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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Julianna
Guest
Julianna

Exciting news! ????
Thank you for the updates!

jedwa
Guest
jedwa

Mindblowing. I’m sort of on the fence about IP’s but Epcot needs whatever it takes to get people excited about going there. Any word on if the name Epcot will remain? I dont see it changing but I’m still kind of curious.

Hayley
Guest
Hayley

Here comes the “Walt would absolutely hate this obvious money grab” comments LOL last time I checked when Disneyland opened it wasn’t free ????

Walt Dream
Guest
Walt Dream

Walt would hate the fact that people actually think what they opened in 1982 was his idea of epcot….he wanted a fully functioning community, not just a bunch of theme parks, sadly his dream will never be met.

The Dream Is Dead
Guest
The Dream Is Dead

I am sorry, but NO ONE could get Walt’s original idea for EPCOT off the ground except for Walt Disney. He had a charisma that could charm the pants off a state senator, which is who the Disney company would need to buy off in order for a city like this to be built.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

Even Uncle Walt made mistakes.
Smoking himself to death was one.
His original plant for Epcot was another.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

And my spelling of ‘plan’ was another.

Wesley Alexander
Guest
Wesley Alexander

Epcot has been in a sense already realized. The entire Disney World property is actually Epcot. You have your visiting residents in the various hotels. Many of Walt’s services that Epcot are in place, certainly the environmental ones. including solar power You have your shopping areas in Disney Springs and elsewhere. You have 4 theme parks and 2 water parks offering both entertainment and employment. You have an extensive highway system with various modes of transportation. Sure, it doesn’t look like the model, but Disney has come close to Walt’s dream.

Amused
Guest
Amused

“Hey honey? You want to go to that city at Walt Disney World? I hear its WAAAY better than the Magic Kingdom” said no one ever.

Hayley
Guest
Hayley

I don’t mind the rumored (for now) changes but can we here at Disney World get those donuts disneyland is selling?!?

jedwa
Guest
jedwa

Totally off topic and I hope I don’t start a random chain, but if we’re bringing stuff from Disneyland, the only thing I would really want is Pinocchio’s Daring Journey. Why we never got that is beyond me.

Anonomouse
Guest
Anonomouse

That would be great to have, right after we get Haunted Mansion Holidays

Ashleyk
Guest
Ashleyk

Amen!

Wolfanbase
Guest
Wolfanbase

Not even touching Wonders? Wow, that is sad.

Tracilynn2005
Guest
Tracilynn2005

Wonders is mentioned under the “Guardians of the Galaxy” section.

Levar Burton is dissapointed in you
Guest
Levar Burton is dissapointed in you

“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.”

I swear some people just glance at headlines and make no attempt at actually reading the entire thing.

jedwa
Guest
jedwa

Gotta have that space for Food & Wine/Flower & Garden still.

Cyril
Guest
Cyril

More IP for the E-ticket there. Working name: “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride Through Your Body”

John
Guest
John

What is the problematic end to the 2007 Spaceship Earth ride?

Steve
Guest
Steve

Once you see Earth floating in space you are backwards with nothing to entertain you except the screen which only works half the time.

Charles
Guest
Charles

I understand changes and updates, but I really would like to see EPCOT getting closer to Walt’s original vision for EPCOT…not getting further away from it as with these changes. But if these changes are what they have in store, I hope Jedwa’s idea comes true. Change the name of the park. Change the names “Future World” and “World Showcase.” It’s not really an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow as is. I don’t see it isn’t getting any closer with these proposed changes. And I’d like that Disney let the name go so that EPCOT may be actually conceived someday… Read more »

StopDreaming
Guest
StopDreaming

If you think the parks should be modeled on the vision of a man who’s been dead for over 50 years, then no you do not understand changes and updates. There is no need for a prototype community of tomorrow, what kind of park attraction would that even be? EPCOT was supposed to be a working city. So I’m going to pay to fly down there and watch people living their lives? I’d rather sit in my backyard lighting $20 bills on fire, sounds more fun and would probably cost less. Nobody is trying to realize Walt’s dreams anymore, nobody… Read more »

Kay
Guest
Kay

Preach!

