Now that Rise of Resistance, the new ride at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, has arrived, expect to hear a key two-word phrase even more frequently. Brace yourself for: “Epcot Transformation.” It’s a nice umbrella term for all the things looming or under construction at Disney World’s second-oldest theme park. You can’t miss signs of progress, from various construction walls to the big blue building, the eventual home of the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind roller coaster.
It’s a lot to take in. So when we had the chance to talk with Michael Hundgen, an executive producer for Walt Disney Imagineering, we asked about three specific, if second-tier, elements of (you’re braced, right?) Epcot Transformation that we’ve been curious about.
Festival center of the future
A three-story building — with a rooftop garden — is on the way, and among its uses will be as headquarters for Epcot’s various festivals, including Food & Wine and Flower & Garden. According to renderings, the new structure will go up inside the monorail loop that sits between what is now Future World and World Showcase.
“Epcot festivals have become so popular, and they’ve become so much a part of the fabric of Epcot itself. And, so, as part of revisiting, we wanted to create a true home for the festivals and more,” Hundgen said.
“For us, it really acts as a platform by which we can stage all kinds of events, whether it’s, you know, wine and cheese pairings at the expo level, a full concert at the floor level or sort of a more intimate gathering up on the rooftop garden. It will be able to serve multifunction and purpose,” he said. “And we’ve loosely said that it’s the first Epcot building without a permanent show. It’s continuing to evolve.
“You can do sort of bigger, broader musical performances and things,” he said.
Another new spectacular
In October, a nighttime spectacular named “Epcot Forever” replaced the long-running “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth” show. Sometime next year, the park will shift gears again to a production called “HarmonioUS.”
“As I keep saying, it’s ambitious. When we think about our nighttime spectaculars, I think this is the biggest by far that we’ve attempted to execute,” Hundgen said.
“We’re pulling out all the elements of the tool kit, so lights and pyro and water and lasers and everything you can imagine. You can see in the concept art some of the big barges,” he said.
“It’s a take on a nighttime spectacular that’s completely unique to Epcot, taking some of the wonderful Disney music that our guests love but reinterpreting it, creating new compositions for it and thinking about ... if we’re in the World Showcase itself, we could play with different languages and different versions or editions of the songs themselves,” he said.
Big ball theory
The changes to the front of the park aren’t going to be just external. Disney says there are changes coming inside the iconic Spaceship Earth. I could go into panic mode about the future of SSE’s go-go boots scientist or the poor unfortunate paperboy, but it’s too early. “We’re still working on it. We’re still working through it all,” Hundgen said.
“We’ve made updates to the attraction in years past. ... This is sort of the next iteration of that. ... Taking some of the show scenes that you know and love and enhancing them with new technology or new storytelling, and then introducing new show scenes as well into the attraction,” he said.
“It really becomes about the central theme in that as humanity we’re all storytellers. Back from generations to now, and across the world, we’re all storytellers. And, so, we’re using that as the central theme for the attraction and, in some ways, it’s kind of a broader theme for Epcot at large, so that’s part of the revisioning.”