Walt Disney World has released new details about the World Celebration neighborhood of EPCOT, which will soon be home to CommuniCore Hall and Plaza, the reimagined core of Future World and scaled down festival center that was previously announced but shelved. This post shares new concept art, what the company is promising, and our commentary.
EPCOT is now unified with four neighborhoods, each speaking to important aspects of the world and its people: World Showcase, World Celebration, World Nature and World Discovery. These neighborhoods are filled with new experiences rooted in authenticity and innovation that take guests to new destinations, where the real is made fantastic in a celebration of curiosity, discovery and the magic of possibility.
The news of four “neighborhoods” in EPCOT are nothing new. Four years ago at the D23 Expo Parks & Resorts panel, the company announced the overhaul of Future World and flashed concept art on screen. Two years ago at the same event, Disney released new concept art and the above color-coded “map.” That map remains accurate since it was simply a colored overlay of the then-existing EPCOT. Last year at the start of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, the three new neighborhoods at the front of the park officially replaced Future World.
For a while, we’ve been in the dark about Walt Disney World’s current “vision” for EPCOT’s transformation, as plans were put on hold and changed without new concept art being released for World Celebration (known “lovingly” around these parts as the Giant EPCOT Dirt Pit™️). Today’s announcement sheds some light about what’s still planned for Epcot and what isn’t, along with new concept art for this area, now known as CommuniCore Hall & Plaza.
Here are new details from Walt Disney World about the EPCOT transformation, followed by our commentary…
- World Celebration will offer new experiences that connect guests to one another and the world around them.
- The EPCOT entrance plaza welcomes guests with open pathways and sweeping green spaces that beautify the entryway. Bridging the past, present and future of EPCOT is a new fountain at the base of Spaceship Earth with three majestic pylons. The entrance plaza also features new lighting and music, as well as flags flanking the fountain featuring six original EPCOT icons.
- Spaceship Earth transforms at night into a Beacon of Magic with new lights shining across the geodesic sphere’s reflective panels. These lights connect to one another in a symbol of optimism resembling stars in a nighttime sky.
- The new Connections Café and Eatery is home to a quick-service dining location as well as Starbucks coffee. With show kitchens and a variety of seating options, this new dining option encourages guests to connect with one another over food and drinks. Adding to the park’s rich legacy of original art displays, Connections Eatery features a hand-painted mural stretching more than 160 feet along the back wall, celebrating how food is cultivated around the world.
- Creations Shop is the park’s new retail location, replacing MouseGear. The store is inspired by Mickey Mouse and features a bright environment with large glass walls allowing sunlight to pour in. Artistic homages to Mickey are throughout the shop, including large murals.
- Adjacent to Creations Shop is a new-look Club Cool Hosted by Coca-Cola. Club Cool invites guests to taste drinks from around the world, bringing the global experience of Coca-Cola to life.
- In the future, there will be a new view of World Showcase from Dreamers Point behind Spaceship Earth. (Currently behind construction walls.)
- In the future, World Celebration will feature a new Walt Disney statue plus “natural environments and global design elements” filled with Disney things. (Currently behind construction walls.)
- In the future, this enchanted garden will be surrounded new merchandise and dining locations, along with a newly reimagined festival area that will be home to ever-changing events in a unique new environment. (Currently behind construction walls.)
- World Nature is dedicated to understanding and preserving the beauty, awe, and balance of the natural world. It includes The Land and The Seas with Nemo & Friends pavilions, as well as the forthcoming Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana.
- The Land pavilion film “Awesome Planet” showcases the beauty, diversity and dynamic story of Earth. The 10-minute show features in-theater effects and an original musical score from Academy Award-winning composer Steven Price.
- Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana will be the first Walt Disney World theme park experience featuring by Moana. This lush exploration trail will invite guests to meet and play with magical, living water. Water will have a personality of its own, helping guests learn how to protect the natural water cycle in a fun and engaging way. (Currently behind construction walls.)
- In World Discovery, stories about science, technology, and intergalactic adventure come to life.
- In an expansion of the Mission: SPACE pavilion, the new Space 220 Restaurant is a culinary experience offering the celestial panorama of a space station, including virtual daytime and nighttime views of Earth from 220 miles above the planet’s surface. Guests board a space elevator for a simulated journey to the Centauri Space Station, where they experience the “height of dining.” Once they arrive, guests enjoy meals and drinks while taking in views that are truly out of this world. Space 220 is operated by the Patina Restaurant Group.
- Opening May 27, 2022, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is the first “otherworld” showcase pavilion at EPCOT. The family-thrill coaster adventure starts in the Galaxarium, a planetarium-like exhibition that explores the similarities and mysteries of the formation of Earth’s galaxy and Xandar. Guests learn more about the technologies Xandar has to share – until Eson the Celestial arrives and guests must help the Guardians of the Galaxy save the universe on an intergalactic chase through time and space. The attraction is one of the longest fully enclosed coasters in the world, and each vehicle rotates 360 degrees to focus guests on the action, including the first reverse launch on a Disney coaster.
