While visiting Walt Disney World last week, we spent more time in Epcot than any other park, and noticed that a decent number of construction projects are now underway, with even more slated to begin by the start of 2018. In this post, we’ll share some photos and commentary from the ongoing work at Epcot.
Unlike DHS, Epcot is not yet a sea of construction walls. (We detailed that in our Disney’s Hollywood Studios Construction Update – Fall 2017 post.) At least, not yet. There’s still a lot happening, and it’s worth covering from a “calm before the storm” perspective, too.
Before we get to the substance of this update, how about the above photo? If you just glossed over it, thinking it was just another photo of Spaceship Earth, take another look. Now, some people might say, “this is why we can’t have nice things” in response to Epcot Fountainbro. I look at it a bit differently…
Epcot Fountainbro is a hero. He bravely risked life and limb to climb into this fountain to at once re-enact the EPCOT Center grand opening celebration, and also pay tribute to the triple pylon sculpture that previously graced the middle of this fountain.
Joking aside, I was taken quite aback by Epcot Fountainbro. I had my camera set up at the edge of the fountain, waiting for the monorail to pass, when he ran up from the Spaceship Earth side. He fist-pumped a couple of times, shouted “WOOO!” several times (maybe he should be Epcot Woo Bro?), and then just ran down the front. Drunk guests trying to get into my shots is nothing new, there’s no way he saw me before jumping up, so I have no clue why he did it.
The most hilarious and scariest part of the story is that immediately after he jumped down, another couple approached, and started discussing whether they should jump up for a photo. Thankfully, they analyzed the risk of running up a slippery fountain with running water and decided against it, but not before I gave them about the most DAFUQ look ever.
…And now I understand why we are stuck with “No Climbing” signs on the Mexico pavilion. Idiots are like lemmings, ever-ready to jump off the nearest cliff if they see someone else do it.
Thinking this might be my last chance to enjoy the experience, I grabbed a seat at Electric Umbrella one night and watched the Fountain of Nations from a distance. I’ve developed a bit of a soft spot for Electric Umbrella over the last couple of years, and while I think its time has absolutely come and gone, I’ll miss being bathed in red neon lighting while watching this show late at night.
It seems likely that Electric Umbrella will be a casualty to the Epcot Central Spine Redesign, which is aspect of Epcot’s re-imaging that will have the biggest impact on guests for the next few years. We’ve previously shared some info on this, but as a quick refresher, it looks like a beautiful, green space reminiscent to the Gardens of Imagination at Shanghai Disneyland.
In a previous post, we predicted that this might not begin until late 2018 or early 2019, assuming the goal is to finish it simultaneous to the big Ratatouille: Kitchen Calamity or Guardians of the Galaxy (of Energy) attractions. Based on what we’re hearing now, it seems likely to start sooner than that. (It is expected to impact next year’s Food & Wine Festival.)
Our expectation remains that park management would prefer to time the project so it impacts as few Food & Wine Festivals as possible (since these are huge cash-cows for the park), so starting it at the beginning of 2018 would not come as a surprise. If that’s the case, we wouldn’t be surprised to see its formal announcement and more concept art released at the Epcot 35th Anniversary events on October 1, 2017.
The Central Spine will involve demolishing both Innoventions buildings, and redesigning large swaths of open space into a park-like space that is simply pretty to wander and also can function as flex space (think a significantly larger version of the “Next Eats” area of Food & Wine in Future World). Most of the work here will not be done at the very front of the park, and work could conceivably be performed in two stages.
Even if each half of Innoventions is demolished and the work is done in stages, the Epcot Central Spine Redesign will present a massive impediment to guest flow. Fortunately, with nothing worthwhile to do in Innoventions–aside from national treasure Starbucks–these are walls that won’t necessarily negatively impact the guest experience.
What will be interesting to see is how Epcot deals with this loss of space when it comes to the ever-expanding ‘Festival Season.’ Some of this space is used for these events, but the bigger issue is that this will push even more guests to World Showcase, which is already bursting at the seams during festival weekends.
Our expectation is that more offerings will be moved into the Festival Center (Wonders of Life), Odyssey, and even World ShowPlace. That, or the festivals will have to be scaled back, with fewer booths. That would mean less high-margin alcohol sales, so hahahahahah to that “solution.”
Speaking of the Odyssey, it’s currently preparing for EPCOT Center’s 35th Anniversary on October 1, 2017. Here’s a look at the small gallery set-up inside:
This is somewhat reminiscent to what was done during Festival of the Arts. There’s also concept art for Ratatouille and Guardians of the Galaxy on display, which I could personally do without.
I get the idea of “looking forward,” but the gallery is already small, and there’s so much great concept art they could’ve used instead.
Over at Taste Track, an outdoor vending stand by Test Track, there are a variety of new sundaes. While these look promising and inventive, I’m guessing they’re actually disappointing. I wouldn’t know, because this stand was not open once when I walked by during any of our visits to Epcot.
Given the price points and what’s included, I think it might be worth taking the gamble on one of them. They can’t be any worse than the more expensive monstrosity I was served at Planet Hollywood, or even the Almond Breeze abomination at Food & Wine. Someone will have to let me know how they are, as I’d hazard a guess this menu will change again before our next trip.
