Hot Take: Epcot, Are You Okay?
Updated: Apr 16
Let me preface this by saying I adore Epcot. There’s nothing quite like grabbing a margarita from Mexico and walking around the World Showcase. You can peek into gift shops and try new foods. It’s like a separate vacation inside of a vacation! And with attractions like Test Track, Spaceship Earth, Frozen Ever After, and Soarin’, there’s no shortage of thrills either. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out Epcot’s obvious identity crisis.
I’m in my twenties, so trust me I know what I’m talking about. Our dear Epcot is not to blame. Epcot has trouble knowing what it is because it was never built as Walt Disney intended it to be.
Epcot was Walt’s vision of an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, and it’s what excited him most about the Florida Project. The idea was to bring together the brightest people in the world to “live, work, and play.” Walt wanted to make a utopian city of sorts with state-of-the-art technology and modern urban planning that would be unlike any other living community to date.
Unfortunately, this idea fell by the wayside when Walt passed away in 1966. In order to become more marketable for tourists, but still pay tribute to Walt, Epcot would become a theme park representing a permanent World’s Fair. This resulted in the two current sides of the park: World Showcase and Future World. This is the Epcot that many of us grew up visiting, and it will always hold a special place in my heart.
But this version is also not quite right. A World’s Fair occurs every five years. Even though the theme is a “permanent” World’s Fair, it stands to reason that whatever was built would grow more outdated as the years passed. In order to mimic this cultural event, the park would have to be updated just as often. Sure, new pavilions were designed, but they were also abandoned due to a variety of cultural/financial reasons. It wasn’t until the D23 Expo in 2019 that major plans to reimagine Epcot were revealed.
Part of this involved adding Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure (RRA) from Disneyland Paris to the France pavilion, updating the story for Spaceship Earth, and adding a… prominent... barge in the lagoon for the new nighttime show, Harmonious (just look at the pictures and you’ll understand my pain).
The other, more extensive part, involved a complete overhaul of Future World. Three new areas would be built: World Discovery, World Nature, and World Celebration. The World Discovery “neighborhood” would include the new Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind attraction, a play area, and the Space 220 restaurant. World Nature would incorporate the existing Seas with Nemo and Friends/The Land areas and would add a walkthrough attraction called Moana’s Journey of Water. World Celebration would update the area around Spaceship Earth to include a Festival Center and a new entrance with more greenery.
All of this sounds great, but also familiar. What is World Nature if not Animal Kingdom? What is World Discovery if not Tomorrowland? These are ideas from other parks that complicate the already confusing identity of this park. And while the artist’s renderings of these additions look stunning, who knows what will actually manifest due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I would hate for Epcot to finally start to have some direction only to see key pieces left out due to (understandable) budgetary constraints.
Additionally, parents have also long complained that Epcot doesn’t cater to children. Similar to Disney Springs, Florida locals use Epcot as a hub for dinner and drinks. And thousands of tourists descend upon the World Showcase for the booziest ball of the season: The International Food and Wine Festival. So, Epcot doesn’t cater but is trying to now cater to kids, even though it’s primarily a theme more enjoyed by adults?
Clearly, there is still some cohesive element missing. I would also love to see Epcot expand with more pavilions to reflect some of the world’s most populated countries. There are many people who don’t see themselves represented in the World Showcase and that contradicts what this park is supposed to embrace: different cultures.
Is this the theme that will remain? We will have to see how much the reimagining changes the landscape of Epcot. I have complete confidence that the talented people at Disney will produce something magical. But will Epcot ever be certain of its identity? That is something I don’t have much faith in.