Now, let’s turn our attention to World Celebration, the focus of today’s announcements. Previously, the heart of World Celebration was going to be a multi-level festival pavilion, shown below in concept art from the D23 Expo over two years ago:
As you might recall, Disney announced that the Company would “take a difference approach” with the multi-level Festival Center, in World Celebration right as the reopening process started. This was originally announced at the last D23 Expo, with a variety of concept art released about the space. (For those skimming this post, the above concept art is NOT what is being built anymore.)
Here’s another angle:
This multi-level festival pavilion was described as follows: “the perfect place for live events, and the home base for Epcot’s signature festivals. It will provide a stunning elevated view of the entire park and an ideal spot to witness Epcot’s nighttime spectacular. This beautiful three-level structure will have one of the most remarkable architectural designs at any Disney park, featuring a plaza level, a middle expo level, and a park that sits in the sky on the top level.”
Below is the new concept art, from that same angle:
There are minor changes throughout, but the most noticeable ones are to the festival pavilion itself, which is noticeably less vertical.
Now called CommuniCore Hall, this space is a new outdoor multi-use facility and events space, bringing international festivals to the center of the EPCOT experience. According to Walt Disney World, CommuniCore Plaza and Hall will be the first fully purpose-built location with EPCOT festivals in mind.
CommuniCore Hall will feature a demonstration kitchen and mixology bar to extend the festival programming and allow Disney chefs to share their creations with guests.
It will also feature a new location called Mickey & Friends (not the parking structure) for guests to meet characters. Presumably, CommuniCore Hall is an indoor-outdoor space.
Turning out attention outside to CommuniCore Plaza, which is the outdoor space in World Celebration. This area will feature a large central planter based on the five-ring logo of EPCOT.
Radiating from that will be a variety of gardens, each having its own identity character, with the ability to change and amplify festival themes. At night, controllable lighting evolves based on the seasonal events and is further enhanced by the Beacons of Magic on Spaceship Earth.
The concept art above shows the way that the gardens in CommuniCore Plaza will change during the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays, for example.
This all looks very different than prior concept art. Previously, this area was going to feature natural environments, a wishing tree in an enchanted forest, and a story fountain playing Disney music. Unless that just isn’t mentioned for some odd reason (doubtful), it sounds like the story fountain is being replaced by the planter.
On the outdoor side facing CommuniCore Plaza, it’ll have an outdoor stage for concerts and performances during festival season, which is integral to EPCOT. This looks similar to what previously existed on the backside of the Fountain of Nations, except now at ground level and without as cool of a backdrop.
I don’t care what anyone says, this is definitely an upgrade from the Giant EPCOT Dirt Pit™️! Whether it’s an upgrade from the prior central spine of Future World is debatable, as is whether all of this is “worth” several years of construction walls and a torn up park. Nothing I see in the concept art leads me to those conclusions. Perhaps it’ll all present better in person.
Walt Disney World also released new concept art for Journey of Water inspired by Moana, pictured above. This is the first time the company has offered a look at the rough layout of this interactive exploration trail and water play area.
We actually just shared new Moana’s Journey of Water Construction Photos (as of early May 2022) so you can see for yourself how this attraction is taking shape.
A few things stand out from this announcement. First, what is not mentioned at all. That includes projects were already know were “postponed” indefinitely, like the Mary Poppins attraction and Spaceship Earth reimagining. The status of the Mary Poppins project remains unclear, as CEO Bob Chapek was asked about it in 2022 and gave an answer suggesting it might not be dead.
Additionally, the Spaceship Earth reimagining will need to be revived at some point, since there are overdue issues with the attraction that will need to be addressed in the not-too-distant future irrespective of the reimagining. The ride needs track work, among other things, and a lengthy refurbishment will be necessary within the next few years. If a year-plus closure needs to happen, it might as well include show scene updates.
Another surprise is that the Play Pavilion also is not included in the announcement. Post-reopening, this project has not been mentioned at all–neither as something that has been cancelled or is proceeding as planned. At first, our assumption was that Disney didn’t quite know how to handle the very hands-on pavilion with all playgrounds and interactive exhibits closed. That’s no longer an issue, so the continued silence around Play Pavilion is curious.
We have no clue what’s up with the Play Pavilion. Our understanding is/was that the project was pretty far along pre-closure, and would’ve had no issues making its planned opening date this year. However, the lack of anything official–or even rumors–makes us wonder whether this mothballed project will come to fruition, or will be “restored” to its status as a festival center.
Ultimately, I can’t say that I’m personally excited about CommuniCore Hall or Plaza. One reason I was previously on board with losing Innoventions and Fountain of Nations was because the multi-level festival pavilion looked incredibly ambitious, and architecturally compelling. Even though it wouldn’t have the same symmetry and clean look of Future World, it looked like a compelling addition.
This latest concept art looks like a knock-off of the previous core of Future World, with Innoventions replaced by a similar but incomplete building and Fountain of Nations replaced with a planter. About the only thing that’s an unequivocal upgrade is the lushness of the area. I’m no “tree expert,” but I feel like that could’ve been accomplished without this entire area engulfed in construction walls for several years.
News Source: Disney tourist blog