Walt Disney World has announced the largest transformation of a theme park in company history, giving Epcot a long-overdue upgrade with a revamped Spaceship Earth and new attractions based on Mary Poppins and Moana.
The plans were revealed this weekend at the D23 Expo, the biannual gathering for Disney fans that the company often uses to unveil big news.
Besides the historic Epcot makeover, the other announcements of Florida interest included more information about the immersive Star Wars hotel under construction and word of a “Disney Genie” digital assistant to help vacationers as Walt Disney World celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2021.
Disney Parks chairman Bob Chapek said Epcot was in the midst of a major update that would bring it in line with the tastes of modern audiences.
The second oldest of Walt Disney World’s four theme parks in the Orlando area, Epcot debuted in 1982 with the space-themed Future World and the international World Showcase set up like a miniature world’s fair. Disney plans to expand those areas to four themed neighborhoods, keeping World Showcase and adding World Discovery, World Celebration and World Nature.
The park will also score a number of attractions in the next few years, some of them already under construction:
- A roller coaster, Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind, will launch in 2021.
- A Mary Poppins-inspired attraction within the United Kingdom area of World Showcase. No opening date was revealed, but visitors will get to visit the Banks family home at 17 Cherry Tree Lane.
- The Journey of Water, an exploration trail based on the popular 2016 film Moana, which was announced last week with no opening date.
- A ride themed after cheffy rat Remy from the 2007 movie Ratatouille, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, is expected to open in summer 2020 in the France area.
- Spaceship Earth, the iconic globe at the Epcot entrance, will receive new narration and music in what will be called World Celebration. The neighborhood will feature a wishing tree, story fountain and events pavilion, too.
- A fireworks show, HarmonioUS, will debut next year as part of what will be the largest nighttime spectacular created for a Disney park. To celebrate how the music of Disney inspires people all over the world, the production will bring a stream of familiar tunes reinterpreted by a diverse group of international artists. The show will also highlight "massive floating set pieces, custom-built LED panels, choreographed moving fountains, lights, pyrotechnics, lasers and more,” according to a Disney news release.
- The Canada Far and Wide in Circle-Vision 360 film will open in January 2020 at the Canada pavilion with new scenes and a new story.
- A restaurant in the Mission: Space area dubbed Space 220 will be designed like a space station high above Earth. It has a projected premiere of winter 2020.
In addition, Disney has unveiled the name of the new Star Wars hotel coming along near Hollywood Studios. Guests at Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser will board a launch pod for a two-day, two-night stay aboard the Starship Halcyon. They’ll find themselves on missions and meet all kinds of Star Wars creatures. No opening date or rates were confirmed.
And about that Disney Genie: The company said it will release the digital assistant at the celebration of Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary, helping vacationers with everything from booking a FastPass to planning their days. Essentially, visitors will go online and use the Disney Genie to map out the experiences and attractions they want to hit, plus to make dining reservations. The digital assistant, whose price tag wasn’t announced, will send out alerts should arrangements need to be changed because of weather or ride breakdown as well.