EPCOT 2021 Preview: Construction & Concept Art

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As part of the D23 Fantastic Worlds Celebration, Zach Riddley, Imagineering’s Walt Disney World Portfolio Executive and Melissa Valiquette, Vice President of EPCOT, participated in the “Magic of Possibility” panel to discuss the park’s ongoing transformation. In this post, we’ll recap the highlights previewing 2021 at EPCOT, and also share new construction photos we captured in World Showcase, Future World, and from the Skyliner.

If you’re so inclined, you can watch the entire “EPCOT – The Magic of Possibility” presentation via the D23 YouTube Channel. Fair warning, it’s 52 minutes long and about 42 minutes of those are fluff. With that said, it’s fun fluff, and if you’re already caught up on this week’s episode of the Mandalorian, it could be worth a watch. That is, unless you also haven’t seen the Queen’s Gambit or Ted Lasso.

Just to give you a taste of what you can expect during “EPCOT: The Magic of Possibility,” in the opening minutes the panel explain how Disney leaders like to refer to construction walls as Progress Walls. (Something to keep in mind the next time you’re cursing the labyrinthine pathway of Progress Walls while navigating EPCOT.) Anyway, don’t say we didn’t warn you…

Once you get past the Progress Walls and gratuitous use of Walt Disney quotes to justify whatever, there were some good nuggets of information, amusing anecdotes, new pieces of concept art, and behind the scenes photos revealed. That’s basically what we’re covering here.

Since it’s been a while since the new neighborhoods that will unify EPCOT were announced, here’s a quick refresher on World Celebration, World Discovery, World Nature, and World Showcase:

Note that this is simply an imprecise breakdown of the new “Worlds” of EPCOT that was released last summer at the D23 Expo. It’s the park map from that time divided up to more or less reflect how Future World would be subdivided.

During this panel, none of the concept art for World Celebration was shared, nor were any details about its substance. As we’ve been reporting since reopening, those plans have quietly gone back to the drawing board, with pretty significant alterations expected.

The only thing this panel covered from World Celebration is EPCOT’s reimagined entrance, and how it sets the tone for the entire transformation with its gorgeous new color palette and an open, inviting layout.

A few months ago, Imagineering installed gleaming new pylons as part of the work on the new fountain at the base of Spaceship Earth. Not much has changed with the entrance since then.

This panel revealed that the reimagined park entrance would be completed by the end of December 2020.

In addition to that, one of the bigger announcements during the panel is that the fountain will have a new lighting package, as will the iconic geodesic sphere of Spaceship Earth, as well.

When it comes to the rest of World Celebration, which is essentially the Central Spine of the park that’s a big dirt pit right now, not much else is known.

Half of Innoventions West is still waiting to be demolished…maybe?

Meanwhile, work has resumed in earnest on the overhaul of Innoventions East. The plan all along has been to retain but remodel this half of Innoventions.

Electric Umbrella and MouseGear are both now totally gutted–you can literally see through the structure from ground level in some spots.

At one point, our impression was that the timeline for this work was roughly a year, with the construction walls circling Future World coming down and a smaller area encompassing Innoventions West (and the Festival Center) going up.

It’s obviously going to take much longer than that. We wouldn’t be surprised to see the same walls up at this point next year. Now that’s what I call Progress Walls!

On an unrelated note (I don’t know where else to put this), work is nearly complete on the EPCOT monorail beam cleaning.

This should be totally finished by the time the monorail resumes service, which we’re guessing will be early next year with the Park Hopper option restored.

Next, work continues on Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, the out-of-this-world new family-friendly roller coaster experience coming to what will soon be known as World Discovery.

Imagineering recently put a few of the attraction’s vehicles on the track for initial “push/pull” testing, which you can see happening in the photo above. No opening date or year were given for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. Just a vague “when it’s ready.”

During our most recent visit to EPCOT this week, we noticed a flurry of activity around Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. Visible work was occurring around the entrance (just above the “Rock the Galaxy” text on the construction wall.

Next up, the presenters discussed Harmonious, the new nighttime spectacular planned for World Showcase Lagoon…

Harmonious will use five enormous platforms to house the main show elements, including a “6-story tall iconic central ring structure and water curtain, four double-sided LED walls standing 25-feet tall, and eight 54-foot-long moving arms along with moving lights, fountains, lasers, and more.” The first platforms will be installed on the lagoon and begin testing soon.

One of the coolest portions of the panel was actually a time lapse showing the Stargate being lifted and moved around backstage. As you can see in this new artist concept rendering, Harmonious will provide a new energy to EPCOT during the daytime, too, with fountains out on World Showcase Lagoon.

