Epcot is probably a lot like your kitchen at home. You’ve wanted to remodel it for years, but you know it’s going to be expensive, disruptive, time-consuming, and ultimately, everything you currently have more or less works, even if it’s not the latest and greatest. Well, Disney has finally decided to take the plunge, and the renovation is going to be expensive, disruptive, and time-consuming. At the end of the day on February 15th, Electric Umbrella and the pin store behind Spaceship Earth closed, and Disney walled off the middle of the Park, requiring a variety of bypasses and temporary walkways to move about Future World. In this post, we’ll take a walk around the Park to get an idea about the sorts of things that we’re going to see over the next couple of years as Epcot’s transformation continues.
You can click any of these images for a larger version, which may provide more context and clarity than the standard 800 pixels across.
The good news is that what you’re able to do over the course of the day shouldn’t be impacted too much by the construction, even if you have to take some unfamiliar routes to get to your destination. The one exception, of course, is the eventual multi-year closure of Spaceship Earth. Its loss will mean a big decrease in daily FastPass+ inventory, which means it will be more difficult to get Tier 2 FastPass+ experiences, both in advance of a given date and on the day-of. Otherwise, the only major difference between this week and last is Electric Umbrella’s closure. You probably weren’t headed there for lunch anyway, and Disney has provided some alternatives that we’ll take a look at just in case you’ll die if you don’t have immediate access to theme park hamburgers.
From a touring perspective, the construction shouldn’t have a major impact either. Chances are, you’ve already decided where you’re headed first at Epcot. And if you haven’t, you probably want to do so before you arrive at this split in front of Spaceship Earth. The rope drop crowd is also now split, so you’ll want to be sure that you head in the correct direction first thing. It’s not exactly rocket science, but the route we take to get where we’re going will look quite different. We’ll return for rope drop after Test Track reopens in about ten days. Until then, exact morning crowd flow, and wait times later in the day, are largely meaningless, since the ride remains the Park’s most in-demand attraction. If you’re visiting over the next ten days or so, when Test Track is closed, then you can pull up this series of posts, which covers touring strategy with just Mission: SPACE and Temporary MouseGear open on that side of Future World.
At rope drop, I’d expect the side with Test Track and Frozen to be much more popular than the Soarin’ side. This is a picture of the crowd coming in for Frozen on Sunday, February 16th. Test Track will continue to be Epcot’s highest priority for at least the next couple of months. Speculating on Ratatouille’s effect on the Park is probably worthy of its own post. And even if it’s not, I need the pageviews.
Epcot’s arrival experience hasn’t changed much since our last visit, which is probably what we’re celebrating here.
The big change is that the pre-opening breakfast reservation line has moved to the very far right. Ahead, at 7:53am, you could be the first person at one of these available touchpoints, while 20 or more people are lined up behind each other next to the empty lines. We saw the same thing during our last visit. Tourists love a good line.
The lack of people this early in the morning isn’t necessarily surprising, but there are already ten or more thousand people waiting just a few minutes away at Hollywood Studios; Rise of the Resistance’s virtual queue system continues to drive unprecedented early morning crowds. Once Guardians of the Galaxy opens here, we’ll probably see the crowds arriving earlier, though it will probably look more like Animal Kingdom’s Pandora expansion than the pandemonium that currently surrounds Hollywood Studios.
If you’re coming in from the other side of the parking lot, then you can still go through security over there.
Work continues on what should be a permanent security structure.
Zoomed out, you may be able to get a better idea of the breadth of the work over there. This picture was taken from the ramp up to the monorail loading platform.
It wouldn’t surprise me if we see a variety of temporary snack and drink carts inside the Park in the near-term, but you’ll want to be aware that the Joffrey’s Coffee/Pastry kiosk is located outside of the Park at Epcot. There may not be an opportunity to grab a coffee or freshly-baked good in between the time that they let everyone into the Park around 8:30am, and the time that everyone is released to the attraction of their choice around 8:55am. At Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom, the Starbucks is located on the main drag leading into the Park, and both open and are accessible as soon as Disney begins letting guests inside. At Epcot, you’ll have to go all the way back to World Showcase to find the temporary Starbucks, where there will probably be a lengthy line. I’d stop by Sunshine Seasons for a coffee if you’re beginning your morning with Soarin’, at the Joffrey’s outside Temporary MouseGear if you’re beginning the day with Test Track, or the Joffrey’s kiosk on the walk towards Mexico if Frozen Ever After is where you find yourself first thing.
