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At World Celebration in Epcot, concept art of Spaceship Earth Disney Parks

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Everything we learned about Disney’s massive overhaul of Epcot

Orlando’s futuristic park will radically change for its 50th anniversary

Petrana Radulovic is an entertainment reporter specializing in animation, fandom culture, theme parks, Disney, and young adult fantasy franchises.

On Sunday, D23’s Disney Parks and Experiences panel unveiled big plans coming to Disney parks, including a Star Wars-themed immersive hotel experience adjacent to Orlando’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and the debut of the Marvel-themed Avengers Campus in resorts all over the world.

But the changes aren’t just coming in the form of new lands. Classic park attractions in the beloved Epcot resort in Orlando will also receive a huge revamp timed to Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary. The makeover will introduce new rides and redesign old ones to incorporate Disney characters.

Originally envisioned by Walt Disney as an “experimental prototype community of tomorrow,” Epcot currently boasts two distinct lands: Future World, the science and technology-filled area that hosts the Spaceship Earth orb, and World Showcase, which is designed to be a permanent world’s fair and is made up of 11 pavilions designed around countries. Epcot hosts a number of special events throughout the year, such as the Food and Wine Festival and the Flower and Garden Festival. The former cements Epcot in the minds of adult Disney fans: it’s the park where you drink.

Disney teased a few of the changes on Thursday,the Moana-themed Journey of Water. This isn’t the first Epcot ride to integrate movie characters; previously, the Norway pavilion Maelstrom turned into Frozen Ever After.

More came to light on Sunday, when Bob Chapek, chairman of Disney parks, experiences, and products took the D23 stage to lay out the grand plans for Epcot’s future, promising more of what makes the park special — more Disney, more family, more timeless and more relevant than ever.

“And yes, even more shade,” he joked. But actually, good.

The new Epcot lands

The biggest change comes from splitting the park from two separate lands into four themed areas. World Showcase will remain untouched in this aspect, but Future World will be three distinct neighborhoods: World Celebration, World Discovery, and World Nature.

Concept art of the reimagined Epcot park, set to open in 2021 Image: Disney Parks

World Celebration is the opening area of the park, which houses the iconic Spaceship Earth orb. Disney will update the entryway of the park with a new version of the fountain and more greenery. Spaceship Earth itself will still remain the staple of the park (pour one out for the Hollywood Studios Sorcerer’s Hat which were gutted during that park’s revamp in 2015), but the ride itself will change. Instead of taking guests through a journey through technological advancements in human history, Spaceship Earth will focus on the power of storytelling. Some of the scenes from the original will remain, but there will also be new ones to reflect what Chapek called the “universal narration of the human experience.”

“Spaceship Earth has stood for 37 years as an icon of Epcot and we’re excited to evolve this unique attraction,” the executive said.

Also new to World Celebration will be new gardens — complete with a wishing tree — a story fountain that celebrates the power and magic of Disney storytelling, and a pavillion area that will be the base of Epcot’s festivals. The pavillion will be three stories, with the top one boasting a rooftop garden and a perfect vantage point to watch the fireworks.

an image of the guardians of the galaxy attraction at epcot, featuring space ships shooting at a purple space Disney

Marvel and the Guardians of the Galaxy come to Epcot

World Discovery, he first of the “other worlds” pavillions at Epcot and the current site of Mission: Space and Test Trek, will house the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy roller coaster. Entitled Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, the ride will feature the first “reverse launch into space.” Storywise, it starts in a galaxirium (think planetarium, but cooler) inviting guests to board a Nova spaceship that will take them from Earth to Xandar and back. But mayhem and antics ensue.

Also coming to World Discovery is a space-themed dining experience, Space 220, which brings guests up an elevator to a “space station” where they’ll dine surrounded by views of the galaxy. The Wonders of Life area will be transformed into the Play Pavillion, which will boast interactive experiences, games, and activities centered around Disney characters.

World Nature focuses on — you guessed it! — nature. This is where the World of Water Moana attraction will open, along with a new film premiering in the Land pavilion.

Ratatouille and Mary Poppins come to the pavilions

As for World Showcase, the China and Canada pavilions will get updated videos for their 360-circle-vision attractions. In addition to Impressions Du France, the France pavilion will get a Beauty and the Beast sing-a-long video with a comedic twist. France also gets the highly-anticipated Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, ported over from Disneyland Paris, which shrinks guests down to the size of Remy and his rat pals and sends them through Gusteau’s restaurant. Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure opens summer 2020, with a new restaurant selling crepes opening up right next door.

The last world pavilion to get an update will be the UK pavilion, which is getting an expansion based on Mary Poppins. Cherry Tree Lane will soon recreate the street the Banks family lives on for guests perusal. Chapek and special guest Dick Van Dyke were tight-lipped on just what the attraction will be, but we can expect practically perfect Disney magic.

fireworks mockups for Epcot Disney

And finally, two new nighttime spectaculars are on their way. The first, Epcot Forever, will debut in October and take guests through the past, present, and future of Epcot. But that’s just a preview for the bigger, better, more Disney-fied Harmonious, which will be a celebration of Disney music with an all new anthem by Captain Marvel composer Pinar Toprak.

“This will be the largest nighttime spectacular in our history,” said Chapek of the event, which will debut in 2020.

The new attractions will roll out slowly, but they’re all set to be ready by 2021 — just in time for the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World resort.

Correction (Aug. 26): A previous version of this story indicated an existing attraction called World of Water would be replaced with the Moana attraction, Journey of Water. Journey of Water is a totally new attraction, not a revamp of a previous ride. We’ve edited the article to reflect this.


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