Tuesday, March 10, 2015

EPCOT Park Plan

EPCOT is my favorite park, but has lost its focus. Its theme of human exploration has so much potential, but a fundamental change is how this park is presented is needed to really bring it to what it was meant to be. Originally a park of thematic maturity with a focus on learning, it is now a catch all for technological or cultural properties. This plan restores many of the thematic ideas of the park while greatly expanding the attraction capacity. This plan is my ideal vision.

The Monorail station and entrance plaza are modernized and streamlined and the Leave a Legacy stones are consolidated onto two large stones, cleaning up the entrance plaza. In Future World Central, the canopies are removed and the Innoventions buildings are cleaned and modernized. Both Innoventions buildings are expanded. Innoventions West features all new exhibits by leading technology and science companies, creating an elegant E3 like environment, instead of the current interactive playground. The Innoventions East building now holds an expanded dining room for the Electric Umbrella and a walk through attraction that recalls an EPCOT favorite. Horizons: Living in the Future is an expanded take on the House of the Future styled attraction, but with elaborate walk through show scenes that take us to a variety of futuristic environments, all filled with the future of living technology, some real, some imagined.

The main visible change to Future World West is a new unifying organic mass that ties together each pavilion and acts as a berm for the new construction. The mass is a combination of sleek steel and organic material. Also tying the pavilions together is a focus on interactive learning opportunities, so each pavilion has a “lab” area, filled with exhibits and activities targeted to the whole family, not just kids. The reaffirmed mission of the park means that these new labs are crucial to the full experience of EPCOT.

The Living Seas removes its Nemo overlay with a new omnimover dark ride that takes guests through the beauty and the danger of the sea. The track is reused while the vehicles are rethemed as personal underwater vehicles for a trip to an underwater sea base, passing through reefs, storms, shipwrecks, and more. The Sea Base Alpha theme will be reapplied and this area is used as a model for the rest of the lab areas.

The first new pavilion of the park is Weather Station, centered on a series of biodomes that recreate weather events like heat, snow, and rain. This was definitely inspired by Tony Baxter's original Land concept. The attraction, The Observation Station, takes guest right into the middle of a weather experiment, created with a mix of practical weather effects inside of a 360 degree projection dome. Guests are surrounded by the power of the storm as wind and rain effects fill the theater before the calm returns.

Next door at The Land, a new entrance piece inspired by the Tower of the 4 Winds acts as an icon for all of Future World West. Also, a dedicated entrance for Soarin is build outside of the pavilion, alleviating crowds inside. If the rest of the park is properly expanded, I don't see a need for a 3rd and 4th theater, but that seems to be happening eventually anyway. A lab space is built on the second floor inside the movie theater space, including exhibits on geology and farming.

The Imagination Institute is also reimagined with a new family friendly mini-Kuka based dark ride, seeing the return of DreamFinder and Figment. Guests take a ride through their own dreams along with the duo, literally flying off the track and into the world of imagination. Instead of a new 3D movie in the theater, this becomes the space for the Imagination Labs in the form of a redeveloped Imagineering Open House from the D23 Expo. The diverse talents of Walt Disney Imagineering exemplify the Imagination pavilion, making this a great fit.

In Future World East, there is also elevation work to architecturally unify the pavilions with sleek, industrial elements, like the current facade of Mission: Space. A sleek tower on top of Mission: Space mirrors the other new Future World tower. Light is a major element of these new pieces, so this side of the land is most complete at night.

The Universe of Energy gets new film sections, updated figures, and is overall tightened up to a more manageable length. A new lab area is built on the west side along with two large wind turbines outside of the pavilion.

The second new pavilion of the park is based on computers and our digital lifestyle. With architecture inspired by circuitry patterns, it includes a major LPS ride through a computer, a counter service location, and a digital lab.

Outside of Test Track, the transportation lab area is built, consisting of areas dedicated to rail travel, road travel, water travel, and air travel. Also included is a simulator attraction where guests can pilot a helicopter in a small simulator pod that travels back and forth along a raised covered track. The exterior section of Test Track receives a visual enclosure.

