herb-ryman-epcot-500x313

There was some unexpected big news about EPCOT made this weekend at a D23 event – apparently big plans are in the works. We’ve heard a few rumors, but this sounds much bigger than what we’ve heard.  Before we dive into all that, let’s take a look at the state of EPCOT today.

EPCOT is Walt Disney World’s largest park, at least in terms of capacity. It can soak up more people than any park due to the walk-about nature of many of its attractions. The original idea for the park put an industrial focused section together with pavilions highlighting countries and cultures from around the world to create something that was both world’s fair and not. It’s a good distance from Walt Disney’s original vision for EPCOT, the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, but has had provided nearly 35 years of inspiration to millions of guests who passed through its gates and explored its exhibits.

But that’s in the past. The present finds EPCOT a little more confused about its identity. Future World has one abandoned pavilion, at least one out date pavilion, and two giant halls that are practically empty. There’s a lot going for Future World still, but Disney’s obviously having a hard time attracting sponsors for Innoventions leading to its closure.

Frozen Ever After in the Norway Pavilion at Epcot

World Showcase, meanwhile, has been very stagnant with the only changes coming when Disney steps in to overlay some its own characters. I’ve been very happy with both attempts so far, El Rio Del Tiempo at Mexico and Frozen Ever After in Norway, but I would still love to see new countries added to fill in some of those open plots before more Disney characters take them over.

There’s also the fact that audiences today expect completely different things from their theme park experience than they did back in 1982 when EPCOT first opened. Guests today want things (like news and entertainment) to find them in increasingly personalized ways. Nearly everyone has a device in their hand that can give them access to the entire world’s entertainment. Disney has the chance to take advantage of both of those trends as they continue to develop EPCOT for the future.

All that said, rumors of big changes coming to EPCOT have been growing louder lately. First there were height test balloons spotted over the Universe of Energy pavilion. That’s usually a sign that some project is being considered for a space and Imagineering wants to make sure it won’t be spotted from other guest areas. Second, there have been some pretty clear signs that the Ratatouille attraction from Disney Studios over in Paris is being considered to add some capacity over on the World Showcase, in the France pavilion, naturally.

epcot-monorail

Then this weekend at the Destination D event, Disney Parks chair Bob Chapek announced that EPCOT was the next park to receive a “Major Transformation.” Chapek mentioned that the expansion would be Disney but would also stay true to the inspiration for the original EPCOT. For some diehards, that’s an impossibility, but I prefer to think that the spirit of EPCOT has become something intrinsic to what it means to be Disney.

At the minimum they need to address Future World. There are empty buildings that should be better utilized, Innoventions and Wonders of Life pavilion I’m looking at you, expansion plots still waiting to be explored, and some oddly dated theme park design in the center of it all. Let’s just say the potential for transformation is big.

A word of caution, we’ve heard this before. At the 30th anniversary, as a matter of fact. Hopefully this isn’t something they roll out every five years to excite the base. Apparently Chapek has asked the creative team to dream big on this one, so maybe it will ring true this time.

What do you think could fix EPCOT going forward? Do you think the changes required are extreme or could a few tweaks do it?