It’s an emotional roller coaster! No, we’re not talking about the Emotional Whirlwind attraction at Disneyland’s California Adventure, we’re talking about the refurb project associated with Epcot’s iconic attraction, Spaceship Earth. One minute it’s all systems go and then it’s we got a change in plans. Now we could see a Spaceship Earth refurbishment delay. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Let’s peel back the layers of this emotional onion! We’re not crying, you are. Oh, the onion jokes. We’ve been holding on to that one for a while. Alright, time to explore the Spaceship Earth refurbishment delay.
We can’t get to the center of this emotional onion without peeling back the first layer. February 25, 2020, is a day most Disneyphiles will remember for years to come. Some may say it could become a tale as old time. Sorry, Belle, we’re borrowing that line. On this date Disney made two announcements, first and foremost was the announcement of Bob Iger stepping aside for Bob Chapek to become CEO. We’ll CEO for a minute. (find out more on that topic here) A moment later Disney announced Spaceship Earth would be closing down for a major refurbishment on May 26, 2020.
Needless to say Disneyphiles around the global we filled with emotion. Everyone knew an update to Spaceship Earth was on the horizon, but it was not real until a date was finally set. They were only a few months left to experience the attraction as it stands, and enjoy the soothing sounds of Dame Judy Dench’s voice taking you through the history of communication.
On to the next layer of our Spaceship Earth refurbishment delay. No more than a few weeks following the groundbreaking announcement did more information trickle out. As we discussed in the detail in the following article, changes to the potential project were already being discussed. There were two options with one being a lighter, faster, and ultimately a way for Disney to spread the cost of the refurbishment over a longer period of time. Additionally, it would ensure Spaceship Earth would not be under refurbishment during Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary celebration.
Everything changed. By mid- March Disney parks around the global closed to help combat the global crisis around COVID-19. As weeks and weeks passed it became apparent that many projects around the Walt Disney World property could be in jeopardy. Fast-forward to May and Bob Chapek announced during the Walt Disney Company’s quarterly earnings report that the company would be reducing its spend by $900 million this fiscal year, as it relates to theme park projects.
On May 26, 2020, the Walt Disney World website updated the status of Spaceship Earth to “refurbishment”. Days later, Walt Disney World announced its plans to reopen the Walt Disney World parks, with Epcot reopening on July 15. The question became, will the Spaceship Earth refurbishment still occur?
Thanks to a few cast members news broke around a Spaceship Earth refurbishment delay. With cast members stating the attraction would reopen on July 15, 2020, when Epcot reopens.
Why? That’s the big question. Well, more like why is there a Spaceship Earth refurbishment delay? At the core of it, it makes a lot of sense. See what we did there, another onion reference. We may have to use this onion reference more often. Anyways, as we discussed in the article on how Disney could save $900 million, the Spaceship Earth project was one of the projects on the chopping block or more like the delay block. There’s more to it though. With the Spaceship Earth refurbishment delay, Disney is doing more than just saving money, they are also trying to create a better guest experience when Epcot reopens.
As we understand it, the original plan was for Spaceship Earth to close as Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure opened in the France Pavilion in early June. With the theme parks closed during the global crisis, no construction progress could take place. Without a new attraction at Epcot, it would not make sense to close down another attraction for refurbishment. Earlier reports estimate that Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure has about 8 weeks of construction left. It’s unknown to when Disney will restart construction on this area, as well as there could be other factors that would delay the project, but that’s an article for another day. #teaser!
In the DVC Duo house, we have another reason for the Spaceship Earth refurbishment delay. Beyond the cost savings and timing, Spaceship Earth could be the perfect attraction for social distancing. Here us out on this one. It is a continuous moving attraction where creating space between the vehicles for guests could be easily accomplished. How could Disney do it? Disney could alternate which ride vehicles are loaded to allow plenty of time for cleaning between guests. For example, with two trips around the track, cast members could have two opportunities to clean the vehicle. Once when guests step out and a second time when it returns empty. This assumes each car would be used once per two trips. Additionally, the attraction has built-in spacers between the vehicles helping with social distancing.
The keyword is delayed. An update to Spaceship Earth will still happen, it is now a matter of when. In the DVC Duo house, we believe the project could be delayed until the first half of 2021. This assumes Disney ends up shifting how they will celebrate to the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World to the end of 2021 over the start. Once the project is restarted, we would expect Disney to go with the lighter weight option of the two plans. From both a cost and timing perspective, it appears to be the best path forward. Please note at the time of writing Disney has not confirmed the Spaceship Earth refurbishment delay. The only confirmation we have is from a cast member. There is only one thing left to say, welcome back Spaceship Earth!