehabs - These dates are not guaranteed to be 100% accurate as refurbishments are subject to change.
Nothing is planned at this time...
Click here to read: EPCOT HAS FAILED
General Park News - (11/26/2023) When you can clear an hour from your schedule, Walt Disney World fans will enjoy watching a fantastic new production put together from Defunctland about the creation of EPCOT Center and how things went after Walt Disney announced the concept as a futuristic city of tomorrow before his death, and 16 years later the Walt Disney Company opened the EPCOT Center theme park in 1982. Truly fascinating.
(11/22/2023) A new construction update from Epcot has been posted to MouseSteps this week. This includes a focus on the progress at the center of Epcot’s former Future World area, which I believe they are trying to wrap up during the first half of 2024.
(10/18/2023) The latest construction update from Epcot can now be seen over at MouseSteps.
(9/16/2023) Another set of construction photo updates from Epcot has been posted by MouseSteps this week, with a focus on all the work that still needs to be finished by the end of the year in the central CommuniCore area. There is also a brief video trip through the Journey of Water area, which is cute and all, but I’ve got to echo one of the most frequent comments I’ve heard since previews of this area started.
Journey of Water is a perfect example of what would happen if Disney decided to build a Moana themed attraction, and then suddenly budget cut the ride part of the attraction and only built the themed queue instead.
(9/10/2023) Disney has confirmed that the original Soarin’ Over California experience will return to Epcot’s Soarin’ attraction for a limited time starting on Sept. 22, 2023. If you get a chance to visit, you’ll want to see this while you can, as many enthusiasts agree that between this and the current version of Soarin’, the original California version is the superior attraction. It just seems to hit better on all the emotional notes, plus the footage is simply beautiful and stunning, and almost completely free of CGI enhancements (jumping killer whales, the CG Taj Mahal) as well as any visually jarring lens distortion like the bendy Eiffel Tower sequence.
Fun note: There has long been a quiet movement to permanently switch the Disney California Adventure park’s version of Soarin’ back to the Soarin’ Over California film full time. Instead Disney has simply been saving it for limited encores use during special occasions at DCA and Epcot. In this case, they are bringing it back to Epcot as part of the Disney 100 Celebration.
(8/3/2023) A new general construction update around Epcot has been posted to MouseSteps this week. This features a look around the CommuniCore area, Dreamer’s Point and over the walls into Journey of Water.
(7/17/2023) A look at the latest construction updates in EPCOT has been posted to MouseSteps this week. This mostly includes pictures of the various ComminiCore area projects with a quick look at a very finished looking Journey of Water area.
In other news, it has been reported that Spaceship Earth will be closed for a very brief, one-day, refurbishment on July 19th.
(6/4/2023) MouseSteps stopped by Epcot this week to take some pictures of the latest construction projects trying to finish up this year. This includes a look at the various sections of work in the CommuniCore area and the new Journey of Water area.
(4/8/23) it is a bit disappointing, but during Disney’s latest shareholder meeting Bob Iger mentioned that the Journey of Water addition to Epcot will be the final addition to their ongoing construction and expansion of Epcot. This includes the addition of Ratatouille, Guardians of the Galaxy and finishing up the ongoing work around ComminiCore Plaza, and the completion of the new nighttime spectacular show that will replace the misfire that was Harmonious.
On the flip side of this announcement, this also means that all the projects that were announced and then put on hold once COVID came into being are now officially canceled. Or at least canceled for the time being, and no longer in active production.
The list of cancellations is believed to include:
The transformation of the former Wonders of Life pavilion into the Play Pavilion
The Wondrous China Circle-Vision 360 film that was intended to replace the current Reflections of China film.
Updates to the UK Pavilion that would have included a Mary Poppins attraction.
And a highly anticipated update to the Spaceship Earth attraction
(4/4/23) A fresh construction update from Epcot has been posted to MouseSteps this week with a new look around the CommuniCore Plaza area and Journey of Water, which will open later this year.
(4/1/23) A new Epcot construction update has been posted to MouseSteps this week, featuring a new look at the Journey of Water area, some work going on in the parking lot, the updated CommuniCore area progress and more.
