Doesn’t it feel like we’ve been talking about EPCOT’s Transformation for YEARS? Well, that’s because we have been talking about all of the exciting projects in development at EPCOT for some time now — remember wayyy back at the 2019 D23 Expo when we first got a glimpse at all of those retro-inspired posters and Spaceship Earth model that once sat in the EPCOT Experience (the EPCOT Experience has since closed).
While some projects are moving along, full steam ahead, others have either hit the ‘pause’ button or have been shelved altogether. Let’s recap what was supposed to be a part of the EPCOT transformation, but is now on the chopping block.
Cut/Changed: The Festival Pavilion
The one project that seems to have been cut/massively changed is the Festival Pavilion. This festival “hub” of sorts was designed to be a building three stories high, which included a plaza level, a middle “expo” level, and a park in the sky on the top level with firework viewing. If you take a look at the concept art, this project seemed really, REALLY cool.
We saw a model of this new pavilion at the EPCOT Experience, and a poster of it too. But the model was later removed. Later, the Pavilion was rebranded in a Disney press release as a “Festival Area” which seemed to indicate that the three-story building was an idea of the past.
In early 2022, we finally got a big update on what is happening here. Disney has now announced some new areas for World Celebration (the general neighborhood where the Festival Pavilion was also set to be located) — CommuniCore Hall and CommuniCore Plaza.
CommuniCore Plaza is an outdoor stage are that will be able to host all kinds of performances — from large-scale concerts to smaller shows.
CommuniCore Hall, on the other hand, will be a the first fully-purpose built structure in EPCOT’s Festival programing! The hall is designed to be flexible and will be able to host a wide variety of experiences with food, art, live music, and more.
The area will have a demonstration kitchen, a mixology bar, and exhibition and gallery space, and it will give presenting chefs new ways to connect and experiment.
While neither of these encapsulate the exact design or all of the same features as the original Festival Pavilion, it seems they still carry out that sense of being a place in World Celebration that will be home to certain aspects of EPCOT’s ever-popular festivals.
Along with these two areas, guests will also get some new gardens in World Celebration that will change to go along with the seasons and Festivals.
The glowing sidewalks will return in a new way, along with some fun designs that will evolve with the seasons.
Click here to read more CommuniCore Plaza, CommuniCore Hall, and other changes coming to World Celebration
“On Hold”: Mary Poppins Attraction
Now let’s talk about a project that isn’t cut entirely, but is rather “on hold” for an indefinite period of time.
A Mary Poppins attraction was set to be built in the United Kingdom Pavilion in World Showcase. This experience was going to allow guests to “step in time down Cherry Tree Lane past Admiral Boom’s house, then enter Number 17, home of the Banks family.”
A released statement noted that “As with most businesses during this period, we are further evaluating long-term project plans. The decision was made to postpone development of [the] ‘Mary Poppins’-inspired attraction and Spaceship Earth at this time.”
“Postpone development” implies that these projects could be picked back up sometime in the future, but for now, don’t plan your Disney World vacations around the prospects of either one seeing the light of day anytime soon.
In March of 2022, Disney further noted that the Mary Poppins project is officially “on hold.” While the project hasn’t been completely canceled, there has been no further update on when the project might continue. So it seems we’ll just have to wait for further updates!
Postponed: The Spaceship Earth Refurbishment
A project that has also been shelved is the Spaceship Earth refurbishment. The refurbishment was announced back in 2019, and Disney shared that it would bring a new narration, story, and even new scenes to the attraction.
There would be a focus on storytelling, a magic “story light,” and other changes made as part of the refurbishment.
The ride was all set to close in 2020 to prepare for these changes, but the COVID-19 pandemic changed things. In July, EPCOT reopened post the pandemic-related closures, and Spaceship Earth reopened with it, in its existing form.
Eventually, the video in the EPCOT Experience all about the Spaceship Earth transformation, which would be called Spaceship Earth: Our Shared Story, was removed. In 2020, Disney confirmed (as noted above) that the decision had been made to postpone development on this refurbishment.
