EPCOT Reopens on July 15th. What Does This Mean to You?
Walt Disney World will finally reopen its theme parks in a matter of weeks.
We’ve all waited anxiously for this time to come. Now that the day is almost here, everyone should have a plan for each park.
Specifically, EPCOT reopens on July 15th. What does this mean to you?
How Your Park Visit May Change
Let’s start with the most crucial discussion. When we last visited EPCOT, the park was in a state of transition.
At the 2019 D-23 Expo, park officials had confirmed that Future World does not have a future.
Instead, Disney will split the front of the park into three themed lands rather than a single all-encompassing one.
Then, the Coronavirus outbreak forced the closure of all Disney theme parks. Simultaneously, it caused many financial problems for Disney.
So, nobody’s quite sure how EPCOT will look when it reopens.
Earlier this year, it features a new set of pathways, many of which were confusing. However, some came with unexpected benefits.
Guests could walk past Spaceship Earth and head directly to The Seas with Nemo & Friends, turning a circuitous route into a two-minute walk.
Disney has announced that it will spend $900 million less on capital expenditures due to the pandemic.
In other words, the parks won’t receive some expected upgrades. Since EPCOT was getting upgraded the most when this happened, its changes are in question.
In fact, I’m told that cast members don’t even know what will happen next because management is still making decisions behind closed doors on Zoom.
When EPCOT reopens, it may look substantially different than it did in March, depending on which projects Disney has delayed/eliminated.
Also, I hate saying this, but the park may look exactly the same. We’re all just guessing here. EPCOT is the place that’s hardest to predict right now.
Attractions You Should Do Immediately
Seriously, you don’t even know how lucky you are. The last time we did Spaceship Earth, the ride tore up twice, and my wife fell asleep.
I honestly believed that would be my final experience ever on my all-time favorite Disney attraction.
Then, the governor called.
Disney had planned to plus Spaceship Earth by changing some of its signature scenes into an overriding story.
Imagineers projected that the project could take 30 months. And it was scheduled to start in late-May.
Well, that plan is off the table for now. Spaceship Earth will reopen with the rest of EPCOT.
Disney may renovate it in a year or two, but you can still enjoy the old version for now.
Spaceship Earth’s ride structure is also important.
EPCOT will enforce social distancing policies when it returns. This attraction employs two-by-two ride carts that hold a total of four people.
Due to the new restrictions, two people should get an entire ride cart to themselves. I expect similar behavior at other EPCOT rides, too.
For example, Journey into Imagination with Figment employs a larger version of the same two-by-two design.
So, you should get a ride to yourself here, too.
A lot will change due to the pandemic. You might as well make the most of it by feeling you and your date/bestie have the park to yourself.
Attractions You Can’t Do Yet
Okay, let’s start with the important one. Disney stopped exhibiting IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth in anticipation of a cutting-edge replacement.
That presentation wasn’t going to be ready in time. So park officials added Epcot Forever as a short-term replacement.
Now, Disney might get stuck with Epcot Forever for a while due to budget cuts.
However, EPCOT won’t host any nighttime shows of any sort for a while, possibly all of 2020.
Also, character meetings are a no-go right now.
No matter how much you love Mary Poppins, you won’t find her at the United Kingdom pavilion right now. Mulan won’t be at the China pavilion, either.
We don’t know about some shows, either. Disney wants to discourage public gatherings.
Something like the British Revolution at the United Kingdom pavilion or the Matsuriza drummers at the Japan pavilion probably won’t happen.
I say that due to the social distancing issue, but there’s another reason, too.
You may recall that Disney furloughed many of its cast members after the parks closed. Even before then, people working on these shows got laid off.
When you’re furloughed, you have a job when you come back. Being laid off is the same as terminated.
So, we’re all waiting to see what happens next here.
Your next EPCOT visit won’t be like any you’ve had before, for better and for worse.
Attractions to Approach Warily
The science is still up for debate about some aspects of Coronavirus. However, most epidemiologists agree on some vital points.
An indoor setting with tight quarters is problematic. An outdoor setting or an open-air environment is okay, as long as people practice social distancing.
So, you can do the math from there on EPCOT attractions.
On Living with the Land, you should have no problems as long as cast members load ships by every other row, which they will.
Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros is indoors, but the boat ride takes place in an open space with high ceilings.
Then, there’s Mission: SPACE, a claustrophobic ride experience. I’m skeptical whether Disney will even operate this one since it’s so problematic.
If the attraction is operating, take a gander at the crowds and the set-up before entering.
Also, I’ll mention The Seas with Nemo & Friends as a potential stressor.
Imagineers will need a plan for Omnimover attractions since they are always in motion.
Disney has announced that it will wipe down attractions to maintain cleanliness.
I’ll feel more comfortable once I know the plan for rides that theoretically never stop.
A Plan for EPCOT
Look, the magical part of an EPCOT visit is that it’s half-rides and half-World Showcase.
The core concept remains the same. You’ll have plenty of rides available, and at least some of that delicious World Showcase cuisine will be on sale.
We don’t know yet whether Disney will host any of its annual EPCOT festivals. So, I won’t speculate there.
I do expect many of your favorite restaurants to reopen with the parks. And that’s what matters most, really.
As for the rides, Disney has stated that it will rely on virtual queuing for now.
At EPCOT, this decision is full of win. The park’s FastPass system relies on tiering that can complicate the process.
In a perfect world, you want to experience Test Track, Soarin’, and Frozen Ever After on the same day.
I suspect this goal will be easier to achieve via virtual queuing.
In fact, I believe that you can reasonably expect to do all the following rides during one visit:
- Frozen Ever After
- Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros
- Journey into Imagination with Figment
- Living with the Land
- Mission: SPACE
- The Seas with Nemo & Friends
- Spaceship Earth
- Test Track
The elimination of FastPass tiering really helps. Of course, EPCOT also hosts a lot of shows, including three new ones in 2020.
I have no idea how many of them will reopen with the parks. So, that’s the information we’re currently awaiting.
Still, I think it’s clear from the above information that your next EPCOT visit should deliver an unforgettable experience.