(3/11/2023) For anyone wondering, a post on Twitter from Scott Gustin confirms that unlike in the past, the plan is for Walt Disney World to continue to use the Virtual Queue system for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind once Tron Lightcycle/Run officially opens on April 4th. In the past, we’ve seen Disney retire the Virtual Queue requirement for new attractions once another new major attraction would open elsewhere in the resort. For example it was removed from Rise of the Resistance once Ratatouille opened, and then removed from Ratatouille once Cosmic Rewind opened.
(2/24/2023) Take a look at the latest construction updates from Epcot with a new update posted to MouseSteps this week, with a focus on the new Journey of Water area.
(2/13/2023) MouseSteps stopped by EPCOT and posted a bunch of photos showing off the status of the various construction projects taking place in the park right now. This includes looks at the Journey of Water area, the old CommuniCore buildings and more.
(1/21/2023) According to the Disney Parks Blog the parking lot sections at EPCOT are currently being renamed. The lot is being thematically divided in half into Earth and Space themed sides, with each side to be divided into four different sections themed by new characters.
The Earth side with green signage will feature parking sections for Moana, Heihei, Crush and Dory. The Space side with purple signage will feature parking sections for Wall-E, Eve, Rocket Racoon and Gamora.
(1/11/2023) Well, well, well… Epcot’s Harmonious nighttime show is coming to an end sooner than previously thought. The final performance of Harmonious will take place on April 2, 2023 and starting on April 3rd, the park will bring back the previous interim show, “EPCOT Forever”.
(10/20/22) Interesting times at Epcot these days. While Disney may have announced that the Harmonious night show will eventually close to may way for a brand new show by late 2023, it seems the current show decided to put on a little revolt of its own. According to a report at Orlando Theme Park Zone one of the many Harmonuious fireworks barges caught on fire last night.
Those with experience in the pyrotechnics field know well that potential fires go hand-in-hand with fireworks shows. Fire, explosions, sparks flying everywhere and not to mention the fallout from misfires when rockets fail to launch into the sky and instead explode in the launch tube. As such, rest assured, there are procedures in place to handle this kind of thing, and explain why crews might let the fire burn part of itself out before trying to put it out right away, especially if there is risk of other pyrotechnic items on the barge going off.
Oct. 1, 2022 through Late 2023 - Epcot 40th Anniversary Celebration, Luminous and More - (11/6/2023) A great aerial photo posted by Bioreconstruct shows off the new show barges now in place in Epcot’s World Showcase lagoon for the upcoming new night show starting in December. From this point on, I’d expect nearby residents may see their night skies lit up frequently while the final technical rehearsals take place.
(11/5/2023) Disney has released a video showing off the creation of some of the music for the new “Luminous The Symphony of Us” nighttime spectacular coming to Epcot. This also gives you a first listen to some of the new music being made for the new show premiering on December 5th. The show will also feature music from a number of Disney’s popular films such as Tarzan, Coco, Toy Story, Enchanted, Frozen, Tangled and Aladdin.
(9/9/2023) Epcot’s newest night spectacular, “Luminous The Symphony of Us” will debut at the park on Dec. 5th, 2023. This will also mark the completion of the park’s “World Celebration” renovation in the center of the old Future World half of the park that will finally tie together the World Discovery and World Nature sides of the park.
(3/20/23) In a press release Walt Disney World confirmed that the new Journey of Water area, inspired by Moana, will be ready to open to guests this Fall. “This fun interactive outdoor trail offers a chance to play and interact with water as it travels from the sky to the oceans and back again. Along the way, guests learn about the importance of water and discover its playful personality – just as Moana did on her heroic voyage.”
This Fall will also see the completion of the new ‘World Celebration’ area in the hub of the park, with gardens that will change with the seasons throughout the year. The area will also be home to the new Communicore Plaza and Communicore Hall. Look for Mickey and Friends to being making appearances in Communicore Hall. By the end of the year, Epcot guests will also be able to enjoy the premier of an all-new nighttime spectacular across the central lagoon and skies over the park. According to Disney’s latest description, “the show will feature an original composition and evocative selections from the Disney songbook – all woven together to remind us that we are more alike than different.”