The Odyssey reopens as an exclusive club serving a mix of favorites from around the park, like its original incarnation.

World Showcase is significantly expanded with some unifying moves. Each pavilion becomes a representative to a geographic region of the world and added in each pavilion is an exhibition space where an interactive exhibit on that region is held. Just like the labs in Future World, the point of these spaces is to expand the educational potential of the park while attempting to add enjoyable and family friendly experiences. By making the pavilions representative of regions, the entire world finds representation in EPCOT. I have to give credit to Peter Schaab's EPCOT Plan for inspiring some of these decisions.

Starting in Canada, representative to the Polar Regions, there is a new major attraction, a raft ride. This raft adventure passes through a new “mountain” of rockwork build behind the pavilion and reuses the circlevision theater space and rockwork as the loading area. The rafts swiftly float through the gardens in front of the pavilion before climbing a hill into the treacherous mountain, where encounters with both wildlife and geography end in a splashdown. The exhibit space for the Polar Regions is built into the existing gift shop area on the second level and is themed as a woodcarving studio.

Next door, The UK also gets a major attraction. Set inside a Victorian library constructed on the square at the rear of the pavilion, guests travel right into many of the classics of British Literature. This classic dark ride takes patrons of this library through the stories Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, and more. Behind the existing shops an addition holds the exhibit space for the British Isles themed as a toy store. There is also a British Spy Musuem to complete the square.

Across the water, France remains relatively unchanged with the only addition being the Western Europe exhibit space into the original Boulangerie Patisserie location, now themed as a bookstore.

The first new pavilion is next, the country of South Africa representing the region of South Africa. Designed primarily with influences from the Dutch colonization of Africa, the pavilion begins with guests passing through the entrance to the Castle of Good Hope. A courtyard inside holds a table service restaurant, a small counter service location, and gift shops. Straight ahead however are ruins of traditional African structures, loosely based on Great Zimbabwe, marking the entrance to the attraction of the pavilion, a theater. Inside, storytellers tell a series of traditional African fables accompanied by a cast of sophisticated life sized animal puppets, similar to the style of the Handspring Puppet Company. At the exit from the theater is the exhibit space themed to the ruins for this large and diverse region.

Morocco follows this new pavilion. Behind the pavilion, a large suspended dark ride telling the story of Ali Baba is added. Accessed by a pathway through a market next to Restaurant Marrakesh, guests board a suspended flying carpet for a ride through a large and detailed dark ride, telling a family friendly version of Ali Babba and the Forty Thieves in a style similar to Sindbad in TDS. The North Africa exhibit space is inside the existing gallery space, themed as a carpet and tile workshop.

Next is Egypt, representing the Middle East. Looming over the pavilion, two iconic forced perspective pyramids form the visual icon of the pavilion. At the base of the pyramids is a small village square, where there is a market, the entrance to a restaurant, and an archeological museum, the entrance to the attraction: a tour through the pyramids. Inside the large showbuilding is a large forced perspective scene of the pyramids on the horizon at dusk. Both the restaurant and the queue for the attraction look out to this impressive scene. After entering the museum, guests queue through the showrooms before making it “outside” to board an omnimover trip into the pyramids. Actual spaces from the pyramids are recreated in great detail in the rear section of the showbuilding, giving guests a chance to go right into a world icon that would otherwise be impossible. The exhibit space at the end of the tour is themed as the museum storage room, filled with crates and boxes of artifacts.

Japan is just next door and receives a new version of an attraction that was originally proposed for the pavilion, Bullet Train Pass. Guests board a modern bullet train in the castle station for a high speed trip through the sights of Japan. Primarily a film based attraction, the vehicle leaves the station and travels into a projection tunnel. The projected outside combined with some basic motion to the vehicle creates the effect of high speed travel through the countryside of Japan. The Pacific Islands exhibit is placed inside the castle, themed as the castles map room.

The American Adventure is nearly unchanged. The small existing museum space is expanded and partnered with the Smithsonian to present a rotating collection of historical objects.

