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    EPCOT Overview

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Walt Disney's original 1960s-era vision for EPCOT was a complete rethinking of the American city. Back then, EPCOT was an acronym meaning “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.” Among Walt’s ideas for future city living were self-driving electric cars, prefab solar-powered homes electronically connected to a network of information services; and an entire city center enclosed in a giant air-conditioned dome.

After Walt Disney died in 1966, the people who took over his company considered his ideas too risky to implement. When EPCOT Center finally opened 16 years later, it was a theme park with a split personality: Half of it was based on a futuristic, semi-educational “better living through technology” look at the world, and the other half was a kind of permanent world’s fair (another of Walt’s passions).

Is EPCOT Worth Visiting In 2021?

Epcot is the Disney World theme park most in need of refurbishment. The good news: It’s happening.

A new headliner attraction, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, opens in World Showcase’s France Pavilion in 2021. A new nighttime show called Harmonious should debut in spring or summer 2021. Opening in late 2022 is an indoor roller coaster themed to the Guardians of the Galaxy movie series. Another construction project, the Play! Pavilion, “devoted to playful fun,” on the site of the old Wonders of Life Pavilion, was scheduled to open in 2021 as well, but the pandemic has delayed construction indefinitely.

These projects represent the first completely new attractions in EPCOT in 16 years. In addition, stuck-in-the-1990s Future World is getting a refresh, although the pandemic canceled the most ambitious plans and made the completion date unclear.

In spite of the new Remy’s ride, though, we hesitate to recommend EPCOT for short visits until Guardians of the Galaxy opens. For one thing, much of Future World will be a construction zone, with convoluted walking paths and restaurants closed or operating out of temporary locations.

Even more affected is World Showcase. Many indoor restaurants remain closed due to the pandemic, and Disney sent home the international cast members who staffed each pavilion, with their local languages and style, replacing them with US cast members. In addition, the Germany, Italy, Japan, Morocco, United Kingdom, and United States Pavilions haven’t been meaningfully updated since EPCOT first opened in 1982. (To put that in perspective, “Physical” was at the top of the pop charts; Dallas, Laverne & Shirley, and M*A*S*H were still on the air; and the first bricklike consumer cell phone was still a year away.) Scenes in the nearly 40-year-old film Impressions de France, for instance, show prices in francs—a currency France abandoned two decades ago.

Our other key concern is that a number of the attractions currently in development have little to do with what EPCOT has always purported to be about. Over the years, its attractions have entertained and informed guests about topics such as communication, energy production, space exploration, environmentalism, and the role of computers in society—topics that continue to be both important and fascinating.

With billions of dollars and buildings full of talented Imagineers at Disney’s disposal, you would think they could come up with something more appropriate for EPCOT—once Disney’s most innovative, forward-thinking theme park—than a roller coaster inspired by an animated tree.

Getting Oriented

EPCOT's two themed areas are markedly different: World Showcase features the landmarks, cuisine, and culture of almost a dozen nations and is meant to be a sort of permanent World’s Fair. Future World is in flux: Its older attractions examine where mankind has come from and where it’s going, while newer attractions are themed to Disney’s make-believe universe of characters. The current phase of Future World construction will likely include an expansion of World Showcase’s almost year-round food festivals.

Navigating Epcot is unlike getting around at the Magic Kingdom. The Magic Kingdom is designed so that nearly every location is part of a specific environment-Liberty Square or Main Street, U.S.A., for example. All environments are visually separated to preserve the integrity of the theme.

EPCOT, by contrast, is visually open. And while it might seem strange to see a Japanese pagoda and the Eiffel Tower on the same horizon, getting around is fairly simple. An exception is Future World, where construction walls hide (for now) everything on the east and west sides of Future World.

EPCOT’s architectural icon is Spaceship Earth, a shiny 180-foot geosphere that’s visible from almost everywhere in the park. Like Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom, Spaceship Earth can help you keep track of where you are in EPCOT. But it’s in a high-traffic area and isn’t centrally located, so it’s not a good meeting place.

Any World Showcase pavilion makes a good meeting place, but you need to be specific. “Hey, let’s meet in Japan!” sounds clear enough at first, but each pavilion is a town in miniature, with buildings, monuments, gardens, and plazas. So pick a specific place in Japan—the sidewalk side of the pagoda, for example.

Last updated by Len Testa on March 23, 2021

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