(10/1/22) DuckTales: World Showcase Adventure is coming! What sounds like a new interactive adventure game will be coming to Epcot later this year as part of the park’s 40th Anniversary celebration. Stay tuned for more details.
In other news, would you believe that Harmonious, the new nightly lagoon show at Epcot will be replaced in 2023? This news was apparently confirmed at the D23 Expo a couple of weeks ago. This was a bit of shocking news to everyone… as Harmonious was intended to be the long term replacement for the epic “Illuminations: Reflections of Earth” show. Epcot even put on a short-term temporary show between the shutting down fo Illuminations and the start of Harmonious, but it has been no mystery that Harmonious has simply failed to generate the same level of fan appreciation that Illuminations did.
I said long ago that I didn’t envy the huge task that was put on the plate for the Harmonious crew, as any show that was going to replace Reflections of Earth was going to have some epically huge shoes to fill. The extremely mixed relations from park guests in reaction to Harmonious was obviously enough for Disney management to press the RELOAD button on the park’s nightly show once again. It should be interesting to see if this is a complete redo, or simply more of an upgrade that will repurpose a lot of Harmonious’ new hardware.
What needs to happen more than anything is that the new show should emotionally connect with the park’s guests, as one of the main complaints I’ve heard about Harmonious was simply a lack of heart or connection being made. It was all eye candy, with very little soul, especially compared to Illuminations: Reflections of Earth where the music and visual spectacle was capable of making enough of an emotional connection with the audience that it could bring tears to the eyes of many guests. Look for this new show to launch sometime in later half of 2023.
Late 2023 - Journey of Water - (9/9/2023) Disney has now confirmed that the “Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana” area will open to the public on October 16, 2023.
(9/4/2023) A new day-time tour through the new Journey of Water area at EPCOT can be seen below, shot by our friends at Orlando Experience. Officially I don’t believe Journey of Water is not open to the public yet and is just in preview mode to select guests, but I would expect it to officially open in the very near future.
(9/1/2023) Incredible footage showcasing the new Journey of Water area at Epcot, Inspired by Moana, has been posted by MouseSteps this week, featuring the new themed area as seen at sunset and after dark.
(7/21/2023) Some new footage of the upcoming Journey of Water area at Epcot can be found over at MouseSteps this week. Most of these are ground level shots, giving us a better view of what the area will look like once it opens. Then it’s off to check out the rest of the construction taking place in Epcot, which still has a way to go before they are done.
(4/15/2023) A new construction update from Epcot has been posted by MouseSteps this week, giving us the latest look at the CommuniCore area as well as Journey of Water.
(12/11/2022) A new post from Walt Disney Imagineering on IG shows off the placement of the massive new Te Fiti figure in the Journey of Water attraction construction site. A lot still needs to be added here, as they say the experience now won’t be ready for guests until Late 2023.
(12/4/2022) A couple of good pictures showing off the progress on the Journey of Water rockwork going up at Epcot have been posted to Twitter by Bioreconstruct this week.
(9/24/22) Orlando Theme Park News has posted a new update from Epcot showing off the progress on the Moana themed Journey of Water area, along with a look at the construction taking place in the old CommuniCore area.
(8/27/22) The Disney Park Blog has released some amazing new shots of their crew working to put in amazing new details into the rockwork at the Journey of Water Inspired by Moana exhibit at Epcot. This includes a look at models created as examples to be followed when sculpting the rockwork for the final in-park that include Moana’s spiral symbol and a version of Moana herself in the rockwork.
(7/10/22) A few great picture showing off the progress of the Moana inspired, Journey Of Water area under construction at Epcot was posted to Twitter this week.
(5/8/22) New concept art from Walt Disney World shows off the new Moana inspired area, Journey of Water, in greater detail than before. Along with the media day for the opening of the Guardians coaster, came newly revised descriptions of what we can expect to see built around the former Future World side of the park.
