Rethink. It’s the word that caught everyone’s attention in the most recent Disney announcement. On July 15, 2020, an array of news broke around the Epcot refurbishment. As we projected in a previous article the Mary Poppins attraction is officially postponed, along with confirmation of the Spaceship Earth refurbishment delay we spoke about in another article. The big news came in the form of the Epcot Festival Center. Slated as the centerpiece of the new World Celebration neighborhood, Disney has stated they are “taking a different approach”. What does that mean? We’re glad you asked! Lace-up your dancing shoes, we’re off to explore what’s happening with the Epcot Festival Center!
It’s also about timing! Before we dive into the deep end of what we should expect with the Epcot Festival Center let’s take a step back to discuss the overall timing of the project. What we know is Walt Disney World is planning for Epcot to be the centerpiece of the 50th-anniversary celebration, and the new Epcot Festival Center to be the epicenter. At the beginning of 2020 construction kicked-off at a furious pace on the new World Celebration section of Epcot. It was all systems go, with work being done almost around the clock. Then March 16, 2020.
You know the day. It’s the day we all took notice that a global crisis was underway and we all needed to focus on the safety of everyone. Walt Disney World closed and seized work on all construction projects. Four months later, Walt Disney World reopened and the construction projects started back up.
The majority of the time a four-month delay would not be a major hit to a Disney construction project. Not ideal, but not a major hit. For example, the delays associated with Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, primarily The Rise of the Resistance attraction. Unfortunately, for the Epcot Festival Center, it is. With Disney already up against the clock to finish the World Celebration neighborhood and the new Epcot Festival Center in time for the 50th anniversary, the four-month delay meant the project would not be complete by October 1, 2021. What now?
You cannot slow down the calendar. Well, unless you have the time stone, but we’re no Doctor Strange. The 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World is a little over a year away. In Disney construction terms, that is right around the corner. The last thing Disney wants is to have the center of Epcot under construction. According to Jim Hill of Jim Hill Media, there is a plan in place.
In the short term what we should expect is for Disney to “clean-up” the area. What that means is they would more than likely pave over the area and add a variety of flower beds and “green” spaces to make the area enjoyable for guests. In the DVC Duo house, we believe you could also see a few of the food booths from the different festivals added to the area. As from our understanding, Walt Disney World is very keen on bringing the festival to the whole park.
For the Epcot Festival Center, that is still up on the air. Walt Disney Imagineering would have a variety of spaces to use for a “temporary” center. We could see it return to the Odyssey Pavilion where the Epcot Experience is currently located or even a small structure added to the space the permit center is to be located. More clarity will come as the 50th-anniversary approaches.
Good news time! We’re all about good news, and there is good news regarding the Epcot Festival Center. This is not a project going away. Based on what we’ve heard, prior to construction being halted in March Disney already begun renting the new Epcot Festival Center out for corporate events in 2022 and 2023. The plan called for the area to be used both for guests and special corporate events, where corporations could rent the top-level for private parties. This strategy plays directly into Disney’s desire to host more conferences on property, with the events being held at the new Gran Destino Tower and special nighttime gathers in Epcot.
We fully expect Disney to resume this project after the 50th-anniversary in either late 2022 or early 2023. The design of the building may change, but we would think it would stay about 3-stories in height. At 3-stories, the top-level would have unobstructed views of World Showcase Lagoon and the upcoming HarmonioUS show. This aspect was the top-selling feature for corporate events.
Rethink could be a good thing. While we loved the original design of the building, with more time Walt Disney Imagineering could still create something special. Maybe not the same, but still very special. To quote Michael Eisner “Creativity can flourish within sensible financial limitations”. The one key piece we would expect a new design to take into consideration is social distancing or spacing. Fingers crossed we’re past our global crisis by the end of 2022, however, knowing how Disney always plans for the future, this could be one of the things we see taken into account more on all future projects. At the end of it, we fully expect to see a new Epcot Festival Center.
UPDATE: On November 19, 2020, we received confirmation from Walt Disney World on the short-term shift away from a Festival Center to a Festival Area. The area will be made into a green space with walking paths and festival food booths. According to Jim Hill of Jim Hill Media, the long-term plan is still for a larger Festival Center structure to be added to the area. It is looking more like a 5-year plan for the new building. More than likely, sometime after the 40th anniversary of Epcot.
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