While the process of heading to the rope drop corral is a little different, the end result will be about the same. Rope drop was basically split between those heading to Soarin’ going right, and those going to Test Track heading left, long before any of these walls went up.
It’s as easy as that. Soarin’ to the right. Test Track or Frozen to the left.
Looking back at the monorail entrance behind this new signage, we have the western side of security on the left and the eastern side on the right.
The construction in the middle of the Park, past Spaceship Earth, probably wouldn’t “feel” quite so prohibitive if these walls weren’t also still up in front of the Park. Despite using a very wide lens, we can just barely see the end of the wall down to the right, where guests with pre-opening breakfast reservations are currently entering. The end of the wall down to the left is out of frame.
Epcot remains the easiest Park to rope drop, with only a hundred or so people on hand at 8am. There would be thousands waiting already for Flight of Passage at Animal Kingdom, Rise/Smugglers/Slinky at Hollywood Studios, and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom. This is the Sunday of Presidents Day Weekend, so it’s in the top 15% of the busiest days that the Park will see over the course of the year. We’re definitely going to see some people later in the day, but they aren’t waking up early to get here. You may want to plan an Epcot day after an early morning at Hollywood Studios for Rise of the Resistance. The Community of Tomorrow is much more forgiving.
We’ll start on the far right side of the Park, where you’ll enter with a pre-opening breakfast reservation. Later in the day, this area will change to an exit with Goofy and Pluto meeting separately ahead. We’ll see all three of things things at the end of this post.
Those with pre-opening breakfast reservations use this first bypass entrance on the right. Cast members are stationed all along here to help direct guests, and you can sort of see the red sign indicating what’s located over here at the tip of the arrow.
Basically, the area inside of the entrance on the right side is walled-off all the way to just before the entrance to Spaceship Earth. Disney removed the Leave a Legacy monoliths and is currently doing whatever it is that they do to build a couple of new planters in their wake.
Here’s a look at the same area, with the walls circling around up front.
We’ll start on the west side of the Park, where you’ll find The Seas, The Land, and Imagination Pavilions. The signage also advertises World Showcase, which will be relevant when Ratatouille opens in the France Pavilion in a few months.
The good news is that the walk to the Land Pavilion for Soarin’ is probably shorter than it was before, thanks to the Pythagorean theorem.
That’s the previous walkway over to the left.
Here’s the walled-off walkway, which would have recently led us past the Art of Disney Store before opening up to Fountain View Starbucks, Electric Umbrella, MouseGear, etc. All of those are closed.
So to the right it is.
This walkway is going to take us by Coral Reef Restaurant and eventually spit us out at The Seas Pavilion. The walls on the left are going to be the walls that we see on the right in the next picture as we turn around to face the opposite direction.
Yes, Coral Reef exists, even if it’s still obscured by that sign.
Soon, this area will be known as World Nature.
If you’re heading to Soarin’ at rope drop, then you’ll continue walking up and to the right. With the Future World breezeways closed on both sides, the FastPass+ kiosks have moved. You’ll see the set on this side ahead on the left, not too far from where they were originally located.
Slightly interestingly, the arrow directing us to Mission: SPACE is now pointing in the opposite direction of what we saw just a few steps before. You’ve got to go around this mess, whether you do it before you arrive at Spaceship Earth or after.
The good news is that once you get past that initial walled walkway, the meat of Future World West is basically the same. Soarin’, Living with the Land, Awesome Planet, and Sunshine Seasons are all still up in the Land Pavilion.
There is a wall in between the Land and Imagination Pavilions, with not much to see behind it.
That’s the wall with the butterflies on it in the distance underneath the monorail and above my oblong reflection.