As before the former “Future World” area has been divided into three new zones: World Discovery, World Celebration and World Nature, which will fit right in with the park’s existing international half, World Showcase.
Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind along with Mission: Space, the new Space 220 restaurant and Test Track will make up the World Discovery side of the park. I haven’t seen any mention of the previously announced “Play Pavilion” in quite some time however, do I don’t know where things stand with that.
The Living Seas, The Land and Imagination pavilions will make up the World Nature side.
The park entrance, Spaceship Earth, CommuniCore areas down to World Showcase will make up the World Celebration area, along with the upcoming new Journey of Water area. Again, no update on plans to revise Spaceship Earth again, so it seems that project is still on hold.
Many of the latest updates will be coming to the World Celebration area, as some plans have changed from what was announced prior to the pandemic. Dropped from the plans for now was a three story new structure that would have also served as a site for various entertainment performances. Instead this area will taken up by CommuniCore Hall and CommuniCore Plaza. The former will serve as an indoor multi-use space that can take on various exhibit roles throughout the year, while the Plaza will become an outdoor event space perfect for musical performances overlooking an array of lush garden spaces. Don’t worry, the Disney characters will also appear nearby at a new Mickey & Friends location.
(8/23/19) During a preview of D23 last night Disney’s Bob Chapek announced details about another new attraction or sorts is coming to Epcot. It will be called “Journey of Water inspired by Moana” and based on the concept art, it seems more like a lush tropical landscape setting full of small waterfalls and water-jet fountains. Details are slim, and perhaps this is all there is to it, but this is just a preview of it, not the full reveal. All they did say is that guests will “interact and play with magic living water”.
???? - Test Track V3 - (9/9/2023) In what seems like a series of announcements about Epcot made at DestinationD23, Disney announced that Test Track will be reimagined once again. In the tweet it claims that Disney Imagineers are working with Chevrolet and looking back at the original World of Motion attraction for inspiration for ‘bringing that spirit of optimism to the next iteration of the attraction.” No more details, or even a timeline, were released at this time.
This would make this the 3rd iteration of the Test Track attraction since it first opened in December 1998 as a replacement for the park’s former World of Motion attraction (1882 to 1996). While the ride layout has remained the same, the theme and presentation inside has been changes over the years, with the first version of the ride featuring a more practical and industrial factory style theme running through to early 2012.
The second edition of Test Track opened in late 2012 and was updated to feature a more futuristic / cyberspace style design theme. The queue was revamped and new terminals to custom design your ideal vehicle were added to the pre-ride experience. As for the attraction itself, a number of themed changes were made to remove the more industrial look of the theming to one that made it appear as if you were experiencing the ride within a computer simulation.
A popular thought is that the new “cyberspace” style theming of Version 2 of Test Track was was used as a sort of proof of concept for a number of themes and effects Walt Disney Imagineering intended to put to use on the first Tron Lightcycle Power Run coaster that they would begin working on right after Test Track to open at Shanghai Disneyland in 2016.
Keeping that in mind, it is interesting now that Tron Lightcycle/Run has finally opened at the Magic Kingdom in 2023, that Disney Imagineers are ready to re-do Test Track once again, and this time as a possible throw-back experience to the former World of Motion attraction.
???? - UK Pavilion / Mary Poppins Ride - Canceled - (3/27/23) Before the rise of Covid-19, Disney has announced a number of new projects for EPCOT that have since been put on indefinate hold. Along with things like the Play Pavilion and a total revision to Spaceship Earth, another project that just sort of vanished was a planned Mary Poppins attraction that would have been built in the UK portion of World Showcase. All that was ever shown at the time was concept art showing off the street and house from the film, but no hints were ever given about just what kind of attraction would lie inside.
