As anyone who’s reading Theme Park Tourist can tell you, when you really simplify it EPCOT is primarily known for three things: not changing enough, changing too much, and earning the resentment of Disney Parks fans for both.
Beginning as Walt Disney World’s “permanent World’s Fair” when it opened in 1982, EPCOT was an intellectual park whose Future World pavilions were renowned for their lengthy, in-depth, animatronic-filled dark rides – many of which are immortalized in our in-depth Lost Legends series. That began to change in the ’90s, when Disney began to evolve the park to bring in high tech rides and more characters, papering over classics and creating a piecemeal park of ’80s architecture, ’90s colors, and semi-scientific thrill rides.

Image: DisneyIt was 2017 when Disney announced that they would at last do what fans had hoped and feared for years: give EPCOT’s Future World a full, master-planned reimagining. Some parts of the five year effort (like Cosmic Rewind, the “Beacons of Magic” lights on Spaceship Earth, the return of pavilion icons, and the park’s redesigned entrance) are obvious successes. Others (like Journey of Water and Harmonious)were more divisive.
And sadly, thanks to the pandemic’s interruption, some parts of the plan didn’t come to be at all. Whether it’s the announced plans for Mary Poppins in the U.K. pavilion, a Celebration pavilion planned for the park’s center, rumors of a reimagined Journey into Imagination E-Ticket, the cancelled Play pavilion, or all-but-assured plans for Coco to join the Mexico pavilion, EPCOT today doesn’t look the way Imagineers or their fans had hoped way back in 2017…

Image: DisneyBut like it or not, Disney CEO Bob Iger proclaims that EPCOT’s long-running reimagining is officially complete as of December 5, 2023 thanks to the unveiling of World Celebration – the last of three “neighborhoods” created from chunks of the former Future World. Yep, after many years, the fences have fallen around EPCOT’s center, and where Innoventions and the Fountain of Nations once resided, something very new has arisen.
World Celebration

Image: Park Lore, Twitter (all rights reserved)As this hand-illustrated before and after graphic from our friends at Park Lore shows, the center of EPCOT has changed drastically. That’s on purpose. EPCOT has long been criticized for feeling vast, concrete, cold, and barren. “The 21st century as envisioned from the 1980s” turned out to be… well… a lot less warm and natural than we actually hope for the present and future to be. 
The east side of the renamed World Celebration isn’t much of a surprise. The refreshed Connections Cafe & Eatery and Creations Shop are recent reincarnations of the park’s former Quick Service and Retail hub (formerly, the Electric Umbrella and MouseGear). Both gave fans a very clear peek into the aesthetic of the “new” EPCOT – homages to the ’80s and embrace of its architecture, but filled with a whole lot more modern sensibility – glass, steel, wood, and warmth.

Image: DisneyThe west side of the space – formerly Innoventions West – was demolished in 2021, ending nearly forty years of the two mirrored, parentheses-shaped buildings reigning over the park’s center. Initially, that was supposed to be for Journey of Water Inspired by Moana (an interactive walkthrough grotto that technically belongs to the neighboring “World Nature” area) and…

Image: Disneya new, elevated “Celebration” pavilion, serving as a hub for the park’s many festivals and offering (no doubt, upcharge) elevated viewing of the park’s lagoon-set nighttime spectacular. Given Disney’s significant draw-down in financial investment during and after the pandemic, it wasn’t much of a surprise when Imagineers announced that they’d – eh hem – changed plans, painfully re-building a structure resembling Innoventions West in the space they’d only just cleared out.
The result was a re-oriented space with the new CommuniCore Hall (its name a throwback to the name of the parenthetical buildings pre-Innoventions). The warehouse-style Hall is meant to be a sort of mini expo center whose contents can shift depending on EPCOT’s then-current festival. It also encompasses CommuniCore Plaza – an audience area oriented toward a small stage for live music or festival demonstrations.

Image: DisneyThe bulk of the park’s center, though, is what’s being called Celebration Gardens – really, a series of distinct seating areas and relaxation spaces tucked around a new central planter. 

Image:, TwitterCelebration Gardens is about as different from the old Innoventions area as it could be; it’s a glowing, natural landscape that resembles a well-appointed, 21st century city park. There’s plentiful seating – all wood and steel – among concrete. In this oasis, there are towering, stylized metal trees; curving pathways lit by light-up sprigs; symmetrical planters; mini-stages for performances…

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