Italy next door is significantly expanded with a new Venetian Canal based area, holding a double level masquerade themed carousel, a gelato shop, and the Mediterranean exhibit space themed as a sculptor’s workshop.

Between Italy and Germany, instead of a new country pavilion, an event garden is added. The reasoning behind this is that I did not want to remove the existing train garden, which adds great character to the area. Behind the train area is a small patio and event building for groups to rent out.

Germany also gets a new version of an originally proposed attraction, the Rhine River Cruise. In a new showbuilding, guests take a scenic boat ride through the German countryside before encountering some mythical German fables. The East Europe exhibit area is at the exit, themed to the loading dock of the harbor, filled with boxes of tradable goods.

The large expansion area between Germany and the dock is split into two countries. First is Russia, dominated by a recreation of St. Basil’s Cathedral and filled with architecture reminiscent of the Red Square. St. Basil’s holds a restaurant while the rest of the square is filled with shops and the North Asia exhibit space themed as an art gallery. Also on the square is an opera house, the entrance to the attraction: a dark ride based on The Firebird. Guests enter the workshop of the opera house, passing through costumes and set pieces before suddenly finding themselves right in the story at the load area in a snowy forest clearing. The large dark ride takes guests right through a simplified version of the story, complete with the classic musical score.

The other half of the plot becomes a small Indonesia pavilion, representing South Asia. This pavilion is small and indoors because of the proximity to the service dock. Dominated by the spires of Prambanan, the entrance to the pavilion is through the dense jungle. Inside the temple, guests find themselves in an active “outdoor” market, simulated with dense fabric canopies covering skylights. In the market are both shops and the exhibit space, themed as market stalls. The attraction is a movie of an Indonesian Shadow Puppet show, telling a traditional folktale.

Across the water is China, which is unchanged as it has an existing exhibit space where the Central Asia exhibit is placed.

Norway is also unchanged. The Scandanavian exhibit is placed in the Stave Church. I'm also going to pretend that we still have Maelstrom instead of a poorly placed Frozen overlay.

The last new pavilion is Brazil. Areas based on Brazil are actually added to both EPCOT and Animal Kingdom, but to differentiate between the two, this EPCOT area is very urban, modeled on the city of Ouro Preto, a historic mining town. In the winding streets is the South America exhibit space, themed as the University of the city, shops, a high class steakhouse restaurant with an open kitchen, and a mining company acting as the entrance to the attraction. The Little King Mine Trek is a family friendly indoor coaster through an active gold mine.

Lastly, in Mexico, the Three Cabelleros are removed from the boat ride and a new exhibit space for Central America is built right next to the temple entrance, themed to the temple ruins.

At the center of the park a final addition completes the theme of EPCOT. The EPCOT pavilion is just a large monolithic covered pavilion over the walkway marking the midway point between the two halves of the park. Inside are three main elements: a recreation of The Prologue and the Promise painting, a new companion piece completing the circle, and a large light at the center shooting straight up into the sky that turns on at dusk.

Illuminations: Reflections of Earth is among my favorite attractions anywhere, so I believe it should remain, but be updated with larger fountains and modern effects.

This week’s question:

It's a simple one. Do you believe the original educational mission of EPCOT can create a viable modern theme park? 

This question is inspired by both my decision to heavily focus on educational areas in my plan, and the recent addition of animated properties that I feel dilute the theme of EPCOT. These two design decisions move the park in fundamentally opposite directions.

I never saw original EPCOT, but as you can see in my plans, I have strong opinions about the maturity of the park and what kind of content should be included. While working on the design though, I often wondered if it could actually work, if the educational areas would be popular, if the maturity would be embraced or if the average modern theme park guest wouldn't understand it. I designed the EPCOT I want, but that includes spending time immersing in culture and technology, not just enjoying a standard theme park. This EPCOT is a somewhat interactive cultural museum about the human race. A big concept theme park that doesn't exactly fit with modern parks.

My personal opinion about the question is that ideally yes, it could be successful in the right situation, but I fear that the park is too far gone. Success would likely require the right attraction mix and a focused branding scheme to make guests aware what kind of park this is becoming.

