All photos by Alex Westcott
Since it’s apparently still there, we’ll take a walk around Epcot/EPCOT to see what is or isn’t going on.
It’s artsy because it’s tilted.
The (Taste of) Festival of the Holidays continues through the 31st, despite the printed literature indicating a December 30th end.
Ordinarily, what used to be called Holidays Around the World and is now the Festival of the Holidays would end on December 30th, and Epcot would see its busiest day of the year on December 31st, with the exclusive fireworks and countdown to midnight luring thousands of local visitors on top of the heaviest attendance from outside the state.
None of that will be happening this year, though you may not notice with the giant barge in the middle of the lagoon blocking most of the sightlines anyway. What’s across the water will always be a surprise now. Maybe they will put multiple Pavilions on a giant turntable and flip through them throughout the day. At 2pm, you’re in Caracas. At 4pm, you’re standing in the same spot, but now surrounded by St. Petersburg. Considering they haven’t actually added a new Pavilion in *checks watch* 32 years, the turntable thing is probably not in the works. We probably won’t get a single new Pavilion after years of “rumors” about Brazil, Puerto Rico, and others having interest. At the risk of losing what little credibility I have left, it took a couple of years of visiting Epcot before I could usually remember if Italy came before or after Germany. I suppose it’s always both depending on the direction you’re walking.
Wait times have been relatively reasonable at Epcot over the last month at the same time they’ve climbed higher at the other Parks. Here’s a look at Saturday’s chart:
With Saturdays being the busiest day of the week at Epcot, on average, this looks pretty good. It does remain slightly odd that Disney is willing to keep Epcot open until 10pm this time of year, at the same time the Studios continues to struggle with its much earlier 7pm closes. You can chalk it up to beer sales and capacity continuing to make the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow more profitable later in the night, but a lot of people are pounding Michelob Ultras an hour into the day over in Hollywood. You can’t really blame them as they stand in an extended queue outside for Muppet*Vision at 10:45am.
Here’s a look at waits there on the same day:
The average wait across the attractions is 60% higher at the Studios on the same date, even on Epcot’s busiest day of the week, and one the Studios’ less crowded days. Waiting 40 minutes per attraction across ten attractions at the Studios will cost you 2.5 hours longer in line than getting in ten lines at Epcot, on average. But Disney rarely budges on the Studios’ standard 10am to 7pm day. Even the 9am opens that we see now around the holidays are an unusually early start to the day.
Unfortunately, our older data is somewhat useless with Disney constantly making changes to capacity and operations. Waits appear lower at the Studios than they might have a couple of weeks ago, but that’s largely due to the fact that they now load every row on Slinky Dog and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, which almost doubles capacity on those attractions and reduces wait times by about 40%. As Disney increases the number of Park Passes they allocate with to coincide with the capacity increase, waits will inevitably go up as there are more people to fill those newly-available seats.
We will have to rearrange our attraction priorities based on the differing capacities causing waits that are quite different than the FastPass+ days prior to the March closure. Modifications to increase the number of people in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon probably aren’t possible and they haven’t been able to figure out how to increase the capacity of the elevators on Tower of Terror as most fall with about a third of the potential seats full. Those two rides now see longer waits than Slinky Dog or Runaway Railway. That would have very much not been true most days five weeks ago. Both Slinky and the Railway averaged more than 80 minutes before the capacity increases. Now, the Railway’s average is almost half of Smugglers Run, rather than the 20 minutes longer that we would have seen as recently as the middle of November.
On the Epcot front, Frozen used to average more than 70 minutes most days, but waits there have dropped in half with Disney evidently filling every row on the boat ride. That puts Test Track back on top as the clear priority. Even Soarin’ had a longer average than Frozen on Saturday, which I don’t think has happened since the Park reopened in July. So we’re still very much in flux.
As far as touring strategy goes, we probably don’t need to change our approach at Epcot too much. Doing Test Track first continues to make the most sense if you arrive an hour before the Park is officially scheduled to open and quickly scoot over there. Otherwise, riding last thing will result in the lowest wait possible. And you won’t spend that 30 to 50 minutes in line when you could be doing something else with the Park open. Like try to look around the barge. Over at Frozen, with 35 minutes posted most of the day, the actual wait is likely closer to 25. So there’s now much more opportunity to get over there and not suffer a 70+ minute wait, even earlier in the day. Of course, that will change if Disney increases Park Pass allocation and the demand is there to fill a lot more spots.
We’ll hop onboard while we’re here since Spaceship Earth is posting five minutes. It turned out to be about two:
We still haven’t received word on when the announced overhaul of Spaceship Earth will begin. Or if it will at all. Disney first announced that the refurbishment would start in late May of this year and continue for about 18 to 24 months. Disney may have realized that Guardians of the Galaxy and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure will be enough to drive interest without needing to spend the money to switch things up around here. Spaceship Earth is fine as is as far as I’m concerned, and they would really need Spaceship Earth open alongside Guardians to help gobble up what will be a big increase in demand. We may simply see new narration.
The future is apparently in plywood as Disney basically tore down the Ellen’s Energy Adventure building without actually removing the framework. Nothing instills confidence quite like colored duct tape indicating which pieces of metal are most likely to buckle under the weight of the roof.
The ride track is is reportedly ready to go inside with cast being pulled from other positions for vehicle testing in the near future. There’s obviously a lot of work to be done with the façade and interior effects.