Now a post on Twitter reveals two previously unseen pieces of concept art for this mystery Mary Poppins attraction. The first shows off what appears to be an overhead shot of a scale model of what would have been inside the attraction building, themed on the outside to resemble the houses on Cherry Tree Lane, including the Banks family home and next door neighbor, Admiral Boom. It appears that guests would be led through a series of pre-show rooms that would eventually lead them through some kind of magical effect portal through a painting on the mantle over the fireplace, similar to how Bert in the original film has Mary and the children jump into the animated world of one of his paintings. If I had to hazzard a guess, this could likely be similar to the portal effect in the Enchanted Tales with Belle attraction in the Magic Kingdom.
Passing through the portal into the colorful world of the painting guests would find themselves standing before a fence that would serve as the entrance to a spinning Tea Cup style ride. Based on the second piece of concept art, showing off the view of guests riding the attraction, it appears that the entire environment and walls surrounding the attraction would come alive with animated characters, animals and other features. Again, looking technology employed in other recent Disney attractions, just imagine having a Tea Cup ride placed inside one of the rooms on Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway for an idea of what this experience could be like.
It’s also easy to see how they could have quickly chosen to budget cut this addition out… at least for the time being. But based on the idea that it could be built using technology existing at other nearby park attractions, this is also something that they could dust off and decide to build again some day if the timing was right.
(3/11/22) During the Disney shareholders Q&A session the other day questions arose about a couple of attractions Disney had announced, but hasn’t made any forward progress with yet. In this case, the previously announced Mary Poppins attraction at Epcot’s UK pavilion and an Avenger’s attraction meant to come as a Phase 2 for the Avengers Campus lands.
As one might expect from such a meeting, the answers were a bit of a mixed bag that started off by deflecting the question a bit to point out all the attractions they have opened or were about to open in the near future. Then they confirmed that these projects were essentially put on hold some time back due to the pandemic. Lastly, it was implied that maybe the projects could be put back into play in the future as the financial performance of things returns more back to normal, but there was no promise to do so.
While Disney could easily just opt to forget about the proposed Mary Poppins project entirely, it won’t be as easy to keep an Avengers project on hold, especially as the characters and themes are pre-built into the Avengers Campus lands, leaving guests already clamoring for the expansions to get under way. If not in the original form intended, we’ve heard there may be an alternate project or two (likely at a lower budget) being held for possible consideration. So long as Disney continues to put out Marvel movies, there will always be a demand for more Marvel themed experiences in the parks.
(7/20/20) According to a report from the Orlando Business Journal Disney has put their planned renovation of Spaceship Earth on hold, along with the previously announced plans to create a new Mary Poppins attraction in Epcot’s World Showcase. This comes as no surprise as the rumor-mill has been buzzing for weeks now about how most of the previously announced Walt Disney World projects that had not already started construction would likely be put on indefinite hold, with some likely to be cancelled entirely.
(9/21/18) According to WDWNT, the UK pavilion in World Showcase is still under consideration for a ride. Earlier we had heard rumors of a possible Brave themed ride, or a Mary Poppin's themed carousel, but according to the newest rumor the ride may be some kind of Dumbo style spinning flat ride themed to Mary Poppins instead.
(8/9/17) While the rumor I had heard before involved expanding the UK pavilion to include a small Scottland themed area along with a Brave themed attraction, a new article posted here claims that the rumored expansion being planned for the UK pavilion may instead focus on building a Mary Poppins character meet & greet area themed to Cherry Tree Lane.
The Failure Of Epcot
(10/8/14) I’m going to throw this right out there first so it has time to sink in…
Epcot has Failed.
There, I said it. It is worth noting that I actually wrote most of this piece way back in July… long before it was ever confirmed that Maelstrom was going to close down to make way for a Frozen themed makeover, but for whatever reason, I just wasn't ready to finish it until now.
So what’s wrong with Epcot you ask? Historically, Epcot was Disney’s big experiment, opened in 1982 by Disney management after Walt’s death, to create a permanent World’s Fair style theme park environment, with a unique sponsorship focused business plan concept. To this day Epcot is a theme park like no other, and is often cited as the favorite park for many Walt Disney World fans.
But I tell you that Epcot has failed… or perhaps it is more accurate to say that the business model created for it has failed.