In the plan, I made sure that the non-educational attraction lineup was expanded in conjunction with the addition of the education spaces. The hope is that successful attractions would be the draw that would lead guests to the cultural experiences. I also made sure that the education was isolated so as to not force it on guests that just wanted a theme park.

Additionally I think if the expansion plan I proposed were to be enacted, a focused rebranding of the park would be necessary to change the public consciousness of the park. Like the Nahtazu campaign for Animal Kingdom, something needs to directly inform the public about the overall purpose and theme of the park. Maybe a huge international one-time-only Worlds Fair type campaign could do the trick.

This is a super fast and under developed idea: 2026 (which is likely how long it would take to build out this plan with the current Disney building speed) is the 150th anniversary of the first World Exposition in the United States. In celebration, EPCOT could host a real World's Fair to both celebrate and to mark the conclusion of the parks transformation.

So what are your thoughts? Do you think the average guest would appreciate a refocused EPCOT or would they pass over it on the way to the next coaster and meet and greet? 


  1. This is great, although I still would have liked a return of the class Horizons ride and maybe Greece placed between the American Adventure and Italy.

    I like Epcot, but one of it's major problems that causes people to not realize the whole educational aspect is that fact that it's referred to as a park by Disney, and no longer referred to as a educational center that much by them anymore. Thus people expect one thing and end up getting another, causing them to be disappointed. If you acknowledge right off the bat to guests the parks goals, maybe for example some repeating audio that plays when entering the park that states those goals, or advertising it as a educational theme park, then you might get a better response from people.

    1. This was still the original plan from the previous iteration, so future versions with changes like that are possible.

      I agree, I really think the key is focused advertising and special events to bring in new guests that wouldn't have come to just a theme park.

  2. I think Disney hasn't really known what to do with Epcot since its inception - but it should be the educational centre of WDW (though Animal Kingdom serves as the animal version). Epcot has plenty of potential, plenty of room, technically has had the most attractions that didn't rely on IPs which is obviously not the case anymore (Nemo, Lion King, Frozen). Most of its rides are educational, though I wonder if Frozen will be a pure dark ride or an educational one (Olaf explaining the seasons or something?). A Disney park doesn't need to rely on Mickey and friends to be awesome - look at the most popular attractions: The Haunted Mansion, Pirates, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Jungle Cruise, etc. None have IPs (or at least didn't begin with). Epcot hasn't been updated or given proper attention in years and really does need some love from the company. Epcot was meant to be Walt's greatest triumph and now it is an oversized park with not much going for it.

    1. I think I agree that they've never really known how to handle the park. I mean this happened just 4 years after opening:


      It's always had the stigma that educational is not fun. Which does not have to be the case if the park was expanded properly.

  3. I'm very far from an epcot expert but I'm astounded by the amount of praise epcot gets, even looking at pics from 80s I cant see how it places above parks like disneyland/mk and disneysea. When I last went (i was 13 lol) only test track and mission space were my priorities and I would expect something similar from other people of that age or younger. However, as I've grown older, I've become to be more interested in museums so I may change my stance on the park in the future. Nowadays I view epcot as an interactive museum rather than a theme park (which is what I used to identify it as). This probably explains how ride-centric my mind set was when I was younger.

    Regarding Future World, I think it is very difficult to create futuristic looking buildings/pavilions as they often can become dated after a few decades. Also, I think most of the exhibits/pavilions need to be aimed at all ages and pavilions need an update every few years just like museums change the exhibitions they have on and also to keep up with technology.

    I enjoyed wandering around world showcase and personally am not particularly bothered by the lack of rides, though if the aim is for epcot to feel more like a theme park while keeping its original vision they would need to add some more attractions without ruining what they've created. I dont mind IP in Future World as i think it can be a encouraging and an exciting way for kids to learn, but I dont want to see it in WS.

