'We have huge expectations from everyone': Past, present and future of Disney's Epcot

Elisabetta Bianchini

When Epcot opened at Florida’s Walt Disney World in 1982, it was the materialization of Walt Disney’s vision of an ever-changing experience with evolving technology. In 2020, this area of the park will go through a historically robust upgrade.

“We know guests love Epcot and we’re leaning into the things that they know and love, our festivals, our great iconic attractions like Spaceship Earth, our nighttime spectacular the World Showcase,” Michael Hundgen, executive producer with Walt Disney Imagineering told Yahoo Canada

“But we’re now bringing attractions and experiences that also relate to some of the newest guests who are coming to the park...we’re trying to make this park more Disney, more timeless, more relevant and more family.”

There’s no doubt that there is a lot of pressure on the Disney team to execute the upgrade with great precision and accuracy, particularly with the emotional attachment so many have to the brand, its parks and legendary films.

“I think everybody feels pressure because, obviously we have huge expectations from everyone,” Marilyn Meyreles, producer for Disney Parks live entertainment told Yahoo Canada. “But I think our teams have worked together so closely for so many years and even with newcomers who have that passion for Disney, that it’s always going to show in all the work that we do.”

Meyreles worked on Epcot’s newest nighttime spectacular, Epcot Forever.

“Imagine yourself being around the lagoon and you hear this little girl say with one little spark, and you hear Walt’s voice and all of a sudden the music starts,” she said.

In order to decide which elements of the past should be included in Epcot Forever, the creative team gets together to brainstorm the elements that will spark emotions for guests. With tears in her eyes, Meyreles explained that the show is a celebration of the past, present and future of Epcot and Disney.

“To me, the little girl represents the future...when I hear the little girl talk, they’re singing...I just feel like it’s really bringing it home that this is a new generation so we’re looking to the future,” Meyreles said.

What experts are most excited about

If you’ve never been able to experience Epcot before, Meyreles says Spaceship Earth is a must.

“It kind of brings everything together, it’s one world,” she said. “I love to visit the pavillions because there aren’t many opportunities that you can go and visit all these countries in one promenade around the world.”

While you’re at the pavilions, there are a ton of food options for guests to enjoy, but Chelsea Florig, project manager for food and beverage at Epcot, and Al Youngman, culinary director at Epcot, have some favourites.

“The salmon at the Yukon Holiday Kitchen is amazing,” Florig told Yahoo Canada. “Salmon with like a Crown maple whiskey glaze...it’s really good.”

“The Arepas at Three Kings, I think that’s just so, it’s warm and cheesy, you get shrimp or cheese Arepas,” Youngman said. “The cookie stroll, that’s a really good one,... we have peppermint cookies, gingerbread men, chocolate pecan, we have a linzer cookie, a black and white cookie.”

In terms of upcoming attractions, Hundgen says the upcoming enhancements to the France pavilion will be a must-see in summer 2020.

“When I think about what I’m excited about next year it’s Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure,” Hundgen said. “The whole France pavilion, you’re going to have a new film, a new creperie with sweet and savory crepes, and you’ve got this really great new family attraction, nestled in sort of a beautiful part of the park that we haven’t been to before.”

If you’re looking for a way to get to or from Disney, the Skyliner is the way to go. You don’t have to wait for a particular bus to arrive and you can take a beautiful, leisurely ride to and from Epcot. It’s part transportation, part park attraction. The Skyliner connects Disney’s Hollywood Studios and the International Gateway at Epcot, and four resorts on the property: Disney’s Riviera Resort, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, Disney’s Pop Century Resort, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort.