We pick things up at Test Track after Part One, which covered what you can expect to see from the current round of construction as you enter the Park, along with an overview of the rope drop experience, whether you’re headed to Test Track, Soarin’, Frozen Ever After, or what have you. It’s 8:58am as I approach Test Track after a pretty chill walk over from the main entrance. Since we’re free to walk at our own pace, we don’t suffer from the crowding issues that you’ll encounter at the other Parks if you’re headed to Slinky Dog Dash, Flight of Passage, or Seven Dwarfs Mine Train first thing. The fact that people are heading to three different directions also helps as about half the people at rope drop are headed to Soarin’ and Frozen, with the other half headed to Test Track.
Test Track is the least forgiving of Epcot’s rope drop destinations. By the time I’m done experiencing the ride, at 9:20am, the wait is going to be 60+ minutes, versus about ten minutes at Soarin’ or Frozen at the same time of day. That’s potentially another reason to consider using FP+ at Test Track. I arrived at the Park entrance at 8am, so you would be wise to point out that I’ve actually waited an hour for the ride, even if none of that was during Park operation. My early arrival allows me to move quickly through my first ride and then experience short waits at a variety of attractions thereafter. If I arrived at the gate at 9am and got to Test Track at 9:10am, then I’d wait an hour to ride and waits at other attractions would already be on their way to becoming prohibitive. At Epcot during the summer, that’s a little less true with some of the lowest crowds of the year. But being able to walk on Test Track, versus spending an hour waiting in line from 9:10am to 10:10am, seems positive.
One important trick to consider at Test Track is the single rider line first thing in the morning. Everyone going into standby or FastPass+ will have to walk the lengthy queue and then go through the design stage, which takes about five minutes. There is no design stage for single riders, so they’ll head right through the shortened queue and into the loading area, where there won’t be anyone waiting from standby or FP+ because they won’t have made it through the vehicle design process yet. This will shorten your experience time considerably and should allow guests to ride together. Single rider is also a good choice if you’re running behind and find yourself at the back of the pack heading to the ride first thing. Occasionally, single rider won’t be available at Park open, for whatever reason, so it’s not exactly a foolproof plan. But most of the time, it will reduce your wait, and if you arrive with the main group heading into standby and FP+ you’ll be able to ride together.
There go the smartest guys in the room through single rider.
While I’ve reliably fallen behind, in part because I’m slow, and in part to offer a more realistic look at what you can accomplish yourselves, it’s still largely a straight shot to the pre-show area.
I was about four people too late to enter the first design stage of the day.
Is it art?
In the next room, you’ll find a single tiny concept vehicle instead of the engines we used to see. It’s always funny when you point at it and say, “It needs to be at least three times bigger!”
That kid has some hands on him.
There’s nobody waiting in single rider at 9:10am and you’d be able to ride almost immediately after getting in line. At this point, you’d definitely be split up, though. I ended up waiting about three minutes to enter the design stage. And then about three minutes in the next room:
There’s a 90% chance that you’ll be sitting next to a blogger on Test Track these days, as the ride provides an interesting backstage look at construction on the Guardians of the Galaxy roller coaster. But that percentage may now be closer to 88.6% or 89.2% since the building is now enclosed and it’s basically invisible since it’s painted blue.
This is the shot I came away with myself.
This is also the shot I managed to get of the Space Restaurant next door.
At 9:20am, Test Track’s standby queue spills outside.
And you’d be looking at a 60ish minute actual wait. At the same time, both Frozen and Soarin’ are posted at just ten minutes each.
What we’re still referring to as “The Space Restaurant” is somehow slated for a 2019 opening. According to Disney, “this new restaurant will take you into outer space for incredible dining experiences that are ‘out of this world,'” which is just about as generic of a description as you could make for a concrete orb that’s flat on top, just like the planet that we live on.
“The Space Restaurant” will be operated by Patina, the same restaurant group behind Via Napoli and Tutto Italia at Epcot, in addition to a flurry of restaurants at Disney Springs, including Morimoto Asia, Enzo’s Hideaway, and The Edison. The experience actually sounds kind of neat, beginning with transportation “into space” before guests will head through the 1,000+ bottle wine cellar and into the tiered restaurant, which should seat about 400 guests.
It’s located between Mission: SPACE and Test Track with Test Track’s exterior…track…just a handful of feet away from the restaurant’s walls. My estimation is that we won’t see a lot of exterior theming.
