Our attention turns to Epcot, where a great number of construction projects, refurbishments, and wall rearrangements continue. Fortunately, outside of the Park, conditions have improved with the completion of the new tram loop. Previously, walls would have caused us to have to circle around to the far left side to go through bag check over there, which would take another three or four minutes of walking.
Some amount of work continues with the planters on the tram loop pickup side opposite of where we’re standing.
Here we are looking back in the opposite direction early in the morning.
Here’s a look at the same area from later in the day, with the tram loop ahead and the walkway up to the monorail rising above.
Moving the tram loop a little farther away from the entrance means that there is no longer any sort of crosswalk situation here.
Previously, you might remember that we’d have to cross the street over to the parking lot side with the tram potentially rolling through at any moment.
The newer bag check lanes seem to flow better than the previous setup, though there’s still an abrupt left that you’ll need to make to get to the Park’s entrance. Once the Guardians of the Galaxy ride debuts next year, you wonder if all of these bag check stations will need to be open before 8am as people flock to the newest attraction.
Anyone arriving early and parking close to the front will appreciate the lack of construction walls out there. Those taking the tram will probably appreciate not being dropped off over in the cast parking lot.
Green walls do line areas around Epcot’s entrance on the other side as work on Guardians of the Galaxy and the Play! Pavilion continues.
But the walls are not nearly as restrictive as they would have been as recently as last month. And in something like 20 months, we’ll probably be entirely in business.
At 7:45am, there’s only about a half dozen people waiting for the Park to open who don’t have early breakfast reservations. That’s them to the right of the a-frame sign up ahead.
The entire right side of the entryway into Epcot is walled off. That leaves just a handful of usable entry tapstiles.
We’ll see how that affects us in a series of posts next week covering Epcot touring strategy. We have a little less than a month before we have to figure things out at Disney’s Hollywood Studios all over again with the FastPass+ tiers changing and Smugglers Run joining the priority boarding ranks.
These walls lining the right side of the entryway extend down past the first fountain in front of Spaceship Earth.
The area on the left is now open with the planters that should play a major role in the entryway experience completed. The Leave A Legacy monoliths used to reside here.
PhotoPass Photographers near the entrance have had to get clever with the angles they use to take pictures with Spaceship Earth in the background instead of the walls.
Spaceship Earth is still slated to close for a major refurbishment sometime in the near future. According to Disney:
“The iconic Spaceship Earth will remain a voyage through time as the journey transforms to reflect the power of storytelling to unite the human experience. New narration and an entirely new musical score will focus on the moments and ideas that define our story. You will follow a magical “story light” that brings the entire experience to life in dynamic ways, giving each scene energy and beauty that ties the entire journey together.”
I think I would take the current, slow, dark omnimover attraction that teaches me about floppy disks and the origin of the harp over any of this new-age mumbo jumbo.
With Test Track closed for refurbishment through February 26th, it’s possible that we’ll see Spaceship Earth close very shortly after it reopens.
The refurbishment should take 18+ months and will put some strain on Epcot’s FastPass+ system and the Park’s overall capacity. At least we should only be four or five months away from Ratatouille opening in France.
With Spaceship Earth closing, and the need for walls all around the massive structure, Disney is building a number of bypasses. This one is just past what is now Pin Traders and the Camera Center.
Later in the morning, the crowd waiting for rope drop will stretch back far past this walkway. Those with pre-opening breakfast reservations will use the path to get around that crowd and be able to make it to Garden Grill or Akershus Royal Banquet Hall.
Currently, you can still walk straight through underneath Spaceship Earth and into the rest of Future World, but that will likely change with the ride’s closure.
With our Garden Grill reservation, we’ll be heading through the bypass.
With so much being removed, I wonder how long it will be until most of us can’t even remember what used to be here. Who needs to wax poetic about Horizons when you have the loss of the Innoventions West bathrooms on your mind.
We’ve got a straight shot that will set us in the area outside The Seas Pavilion with Nemo & Friends.
Here’s a look in the opposite direction at where the bypass starts. The blue building will also be in the next picture.
Looking back, there it is in blue with Spaceship Earth looming large.
Now out of the bypass, we’re outside The Seas Pavilion with the entrance to the Coral Reef Restaurant ahead on our left. To the right, behind the walls, should be the location of the “Journey of Water.” “Inspired by Moana, [this] will be the first experience inspired by the hit Walt Disney Animation Studios film. This lush exploration trail will invite you to meet and play with magical, living water. The water will have a life of its own – just like Moana’s friend, the ocean – and you’ll learn about the importance of the natural water cycle.”
The Seas and Land Pavilions will eventually make up the World Nature “neighborhood” – assuming they’re still standing, of course.
Speaking of The Land Pavilion, inside you’ll find the new “Awesome Planet” attraction.
We’ll take a better look at it on our touring day, but like the Circle of Life film that preceded it, the show is a good way to get off your feet for ten minutes if you have the time. It’s unlikely to change your life, unless you use the content as a catalyst to talk to your in-laws about climate change.
Zooming out, walls line the walkway down from The Land.
Behind the walls, there’s a lot of dirt being moved around.
The walls stretch over to the left, near the Imagination Pavilion.
You might remember that this portion of the old Innoventions West building was used as a temporary Character Spot meet and greet location with Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy. The temporary location closed earlier this month.
With the old location closing a couple of months before that.
What is known as the “Innoventions West Breezeway” is where you’ll still find a set of FastPass+ kiosks.
There’s a little sign up on the left indicating so. Speaking of forgetting what made up Old Epcot, I wonder how many people remember needing to visit a FastPass+ kiosk in order to book additional FP+.
