A Transformed Epcot Is On The Horizon

Of all of the announcements that were made last weekend at D23, the transformation of Epcot is the one I am personally most excited about. When Epcot opened in 1982 it quickly became my favorite park. Classics like Horizons, World of Motion, Universe of Energy, CommuniCore, and of course the original Journey Into Imagination are just a few of the many things that I still miss from Epcot’s early years. Over the last couple of decades, Epcot has begun to show its age, and I am thrilled to hear that Disney is investing in its updating and transformation. Change is never easy, neither is letting go of things we love, but I am hopeful and looking forward to enjoying the Epcot of the future for years to come.

Here are the first details and photos of Epcot’s transformation courtesy of Disney:

Walt Disney once said Epcot “would always be in a state of becoming” – it is a place that changes with the times. Over the next several years, the Walt Disney World Resort theme park will live up to that promise in a whole new way as it continues the biggest transformation of any Disney park in history, bringing the next generation of immersive storytelling to life through a plethora of new attractions and experiences.

Epcot will be unified with four neighborhoods that each speak to important aspects of the world and its people: World Showcase, World Celebration, World Nature and World Discovery. These neighborhoods will be filled with new experiences rooted in authenticity and innovation that take guests to new destinations, where the real is made fantastic in a celebration of curiosity, hands-on wonder and the magic of possibility.

World Showcase

  • World Showcase will continue to be a celebration of culture, cuisine, architecture and traditions – infused with new magic.
  • The United Kingdom pavilion will welcome the first attraction inspired by Mary Poppins. Guests will step in time down Cherry Tree Lane past Admiral Boom’s house, then enter Number 17, home of the Banks family, where their adventure will begin.
  • In 2020, following the limited-time run of “Epcot Forever,” the new “HarmonioUS” will debut as the largest nighttime spectacular ever created for a Disney park. It will celebrate how the music of Disney inspires people the world over, carrying them away harmoniously on a stream of familiar Disney tunes reinterpreted by a diverse group of artists from around the globe. “HarmonioUS” will feature massive floating set pieces, custom-built LED panels, choreographed moving fountains, lights, pyrotechnics, lasers and more.
  • In summer 2020, the France pavilion will offer even more for guests to discover, including the much-anticipated attraction Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, where guests will shrink to the size of Chef Remy and race through Gusteau’s restaurant on a wild adventure. Summer 2020 will also see the debut of a delicious new restaurant in the France pavilion, La Crêperie de Paris, offering both table- and quick-service options featuring a menu from celebrity chef Jérôme Bocuse.
  • Also in the France pavilion, the classic Impressions de France film will be joined by the new “Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along,” debuting in January 2020 and directed by Don Hahn, producer of both the animated and live-action versions of this tale as old as time.
  • “Canada Far and Wide in Circle-Vision 360”will debut in January 2020 in the Canada pavilion with new scenes and a new story.
  • In the China pavilion, “Wondrous China” will take guests on a spectacular journey across the country, filmed and presented in a completely seamless 360-degree digital format.

World Celebration

  • World Celebration will offer new experiences that connect guests to one another and the world around them.
  • The iconic Spaceship Earth will remain a voyage through time as the journey transforms to reflect the power of storytelling to unite the human experience. New narration and an entirely new musical score will focus on the moments and ideas that define the story of humanity. Guests will follow a magical “story light” that brings the entire experience to life in dynamic ways, giving each scene energy and beauty that ties the entire journey together.
  • new pavilion will be the perfect place for live events, and the home base for Epcot’s signature festivals. It will provide a stunning elevated view of the entire park and an ideal spot to witness Epcot’s nighttime spectacular. This beautiful three-level structure will have one of the most remarkable architectural designs at any Disney park, featuring a plaza level, a middle expo level, and a park that sits in the sky on the top level.
  • Epcot’s entrance plaza will be transformed with new experiences that connect guests with the world around them, welcoming them with a reimagined fountain, new pathways and sweeping green spaces that beautify the entryway. The design will pay homage to the origins of Epcot.
  • As guests exit Spaceship Earth, they will discover a breathtaking new view of World Showcase from Dreamers Point. World Celebration will also feature a new statue celebrating the legacy of the original dreamer, Walt Disney, plus beautiful natural environments and global design elements filled with Disney magic and surprises, including a wishing tree in an enchanted forest and a story fountain celebrating the power and music of iconic Disney storytelling.

World Nature

  • World Nature is dedicated to understanding and preserving the beauty, awe and balance of the natural world. It will include The Land and The Seas with Nemo & Friends pavilions.
  • Journey of Water, Inspired by “Moana” will be the first experience inspired by the hit Walt Disney Animation Studios film. This lush exploration trail will invite guests to meet and play with magical, living water. The water will have a life of its own – just like Moana’s friend, the ocean – and guests will learn about the importance of the natural water cycle.
  • The Land pavilion’s new film, Awesome Planet,” which showcases the beauty, diversity and dynamic story of the planet, will begin welcoming guests in January 2020.

