PHOTO REPORT: EPCOT 3/15/20 (Final Day of Operation Before Closure, Cast Members & Characters Say Their Goodbyes, State of the Park, and More)
Today is undoubtedly one of the most unique and impactful days in Walt Disney World history. While not the first time the parks have closed recently, past instances were merely a closure for a day or two with a clear, short-term timeline for reopening. This time around, we are faced with a closure of at least 16 days, and the possibility of the closures extending much further. At this point, no one knows, and that’s what makes today both very special and very painful for so many people.
In this EPCOT photo report, we’re bringing you the photos that we believe best encapsulate the day, with the hope that things will return to normal as quickly as possible.
How could we possibly start the day any other way than with EPCOT’s iconic geodesic sphere, home to Spaceship Earth? Even once the attraction enters its two and a half year refurbishment later this year, the energy and memories the structure creates will be present in the park.
The attraction (and all of the attractions in the park, for that matter) operated as though it was business as usual – albeit with some shorter wait times. Spaceship Earth was a 5-10 minute wait most of the day.
Similarly, Frozen Ever After had much shorter waits than usual. While it was as low as the 10 minutes pictured, it did increase to 40 minutes later in the day.
Housed at the foot of the sphere, Gateway Gifts has retained its original signage throughout all of the changes in EPCOT (even after its own recent refurbishment). We wanted to take note of their current state, should anything change during the prolonged closure.
Of course, we had to do the same at The Land Pavilion, whose unique tiled entryway is a work of art.
Similarly, the inside of the pavilion is quite unique as well, and is home to Soarin’ and Living with the Land, in addition to the Garden Grill and Sunshine Seasons eateries.
To the north side of The Land Pavilion resides The Seas Pavilion, home to The Seas with Nemo & Friends. While this pavilion has seen some changes over the years, it still retains its original charm.
To the south of The Land Pavilion, is the beloved Imagination Pavilion. A Figment topiary welcomes guests during the EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival.
Like The Seas Pavilion, the Imagination Pavilion has seen its fair share of changes (probably more than its fair share, and not always for the better). Journey Into Imagination with Figment is the third iteration of the attraction. Sadly, the two most recent versions have been a far cry from the brilliance of the original.
Heading east in Future World, Mission: SPACE has recently been freshened up ahead of Space 220’s opening. The severely delayed restaurant will certainly have its debut pushed back even further due to the park’s closure.
The moon, which was recently (and inexplicably) painted purple, could very well be a different color when the park reopens, as one of our reporters witnessed an Imagineer expressing some discontent with the color after it was painted.
Off to the side of Mission: SPACE, the former Wonders of Life Pavilion is being transformed into the Play! Pavilion. The updated pavilion will host a few different interactive games and activities – click here for a breakdown of each of them.
On today’s visit to Mouse Gear, we lucked out and found a new Annual Passholder EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival MagicBand.
The orange MagicBand features Spike the Bee and Donald Duck, and is a Limited Edition release with only 2,000 being sold.
The MagicBand comes in a nice box which is embossed with the festival logo and artwork featuring the characters. We have additional photos and pricing in our dedicated post – you can check it out by clicking here.
Switching gears for a moment, we do want to make sure we update the other major construction projects happening in the park. Due to the closure, the next time we’re able to get a glimpse of these areas things will probably be drastically different.
New planters are being constructed in various spots, and of course new pavement will be added as the project progresses.
In addition to planters and pavement, the entrance fountain overhaul has been flowing ahead slowly but surely. The renovation of the fountain will result in a look similar to the park’s original fountain design.
Piece by piece, accent tiles have been added (and removed, and added again) to what remains of the fountain’s structure. We’re not sure why the material protecting the outer ring has such an interesting print, but rest assured this is not what it will look like once completed.
Unsurprisingly, Taste Track did not open only to close the next day. We’ll just have to wait until April (hopefully) for the burger and fry outpost.
Next door at Test Track, the Custom Car[d] Design kiosks, which were out of order a couple days ago, have been returned to service. Let the smudges be a reminder to wash your hands often, however, and not just during global pandemics.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind still has a year to go before it returns the former Ellen’s Energy Adventure building back to service.
The courtyard will house the queue and entrance for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, as well as La Creperie de Paris – an authentic French restaurant serving more than just crepes.
Just this week, champagne bottle and character accents were added to the fountain. We drew up a full post on these new additions – click here to view it.
Final touches are also being added to the exterior facades of the main show building. With a confirmed summer 2020 opening, work is certainly in its final stages.
It’s not all construction in the France Pavilion, though! We were able to catch a performance by Serveur Amusant outside of Chefs de France.
Heading east (both literally and figuratively), we stopped into Mitsukoshi to check out their incredible variety of merchandise. So many unique and cute items can be found here. Oh, and swords.
But speaking of cute, we also popped into the Bijutsu-kan Gallery for the “Kawaii: Japan’s Cute Culture” exhibit. This display features an amazing look at an element of Japanese culture.
While at the Japan Pavilion, we also watched one of the final performances of Matsuriza performing the Taiko drums. We have photos and video of the performance – click here to view them. After 25 years at EPCOT, we hope this is only a temporary hiatus of the show.
In the next pavilion over at The American Adventure, a sign at the America Gardens Theatre reminds guests that there will be no Garden Rocks Concert Series show this evening. Simple Plan opted to cancel their performances in response to Coronavirus conerns.
With that note, we arrive at the final chapter of our last EPCOT photo report for the foreseeable future. We did, however, save the best for last. For as much as the closing of the Walt Disney World parks affects the fans, it’s the cast members that have truly set Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and all of the Disney parks worldwide apart from the rest. And in this time of uncertainty, the people who bring us the magic day in and day out are being impacted more than anyone.
Despite not knowing what the immediate future holds, they continue to make us laugh with their antics.
They remind us to put on a smile, even when things are tough.
They take care of other when they may not have other people to turn to.
And they put on a hell of a show, putting aside their problems so we can escape from our own.
They have created a park full of beauty, wonder, and yes – imagination.
As the icon of EPCOT will soon hold Our Shared Story, we wish our cast member friends and family the best and want them to know that we are here with them and for them, and soon we will all return together to continue this story.