We finally have new details about the new fireworks shows (plural) slated for Epcot in 2019 and 2020 following the previous announcement that IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth will be retired at the end of Summer 2019. Today at the Destination D event, Disney Parks Chairman Bob Chapek announced the details for how these new nighttime spectaculars would fit into the plans for Epcot’s multi-year transformation.
As previously announced, the first new fireworks show will begin immediately after IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth concludes its ‘farewell run.’ This limited-time experience will be called “Epcot Forever” and will debut in fall 2019. It will feature pyro, classic Epcot tunes, and who knows what else.
Following that, the main new nighttime spectacular will debut in 2020. This fireworks show will chronicle how Disney music inspires people around the globe, and will feature large floating set pieces, custom-built LED panels, choreographed moving fountains, lights, pyrotechnics, lasers, and more.
Additionally, Chapek announced that a new Circle-Vision 360° film is coming to replace O Canada!, and further reiterated that the new Circle-Vision 360° film for China (announced last summer at the D23 Expo but not mentioned since) is still on the way. Finally–at least in terms of Epcot news–he announced that a brand new Beauty and the Beast sing-along created by Don Hahn, producer of the animated and live-action Beauty and the Beast films, is set to debut in the France pavilion.
Now, for our commentary on these announcements…
In our previous posts about the rumor of a replacement for IllumiNations and then in our official announcement commentary, we had discussed an interim, stop-gap show between IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth and the new, permanent show.
Originally, we were pretty confident that there would be a temporary show, for a couple reasons. First and foremost, because infrastructure work would need to be done between the two shows and a full-scale fireworks ‘spectacular’ could not be shown during that time.
Second, from a marketing perspective. In this scenario, Epcot would get three surges of guests: longtime fans of IllumiNations would come to bid the show adieu between now and Summer 2019, the same group would come again to see the interim Epcot Forever show, and “everyone” would come to see the new show. It’s no secret that Epcot attendance has been lagging during the park’s Diet Epcot months, and this would give it a needed boost.
The thing we want to stress here is that from what we’ve heard, the interim show will not be a full-scale nighttime spectacular, but rather, a temporary fireworks show that can run without using much (if any) World Showcase Lagoon infrastructure.
Think of this situation as akin to when Disneyland ran ‘Fantasy in the Sky’ for a few months while updating its tech after ‘Remember… Dreams Come True’ ended and before debuting ‘Disneyland Forever,’ the 60th Anniversary show.
That proved to be a savvy move, as Fantasy in the Sky has a long legacy in California (versions of it date back to 1958). Even though the show had a brief runtime (I swear it felt less than 5 minutes long) and a disappointment as compared to ‘Remember… Dreams Come True’ and ‘Disneyland Forever,’ it proved a draw among locals.
Same idea applies here. We don’t need to tell you that the original EPCOT Center has a strong and passionate fanbase, and offering up some fan service in the form of ‘Epcot Forever’ for 6 months or so–and announcing it fairly far in advance–will get those hardcore fans to plan trips.
We wouldn’t necessarily caution you against doing that, as ‘Epcot Forever’ could surprise us all with some strong pyro, cool effects, and a great soundtrack. Just as likely, though, is that it’s a condensed show with limited pyro and a short medley of EPCOT Center tunes. We would bet against it being as good as the 25th and 30th Anniversary tags.
As for the permanent show, color us disappointed but unsurprised. This show sounds like it’s World of Color-inspired, and we’d expect it to be similar to that show, but adapted for the unique 360-degree viewing area of World Showcase Lagoon. Expect the soundtrack and imagery to be character-laden.
In fairness, World of Color is an exceptional show and if it’s on par with that in quality, the new Epcot lagoon show will be a huge hit among casual guests of the park. Our concern lies more with how a show focused on Disney characters and music fits thematically with World Showcase, and the mission of Epcot.
At his speech during the last Destination D event, Chapek indicated that the bold plans for Epcot entailed making it ‘more Disney, more relevant, timeless, more family-friendly, and true to the original vision of the park,’ which he reiterated again at the D23 Expo.
Making Epcot more Disney and staying true to the park’s original vision are not necessarily at odds with one another. However, anyone who has paid even passing attention to how the company makes things “more Disney” these days would know that the two ideas are pretty much mutually exclusive.
More Disney is not-so-secret code for more intellectual property from films, which was the antithesis of EPCOT Center. There are ways the two could coexist, but Disney long ago gave up on Epcot as an ‘edutainment’ experience, and there’s no credible reason to believe they’ll alter course now.
We don’t doubt that Disney will pay lip service to Epcot’s mission, offer tenuous ways coming additions are ‘on-theme’, and even throw fans some bones here and there. The ‘Peter Quill visited Epcot’ line is one example of a tenuous connections. You’ll probably also be able to find hidden logos of the original EPCOT Center Future World pavilions, and other superficial attempts to placate fans, but don’t expect anything that substantively evokes the Future World of EPCOT Center going forward. (Unless you count LE merchandise.)
The Circle-Vision films should be one such way Disney throws a bone to Epcot fans. By several accounts, the China film is at the behest of (and co-funded by) Disney’s partner in Shanghai Disneyland, which is an arm of the government. We don’t know any details about that film, but expect it to be a travelogue showcasing China’s beauty, rather than anything involving Mulan or other characters. It should be good, and we’d likewise expect the new Canada film to be a solid upgrade over the current film.
We don’t really have an opinion on the Beauty and the Beast sing-along news. World Showcase unquestionably needs more for kids, even with the addition of Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. (Oh yeah, they also announced that as the official name…guess there’s a fear guests won’t recognize what the ride is based upon unless the film title is in the name!)
Sing-alongs are definitely not for us, but there’s appeal, and Disney went out of its way to indicate that this would be in addition to Impressions de France, rather than replacing it, so…whatever. It’ll probably be just as good or bad as other sing-alongs, depending upon your perspective.
We’re expecting more news today out of the Destination D event, and possibly confirmation of some rumors that have been swirling for the last couple months, so stay tuned throughout the day…
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What do you think about the ‘Epcot Forever’ and the World of Color-esque permanent lagoon show? Disappointed or excited? Surprised or unsurprised? Will you plan a trip to say goodbye to Illuminations or hello to Epcot Forever? Other thoughts? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!