Concerned Guest
Guest
Concerned Guest

I literally agreed with everything you said except the part about burning $20 bills and enjoying it. Thats the kind of talk that’ll land you on psychotic comments.

Charles
Guest
Charles

Attitudes like this are precisely the point as to why attitudes like mine persist and will never die. EPCOT is not about a time 50 years ago. It’s not about Walt or a “prototype community of tomorrow” or a “park attraction.” Much like America, EPCOT is a place, but it is not about a place. Much like America, EPCOT is bigger than belonging to any one person or people. America is an idea that can be found all over the world in the hearts and minds of individuals inspired by goodness and possibilities. EPCOT, too, is an idea — the… Read more »

Dreia
Guest
Dreia

I don’t know you, but thank you for giving me hope. It’s good to be reminded that, even though we are hard to find, we are many. Thanks again!

Eddy
Guest
Eddy

why can’t the “People of Tomorrow” have their community experiment AND their rides with IPs? What’s so hard about this?

William Dwight Stewart Jr
Guest
William Dwight Stewart Jr

Charles , Did you miss the caveats to those plans that Walt also laid out at the same time that he was announcing his sketches and plans for EPCOT ? Or are you too busy stuck on the EPCOT the City that you know and everyone else knows will never happen because Walt was the only one that can make that happen and he couldn’t ? I will say though that they need to put a sock in all of these amounts of changes happening at the same time though and I am talking about the Disney Parks ( Plural… Read more »

Kathleen Cameron
Guest
Kathleen Cameron

I always thought EPCOT stood for Every Person Comes Out Tired….

Matt
Guest
Matt

I actually think a couple of these potential changes bringing in more IP could end up working out. While I do love Figment, I think Inside Out could inject some life into the Imagination pavilion with its mixing of the former Figment stuff and almost an to Wonders of Life with human emotions. Coco and Ratatouille could work better than Frozen did in WS; overall, I’m cautiously optimistic at this point.

alex brueningsen
Guest
alex brueningsen

I’m a bit upset about Figment being put on the backburner, being the park’s mascot, as well as the Three Caballeros losing their limelight. That being said, all of this seems reassuring for Epcot. Here’s to what D23 has to offer!

I DON'T LIKE CHANGE
Guest
I DON'T LIKE CHANGE

More IPs in Epcot?! Walt is rolling over in his freezer!

Bing Bong
Guest
Bing Bong

I’m sorry you don’t like a change. There’s this wonderful movie called Inside Out that does a great job explaining how to deal with change. The characters are fun and there are great visuals. It would make a great theme park attraction

Madison
Guest
Madison

How likely is it the Gran Fiesta Tour will be replaced?!

Brendan
Guest
Brendan

Seeing as Disney is attaching their (formerly planned for TV release) Olaf’s Holiday Adventure on to CoCo, I don’t think they expect it to be a hit. I don’t see CoCo replacing Gran Fiesta Tour… but thats just me

Charles
Guest
Charles

I understand changes and updates, but I really would like to see EPCOT getting closer to Walt’s original vision for EPCOT…not getting further away from it as with these changes. But if these changes are what they have in store, I hope Jedwa’s idea comes true. Change the name of the park. Change the names “Future World” and “World Showcase.” It’s not really an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow as is. I don’t see it isn’t getting any closer with these proposed changes. And I’d like that Disney let the name go so that EPCOT may be actually conceived someday… Read more »

Tobias
Guest
Tobias

Not really happy about the idea of them replacing the Figment ride, even if he will be in the Inside Out attraction, but other than that I’m fine with these changes.

Heather
Guest
Heather

I really hope we don’t lose IllumiNations this soon after everything else. I’m still heartbroken over Wishes and IllumiNations was actually the show I saw the most growing up. We already lost MSEP, Celebrate the Magic, and as I said WIshes, I really don’t want to lose that too. (Especially if it’s for another IP projection show along the lines of Once Upon a Time/Happily Ever After/Whatever all the other parks have. It’s not that I don’t like Happily Ever After (not as much as Wishes but whatever) but like no thanks, I like IllumiNations just fine. That is NOT… Read more »

Courtney
Guest
Courtney

Illuminations is so old that adults can say they grew up watching it. This is a problem.

