Disney has started to fill in some of the details of a makeover of Epcot that will be going on for years: more spectacle, more interactive entertainment, more cutting-edge technology that will give us not just a glimpse of fantasy worlds but immerse us in them.
The company still has not revealed the big picture, but over the last week, between the annual convention of the attractions industry in Orlando and a gathering of Disney’s official fan club, D23, executives dropped nuggets of news about how the park is changing: the ride vehicle for Guardians of the Galaxy, the name of the Ratatouille ride, the shows that will replace the aged IllumiNations, a new singalong and other information.
Epcot opened in 1982 and is the second oldest park at Walt Disney World. As Epcot’s 40th anniversary approaches, Disney executive have frequently referred to a “multi-year transformation” that will make Epcot “more timeless, more relevant, more family friendly and more Disney.” Last year, it released a piece of concept art but no new details.
Rumors on fan sites talk about an overhaul of Spaceship Earth, a new hotel straddling the park’s entrance, a retheming of the Gran Fiesta Tour and other attractions. Disney, while not denying those rumors, has kept mum about them.
The highlights so far are two major new rides, one in each half of the park: The first Guardians of the Galaxy roller coaster in Future World and in World Showcase, a copy of the Ratatouille ride that is one of the most popular attractions at Disneyland Paris. An opening date has not been announced for either, only that they’ll be finished in time for Disney World’s 50th anniversary in 2021.
On Saturday, at D23 Destination D: Celebrating Mickey Mouse, Disney Parks Chairman Bob Chapek announced the name of the Ratatouille ride: Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, between the France and Morocco pavilions. On it, visitors will see the world from the perspective of a rat as rat-shaped cars take them through a restaurant kitchen.
Earlier in the week at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions Expo in Orlando, Chapek unveiled information about the ride vehicle for Guardians of the Galaxy, which he called a story-telling ride. The car will be able to spin 360 degrees while moving forward on the track, so that riders are always facing the next element in the story.
The Guardians roller coaster will be one of the longest enclosed coasters in the world, and the show building under construction to the left of Spaceship Earth and next to the old Universe of Energy building is enormous. Chapek said it would be big enough to house four Spaceship Earth attractions.
One of Epcot’s icons is “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth,” a nighttime show on the World Showcase Lagoon that incorporates water fountains, fireworks, lasers and a 28-foot globe wrapped in thousands of LED lights and set on a barge. The show debuted in late 1999 and was created as a celebration of the new millennium, but was popular enough that it just kept going.
In September, Disney World announced that IllumiNations would run through summer 2019, then be replaced by a different fireworks show. On Saturday, Chapek said there will be two replacement shows. One, called “Epcot Forever,” will debut in fall 2019 and feature classic Epcot tunes with fireworks, music, lighting lasers and special effects kites.
The unnamed, long-term replacement, to open in 2020, “will celebrate how Disney music inspires people around the world, and will feature massive floating set pieces, custom-built LED panels, choreographed moving fountains, lights, pyrotechnics and lasers,” according to the Disney Parks blog. .
Other Epcot news:
▪ A new feature, a “Beauty and the Beast” singalong, will be held at the France pavilion and alternate with the “Impressions de France” show. The singalong is created by Don Hahn, producer of the “Beauty and the Beast” films.
▪ The Canada pavilion is updating its “O Canada!” 360-degree show. (Disney announced last year that the China pavilion is getting a whole new movie to replace its Circle-Vision show.)
▪ Skyliner, a system of suspended gondolas that will connect Epcot, Hollywood Studios and five hotels, will open in the fall of 2019.
▪ There was no update on the space-themed restaurant and lounge to be located between Mission: Space and Test Track.