The restaurant’s entrance will actually be through what may or may not still be called the Space Pavilion, which is probably why we won’t see a lot of theming on the Test Track side. “Another restaurant” wouldn’t have been the first box I would check on a list of what Epcot needs, but it sounds like a unique concept. Dining at Disney World may be less about “great food” and more about “memorable experiences.” Obviously, both is better and hopefully Patina will bring quality more like Morimoto Asia than Enzo’s Hideaway to outer space.
Above is also the scene outside Mission: SPACE at 9:22am. If I had other plans for Soarin’, then I’d ride SPACE now, especially if I was planning on doing the Orange/Mars side. With the incredibly low crowds, I probably still could, but the experience will take about 20 minutes, even with no initial wait. That would put my arrival at Soarin’ closer to 10am than 9:30am, which is too late given heavier crowds. I usually try to key in on days with above average crowds for these rope drop touring posts because it gives a clearer look at just how much our efficient touring benefits us, but that isn’t really possible during the summer at Epcot. Even something like July 4th is pretty dead until World Showcase in the evening.
Mission: SPACE is really the only other attraction on this side of the Park at the moment, though we do enjoy another run-in with the Jammitors. At least this time there isn’t a rope keeping us from escaping.
Colortopia is all that remains inside Innoventions East, which is slated to close on September 8th, 2019. You’d hope that Glidden, the PPG-operated sponsor, got a discount on their attraction.
The SpectacuLAB opened quietly at some point in the past and closed even more quietly shortly thereafter. It was brought by “muRata,” a company that I was unfamiliar with before the attraction arrived and remain unfamiliar with after the closure. But if you’re in the market for some ceramic passive electronic components, “muRata” may be it.
Sum of All Thrills is long gone, of course. I miss the simulator, but its closure did make morning touring easier. The capacity was so low that you wanted to get over here pretty quickly, which complicated things a bit since we’re trying to beat the crowds to the secondary attractions like The Seas with Nemo and Journey into Imagination, too.
We’ll be playing a lot of “and this is closing too” as we move about the Park. Up ahead, Electric Umbrella and MouseGear will both close at an undetermined date. Both should reopen – MouseGear as a redesigned store that ideally won’t smell like poop in the middle anymore, and Electric Umbrella as a new dining establishment that may or may not retain the same name.
As the author who famously penned, “Review: HOLD THE PRESSES Electric Umbrella at Epcot Is Not A Bad Quick Service Option,” which had at least three people swear off easywdw.com for good, I’m actually a bigger Umbrella fan than you might expect.
A more recent review is available here as well.
With outdoor seating that included a beautiful view of the Fountain of Nations, which will also close on September 8th, and mobile order that eliminated the unpleasant wait to order food, Electric Umbrella might have even been a hidden gem. With just about six more weeks of operation, all of this is somewhat irrelevant.
I’m still not sure most of us have our heads around just how much construction is coming to Future World, as the Fountain View Cafe Starbucks will close later this year. The coffee outlet will likely move to the Odyssey Building as a new structure is built.
Club Cool, located next to Fountain View, is also slated for a September 8th closure.
Disney has stated that elements of Club Cool will return to Epcot in the future, hopefully not as a $35 Coca-Cola Experience.
Character Spot is also closing at the end of the day on September 7th, with the characters expected to make the following moves:
- Minnie Mouse to World Showcase Gazebo.
- Daisy Duck to American Adventure.
- Mickey and Goofy to temporary locations in the Innoventions West area, probably outside, with a permanent location in the Imagination Pavilion expected in the future.
- Joy (and Sadness?) should move, but we don’t yet know where.
- Baymax is expected to end his run.
Winnie the Pooh is expected to meet again inside Christopher Robin’s room in the UK Pavilion, at least.
We will hopefully receive some more clarity at this year’s D23 Expo with a presentation by our friend and yours, Chairman Bob Chapek, on Sunday, August 25, at 10:30am pacific time.