Disney has not publicly acknowledged the potential existence of the PLAY! Pavilion in months as far as I know. Considering it’s basically an elaborate setup for character meets, and there are no traditional character meets currently available, it may make some sense that they don’t have a lot to say about something that they’re also not sure when it will open or what it will ultimately look like when it does. But you’ll have Test Track, Mission: SPACE, and Guardians all in the vicinity, which are all Disney thrill rides that some younger kids will either be too short to experience or not want to ride. Disney needs somewhere close by for the tykes.
But nobody has seen inside what is slated to become the PLAY! building, while Disney has made multiple updates with pictures inside the Guardians and Remy buildings. If they’re not going to do the Festival Center over the now-flattened Fountain View Starbucks/Character Spot, they may move it permanently back to the old Wonders of Life Pavilion and send the characters back out around the Park. Then again, we may still see a detailed announcement and there’s just 19 more Star Wars stories set within The Mandalorian timeline coming to Disney+ that they still need to announce first.
More low crowds as we look towards Mission: SPACE and what should be the entrance to Space 220 beyond the walls on the right. I really think they should go with a countdown, so we know how close the restaurant is to opening. It’s even themed to a rocket launch. Space 217….Space 216….the restaurant was supposed to be open at this time last year, but ran into a multitude of problems, including their head chef leaving. He probably made the mistake of visiting the Italy booth during one of the Festivals and seeing what Patina, who will eventually operate the restaurant, typically microwaves and serves guests for $10. I would go to Las Vegas too. Even if it was to be the Executive Chef of an Arby’s.
Epcot is probably the easiest Park to tour at the moment with the limited number of priorities. You’ll still need to dedicate two days to visiting to spend much time in the World Showcase and experience all of the attractions there and in Future World. We recently went through the motions and “did everything” in one day with shorter hours and higher waits. You can find the end of that series here, which will link you all the way back to the start of the day and walk you through how you want to go about things.
The basic strategy is to spend the beginning of the day in World Showcase, where crowds are lower earlier in the day. Then move down to Future World in the late afternoon when the crowds will begin to naturally migrate up to World Showcase. If you start with Test Track and then head into World Showcase on the Canada side, the wait for Frozen may even be short enough by the time you arrive that the wait will be around 20 minutes to experience it. I’d wait the time rather than having to trudge back at some point. It would be easier/more-streamlined to start the day at Frozen, but Test Track is so unreliable that you’ll probably want to ride it first if you arrive in time to experience a short wait and it’s actually operating first thing, which is far from a guarantee. I probably wouldn’t try to race up to Frozen immediately after Test Track, because the line may already be longer than it will be for most of the day, but it’s more viable now with the increased capacity.
Speaking of Test Track’s downtime at open, we can take a look at the wait time chart from the last month to see how often it happens:
With the variable opening times, it’s more difficult to pinpoint which days saw downtime first thing. But it looks like a pretty solid month of operation, even if the ride did go down at some point during the day on 22 of the last 31 days or so. It looks like the ride was down within 15 minutes of Park opening on three days, or a little less than 10% of the time. Uptime at the end of the night also looks good. And all three of the days where the ride either didn’t open with the Park or closed shortly after happened over a five day span at the end of November. So there was something going on that Disney fixed.
Also remember that the wait time chart doesn’t capture the shorter waits when the Park is open earlier than advertised. On the busiest of days, which would be around now, I’d expect to see the parking lot open an hour early. On busier days, it’s usually 45 minutes early. On less busy days, the Park usually lets the first guests inside around 30 minutes before open. Most of the major rides should be open and the waits will be shorter than the longer waits of the day that you see in the first cell of each chart.
Construction/demolition continues around the hole in the middle of Future World as the proposed Festival Center has been downgraded to an “area.”
There are fewer walls around, at least, as these restrooms recently reopened near Test Track:
It certainly looks like a (pink) retro version of the future. If you can’t have the George Jetson aesthetic at least we can take you back to the ’70s. A lot of people probably thought they were in the future during that time for one reason or another.
The Moana “Journey Through Water” walkthrough attraction is officially still happening. There probably won’t be a whole lot to it, but it may depend on what Home Depot has in stock in the garden section whenever they get over there.
They’ll have to do something with the space they’ve created by clearing the Innoventions buildings, particularly if a multi-story Festival Center doesn’t materialize. You would think you could put on a pretty classy, pretty expensive dessert party up on the roof of the proposed building that would pay for the construction in short order. A spread of hors d’oeuvres and sparkling wine would be $125 a night, easy. But the building may be too far back or the sightlines weren’t what they were expecting.
If Disney does end up downgrading the Festival Center plans significantly, the walls should come down that much sooner. Walls should be almost completely down in the front of the Park in the next few days with the fountain just about complete in front of Spaceship Earth. The walls here to the left of Temporary Mouse Gear should be around for a couple of years as Disney rebuilds Original MouseGear and freshens Electric Umbrella up, potentially to a new concept, in addition to building a permanent spot for Starbucks and whatever else they end up fitting in here.
For the foreseeable future, you’ll still be routed around Spaceship Earth either via the left walkway towards Test Track or the right walkway towards The Seas as you enter from the main entrance. But at least you won’t be walking around walls immediately after stepping foot in the Park and dodging them for the first several hundred feet. It wasn’t exactly the warmest welcome.
In the next Part, we’ll check out some subtle and not so subtle overlays in the Imagination and Land Pavilions and see what’s happening in World Showcase.