Disney has started to fill in some of the details of a makeover of Epcot that will be going on for years: more spectacle, more interactive entertainment, more cutting-edge technology that will give us not just a glimpse of fantasy worlds but immerse us in them.
The company still has not revealed the big picture, but recently, executives dropped nuggets of news about how the park is changing: the ride vehicle for Guardians of the Galaxy, the name of the Ratatouille ride, the shows that will replace the aged IllumiNations.
Epcot opened in 1982 and is the second oldest park at Walt Disney World. As Epcot's 40th anniversary approaches, Disney executives have frequently referred to a "multi-year transformation" that will make Epcot "more timeless, more relevant, more family friendly and more Disney." Last year, it released a piece of concept art but no new details.
The highlights so far are two new rides: The first Guardians of the Galaxy roller coaster in Future World and in World Showcase, a copy of the Ratatouille ride that is one of the most popular attractions at Disneyland Paris. An opening date has not been announced for either, only that they'll be finished in time for Disney World's 50th anniversary in 2021.
On Nov. 17, Disney Parks Chairman Bob Chapek announced the name of the Ratatouille ride: Remy's Ratatouille Adventure, between the France and Morocco pavilions. On it, visitors will see the world from the perspective of a rat as rat-shaped cars take them through a restaurant kitchen.
Earlier in the month, Chapek unveiled information about Guardians of the Galaxy. The roller coaster will be one of the longest enclosed coasters in the world, and the show building under construction is enormous. Chapek said it would be big enough to house four Spaceship Earth attractions.
One of Epcot's icons is "IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth," a nighttime show over the lagoon that incorporates fountains, fireworks, lasers and a 28-foot globe wrapped in thousands of LED lights and set on a barge. The show was created as a celebration of the new millennium, but was popular enough that it just kept going.
In September, Disney World announced that IllumiNations would run through summer 2019, then be replaced. On Nov. 17, Chapek said there will be two replacement shows. One, "Epcot Forever," will debut in fall 2019 and feature classic Epcot tunes with fireworks, lasers and special effects kites.
The unnamed, long-term replacement, to open in 2020, will feature massive floating set pieces, LED panels, fountains, pyrotechnics and lasers.