World Discovery

  • In World Discovery, stories about science, technology and intergalactic adventure come to life.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind will be the first “other-world” showcase pavilion at Epcot. The adventure starts in the “Galaxarium,” a planetarium-like exhibition that explores the similarities and mysteries of the formation of Earth’s galaxy and Xandar. Guests will be invited to learn more about the treasures Xandar has to share – until the moment when the Guardians of the Galaxy arrive, and adventures across the cosmos ensue. The attraction will feature a new innovation from Walt Disney Imagineering – a storytelling coaster that rotates 360 degrees to focus guests on the action, including the first reverse launch on a Disney coaster.
  • An expansion of the Mission: SPACE pavilion, the new restaurant Space 220 will be a culinary experience featuring the celestial panorama of a space station, including daytime and nighttime views of Earth from 220 miles up. Guests will board a special elevator for a journey to a space station that is home to an incredible dining experience. Along the way, viewports will give guests real-time perspective as they travel high above the planet. Once they arrive, guests will enjoy fantastic meals and drinks while taking in views that are truly out of this world. Opening this winter, Space 220 will be operated by the Patina Restaurant Group.
  • The PLAY! pavilion will open in time for the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World. In this digital metropolis, guests will discover an interactive city bursting with games, activities and experiences that connect them with friends, family and beloved Disney characters – both real and virtual – like never before. As part of this new pavilion, guests will have the chance to help legendary fashion icon Edna Mode on her quest to rid the world of uninspired style, or make a splash competing in a water-balloon fight hosted by Huey, Dewey, Louie and Webby.

Guests will be able to visualize these exciting plans for Epcot when doors open October 1, 2019, for Walt Disney Imagineering presents the Epcot Experience in the Odyssey Events Pavilion. They will discover engaging and interactive exhibits that showcase the relentless innovation, energy and excitement driving the park’s future throughout this unprecedented period of transformation.

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Disney World Ghost Stories

In honor of Halloween, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at some of the Disney World ghost stories that are out there. Could the “most magical place on earth” actually be haunted, you ask? Well, it depends on who you talk to, what you read, and your own personal beliefs in that sort of thing. I would consider myself an open-minded skeptic. In other words, I think anything is possible, but I believe most of the “sightings” are probably more urban legend than reality. In all of the years that I have been visiting Walt Disney World, I have only once experienced anything unusual which I will share with you in a bit.

First, let’s take a look at a few of the Disney World ghost stories – some famous and some lesser known. Now as we all know, no one dies at Disney World. It has long been reported that no one is pronounced dead until their body has actually been removed the property. So who are all of these ghosts said to be roaming the resort? Good question!

Pirates of the Caribbean

Pirates 1George

This tale is probably the most well-known of all of the ghost stories of Disney World. As the story goes, a young construction worker named George fell to his death while working on a high area of the Pirates’ building. Each day cast members say good morning and good night to George over the PA system, and if they don’t give him the respect he desires, it is sure to make a long day for them. This ghost is known to cause all sorts of mischief such as shutting down the ride, causing breakdowns, making phone calls from an empty control room, and appearing on the ride monitors. Many guests have reported feeling a mysterious chill especially in the room with the burning city where it is believed George fell to his death. His favorite hang outs are rumored to be near the pirate with the pigs, under the bridge of the pirate with his leg hanging over, and near the door (known as George’s door) by the dog with the keys. Word of warning about George: There have been reports of guests going on Pirates of the Caribbean shouting that they don’t believe in George and have later found themselves stuck on the attraction for a long period of time due to a breakdown.

The Ladies

There is another pair of apparitions that are said to call Pirates of the Caribbean home and they are known as The Ladies. This mysterious duo is rumored to have met their untimely demise when the boat they were riding in, came off the track at the bottom of the drop and crashed as they sat in the front row. It is believed that they still linger in this area to this day and can sometimes be felt with a cold chill.

Haunted MansionHaunted Mansion

Man with a Cane

In this tale, many cast members working alone have said that they have seen a “man with the cane” riding the attraction late at night. When spoken to, he does not respond and then disappears out of sight. Who is this mysterious man? He is said to be the ghost of a pilot that died when his plane crashed in the 1940’s into what is now known as Bay Lake.

Little Boy

Another spirit that is rumored to inhabit the Haunted Mansion is that of a little boy. Unlike the Disneyland ghost story of the little boy who cries while looking for his mother, this child appears to be happy and just rides the attraction alone peering out from his doombuggy. There are a few photos circulating the internet that are said to be of this particular apparition.

Main Street, U.S.A.

Several guests have reported seeing the ghost of Roy Disney on Main Street during Wishes smiling and seeming to be thoroughly enjoying himself.

Tom Sawyer Island 1Tom Sawyer Island

For years, guests that venture over to Tom Sawyer Island have reported getting an unnerving feeling and seeing shadowy figures in the tunnels and caves of the attraction.

