Epcot is quickly becoming one of Disney's biggest coronavirus headaches

Epcot is quickly becoming one of Disney's biggest coronavirus headaches
Image via Disney

As Orlando-area theme parks look to slowly begin reopening, we are starting to learn more about many of the projects expected to debut this year.

Capital spending across Disney parks worldwide has been cut back by $900 million. This doesn’t mean most of these projects have been outright canceled. Instead, many have been delayed while Disney looks to keep offsetting the dramatic losses they’re currently facing. Even once construction in the parks does resume, some projects will be postponed for various reasons.

No park has more currently in the works than Epcot. Some of the more distant projects, such as the Mary Poppins flat ride that was announced for the U.K. pavilion, have been rumored to be "indefinitely postponed" – an unofficial way of saying a project has been scrapped.

France’s new Ratatouille ride was just weeks away from debuting ahead of the unexpected park closures and is still expected to open sometime in 2020. The same is true for the Space 220 restaurant.
click to enlarge The new Ratatouille area being built in Epcot's France pavilion - Concept art via Disney
Concept art via Disney
The new Ratatouille area being built in Epcot's France pavilion
Many Hollywood film productions have been postponed by the coronavirus, meaning the videos planned for use on the Guardians of the Galaxy ride have yet to be filmed since they were scheduled to coincide with the filming of Guardians 3. For now, Disney is taking a wait-and-see approach, since the attraction still has a few months of construction ahead of it.

Decreased park capacity and social distancing requirements mean that Disney is pushing back many of the projects that are expected to draw large crowds. The thinking is that hopefully, by mid-2021, some of the current safety protocols could begin to be relaxed, allowing for Disney to have an even bigger push for WDW’s 50th Anniversary celebration.

According to industry insider Jim Hill, who has been crucial in the reporting on the film-related delays for the Guardians attraction, the 50th Anniversary was to launch in early 2021 but has now been delayed to October 1, the actual date of the 50th Anniversary. This allows for the projects currently delayed to be finished and gives more time for the pandemic to subside.
Concept art for the new Epcot nighttime spectacular, HarmonioUS - Photo via Disney Parks Blog
Photo via Disney Parks Blog
Concept art for the new Epcot nighttime spectacular, HarmonioUS

With social distancing concerns, many of the nighttime spectaculars at theme parks have been canceled for the time being. This means Epcot’s much anticipated new nighttime lagoon show, Harmonious, is also rumored to have been delayed.

Originally slated to debut later this year, insiders are now stating that it will not debut before Thanksgiving and may be delayed well into 2021. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. With no timeline on when nighttime shows such as Harmonious can resume, it makes sense for Disney not to be actively spending money on the construction required for the new show.
click to enlarge The new multi-level Festival Center heading to Epcot - Image via Disney D23
Image via Disney D23
The new multi-level Festival Center heading to Epcot
Still unknown are the impacts on Epcot’s other big projects, including the multi-level Festival Center, with its rooftop garden designed for firework viewing parties, and the Play pavilion in the former Wonders of Life building.

With so many unknowns, including when the economy will recover, it’s unlikely that Disney will share details on many of these projects any time soon. Also, due to the unique international labor force that Epcot has sent back to their home countries, it may be the last of the four WDW parks to reopen.

As of now, there are no confirmed reopening plans for Epcot. A phased reopening of Disney World will begin May 20, and continue May 27, when a limited number of shops and dining establishments within Disney Springs begin to reopen.
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