January 4th was the first day of Soarin’s six-ish month refurbishment that should see the attachment of a third theater, in addition to some slight changes to the location and look of the ride’s entrance, new queue enhancements, new projectors, and new bathrooms among other things. The website would be surprised if the ride reopens with anything other than the current California-centric film. For those visiting Epcot over the next few months, Soarin’ obviously isn’t going to be available, but other operational changes are also in store.
First and as previously reported, Mission: SPACE is a Tier 1 FastPass+ selection during Soarin’s closure. Test Track is obviously still the highest priority and will not be available as a 4th FP+ selection unless you luck into a cancellation. Mission: SPACE as a Tier 1 may see some availability as a 4th selection, though time will tell how many slots are typically available come noon.
Second, Living with the Land, Circle of Life, Journey into Imagination with Figment, and Disney Pixar Shorts will continue operating through regular Park close daily. These attractions used to close at 7pm unless evening Extra Magic Hours were scheduled. Ellen’s Energy Adventure and Innoventions East will close at 7pm as usual. The Disney Visa Meet and Greet continues to run from 1pm to 7pm in Innoventions West and Baymax meets from 9am through regular Park close and is also available during morning and evening Extra Magic Hours.
Third, Sunshine Seasons will operate from just 11am-7pm. It used to offer breakfast and operate through Park close. I had mentioned that there was some question as to what Soarin’s closure would do to Living with the Land wait times and how many people would traverse the hill up to the Land Pavilion with Soarin’ closed. It appears that on one hand, Disney doesn’t expect enough people to visit to sustain Sunshine Seasons’ massive operation, at least in the evening. On the other hand, the company is willing to run a couple relatively inexpensive attractions for a couple extra hours in hopes that plants will appease those soured by the closure of one of Epcot’s two most popular rides. Anyway, the point here is don’t try to eat dinner at Sunshine Seasons after 7pm.
Note that these changes aren’t set in stone. We may well see Sunshine Seasons operating later into the evening over Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend, Presidents Day, Easter, etc. Disney may realize that nobody visits Living with the Land after 8pm and end the ride’s operation earlier. Time will tell.
This is what wait times looked like on January 4th:
There isn’t a whole lot of interest here as we’re now after the holiday rush and Epcot was the most recommended Park, as it usually is on Mondays. Living with the Land wait times are below average compared to a day with the same number of people in the Park with Soarin’ operating. So it does appear that Soarin’s closure will push fewer people to the Land Pavilion, rather than a similar number of people arriving at the Land Pavilion to ride Soarin’ only to find it closed and instead ride Living with the Land. FastPass+ also sends more people in the ride’s direction as it’s designed to do. The fact that the ride is open an extra two hours may also help. Remember that the greenhouse sections are kind of spooky in the dark and it’s worth experiencing later at night for a slightly different “feel” than your usual sunlit jaunt.
It’s potentially a little early to make any definitive statements on Mission: SPACE wait times as we only have one day to consider thus far. But it looks like the attraction’s wait times increase a little faster in the morning than they had previously. It would make some sense as day-of Test Track FastPass+ are unlikely to be available at all. I looked up Test Track FP+ availability for January 5th on the evening of January 4th and while the website originally indicated availability, there was actually no inventory once it came time to actually book the Test Track FP+. So with people being forced to choose between Mission: SPACE, Living with the Land, and IllumiNations, you’ve potentially got more people selecting Mission: SPACE first thing in the morning, which in turn pushes up wait times. But other than a few random and probably entirely inaccurate triple digit wait times in the afternoon, the ride is 20 to 30 minutes almost all day and drops to 15 minutes or less for the 90 minutes heading towards Park close. It’s really not much different than days last year when Soarin’ operated under similar crowd levels.
Test Track will likely see a slight bump in wait times, though few people are going to re-ride when the wait is 60+ minutes, which means what would otherwise be a 70 or 80 minute wait will now be an 80 or 90 minute wait. It may well push up single rider wait times as people look for something…anything…else to do at Epcot that isn’t a Bud Light or Frozen -themed cupcake.
Nothing to see at The Seas with Nemo or Turtle Talk, which also continue operating after 7pm to little fanfare. The website’s usual recommendation is to hit Future World from 9am-11am, visit World Showcase once it opens, and then return to Future World after 5pm when most people are looking at dinner and IllumiNations. You could push that back a bit later with the later closes at The Land and Imagination. Or Future World is an even better choice to visit after an afternoon break with more attractions continuing to operate after 7pm.
Overall, there aren’t a lot of meaningful changes other than the obvious. We’ll take a more thorough look at touring strategy with Soarin’ shuttered next week.