This has the potential to be a nice daytime enhancement providing a unifying kinetic energy, and I’m cautiously optimistic about it. The reason “cautiously” is thrown in there is because this isn’t Disney’s first rodeo with daytime fountain shows.

Something very similar debuted for Disney California Adventure’s overhaul: “Instant Concert…Just Add Water!” This was a legitimately fun diversion, with Maestro Goofy attempting to direct a short concert of dancing water in Paradise Bay. If you’ve never heard of it, that’s because it didn’t last long before being discontinued.

“EPCOT: The Magic of Possibility” also featured Imagineer Tom Fitzgerald, plus Pixar Animation’s Roger Gould and Harley Jessup, who provided us a look at the creation of Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, the new family-friendly attraction set to open next year as part of a newly expanded France pavilion.

They provided a look at the transitional marketplace pavilion, centerpiece rat fountain, and recently-installed attraction marquee, and discussed how each plays into the real world and whimsical architecture of this Streets of Paris expansion.

Like the ride itself, the centerpiece fountain is a clone from Walt Disney Studios Park in France, and it’s definitely a cool water feature. Toes the line between fanciful and authentic in an odd way that works.

On a related note, @DisneyParks shared its unofficial contribution to the Ratatouille Musical on TikTok, which featured a look inside the attraction. Many Walt Disney World fans seemed surprised that the ride is in nearly-finished form yet has an opening date in 2021.

As we’ve said a few times now, the opening date is not being dictated by the pace of construction or outstanding work. It’s by what’s advantageous to Walt Disney World. Stated differently, they’re not waiting on construction to open the ride–they’re waiting on the ride’s opening to finish construction.

Even then, there’s not much that still needs to be done. Here’s our latest look from the Skyliner…

Since our last update, a lot of trees and vegetation have been planted around the promenade and adjacent to the buildings. The area is starting to come alive.

In the photo below, you can see the transitional canopy discussed in the video, and the base of the fountain just beyond that. Also, the recently-installed attraction marquee.

Many Walt Disney World fans were surprised that a specific opening date for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure was not shared during “EPCOT: The Magic of Possibility.”

In our Walt Disney World news round-up previewing the panel, we cautioned against getting your hopes up. Until Walt Disney World has a better idea of when operational normalcy will be able to return–and physical distancing rules relaxed–we’re not expecting opening dates to be set or announced.

That goes for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, Harmonious, and Space 220 Restaurant. Those will be the big additions for EPCOT debuting at some point in 2021.

With several television specials and opportunities this holiday season, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Walt Disney World continue building hype around these new additions, and perhaps offer opening seasons. Spring or Summer 2021, for instance.

The problem with a specific date is that Walt Disney World doesn’t have the foresight to know when current health safety measures that limit park capacity can be lifted. Unfortunately, Madame Leota has been no help on that one, and Disney clearly doesn’t want to debut these additions prior to then, because they’ll have less of an impact.

These are the types of marketable additions around which guests plan trips…and there isn’t much of that happening right now. Moreover, releasing an opening date–even a more far off one–runs the risk of backfiring or being lost amidst a sea of other news as traveling is not exactly top of mind right now.

Given that late December through mid-January is normally the busiest stretch of the year for new spring and summer vacation bookings at Walt Disney World, we expect something in that timeframe.

However, it’s more likely that it’ll be laying the groundwork for a return to travel. Restoring things like the Disney Dining Plan or, as happened today, the Park Hopper ticket option. We’d expect more of that, or at least Walt Disney World conveying its intentions of bringing those things back. For many guests, those are necessary prerequisites to booking a trip.

Ultimately, not a lot of new information from “EPCOT – The Magic of Possibility,” which continues the slow drip of info for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, Harmonious, Space 220 Restaurant, and the EPCOT transformation, in general. Expect more in the next couple of months as Disney Parks airs “reimagined” versions of their popular holiday specials.

I’ll admit that the slow-hyping is working on me–to an extent. As an avid IllumiNations fan, I was initially less-than-thrilled about a character-centric nighttime spectacular replacing it. However, the more I hear about Harmonious, the more I’m coming around on it. It’s clearly going to be a blockbuster nighttime spectacular that rivals Disney’s biggest productions around the world. The same cannot be said for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure (especially now that Walt Disney World fans have experienced two other trackless dark rides that are both better), but World Showcase is so overdue for new attractions that most guests probably won’t notice or care.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

YOUR THOUGHTS

Looking forward to any of these projects coming to EPCOT? Disappointed about anything that has been delayed or cancelled? Hoping Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure opens by Spring 2021? Do you plan on visiting for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary in 2021? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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