Over at Universe of Energy, aside from the fountain being drained and shrub walls blocking the entrance, not much is different.
There are also a number of missing pieces of the mirrored tile, so look for those to show up in an overpriced LE pin near you soon.
Work has already started on the backside of the pavilion, and is visible from the parking lots, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see much work on the front side for a while. The concept art for the Guardians attraction shows it maintaining the same basic facade, so whatever cosmetic changes occur to the exterior could happen at the last minute.
I’d still expect a wall to go up at some point, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it just sits like this for a while.
I stood over here for about 15 minutes during the sunset one night waiting for the monorail. The sunset itself was boring, but it had a nice color gradient, so I thought this would be a good shot. When the monorail finally came, my autofocus missed (I shouldn’t have had it on in the first place), and I ended up with a blurry shot.
So just pretend this is a glorious photo of the last bit of sunlight shining through monorail windows.
Speaking of Spaceship Earth, above are some photos from the attraction. It’s always interesting to see how dramatically wait times fluctuate for Spaceship Earth over the course of the day. Wasn’t odd to see it with 45 minute and 5 minute waits in the same day.
The bottom 3 photos were taken with my new Nikon 8-15mm Fisheye lens, which I used for the first time this trip. (More like over-used this trip…)
A cool ‘addition’ to this area is the EPCOT Center logo on the floor of Camera Center.
On the other side of the Plaza, Gateway Gifts still has its old carpet.
I did the new Mission: Space Green/Earth, which I thought it was a bit of a mixed bag. I’m not sure if anyone cares to hear more about it, but I can do a full review if there’s interest. (Likewise, I can finally review Rivers of Light!)
Visible work on the space restaurant has yet to begin, but you’d think Walt Disney World would fast track that project, since it’s basically a license to print money. Even when construction does start, it’ll likely be difficult to see as the restaurant’s plot is in a secluded area between Mission: Space and Test Track.
Moving across Future World, we head to the Land…
I have to admit, the new version of Soarin’ has grown on me a bit. I still have quibbles with the overuse of CGI and cheesy transitions, but there are some great aspects of it, too.
Wall carpet: always in fashion.
Per usual, we did Living with the Land a number of times this trip.
It was cool seeing Food & Wine ‘sourcing’ cards up throughout the attraction. A clever, subtle marketing tool and neat way for guests to learn more about the dishes.
We also spent a ton of time in the Living Seas aquariums. These and Living with the Land are definitely the most EPCOT Center-y things that remain in the park, and both are exceptional.
With its dim lighting and soothing background music, the Living Seas is a great place for a midday respite from the heat and crowds. Since it’s always busy in here, it is not a place to get away from crowds.
Honestly, I’m glad it’s always busy. The popularity of these tanks should illustrate that ‘edutainment’ is not dead, and could still be well-received by guests should Walt Disney World ever choose to add things to the park not based on intellectual property from films.
Moving on to World Showcase, we ‘encounter’ this on the Mexico pavilion. I’ll admit that this amuses me much more than it should, and gives me a good chuckle. Just thought I’d share that for no particular reason.
Next up is the now-infamous Choza Tequila. As you can see, this is a small–but well-themed–tequila stand adjacent to the Mexico pavilion. Basically, a permanent Food & Wine Festival stand. You might expect this would take Walt Disney World a couple of months to build.
Or not. In case you have not been following the saga of this tequila stand, the original version of this closed in anticipation of Frozen Ever After’s opening. Thereafter, construction on the replacement began late last year, and it was formally announced by Walt Disney World on January 2 of this year, with a logical opening date of “Early 2017.”
Choza Tequila has appeared on Walt Disney World maps in recent weeks as a ‘Coming Soon’ location, so maybe we’re finally getting closer? I’d hazard a guess that some sort of unanticipated back-of-house work also needed to occur, or there was some sort of dispute over the location, because there’s no way this stand actually has taken 10 months to build.
We’d expect it to open really soon. Or perhaps it’ll be delayed another several months without explanation and then end up serving whiskey when it does open. After all, Choza Tequila is basically the Rivers of Light of tequila stands at this point.
There’s really not much else to report around World Showcase. Obviously, there are all of the Food & Wine booths, and a ton of people filling the walkways as a result, but not much in the way of active work.
The big, immediate projects in World Showcase will be the new Reflections of China film and Ratatouille: Kitchen Calamity. Neither of these will necessarily impact the guest experience. Ratatouille work might be visible/heard on the plot between Morocco and France, but the bulk of work should be set back from the main promenade enough that it might not even be noticeable.
That’s it from our walk-around Epcot. Save for the big Epcot Central Spine Redesign, and place-making projects around the park, I’m not sure how much of this park’s colossal re-imagining will really impact guests. This is good news both from the perspective of the park not becoming a sea of construction walls, and also since the aesthetics of Epcot, save for the Innoventions and Plaza areas that are changing, are already solid. No need to mess with what isn’t broken.
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What do you think of the current state of Epcot, and its construction projects? Would you jump into the plaza fountain to reenact the EPCOT Center Opening Day festivities…or are you not a real fan? Any bets on when Choza Tequila will finally open? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!