If you know me, you know I’m one of those people that hates change. Sure, change is inevitable but nobody really likes it if we’re perfectly honest with ourselves. In so many ways the hatred of change is kind of in our DNA. The vast majority of us like to know what to expect and almost immediately default to a preset image of what Epcot should be like when we step through the gates. At it’s core, it’s the park that has changed the least since opening day with very few major expansions or changes since the late 80’s.
Now, you might immediately ask why that is the case and truthfully I can’t answer that question. Epcot’s history has always been one of resistance to change. Part of that is inevitably the die hard Disney fans who feel like this is one of the last remaining big ideas of Walt Disney himself. Of course, it’s only a shell of Walt’s original concept but the origins of the park and the history of the park always felt to me (having not been there when it was a reality) and to many (who actually got to experience the early days in person) like something Walt would have loved.
I don’t know about you, but that’s tough to give up. However, I don’t quite think we have to and I hope to share part of that today with this update.
It’s currently late fall of 2019 and some of the earliest large phases of construction are well under way. Yes, this does include the removal of the fountain of nations. I’ll admit, those pictures have stung quite a bit because it’s weird to see Epcot without those fountains bursting into the air as you crest the hill leading up to the Mouse Gear store area. It’s not necessarily the fountain itself so many of us will miss but rather the sounds, the cool breeze of the water drifting off to the side on a windy day, and ultimately the memories we’ve created with family standing and taking pictures in front of it year after year, visit after visit. And that’s part of the reason I share this article. It’s often not the features of the park we miss from these sweeping changes, but rather the reality that we’ll no longer be able to create those same memories again in the future.
However, that’s not always a bad thing. Often times when things change, it offers up a unique new opportunity to create new memories. I’m the first to admit I’m hesitant to change but sometimes it uncovers and delivers bigger and better things than we ever could have imagined. I’ll miss classic Epcot, but a great deal of changes are all in full swing now so let’s dive into how it’s effecting things.
The Effects of Construction
As you enter the park, you’re still going to see construction walls from the moment you step into the park. Admittedly, it’s not quite the rat maze I expected it to be, but it’s not a vision of beauty that’s for sure. When big changes like this unfold construction walls are inevitable. So far, I think the level of construction is acceptable and being distributed around the park quite well.
In the common areas of Future World, you’ll notice construction in a major way. The area around the fountain is completely blocked off and the only way around it is around to the right as you go towards the Land Pavilion and Imagination or through a small gap walkway between Mouse Gear and the construction walls. It’s tight and kind of a nightmare after the fireworks at closing time but it could be far worse and I actually expected far worse.
At some point, I still believe you’ll be routed directly from the Spaceship Earth area through a semi-small gap over to either the Test Track area or the opposite direction over towards the Seas and around when the largest aspect of construction gets underway. I hope I’m wrong but I think it’s inevitable that at some point the area between Mouse Gear and the former “club cool” location will need to be fully blocked off to guests. We’ll see what happens there, but in the mean time it is still open and tends to be pretty crowded at times.
As you turn and head towards The Land pavilion, it’s almost as if a light switch is flipped and the construction is turned off as soon as you get past the former “character spot” location. It’s almost strange to go from seeing a brightly painted construction wall covering a fountain to what still feels like classic Epcot in a way. My prediction is that will change in time as well but for now it’s a nice blend that still makes the park feel great.
For a moment it’s as if you’re not surrounded by sweeping changes and walls. If you look very carefully, over towards the Coral Reef restaurant you’ll see construction walls. They serve more as a barrier than to hide anything at this point and are guarding an area that appears to be being cleared for future development. If I had to guess, this would be my best estimation as to where the Moana – Journey of Water attraction will be focused. However, I don’t claim to know very much about that project and some may know more about that than me.
If you go left at the former fountain instead of right and make your way over towards Test Track, it’s an entirely different story. To be quite honest, it’s a confusing mess the first time you walk through this area due to the construction. There’s no longer connecting paths to traverse the area and there is no connection over to the front entrance of Mouse Gear closest to the World Showcase. The bridges over to the Odyssey (now housing the Epcot Experience) are still open and accessible but to say this section of the park feels like a maze at times would be an understatement. The Epcot Experience itself is circle vision show that surrounds viewers in a “come as you please” style and it is cool but it’s going to be more for us geeky Disney fans rather than the majority of guests in most cases.
Over towards Mission Space, the construction disappears to an extent and unless you’re looking for it, you can’t even find the construction for the new restaurant “Space 220” set to open this winter. While little is known about the food it will be run by the Patina group.
The other major construction project in this area hasn’t changed too much from the guest perspective in quite some time and centers around Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. The construction is actually fairly well hidden and a small scale dance party is currently underway in this area throughout the day. It kind of feels like an apology gesture for the construction but it’s a simple and clever addition nonetheless and I’m guessing this area of the park may surprise people once construction is completed.