Thus far, most of Epcot’s construction has been relegated to the outskirts of the Park. Guardians of the Galaxy and the Play Pavilion are coming to the corner of Future World East. Ratatouille is being built behind France and Morocco. Even the entrance construction that we saw yesterday is going to be quickly forgotten after a couple of margaritas in Mexico. But the construction coming to Future World this fall, and probably persisting for a couple of years, is going to be much more evident with walls around the majority of buildings up and down Epcot’s spine. Fountain View Starbucks, Electric Umbrella, Fountain of Nations, MouseGear, Innoventions East, Innoventions West, Character Spot, Pin Central, and the Art of Disney will all at least temporarily be shuttered with some buildings seeing demolition. We’re embarking on what will likely be a pretty ugly 18+ months come the middle of September.
Another question that remains is how many of the buildings will be demolished and how many will simply lay empty. You might be able to argue that there isn’t really a reason to close either Innoventions building, whether they’re going to be replaced with planters or stand tall empty. Innoventions was always ripe for scientific exploration. Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos could have competing space exhibits. Universities could show off what they’re working on. Innoventions West is probably plenty big to hold just about everything that’s coming to the Play Pavilion, which we’ll discuss more in a future update. The Wonders of Life Pavilion could have been restored. Instead, we’re looking at empty spaces – pretty or not.
But the Park is as it has been for at least the last 10+ years at the moment, as we head through Future World at 9:24am. It’s pretty crazy that in less than six weeks, and just about an hour after Food and Wine gets underway, so much will be shuttered.
It takes eight to ten minutes to walk from Test Track to Soarin’, which is one reason why it’s not my favorite way to go about the morning.
But the Land Pavilion is indoors and air-conditioned, at least while it’s still standing.
“Rumors” that The Land and The Seas Pavilions would be demolished swirled around last month, but you’d think that there’s a 99% chance that we’ll still be walking up this hill to go back down the stairs to ride Living with the Land and Soarin’ in ten years’ time.
The Circle of Life attraction here closed back in February of 2018.
“Awesome Planet,” its replacement, remains “coming soon.” We may get an opening date at the D23 Expo in August, but I would imagine it will premier early next year. Even if Awesome Planet is five times more popular than Circle of Life, it still won’t be attracting a whole lot of people. We’ll see how awesome it is next year. “The Earth is Definitely Flat” is something I would go and see, though.
With the light crowds, things are pretty calm in the Land Pavilion at 9:28am.
Going on 9:30am, Soarin’ Around the World is still posted at just ten minutes.
Sometimes, and particularly early in the day, low posted wait times can actually work against us.
People are far more likely to get in a line if the posted wait is short, and sometimes that posted wait doesn’t have an opportunity to catch up with reality. One of my favorite guest behaviors is seeing the people rush towards a queue with a short posted wait, even if there’s nobody in front of them headed to the line. “HURRY UP DAD!” You’re not locking in the posted wait simply by passing underneath the sign when it says ten minutes.
Fortunately, it was a straight shot past the merge point with FP+.
And my total experience time should be just about as long as the ride would take with FastPass+ later in the day.
Soarin’ Around the World is in pretty rough shape. The screens are just about as dirty as they were in the Soarin’ Over California days with brown lines all the way up and down the surface. The CGI and skewed perspectives aren’t getting any better, either. Around the World has proven to be such a dud that Disneyland brought back the original California version this summer, and even extended the original end date to the end of August.
A similar attraction opened this month in Japan and they actually took out the Eiffel Tower scene.
Not great, Bob.
I never thought that I’d like to see the return of the California version, but I think most people would agree that it was superior to the current offering. The CGI is so blatant, especially during an attraction whose purpose seems to be showing the natural beauty of the earth. The world is an awe-inspiring place. Here’s Fake Tilty Taj Mahal to prove it!
Soarin’ took 24 minutes, which is right around the average amount of time you’re looking to spend with FP+. First thing in the morning, you can probably shave about ten minutes off that time with a shorter wait leading up to the pre-show. The posted wait is up to 15 minutes, which is about half of the average for this time of day.
The current line of merchandise is pretty sharp.
Some bomber jackets that the kids will quickly grow out of.
Maybe they could provide some goggles that will fix the perspective issues.
If you’re going to request a row on any ride, it should be Soarin’, where you want to be in the top row of the middle section, which is B1. You can request that row from the cast member just before the pre-show video. They will likely roll their eyes at you, and you will probably have to wait for the next cycle, but it’s worth it.
The distortion is far less prevalent and you won’t have other people’s feet dangling in your face.
So far, things are going swimmingly with Test Track and Soarin’ both completed in the first hour of Park operation. We’ll be able to walk right on Living with the Land next.