While the Magic Kingdom (and Disneyland before it) were designed to run as huge cross-promotional marketing machines, sharing and promoting the various Walt Disney Studios films, TV shows, and characters, Epcot was designed to be a different kind of beast. Inspired by the temporary World’s Fair / Expo events that took place across North America during most of the 20th century, Epcot was designed to run under a similar business model, with each pavilion being sponsored by a company, or approved along with a similar co-sponsorship deal by the world nation it represented. In the case of the later, the staff of the World Showcase pavilions are part of a Cultural Representative Program, where natives of that country agree to come work at Walt Disney World for a year at a time and represent their native homeland. Some are sponsored directly by their governments, while most use a mixture of private funding from select native corporate entities.
The business model worked at first. Each pavilion was built and later maintained through various sponsorship deals and for many years Epcot worked like a well oiled machine, with guests traveling from across the globe to visit, inspired by the messages of global unity, great technological progress, and the overall concept of “If you can dream it, you can do it.” It wasn’t until the 90’s when the first signs of trouble started, and the problem only got worse as we crossed through the waves of financial and political turmoil of early 21s century.
Like many deep set problems, the first signs of change started to bubble up from the core… CommuniCore. In the early 90’s, it became clear that the now decade old futuristic technology on display within CommuniCore was starting to show it’s age.
The huge costs of a full pavilion sponsorship made it difficult for many early technology companies to justify the cost to buy their way into Epcot, so the old CommuniCore was removed to make way for Innoventions, a midway of small sponsorship opportunities that could be changed out as quickly as needed. Innoventions had the right idea at heart, but the cheaply made temporary display areas were a turn off to many guests. The American public too had begun to wise-up and sour on the idea of having too much corporate sponsorship.
It wasn’t long before many of the Future World pavilions began to lose their sponsorships as previous deals expired and the sponsors would opt out of renewing. While the exact details of these deals are closely guarded secrets, I’ve been told that sponsorship length is typically for a 10 year term. Currently however, there are more pavilions without official sponsorship than those with, and some of the current deals are estimated to be approaching the end of their terms very soon.
- Horizons, while no longer in the park, was the first to lose a sponsor, seeing the relationship with General Electric go dark in 1993 as soon as the 10 year deal came to an end. Horizon stayed open for a time without a sponsor, closed down, only to reopen while Test Track was under construction next door, then close again for good in 1999. It was replaced by Mission: Space in 2003 which was sponsored by Compaq, who was purchased by rival HP (Hewlett Packard) before the attraction even opened. I’m actually not sure of the attraction’s current status to know if they have signed an extension of some kind, or if the terms of a new deal are actively under negotiations.
- The Wonders of Life pavilion which opened in 1989 with a sponsorship from Met Life, also lost their deal at the end of the first term. Before long it too would experience a sporadic operational schedule, opening in the busy months, before it was closed entirely in early 2007.
- Universe of Energy was sponsored by Exxon (later ExxonMoble) up through 2004, and while it hasn’t closed down, it has remained sponsor-less ever since.
- Imagination’s longtime sponsor, Kodak, ended their relationship with the attraction in 2010, and it has thus far remained open and sponsor free.
- World of Motion is one of the big success stories, as it started out with a sponsorship by GM (General Motors) who has managed to maintain their sponsorship with the attraction through the transformation into Test Track, and even through their own bankruptcy problems, renewing the deal again with the latest update to the Test Track attraction (Version 2.0) just a few years ago.
- Spaceship Earth has gone through a series of sponsors over the years (BELL, to AT&T and then Siemens in 2005) but as the icon of the park itself, it has been lucky enough to be a popular sponsorship opportunity. But the question is, will Seimens stay on beyond 2015?
- The Land has also had a number of sponsors over the years: Kraft from 82-92 and Nestle from 93 to 2009. Nestle dropped out however, and it wasn’t until 2011 when Chiquita signed a larger deal with the entire resort and cruise line, that they became the sponsor of the Living with the Land ride.