Once you leave the Future World areas and move towards the World Showcase, it’s as if construction disappears and it’s certainly a welcomed site. The World Showcase at this point looks excellent and is the same incredible experience it has been for years. Changes are coming but I think they will be changes that appeal to a broader audience as well as a nostalgic audience as a happy medium compromise in due time.
Towards the back of the World Showcase, the Skyliner is back in action and still one of my new favorite forms of transportation. For more on that and why I’m not concerned about the recent issues check out – Disney’s Skyliner: Why I Still Love It for my honest thoughts on that. The back entrance to Epcot here is unfortunately far more crowded than it once was. To an extent that was inevitable but I will say Disney has done an excellent job managing crowds back here. I haven’t tried to do an early entry day since the Skyliner opened to see what that’s like but I will say at closing time it’s fairly calm and crowds are well managed even on crowded nights. The Skyliner lines move rather quickly so don’t be scared off by a long line of guests.
How It Has Affected the Parks
Truthfully, Epcot feels kind of weird right now. Crowds are doing weird things, people are gravitating towards the World Showcase (undoubtedly some of that is due to Food and Wine Festival), and attraction wait times are actually rather low. I’m sure the attraction queues will be busting at the seams as the Christmas season approaches and major holidays are upon us, but recently I’ve seen Soarin’ consistently under an hour and I can count at least 5-6 occasions in which it was down to less than 30 minutes well into the afternoon. It’s kind of mind blowing really.
On the other end of the spectrum, Journey Into Imagination with Figment is about as long as I’ve seen it consistently be. It’s pulling wait times of well over 25 minutes at times and to be quite honest that’s still shocking to see having grown up in the park in the days when it was a “walk-on” 99.9% of the time.
Moving on to some of the already present changes that have unfolded. Club Cool is closed and so is that entire wing of shopping and character interactions, but steps away food and wine has taken over the area with unique booths and well themed seating areas. For most guests, this isn’t a big deal and a new visitor to Epcot probably wouldn’t be too upset about missing out on what is closed.
On the other hand, the biggest change in place that I believe really does alter the feel of the park at night is the disappearance of Illuminations. Having been in the park almost every day the week leading up to Illuminations last show and then being in the park at least twice after the new show debuted I have to say I loved Epcot Forever. Is it weird and quirky? Undoubtedly. Is it still a great show with a ton of nostalgia? Absolutely. I genuinely believe that if this fireworks spectacular had not followed Illuminations 90% of people would find it excellent. It’s not perfect but it truly is an excellent show and has moments that give you the “feels” that you expect to get from a WDW nighttime fireworks spectacular.
Here’s my slight gripe and it’s a petty one to be quite blunt. I can’t stand the pre-show announcer for this show. It’s like Buzzy (if you know who that is you’ll understand this mental image) had a child and that child decided to announce a fireworks show. I kid you not, I was surrounded by a group of die hard Disney fans and friends the night of the first show and when the voice came over the speakers we all had the same confused and puzzled look on our face. It was the biggest stark contrast in announcers Disney could have put in place. I will say it does fit with the show quite well but it could have been much better.
I know that sounds petty but that combined with the new music leading up to the show creates a vastly different world showcase feel compared to the past. It’s not necessarily bad, but it does feel very temporary and part of me thinks that is by design. Disney doesn’t want us to be attached to this show, and I think I’ll be ready to see it go when that time comes. It’s great but it’s not near as heart felt as Illuminations. Inevitably that comparison is riddled with bias due to nostalgia but go see it yourself and you be the judge. I highly recommend it, but something feels just a little bit off.
So, thanks for sticking in there with me to the end. I know at times this probably felt negative but it’s not intended to be. As I said once before, I look at this reimagining of Epcot with eager, yet hesitant, anticipation. Why? That’s a tough question to answer but ultimately it’s because I trust the minds at Imagineering and I know somehow, some way, it will be done right and it will be done in a way that honors the history of the park while welcoming a new generation of guests.
You probably won’t here me say much negative about any of the changes because ultimately I see no point in being overly negative. My opinion is just one opinion and there’s enough negativity in this world already so there’s no point in me adding to it!
In the end, we’re kind of getting the best of both worlds if we take the time to look at it in depth. We get an Epcot with some nostalgia, an Epcot with some new technology, and ultimately an Epcot that continues to span generations of guests. How could we possibly be upset with that? Sure, change is tough, but it makes us who we are and more importantly frames the future into what it is set to become. We just have to stay positive and trust that things happen for a reason.
That’s how I try to live my life and stay positive and I hope I get to share a few moments of Disney with you and mix a small piece of the parks into your life each day. Here’s to hoping this helps you get the most out of your future WDW vacations along the way. Thanks for being here and always remember to make every day count!
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