There has been a persistent rumor flying around the Disney blogosphere. An air of dread for some, of cautious optimism for others: intellectual properties replacing Epcot's own special brand of edutainment, killing the "edu" part of that wonderful portmanteau. Now, with the arrival of the Guardians of the Galaxy to replace Ellen's Energy Adventure, some fear that nightmare is coming true... but with how little we know, is it really the disaster we're all afraid of?
I am a child of the turn of the millennium Epcot. While I do remember the old "golden age" of no characters in the park, my experience as a persistent passholder began around the time of the Millennium Celebration. The (tacky, in my humble opinion) 2000 Mickey hand hovered over Spaceship Earth; the monolithic Leave a Legacy stones were first beginning to rise; Figment and Dreamfinder had just had their last voyages together in the park, with the disappointingly Figment-less "Journey Into YOUR Imagination" taking its place; but on the plus side, Tapestry of Nations, still high on my list of favorite Disney parades, was making its way around World Showcase; and, finally IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth was just starting its reign over the night skies of World Showcase Lagoon.
You may wonder what all of that has to do with anything. Well, I feel that Epcot, more than any other park, has a different "golden age" depending on who you ask. There are those that swear by Walter Cronkite Spaceship Earth, while I will argue strongly for Jeremy Irons; some will say that Horizons was the pinnacle of Disney's dream of the future, while I don't have enough of a memory to miss it as some do.
There has been quite a bit of talk about the new Guardians of the Galaxy attraction following the original goal and vision of Epcot. While I am skeptical, the idea suggested by the above image intrigues me. This new attraction sounds like it could be a love letter to the original Epcot that Peter Quill visited in his youth. Peter was taken from Earth in 1988, which means he never would have even gotten to see Body Wars open (1989). While it would be ideal to keep the edutainment factor with a story revolving around energy in all its various forms, if they don't manage that, I would at least like this to not just be some thrill ride with the hot IP of the moment - they have a unique opportunity with Peter Quill, a man who has the most rose tinted glasses of all time when it comes to 80's pop culture, to really celebrate old school Epcot. By the way, speaking of Body Wars, should I mention that was a thrill ride based on an IP that didn't exactly offer much in the way of education? No more than Mission: Space does, at the very least.
As I have said in past articles, realism has nothing to do with encouraging the dreamers and doers of tomorrow. There are astronauts heading to the International Space Station now who saw Star Wars as kids and dreamed of being Han Solo - now they're conducting experiments rather than smuggling spice for Hutts, but it was that super cool space fantasy that inspired them. That said, I repeat: I would really, really love if it was more than just a love letter and actually featured a bit of the education that would be part of the celebration of the past. After all, the MacGuffin of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was a sack full of stolen batteries. I remain cautiously optimistic at this one.
With that out of the way, let's hop over to World Showcase and look at another big announcement: Disneyland Paris's Ratatouille: The Adventure is coming to the France Pavilion. I feel like it's a really good fit and I am glad we're getting some of the cool new trackless attractions that other Disney parks around the world have been getting. Set in Paris, just like the film, it fits even better than Frozen Ever After into World Showcase (since it is not set in a fictional kingdom, like the aforementioned water ride, but I'll just have to Let It Go...) while still engaging young park goers that are less entertained by eating and drinking around the world.
My one concern is the location. From the concept art and description during the D23 panel, this seems like it will be a new area located behind the current France Pavilion, expanding it significantly. What I hope is that this doesn't mean we're going to be losing Impressions de France, because if anything, I'd love to see more travel films incorporated into World Showcase, giving people a more detailed look at the different sights one might see if they actually ventured around the globe rather than just seeing the tiny Disney version. I wouldn't mind if Impressions was updated to be more recent, though, as it is definitely a product of its time, no matter how much it may tout the "timelessness" of France.
Oh, did someone say updated travel films?
Because China is going to be getting a brand new 360 film - the first the will feature an uninterrupted 360 view, so that is something I am extremely excited to see once it is completed.
Speaking of spectacular visions that surround you... there will be a new Mission: Space restaurant opening, as well. The above image is pretty much all that we know about this, but it seems like a pretty cool addition to the park.
Mission: Space is also going to be getting new visuals, as well as a completely new mission for those who choose to go for the green, less intense version of the simulator. These changes are currently set to be in place around October 2017, but I haven't seen anything set in stone just yet.
With all of these updates, I truly hope that Epcot does stay on course, keeping up with its goal of education and entertainment, or at the very least inspiration to explore and learn more. With the exception of the Guardians attraction, which is a wild card, everything else seems to lean in the edutainment direction pretty solid... oh, did I mention the blue sky concept art?
What you are looking at is a possible future for Future World. I am not going to completely pick apart what everything could possibly mean in this blog post, but I will point out that the Innoventions buildings have been removed, making room for what appear to be very nice green areas. Since Innoventions has been languishing for years, I honestly think this might be a good way to use that space: open up the park a bit and breathe new life... and here's hoping that we see these changes trickle in slowly as they have already started to, because that concept art up there makes me pretty excited for the future of Epcot.
Until next time, everyone, stay magical!