D23 Expo 2017 Rumors – A Brave New Epcot with Way More Disney Character, 5 Year Expansion Plan

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Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Bob Chapek has already announced that big changes are coming to Epcot, making the statement back in November 2016 at the Destination D event at Walt Disney World. While they weren’t ready to spill the beans just yet, the D23 Expo in Anaheim next month seems like a likely venue for the announcement of the multi-year, multi-billion-dollar overhaul of Orlando’s second gate.

According to sources, with work commencing this Fall and being executed in phases, the overhaul of Epcot is slated to be completed in 5 years, just in time for the park’s 40th birthday in the fall of 2022. That being said, major components of the expansion will begin to come online starting in 2018, with at least a new E-Ticket up and running in time for Walt Disney World’s grand 50th anniversary celebration in 2021. You may recall that California Adventure went through a similar expansion, starting in 2007 and completed in 2012.

So, what is happening to Epcot? While some things are more solid, others are just low rumblings at this point. Below, we go over everything we have heard thus far. Some will come to fruition, some undoubtedly will not, but here’s what might the announced for Epcot at the D23 Expo 2017…

New Entrance Plaza

Removing the Leave a Legacy “tombstones” and most of the original 1982 structures, Epcot will receive a new entry area to bring it into the 21st century.

Spaceship Earth Update

Siemens is expected to renew its expiring sponsorship deal for the Spaceship Earth attraction and Epcot’s nighttime show, which will likely lead to another update of the classic Epcot ride. We would hope that the problematic finale portion of the attraction created in 2007 will be addressed, but at the very least, a complete overhaul of Project Tomorrow seems likely.

Innoventions Plaza Area Overhaul

Including a new multi-level table service restaurant, a remodeled Mouse Gear, and the demolition of the existing Inventions East and West buildings, a new plaza behind Spaceship Earth will offer easier access to the rest of Future World. Here’s hoping that the Fountain of Nations (and Club Cool) will remain.

Guardians of the Galaxy/TRON Replacing the Universe of Energy

We have been talking about this one for a while, but it seems as if the announcement of a Guardians of the Galaxy themed land for Epcot is just about guaranteed for the D23 Expo 2017. Cast members at Epcot are already being told that the Universe of Energy will close just after the park’s 35th anniversary on October 1st for demolition, making way for what should be a small themed land that will take guests off-world to explore the galaxy with Star Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, Groot and Mantis. While some are speculating that this area will instead be home to the TRON Lightcycle Power Run, we are still hearing that the TRON coaster is set for Magic Kingdom and not here, especially considering Chevrolet is the sponsor of the ride and they already sponsor Test Track in Future World. It is also likely that the former Wonders of Life pavilion will be demolished and the plot incorporated into this themed land, which will reportedly have multiple attractions.

Mission: SPACE Update

A new on-ride film and a lot of cosmetic upgrades are likely for Mission:SPACE, the first signs of which may even be evident when it reopens from its current refurbishment in just a few weeks’ time.

Inside Out replacing Imagination

Figment will be sharing the spotlight in a new attraction themed around the Disney-PIXAR film Inside Out, slated to replace the Journey Into Imagination attraction at Epcot. Sadly, Figment will not be getting his own adventure, but will be sharing one with the 5 emotions from the film should this rumor pan out. Figment appears in the actual Inside Out film in a brief Easter egg – a framed portrait of the purple dragon is present in Riley’s imagination.

The Land Re-Imagining

Upgrades for the Living with the Land boat ride and a new film to replace Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable seem likely for The Land, while Soarin’ Around the World will continue to be the headlining attraction for the pavilion.

The Seas with Nemo and Friends becomes the Marine Life Institute

The Nemo and Friends Searider at Tokyo DisneySea
The Nemo and Friends Searider at Tokyo DisneySea

While perhaps not a part of phase one, we eventually expect to see the Seas with Nemo and Friends converted into the Marine Life Institute, the fictitious location in Finding Dory which was inspired by the real-life Monterey Bay Aquarium. While the new and popular Searider attraction from Tokyo DisneySea would be a nice  addition, nothing solid on this front has come our way as of yet.

New World Showcase Pavilion

New country pavilions in World Showcase have been talked about since Epcot Center opened. Several have even been announced (but never built), and thus only two (Morocco and Norway) have been added since the park debuted. We have certainly heard about Disney sitting down with various countries and such over the last ten years to discuss a new pavilion, with rumors that Puerto Rico, Brazil, and Spain are on the short list. Spain seems the most likely as Disney would like a tie-in to the upcoming animated film Gigantic (now pushed to 2020).

Coco Replacing The Gran Fiesta Tour

As it would be an easy change in this screen-based attraction, the upcoming PIXAR film Coco may inspire some changes at the Gran Fiesta Tour starring the Three Caballeros. Why do this after investing in a new end scene for the ride? Well, the addition of the Donald, Jose, and Panchito animatronics was a side project with a very limited budget, and not some major initiative for WDI and the company. Disney wants to invest in this park with more contemporary IPs, and Coco is both contemporary, and (sadly for those of us who love The Three Caballeros) a logical fit.

Mulan-Related Film for China

Apparently, Disney will look to keep the Circlevision 360 theater alive by adding Mushu as a narrator for the history of China. Sadly, there isn’t much space to do something else here, but Reflections of China is desperately in need of some change.

Ratatouille in France

Whether it ends up being the large-scale trackless ride from Walt Disney Studios Paris, or a new film starring Remy, a redo of the France Pavilion seems all but confirmed at this point. The pavilion already sells a ton of Ratatouille merchandise and Disney is likely chomping at the bit to rip out Chefs de France and Monsieur Paul to replace them with the lucrative Bistro Chez Remy restaurant from Disneyland Paris, where guests can dine at the size of a rat.

Something for the U.K., Germany, and Japan Pavilions

While it is unclear what might go there, the upcoming sequel to Mary Poppins and the likely closure of the Great Movie Ride may equal Disney’s first attraction based on one of its most popular films of all time for the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, show building that were never utilized for attractions still stand in both Germany and Japan, spaces which may be used for Tangled and Big Hero 6 related attractions, or something else perhaps.

New Nighttime Spectacular to Replace IllumiNations

Without a doubt, IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth with be ending soon. The show is the oldest continuously-running fireworks show at any Disney Park around the globe. Despite it being a beloved and still-popular nighttime spectacular, it will likely be replaced with something new, and injected with Disney characters and franchises inspired by tales from around the globe.

Stay Tuned for More in WDWNT’s Coverage of the D23 Expo 2017

While all of this is likely not what any fan of classic Epcot would like to see, there is a new direction coming in an effort to make it as exciting as the other three Walt Disney World theme parks will be to guests by the time 2022 rolls around. While all the individual pieces of the plans will likely not be announced at the D23 Expo next month, we at least expect Disney to give us a clearer explanation of their vision for the park’s future. Stay tuned to WDWNT’s full coverage of the D23 Expo 2017 in just a few weeks!


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About the author

Tom Corless

Tom has been regularly visiting the Walt Disney World® Resort from the time he was 4 months old. While he has made countless visits in the last 28 years, he did not become a truly active member in the Disney fan community until the summer of 2007, when he decided to launch the WDW News Today website and podcast. Tom has since become an Orlando-local and is a published author on Walt Disney World.
Contact Tom at [email protected]

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