Spaceship Earth

This ghost story tells the tale of a little girl with long blonde hair and a young boy that are often seen playing together in front of the attraction as well as riding together.

Impressions de France

Many cast members have reported seeing a figure late at night in the theatre after it is closed. When they approach to escort him out, the apparition disappears.

Tower of TerrorTower of Terror

In this story, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is said to be haunted by a former “Bell Hop” (cast member) that died during his shift on one of the loading platforms. The story goes that this “Bell Hop” ghost is known to appear on Platform D, flicker lights and freeze the attraction when cast members are trying to do their final ride through at the end of the day.

My Experience

As I said at the beginning of this post, I consider myself an open-minded skeptic. Despite the fact that I have visited, lived in, stayed in, and dined in places that have been deemed haunted by some of the countries most respected ghost hunters, I have yet to experience anything that I can say without a doubt was “supernatural”. I’m actually quite scared of the paranormal, so maybe that’s the reason I never really feel or see anything that I would claim as beyond our reality. However not long ago, I had an unusual experience at the Haunted Mansion.

Haunted Mansion

On a solo trip I took earlier this year, I headed over to Magic Kingdom on a day with early morning Extra Magic Hours. I arrived 30 minutes before the park was to open to find that the crowds were very light. I knew that once the park opened, I would easily be able to walk on any ride that I wanted. I decided that I would make my way to Big Thunder with a quick stop in Haunted Mansion first. When the gates opened, I strolled down Main Street taking in the sights just as the sun started to rise. Most of the guests walked towards the castle (on their way to Mine Train or an important meeting with a Princess, I would guess) while a few others hurried to Tomorrowland. I found myself completely alone as I meandered towards Liberty Square. It was a strange feeling for it to be so quiet in the park during the day. My kids and I have been in Adventureland at night when we were the only guests in sight before, but the daytime isolation had a very eerie feeling about it. In no time, I arrived at my destination – Haunted Mansion.

As a child I was absolutely terrified of this attraction, and to be honest, I was probably a teenager before I really felt comfortable experiencing it. Now it is one of my favorites, and I look forward to riding it several times during each of my trips. On this particular day, it would be my first time experiencing the attraction alone. As I approached Haunted Mansion, I noticed that no one was in line. There was a cast member out front, and she waved me on through to the entrance. Once inside, it was so early the doors were open through the stretching room to the loading area. I slowly walked in unsure of whether to bypass the pre show and head straight for the doombuggies or not. After a couple of moments of standing alone, I left the stretching room and made my way directly to the loading area. The cast member waved me into the doombuggy and said that I was the first “happy haunt” of the day. I climbed in with no one else in sight except for me and the cast member.

I sat back to relax and enjoy the attraction as my doombuggy began to creep down the first long hallway. A few seconds later as I’m looking ahead at the backs of the empty doombuggies ahead of me, I see what looks to be the face of a little boy peering out of his ride vehicle back at me. I nearly jumped out of my seat, because I thought that I was the first rider of the day and that I was alone. I quickly calmed down rationalizing that the cast member that boarded me must have been confused and that there was a family already on the attraction before me. I went about my ride not giving the little boy another thought as I enjoyed the grim grinning ghosts around me; until I reached the end. As I climbed out of my doombuggy, the cast member as I exited said that he hoped that I had enjoyed being the first “happy haunt” of the day. Startled by his comment, I quickly asked him if he was sure and that didn’t someone just get off the ride a few cars before me. He said no, I was definitely first and that if I wanted to stay, I just needed to bring my death certificate next time.

Spooky, huh?

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If you are planning a vacation to Disney World, be sure to check out these valuable resources to help you save time and money:

Have you seen a ghost in Disney World? Please leave a comment!
Have a safe and Happy Halloween!

Disney World Enthusiast Weekly Round Up May 3, 2015

Here’s the Disney World Enthusiast Weekly Round Up for May 3, 2015!

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Spaceship Earth, the visual and thematic centerpiece of Epcot, weighs 16 million pounds — more than three times that of a space shuttle fully fueled and ready for launch. The outer “skin” of Spaceship Earth is made up of 11,324 aluminum and plastic-alloy triangles. Also, did you know that rainwater never falls off the sphere? It’s channeled into the ball and funneled away.

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Disney World Magic Kingdom PlutoIf you are looking for a unique place to watch the parade or evening fireworks at Magic Kingdom, view them from the second floor of the Main Street train station. You’ll want to get there early, depending on crowd levels, possibly an hour or more in advance, to claim a space. There are so many things about this location that make it ideal. It is slightly elevated for an unobstructed view, it is covered to protect you from the sun or rain, there are tables and chairs available so that you can eat a snack or meal while you wait, and being directly in line with Cinderella Castle it offers a full panoramic view of the parade and fireworks.

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“Laughter is timeless. Imagination has no age. And dreams are forever.”

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