- The Living Seas opened in 1986 and was sponsored by United Technology up through 1998, but this is where things get interesting however. Unlike the other pavilions which could be closed down if Disney chose to do so, The Living Seas is inhabited by a large number of marine animals ranging from fish to dolphins to protected manatees. Closing down the pavilion was not an option as the pavilion would still have to be staffed and the animals fed and taken care of, regardless of sponsorship status. It also helped by the pavilion is home to the popular Coral Reef Restaurant, which offers underwater viewing into the main exhibit tank. Unable to find a new sponsor, Disney cut the pavilion’s budget where they could for a few years… axing the preshow film as well as closing the “Seacab” omni-mover ride in 2001 when it started to fall into disrepair.
What happened next with The Living Seas pavilion may be paving the way for the future however. Disney found themselves with a huge hit on their hands, thanks to Pixar’s Finding Nemo film hitting theaters in Summer 2003, reeling in the second highest gross for the year at $936 million world-wide. The marine life themed film was the perfect fit for The Living Seas pavilion and Disney began to experiment by adding Finding Nemo themed decorative elements to the pavilion starting in late 2003 and by late 2004 they opened the first Nemo themed attraction within, “Turtle Talk with Crush”. The mini attraction was a smash hit with guests who overwhelmed the limited capacity of the theater it was in, which led not only to it’s own expansion, but the transformation of the entire pavilion into “The Seas with Nemo & Friends” by late 2005. At this point Disney opted to go all in here, and began work transforming the attraction’s old entrance, pre-show theaters, hydrolators and the closed Seacab ride into a new Nemo themed dark ride experience that opened in early 2007.
While this was the first time that an Epcot pavilion has been entirely re-themed to tie into a Disney or Pixar animated films, this was not the first time that a Disney film has been brought to life in Epcot.. that honor would go to the 4D “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience” attraction at the Imagination pavilion that opened in 1994 and closed in 2010, with the theme of the 4D film’s “Imagination Institute” was used as the theme for the 1999 version of the revamped dark ride experience.
While Future World has thus far received most of the attention in terms of sponsorship and new attractions, the World Showcase pavilions are aging. They have been quietly getting small updates when they can get the countries to agree to help pay for them, but none seem very eager to do so anymore. The last World Showcase pavilion to be added to the park was Norway which opened in 1988 and all negotiations to design and build new country pavilions have failed since then due to disagreeable financial terms for both the building of the pavilion as well as ongoing annual operating expense payments. For example, until the government of Norway opted to step away from their deal with Disney, they were said to have paid $200,000 a year to keep the Norway pavilion running.
While Canada and China have all received new films for their show theaters, and Mexico revamped their boat ride about five years ago as well, which saw the introduction of the Three Caballeros characters to lighten the mood and bring a little more entertainment to the experience. However, their presence is said to be scaled back quite a bit from the initial proposal, as the Mexican government resigned a new deal with Disney and asked to keep more of the cultural information in the attraction intact.
Norway however, found themselves on the block as the last untouched major attraction in World Showcase, but as the government opted out several years ago and Disney found themselves sitting on top of another runaway animated hit in the form of Frozen this past year. They tested the waters with something small (Anna & Elsa character Meet & Greet in Norway) in much the same way they did with Finding Nemo at The Living Seas, and the response was huge… and now the rest is history as Maelstrom has now closed and a new large Frozen themed attraction will open in 2016.
It is with this in mind that I say that Epcot has failed… but it is fixable. The old business model isn’t working anymore as we’ve seen Disney forced to take over more and more pavilions… and this isn’t a bad thing, as otherwise I think Epcot would sit stagnant. So while there are those who are upset at Frozen coming to Norway… I’m not one of them and I’m looking forward to it. I look at it with the eyes who remember what happened over at The Living Seas and that pavilion is not only better for it, but I’m hoping we see Disney start to take more of a creative role throughout Epcot, especially in World Showcase, where it would only make sense to add a copy of the new Ratatouille dark ride that just opened at the Paris resort as a starting point, and then look how they can expand into the other World Showcase pavilions as well to breathe some new life into the park.
Because Epcot IS a great park… it just needs to evolve and grow to realize it’s true potential.