When EPCOT opened its doors in October of 1982, a vision of the future was opened to the public. Originally conceived of by Walt as a community of the future, his death marked the transformation of EPCOT into a theme park instead, which highlighted the innovations of the past as well as those for the future. Of course, many of the innovative ideas of the 1980s have been long surpassed, so Disney has decided it is time to wake up the dedication to the future that originated the re-conceived theme park and create whole new worlds.
Presented at the D23 Expo of 2019, these new ideas about how to present the now and future of our world include tie-ins to narratives and storytelling. As an example, the new Journey of Water at the World Nature section of the park will feature inspiration from the film Moana.
World Nature will include classic attractions such as The Land and The Seas with Nemo & Friends, but will focus on the environment and the beauty of the planet.
The World Discovery section of the park will create narratives related to space and the future of intergalactic travel, featuring Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. This planetarium style exhibit will feature both real and imagined realities in terms of the Earth’s galazy and the universe of the Guardians. The attraction will feature a new coaster that includes the first reverse launch on a Disney coaster ride.
Space 220 is a new restaurant that is going to feature space views and views of Earth from 220 miles above. Opening in the winter of 2020, this new restaurant will be attached the Mission SPACE. Meanwhile, the PLAY! Pavilion will open as Disney World begins its 50th anniversary in 2021 and provide a host of digital and virtual games and experiences.
However, EPCOT, which stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, is not abandoning its iconic Spaceship Earth, which stands in the center front of the theme park in the shape of a geodesic sphere. The ride inside the sphere is getting a facelift with new storytelling and speculation about the hope of future technology. However, this means that the ride will be closed starting in the early part of 2020 and not reopen again for more than two years.
There is no doubt that the ride was dated, but the closure of this iconic ride will have an effect on those going to the park during that time. With all the innovations being put into the new EPCOT, including a strong nod to Mary Poppins in the United Kingdom pavilion of the World Showcase, there is no doubt that the expectations will be high.
Disney has long depended on nostalgia as a way to continue to bring in guests to the parks. However, they are smart to use ideas that appeal to new generations to create new levels of nostalgia that will last multiple lifetimes. The world has changed dramatically since the World of Disney was a Sunday night feature (as it was in my house), which means that Disney must change with the growth of new ideas about what constitutes nostalgia. They also must be willing to renovate their future predictions to match those predictions that came true, while also making new predictions about human life in the future.
However, there is one thing that is likely to continue – Disney will be a part of the world of imagination and innovation that drives popular culture into the future. They will maintain their nostalgic appeal through smart decisions concerning renovation of their parks. The new streaming service that is coming on November 12 indicates the dedication that the company has to being a part of the future and not just dedicating itself to the memories of the past.
I and others in my generation will likely miss many of the things that made EPCOT – then again, I do watch Moana on occasion…I think I can grow to love the new inventions of EPCOT.