But as long as you ignore that wall, this side of Future World remains relatively pristine.
And considering the large number of people taking pictures in front of the butterflies, the wall is actually one of the more popular attractions in the Park.
This wall on the left that used to circle the demolition of the old CommuniCore building now extends all the way to the other side of Future World, as the arrow so graciously demonstrates.
Construction should continue for a couple of years on this side; Disney is expected to build a new three-story Festival Center building with rooftop greenery space that I’m guessing will be just perfect for spendy dessert parties and pricey private events.
Something to look forward to.
Tents for Festival of the Arts, which concludes in about a week, are currently set up. The Flower and Garden Festival is coming up in a couple of weeks and these tents will probably convert over to something having to do with that. While you’re walking around the construction walls, you can cut through this marketplace area to save a minute or two of walking.
To get to the other side of Future World, you simply need to continue walking to that side.
Here’s a look at the middle of the Park, which is now walled off.
Here’s a look at people traversing the area later in the day.
The paint-by-numbers mural is part of the Festival of the Arts activities. It would be nice if the Flower and Garden Festival continued with it, perhaps with more of an earthy theme.
But we’ll probably see concept art of what’s coming instead. “You might not like what you see now, but we’re on the cusp(?) of $500/person rooftop parties!” Celebrate the good times. Come on.
Speaking of Flower and Garden, preparations continue with the planting of the flower quilt on this side.
Future World may not be quite as pretty as past years, but World Showcase is largely untouched as far as construction is concerned. Work on Ratatouille continues, but it’s largely out of view unless you’re coming in to Epcot on the Skyliner. If you’re entering from the International Gateway, and never leave World Showcase, then you probably wouldn’t even realize that the front of the Park is in worse shape than my life.
Those walls behind the quilt of flowers should come down for the Festival as well. We still don’t have any Flower and Garden Festival menus, but a couple of the kiosks are typically located back there.
We’ll exit the Park on this side before moving over to the other.
With the split rope drop, we may no longer have the opportunity to “enjoy” the Jammitors welcoming us to the Park at 8:45am.
But they do perform in the afternoons, just about even with the old breezeway along the walls directly across from the Land Pavilion. Their shows are currently scheduled at 9:20am, 10:10am, 11:10am, 12:10pm, 1:35pm, 2:35pm, and 3:35pm every day other than Tuesday and Wednesday. On those days, you can probably find them at the Ale House. I’m just guessing.
The walkways are wide enough that traffic flow isn’t too congested, even over a busy holiday weekend. It would be nice if the monorails dropped handles so we could grab on and take a ride out of the Park that way. “Dropkick the blogger” sort of has a ring to it, though I personally hope that the game doesn’t catch on.
The Park Exit on this side is located in the same place as where we entered. Walking out, it’s on the far left.
Walking in, it’s on the far right.
Here’s that same wall that we passed by earlier in the morning. That’s Goofy greeting guests ahead on the left. He meets virtually all day here.
Pluto remains in the same spot as before, currently meeting guests from 9am to 12:15pm and 1:25pm to 3:55pm. You can see him there ahead on the right.
We’ll continue our walk around Epcot in the next Part as we look towards the exit on this side, which is made up of exactly one set of touchpoints. While it’s easy-going here at 11:19am, you can be sure that things will be more congested at the end of the night, after Epcot Forever, and eventually Harmonious, as 10,000+ guests head for the exit at the same time. At least there’s the Skyliner for Pop Century/Art of Animation/Caribbean Beach/Riviera. The exit on the other side is much wider, so you may want to take that into consideration if things are “feeling” a little cramped. It’s always smarter to enjoy a leisurely walk around World Showcase before heading for the exit. You can do that comfortably for at least 90 minutes after the Park officially closes. Most Disney restaurants accept reservations through at least 8:30pm, so a few thousand people will be finishing up dinner well after 9:30pm.
Overall, the walls around Future World may cause the occasional confusion, but things aren’t (currently) too terrible. We’re going to see an awful lot of changes over the next couple of years, potentially keeping me in business forever.