You may have some nostalgia attached to it, but the common Disney park goer that doesn’t know its history just thinks it’s a super outdated fireworks show.

Lillian
Guest
Lillian

I liked the old Illuminations years ago. Don’t touch France! I like Chefs de France and the movie. That’s where I fell in love with French composers. Yay to Inside Out!

Heather
Guest
Heather

How is it outdated? Because it’s not a super fancy Disney music projection show? Like is it the pyrotechnic technology because that’s not hard to do and they’re constantly updating it. The show’s pyrotechnics have received upgrades over the years (they took out the squealers), the images on the globe themselves are pretty general and timeless, the message is just celebrating life which is timeless, and the music is still high quality and timeless. Like I can understand why people would think Wishes is outdated even though for me it was a wonderful classic (The message was more of a… Read more »

Jeany Sanchez
Guest
Jeany Sanchez

I Would like to see happened to the universe of energy to Guardians of the Galaxy it will be awesome for Epcot! I can’t wait for the Announcement about the Universe of Energy to Guardians of the Galaxy!

Sue Swartz
Guest
Sue Swartz

When I was a little girl, my parents took us to Epcot. The most fantastic ride there was FIgment, I am not saying the other ones werent good. But the one i remember the most was Figment, the purple dragon..That ride made me feel safe. And Now u want to take it away. But there are generations and generations that havent seen it yet. Why would anyone want to take it away from all the children and families. i think this needs to be thought over again.

Brad
Guest
Brad

You didn’t read the article before you posted this, did you? They’re not taking Figment away. They’re keeping Figment and adding Inside Out.

Jen
Guest
Jen

I worked at WDW in 2009 and have since visited several times taking new friends. Every single time I’ve ridden that ride, there are zero people on that end of the park. Those bathrooms are always completely empty, and the people I take to it are so confused as to why I made them ride it. It may be nostalgic for some, but for newcomers, it doesn’t really appeal to the masses and I think the park could be making more money and utilizing the space for other things.

Sandra
Guest
Sandra

Disney needs more money?

Wesley Alexander
Guest
Wesley Alexander

Disney is a Business Corporation that is in the business of making money. The good it provides is entertainment for a price. Considering that many desire that type of entertainment, Disney continues to make a profit. It has a duty to do that in order to satisfy their stockholders, the actual owners of the corporation. So , yes. Disney needs the money and if it is smart, it will continue to reinvest in its parks, its hotels and restaurants, its film industry etc.

Anonomouse
Guest
Anonomouse

It’s not even the same ride now as it was when you were little, Journey into Imagination and the feelings you speak of was destroyed when it was changed to Journey into Your Imagination. Yes they eventually reintroduced Figment, but it’s still not the same ride that you so cherish. I love Eric Idle, but I’m all for giving Ol’ Dr. Nigel Channing the boot for Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust because it can’t get any worse… I hope.

Perelandra
Guest
Perelandra

Lease magic, imagination, and wonder, and more cashing in on IP’s. Easy way out.

Perelandra
Guest
Perelandra

autocorrect changed from less to lease, oh well

Anonomouse
Guest
Anonomouse

I think you mean less energy, innovation, imagination, and wonder

Megan
Guest
Megan

Inside Out would have been perfect in Wonders of Life Pavillion! Plus it would have been wonderful to see that building back in action!

I do love characters, but it makes me sad when there are so many in the countries. They lose a bit of magic with me when there is so much character affiliation and less actual country gizmos and gadgets.

Alex Murphy
Guest
Alex Murphy

Saddest thing out of all of these possible rumors for me is the removal of Wonders of Life. Not only do I not remember ever going in there, I had a chance to during F&G in 2016, but I missed it by a day. Now, that free one-day ticket to Epcot is gonna be useless for me, if they get rid of it.

Buzzy
Guest
Buzzy

It was only open as the Festival Center in 2016, the attractions haven’t been in operation since 2007 and all of the health exhibits were ripped out as well. That’s a shame you never got to experience it when it was fully operational, Cranium Command was always my favorite attraction and I was really hoping they could reutilize that theatre for Inside Out because it was basically the same concept except with parts of the body rather than emotions and popular comedians of 90’s with popular comedians of now.

Kaitlin
Guest
Kaitlin

Drooling….