Back in 2019, we learned that Spaceship Earth would close for a lengthy renovation, which would ultimately result in new scenes, updated technology, and a new storyline! (Remember when THAT was the biggest thing we were all worried about? 2022 us is laughing at 2019 us! 🤪)
Obviously, things have changed quite a bit at Disney World since 2019, and this massive refurbishment on one of EPCOT’s most iconic rides has been up in the air for over a year! What exactly is the current status on Spaceship Earth’s renovation, and will it ever actually happen? Here’s what we know.
What Was the Original Plan?
The massive renovation of Spaceship Earth was originally announced at the 2019 D23 Expo as part of the announcements surrounding the EPCOT Transformation. The EPCOT Transformation involves the addition of MANY new things to the park. These changes are set to take place over the course of a couple of years. And with the park’s 40th anniversary coming in 2022, it’s no surprise Disney is looking to get things spruced up at this park.
At the 2019 D23 Expo, current Disney CEO Bob Chapek announced that the “new Spaceship Earth will still feature great moments of human history, but instead of inventions and technology, we’ll focus on something that binds us all together — storytelling.” Chapek also indicated that “Many of the scenes you know and love will remain, but we’ll bring them to life in amazing new ways…”.
The new plot was originally designed to include a “story light” which would come to life throughout the attraction. Additionally, the renovated ride was set to include a fresh narration and new scenes which would “reflect the universal nature of the human experience.”
According to Chapek, their hope was to “…evolve this unique attraction in a way that will resonate with the wide array of guests who visit Walt Disney World.”
We saw some signs pointing to the possibility that Spaceship Earth would close for refurbishment back in February of 2020. Then Disney announced that Spaceship Earth would close on May 26, 2020. The length of the refurbishment wasn’t announced. Instead, Disney only indicated that Spaceship Earth “in its current form” would close “for a time.”
At that time, Disney also released a new artist’s rendering of the Egypt portion of the classic ride. Disney shared “You’ll visit Egypt, which is part of the current version of the attraction, but it will be an Egypt like you’ve never seen before, transformed through the power of light.”
Disney also indicated, “Throughout the attraction, you’ll hear new narration and see how light plays a central role in our shared human journey, coming to life in dynamic ways in a celebration of the magic that’s possible when we all come together.”
This wasn’t going to be your everyday refurbishment; Spaceship Earth was getting ready to have a different look and feel inside thanks to this project!
Why Was It Postponed?
Like many Disney World projects that were in-the-works in 2020, the Spaceship Earth renovation was delayed in large part due to the closures from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Disney World parks closed in March of 2020, several months ahead of the ride’s originally scheduled May 26, 2020 closure date. When the Disney parks remained closed through May of 2020, some wondered if they had already taken their last ride on the “old” Spaceship Earth.
At first, there was no announcement of the postponement, leading many guests to believe that the ride wouldn’t reopen when the park did.
Spaceship Earth in its current form ultimately DID reopen with EPCOT in July of 2020, and it was later announced that the renovation had been “postponed,” along with another highly-anticipated project: the Mary Poppins ride in World Showcase.
Specifically, Disney said “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.”
What’s Going on Now?
We really haven’t heard much from Disney about the Spaceship Earth renovation lately. It’s interesting to see that the Spaceship Earth transformation is not mentioned at all in Disney’s press release about the historic transformation of EPCOT. It also was not really discussed during the start of Disney World’s 50th Anniversary celebration.
Although the celebration is running for a VERY long time (18 months from October 1st, 2021, in fact), even if Disney were to revive this project and the renovations were to start tomorrow, we expect that they could take quite a long time to complete — potentially several months or longer.
EPCOT’s 40th Anniversary will take place on October 1st, 2022. That’s just about 5 months away. Again, even if Disney were to revive this project and start renovations tomorrow, they would likely take a while to be complete — placing the end date potentially past the 40th Anniversary.
If Disney wanted the renovation to be finished sooner, it’s possible they could modify their original refurbishment plans for a more expedited schedule. But considering the fact that Disney has not yet noted that the Spaceship Earth revocations are “back on” from their suspended status, and Disney has not yet set a new closure date, it might be quite a while before the renovations will begin or be completed.
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When Could the Transformation Start or End?
Assuming that Disney does pick up the Spaceship Earth transformation again and takes it off of its “paused” status, when could the transformation begin? Disney hasn’t really given any clear indications or made any official announcements, but here are some thoughts and considerations.
Since it looks like the renovation could miss the deadline for EPCOT’s 40th Anniversary, there is another big anniversary down the road they could set their sights on: EPCOT’s 50th anniversary in 2032.
That seems like a LONG ways away, but it’s possible Disney could regroup in the next few years and push the Spaceship Earth renovation down the road a bit. This would also give Disney more time to plan, add more to the renovation if they want to, etc.
Interestingly, the Notice of Commencement we saw back in early 2020 which we thought could be related to the renovations taking place at Spaceship Earth had an expiration date of December 31st, 2022. If that Notice of Commencement was in fact related to the Spaceship Earth changes, then that gives Disney quite a bit of time to still get things done.
A number of other factors could impact when/if Disney chooses to pick up this renovation any time soon and when it could be completed by. First of all, the COVID-19 pandemic is still affecting many things around the world and in Disney World. We’ve seen staffing shortages impact a number of places, including stores in Disney, and we’ve seen supply chain issues and more cause shortages on a number of items from things from cars to cream cheese.
Does Disney have the staffing and items it would need to complete the Spaceship Earth transformation right now? If not, or if there are concerns there, then the transformation might find itself further delayed.
Disney is also working on a LOT of projects right now, in EPCOT, in Disney World overall, and in its other parks around the world. In EPCOT alone, several aspects of the park’s transformation are still being worked on, including the Guardians of the Galaxy coaster, several parts of World Celebration, the Moana attraction, and more. Disney is also simultaneously working on the TRON Coaster in Magic Kingdom, the refurbishment of select attractions, the Star Wars hotel, and other things.
Additionally, many things haven’t returned to Disney World since the pandemic closures. Several restaurants and experiences are still closed without set returning dates. Other things are set to return to Disney World in 2022. Disney is working on ALL of these things at the same time. That might be another reason why Spaceship Earth’s transformation could get pushed a little further back. Disney might wait until more of its projects are finalized before picking up the Spaceship Earth transformation again.
Could we hear more news about Spaceship Earth soon? Disney’s D23 Expo will take place again this year in September of 2022. The Expo is one spot where Disney traditionally drops BIG parks-related news (it’s where we first learned about the Spaceship Earth transformation after all). It could be an opportunity to provide an update on this project. Or perhaps we could hear an update on EPCOT’s 40th Anniversary in October. Only time will tell.
At this point, all we’ve got are the details from the project as they were originally announced, the fact that it has been postponed, and the lack of updates from Disney on it. In this case, Disney’s silence seems to speak louder than words. But things can change. You never know what the future might hold for this attraction (or all of EPCOT for that matter).
In the meantime, we have EPCOT’s fabulous new Beacon of Magic nighttime look to enjoy.
Seriously, Spaceship Earth is STUNNING at night right now.
We’ll continue to keep an eye out for more updates about this transformation. Be sure to check back with us for all the latest information!
What new addition are you looking forward to the most at EPCOT? Let us know in the comments!