During Disney’s 2022 updates on World Celebration, noticeably absent from any of the news was talk of the Spaceship Earth refurbishment. It seems this transformation has truly been shelved, but you never know when Disney might pick it up again.
Questionable: Wondrous China
There’s another project that may or may not be in jeopardy, simply because we haven’t really heard any updates on it in quite some time!
World Showcase’s three long-running films (O’ Canada!, Reflections of China, and Impressions de France) were set to receive some sort of update, whether that was with the introduction of an accompanying film like Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along, or with a completely new film, like Canada Far and Wide.
The China Pavilion was set to receive a new film called Wondrous China, but the debut of the film was delayed. Since then, Disney has remained suspiciously quiet on when (or if!) we can expect this film to debut in World Showcase.
Things That are Still a Part of the EPCOT Transformation
Now that we’ve reviewed what seems to be on the chopping block, let’s take a look at some of the exciting projects that ARE moving forward and we should be able to experience soon!
First up we have Journey of Water — Inspired by Moana. This walkthrough attraction inspired by the animated film Moana will be adjacent to the Seas with Nemo and Friends Pavilion (in what is now known as the “World Nature” area of the park) and will bring guests a new “lush exploration trail” that allows travelers to “play with magical, living water.”
Its exact opening timeline is unknown at this time, but Disney did show some new concept art of this area during a media event in May of 2022.
Another addition coming to EPCOT for its transformation is the all-new PLAY! Pavilion. This innovative pavilion with it’s “city” design and will serve as a “digital metropolis,” complete with interactive experiences, games, entertainment, hands-on activities.
The PLAY! Pavilion is set to be built inside the old Wonders of Life Pavilion, but was another project originally slated to open in time for Disney World’s 50th Anniversary.
We had seen some construction going on here back in 2020, but we haven’t really heard any updates from Disney about this construction lately.
It’s one that we could maybe consider placing in the “questionable” category, except for the fact that an EPCOT Play! pavilion matted print is still available on shopDisney. But the product description says that the pavilion was scheduled to open in 2021, which clearly didn’t happen so there’s still a LOT of questions there… .
A smaller but just as touching addition to EPCOT that still seems to be on deck is Dreamers Point. The project will bring a brand-new statue of Walt Disney himself to EPCOT for the first time.
Dreamers Point will be located in what is called the “World Celebration” area of the park (AKA at the middle of Future Word!).
Originally there was mention of a “wishing tree” and “story fountain” that was supposed to be part of this area. An updated press release doesn’t feature that language. Instead, it notes that there will be a “beautiful natural environments and global design elements filled with Disney magic.”
It’s possible that the omission of a specific mention of the wishing tree and story fountain was not purposeful, or that it is otherwise encompassed in this general description. We’ll definitely keep an eye out for more details on that.
Another thing confirmed for the EPCOT Transformation (as we mentioned above) is a new garden area in World Celebration. This garden area will feature the return of those much-beloved glowing sidewalks and it will feature decor and other things that will change with the seasons and with EPCOT’s festivals. The gardens will have lots of seating, shade (so needed in the Florida heat), and “hero features,” which are big artistic elements like topiaries and sculptures. These will actually coordinate with the lights on Spaceship Earth.
Character Meet-and-Greet Location
Also coming to World Celebration is a new character meet-and-greet location where fans will be able to meet Mickey and friends!
The area is currently under construction, so hopefully we’ll have an exact opening timeline soon!
While there’s still a LOT in the works in EPCOT, a lot has also opened. We’ve already seen the premiere of Harmonious (the new nighttime show), the opening of Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, the opening of Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, the opening of Space 220, the opening of La Creperie de Paris, the opening of Connections Cafe and Connections Eatery, the opening of Creations Shop, and MORE.
While EPCOT’s Transformation is taking a little longer than we originally anticipated, it looks like many things are still set to join the park sometime in the near future! Hopefully, by the time EPCOT officially turns 40 on October 1st, 2022, we’ll get a few more updates about the transformation!
What are you most excited to see from EPCOT’s Transformation? Let us know in the comments!