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 tom@wdwnt.com.


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  • I would think Disney would go more of the Dreamfinder route over Inside Out, considering how many of us love of the character. Face it, we mostly buy the comics because of him, care about Figment because of him, and buy the merchandise merchandise because of him. If the Inside Out ride happens, when robo Bob Chapek announces the new replacement, imagine what the response would be! Heck, just the Guardians thing should make Imagineers uneasy when it comes down to updating Future World (and I would much rather ride the Universe of Energy over the Universe of Synergy, personally). Disney needs to open their eyes and realize what is best for fans, guests, and the future of WDW second theme park. For the average guest, put the characters inside the World Showcase! For the future, give the park advanced and unique attractions. And for us fans, put Dreamfinder into the next Journey into Imagination ride, not in the gift shop.

    The Imagineers should start focusing on Future World over the World Showcase if cheap, unpopular ideas are being funneled into Epcot. This is just me saying this, and it is great Figment is staying despite what happens, I just wanted to comment on the Inside Out ride idea.

  • They CAN”T remove the Leave a Legacy stones!!!! All of those memories gone (including mine of my honeymoon)????? NO!!!! NO!!!! NO!!!!

    • They were only supposed to,last twenty years as I recall being told,when I,purchasedour pictures in 2000. I am ok with it. I have taken many pictures of us. My daughter was 5 and looks so cute, but my pictures will last longer than those stones. Go take a picture before they remove them.

  • OK, call me the curmudgeon on this one, but here goes… EPCOT always seemed to be the most “adult” park in Disney. Even when it was first built, the idea was to have rides and attractions based on more adult themes. Yes, there was Figment and Cranium Command, but for the most part the idea was highlighting science and industry and experiencing cultures from around the world. Two more parks were built after it, and both of those parks, along with Magic Kingdom, cater to small kids and their parents. Why can’t EPCOT remain as the more “grown up” park among the four? YES, please add rides, but go back to the original drawing board and bring about the original rides planned for the countries area (like the toboggan run in Japan, etc.). Why does everything have to be tied into characters? And please, no disrespect intended, but why the obsession with character meet & greets everywhere? Maybe Disney should open a fifth park and have it be Character Land, where all you have is one meet & greet after another. Believe it or not, there are plenty of families and couples who are in their teens and adulthood who would love to have a theme park that they could enjoy. Not every family has little girls in princess dresses, and their are plenty of us who would love to have a park that is more geared towards us… and Epcot had been that park.

    • Well my daughter’s favorite park was always epcot since we started taking her at age 2. We are good with the changes. I personally never go in innoventions… boring as hell even for kids. Horizons building is empty and body wars was fair not fantastic as people want to remember. Rough as I recall. Ellens ride was always lame. Best thing they did was soarin and get rid of that fountain from the middle of the building. Love the sunshine market. Circle of life movie is lame … when a kid only wants to see it once ….I can’t wait for the new rides and buildings. I am 60 and look forward to the new rollercoasters. Cant wait for,tron!

  • Disney: Please stop with all the roller coasters! If I wanted to ride roller coasters I could go to Six Flags, Kenny Wood or a dozen other mediocre theme parks.
    What made WDW unique? Animatronics and it’s theming and unusual entertainment along with educational information that couldn’t be found elsewhere. Please Imagineers go back to your roots and provide the great rides we once knew.

    • People keep wanting more rides because “it’s for the children!” Well Walt Disney wanted a place where the adults could enjoy themselves also and in my opinion EPCOT fits the bill…especially World Showcase. Over at the Magic Kingdom they want to cater to little johnny…oh he eats nothing but crappy chicken fingers so let’s get rid of the carts serving pulled pork and waffle fries and add more chicken fingers! Well, they are forgetting who foots the bill! So ok, leave MK for the kids and WS for adults. Leave it a learning experience instead of making it another kiddy park. Yes, the front of the park can be as many rides as they can fit, but what about us? Especially if we have no children? And someone mentions about changing the name; well change Magic Kingdom to kiddy central then, with the other parks being off-shoots for more kid rides. Seems like the progressive money grabbing thinkers want to change WDW into another six flags! And to be honest, six flags in New Jersey, with all the roller coasters, dark rides, etc is still a dump compared to WDW.

      • I am good with the rides. You just cant pay $100a day to just walk around the world showcase. I wouldnt keep coming back if that was all epcot was. It keeps everyone happy. I dont need disney to educate me on anything. At 60 yrs old and with two masters degrees I have seen quite a bit without their help. Innoventions is a joke. It is insulting to anyone with half a brain… so boring never walk through it. Spaceship,earth sucks. Always worry about getting stuck facing backward when the ride stops and it usually does. Last time I looked there were plenty of kids at epcot in september when school was back in session. If you don’t like kids then you shouldnt go to an amusement park. If this park was just for adults and no children it would be closed in less than a year.

  • Looks like all the reasons Epcot has been my favorite park since I 1st went in late 80’s early 90’s as a kid have gone or will be gone shortly. Also come on a rollercoaster for Guardians. What does that have to do with what Epcot is or was about. Learning, science, space, future etc.

    • Nobody wants to learn on their,vacations… i certainly dont. I just want to have fun. It is not 1975 anymore. Internet and computers have given people worldwide access to knowledge and events. Bring on the changes! i am a DVC member and love going on all of the new rides. I am 60 and still like rollercoasters. Pandora ride was the best yet. The navi river journey was for,toddlers and grannies..but it fits the family theme. Just dont ride what you dont like. I personally love test track.

      • ET, you’re all over these comments crapping on “learning”. I’m sorry if your “two masters degrees” means you have learned all you can and you are incapable of an attention span it takes to learn about sea creatures, energy, another culture, or agriculture while on a ride . This is just your opinion. YOU may not like learning on vacation but there are tons of people who love EPCOT simple BECAUSE it is the learning park. Turning it into Magic Kingdom 2.0 is unoriginal and beneath Disney. They have so much they can do with what they have an a willing audience to consume it than to just throw popular characters at it with cut and paste roller coasters.

        • I agree with Donna, it’s people like ET that are destroying everything Disney was meant to be. It’s not a special place anymore, it’s an over priced Six Flags now. My family and I used to be huge Disney fanatics, we we’re obsessed with all things Disney it was our “happy place” now I’m 28, my once happy family no longer exists and all my happiest childhood memories have been ripped down and thrown in the trash. Disney doesn’t care about nostalgia or memories, they only care about $$$. I’m done with Disney. I’ve been done with Disney. Every update just breaks my heart. At least I still have our old family home movies from Disney. That’s the only Disney that’s left.

          • You should read my whole reply. I said leave World Showcase as an intellectual property for adults and add as many rides as they can fit in the front. Unfortunately i only have one masters and have travelled quite extensively for my business but my wife and i enjoy Disney by “paying $100 per day to just walk around the countries!” I dont care if the kiddies, which we were unfortunately able to have, are running around but what i am saying is why not cater to the adults also. We enjoy seeing children enjoy themselves but we also enjoy seeing adults enjoy themselves also.
            And as for the rides, yes they do need updating. Whether they update, go the retro route and bring back old favorites like dreamcatcher, or tear down and rebuild is fine so i think you are jumping the gun without reading what i posted. So apparently you did not read what was written, or you had a bad day and no coffee, or you are just trying to start something when there was nothing to start.

  • Number one thing they can not do is infuse characters into a new illuminations. It’s the only night time show left that has any true meaning anymore and that hits the emotions. It’s needs to stay about global unity. Which is the core of what World Showcase is about.