    Your plan is great. Epcot is not something I could tackle, as it needs so much work, but your plan looks like it solves nearly all the problems epcot faces. The weather pavilion with 'real life weather simulations' is what I've always wanted! - They could also teach about global warming. The other new FW pavilion seems very relevant too.

    1. Thanks for the insightful comments.

      I, like you, first visited once EPCOT had already begun to change. I think I may have gotten one ride on Horizons the year it closed but I was way to young to remember it. And for a long time, I didn't appreciate it. As I grew up, I began to appreciate the mature approach to the concept of a theme park (or at least that approach it once had).

      The praise for EPCOT is pretty abstract when compared to those highly designed parks you mentioned. Personally, my love of EPCOT is because it is the ultimate statement that a theme park can be a universal and intrinsically human experience. I consider EPCOT's overarching theme statement to be a park that tells the story of what it means to be part of humanity. Not a nice and easy park like one based on animals or movies. It challenges (or challenged) you to embrace the fact that the world is out there and we are just one part of it. Others will likely have a different opinion of what the park means. But I think thats the point and what makes it special to alot of people. It was a mature and influential departure in theme park design that hasn't been attempted again.

  4. May I have permission to use your U.K. pavilion ideas in my redesign of EPCOT?

    1. As general inspiration sure. I feel like it's only right as I took inspiration from other designer's work. I would prefer you to not take a direct copy what I have done though. So like in this case, sure you can use the idea of a dark ride in a library, but dont just copy and paste exactly what I have done. Take the same general idea and make it your own. And if you do that, I would love to see it.

      Thanks for asking and hope you enjoy Imagineerland.

    2. I actually decided to turn the idea into a live show for the pavilion.

  5. I am so glad I found this blog- absolutely incredible ideas.

    To answer your question-
    Yes, it can absolutely be educational, fun/entertaining, and even "Disney"- all at the same time. If they decide to incorporate characters in with themes- I'm ok with that- as long as it's cohesive. Example- if they want to incorporate Big Hero 6 Meet & Greet w/ a Robotics area in innoventions- I think that would be fine.

    I do have three questions about your world layout though:
    -With the new Frozen mess, won't that take over where Brazil is?
    -What were your thoughts behind having a South Africa area even though there is an entire Africa subsection in Animal Kingdom- and a pretty solid one at that with the new expansion taking place?
    -What are the plans for the existing "World Showcase" building? Continue using it for a special events pavilion?

    Again- absolutely amazing job- and can't wait to see the rest of the entries in the future. If only you were Bob Iger...

    1. First for your questions:
      1. Yes unfortunately that frozen stuff would take up that expansion plot. I drew this specific plan before any of that came to be, so I decided to just pretend it's not going to happen for now. Future plans will probably include it.
      2. Both Brazil and South Africa would have double representation here and in animal kingdom. I figured the best way around that was to focus on a historical urban setting for Epcot and leave the nature to AK. So Brazil is based on Ouro Preto, a colonial Portuguese mining town, and South Africa is based on the Dutch fortresses and villages of the cape. There would definitely be some overlap for both, but they are important enough locations that they should be in an EPCOT that strives to represent the whole world.
      3. Yes the festival building stays just because special events and festivals look like they will always be part of Epcot. The actual building seems to be doing ok, but now that I think about this, if should probably get a new and more detailed entrance facade to match the style of world showcase.

      Glad you like what you found here on my blog, and thanks for the comment and sharing your thoughts.

  6. I'd like to see an industrial revolution family coaster originally planned for disneys America theme park go in between America and Japan. It could be low and hidden by trees so that it won't mess with the perspectives of either pavilion. This attraction would draw crowds and at the same time be educational. Which is what Epcot attractions should be like!

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  8. If you are going to do this kind of plan, you might want to put some logos on the Future World stuff.

  9. Why don't we have people like you as imagineers? This plan sounds beautiful and would absolutely be a modern approach to resurrecting EPCOT's former glory!

    1. Wow thanks a lot! Maybe that'll happen eventually.

      I'm working on a new EPCOT version right now, so it's interesting to look back on this really old plan. Hopefully the new one improves on some of it and you enjoy that one as well!