The meet and greet with Joy/Sadness and Baymax also permanently closed earlier this month. It’s more difficult than you might expect to explain where these FP+ kiosks are located considering everything around them is closed.
You may or may not have noticed that the arrow on the right is actually pointing to the MouseGear store on the opposite side of Future World.
Soon, we’ll probably need a bypass for this area as you can see the demolition creeping over farther and farther towards the rest of what was Innoventions West.
With those closures, we see some additions over at the Imagination Pavilion. Basically, Mickey now meets in the lobby of the Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival and Joy meets individually across from the Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope meet.
Here’s the setup inside after you walk past the small gift shop.
Unfortunately, Sadness no longer meets at Walt Disney World. Baymax also no longer currently meets guests. It’s possible that both will appear again over at the Play! Pavilion, which will open in place of the Wonders of Life/Festival Center on the other side of Future World, likely next year.
Waits for Joy in Imagination Land hover around 10 to 20 minutes most of the day.
She meets from 9am to 7pm. Before 10am, I’d expect to wait just a minute or two. Once Journey into Imagination begins pumping a thousand or more people per hour through the ride and into the ImageWorks exit where she meets, lines can get a bit more backed up.
But it seems like adding another character in here has shortened the lengths of the lines for both sets of meet and greets. People tend to choose to wait for either Joy or Ralph/Vanellope, instead of settling on just the Wreck-It Ralph characters.
Since there are two of them to interact with, waits for Ralph/Vanellope are typically one-and-a-half to two times longer than Joy given the same number of people waiting.
That’s a big reason why you rarely see character couples.
There’s also the whole two characters/two paychecks thing.
Ideally, I’d be over here to meet the characters before 10am or after 6pm to minimize waits, keeping in mind that the characters only meet through 7pm, which typically means you need to be in line by then. Here just after 9am, “literally” nobody is waiting for either character and the cast members are taking pictures of themselves.
This is the usual line for Joy around 4pm. There might be ten groups waiting, at most.
The line for Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope is a little longer at the same time, due in part to the fact that most interactions with the pair take longer. Still, you’re looking at 15 to 20 minutes at most.
ImageWorks also doubles as a gift shop, primarily focused on Figment merchandise.
Since a lot of the Festival of the Arts stuff revolves around Figment, you’ll find a collection of Festival items in here as well.
The stairs up to the DVC Lounge are also inside ImageWorks, just in case you’re looking for some free soda and wondering what socks the other DVC members are wearing that day. Up above is where you’ll find Mickey.
Mickey meets just inside these doors from 9am to 9pm through February 29th. Beginning March 1st, it’s likely that he’ll meet through either 6:30pm or 7pm as the Imagination Pavilion will go back to closing at 7pm after Test Track reopens.
Waits for Mickey Mouse are nearly nonexistent as there is no signage for him. The My Disney Experience app has his location and meet and greet times, but there’s no word on DisneyWorld.com.
He does appear on the Times Guide.
Anyway, this is a rare opportunity to meet Mickey in his classic outfit and a basic starry backdrop.
Next door, the Disney Visa Card Meet and Greet is open from 1pm to 7pm daily. All you have to do is flash your card and your group will gain admittance.
Inside, you’ll meet some combination of Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Pluto. Waits are typically shortest after 5pm, though waits longer than 20 minutes are rare earlier in the day. If you’re interested in the Visa meet too, then you might plan on heading over to the Imagination Pavilion between 5pm and 7pm, when the characters will have shorter waits and everything will be open.
From the map outside the building, you’d have no idea that any of these meet and greets exist.
As far as other displaced Character Spot characters are concerned, Minnie Mouse now meets in World Showcase in the gazebo where Duffy met for a time.
She meets from 9am to 8:30pm, typically to 15ish minute waits. Norway is the only Pavilion open on this side of World Showcase before 11am, so waits before then are typically short to nonexistent. If you’re headed to the Frozen Ever After ride before most of World Showcase opens at 11am, then you might elect to get in line to meet Minnie on your way back to Future World.
A couple of other displaced characters move to makeshift meet and greet areas. Goofy is up here near the old Art of Disney Store.
Art of Disney has closed with some of the art moving over to what was Heritage Manor Gifts next to The American Adventure.
Goofy is stationed here from 9am through 8:30pm, typically to 10- to 15-minute waits.
You may also run into him on the bridge over to France in World Showcase, along with a couple of other characters lining the walkway down to the International Gateway entrance/exit. With more people arriving via the Disney Skyliner, it seems like Disney has been putting more characters out along that walkway into the Park. A lot of the time, that area is used for character training, which may also be part of it.
Pluto continues meeting near the main entrance on the right side.
In what is still called Legacy Plaza West. Officially, he meets from 9am to 12:15pm and 1:25pm to 3:55pm.
The tear down of what was Club Cool and Fountain View Starbucks is basically complete.
Since these pictures were taken earlier in the week, the last of the framework has been taken down.
There’s a look at what was left of the frame of the building that ran to where Character Spot had been housed for years.
Behind the walled-off area, a number of tents have gone up for Festival of the Arts.
The Pop Gallery, Thomas Kinkade Studios, and more are over here with the last bits of Club Cool still standing just behind the tents.
Here’s a look at the construction walls from behind the tents as they circle around the old Innoventions area.
Fortunately, there are still plenty of opportunities to take some picturesque shots.
In the next post, we’ll take a look at more Festival of the Arts stuff and move over to Future World East to see what’s going on over there.