Comparing EPCOT’s Finished World Celebration Area to Old Concept Art

The largest portion of EPCOT’s new World Celebration officially opened to guests in December 2023. The area includes a statue of Walt Disney, seating areas, lush landscaping, and a ton of interactive lighting that transforms the space at night.

While we wait for CommuniCore Hall & Plaza to open in 2024, we can compare the finished areas in World Celebration to the original concept art Disney has released over the years. Disney’s concept art is never representative of the finished product, but EPCOT’s finished World Celebration is quite the departure.

As a reminder, here’s what the finished World Celebration looks like courtesy of an aerial image from @bioreconstruct.

Aerial view of EPCOT's World Celebration.
Aerial image of EPCOT’s World Celebration from @bioreconstruct.

The unfinished CommuniCore Hall & Plaza is on the left side of the picture and remains behind construction walls. The statue of Walt Disney is in the upper portion of the picture near Spaceship Earth’s Project Tomorrow building, and seating can be found throughout the space. A large planter with EPCOT’s logo anchors the center of World Celebration.

So far, guests have had mixed-to-positive reviews about the new World Celebration. There’s no question the space is much better at night than it is during the day thanks to its lightning syncing up with Spaceship Earth’s lighting packages. But, many have criticized Disney for how long it took to build and open World Celebration when it only has seating areas and landscaping.

Now, let’s jump back in time. Disney released the concept art below in 2017 as a reimagining of EPCOT’s Future World.

2017 EPCOT Concept Art:

Screenshot of the unreleased 2017 EPCOT concept art.
Screenshot of the D23 2017 EPCOT concept art.

The original blue sky concept art from the D23 Expo was bold and difficult to decipher. We have no idea what the sculpture or structure is with all the triangles at the entrance to World Showcase Lagoon. Almost zero elements from this original blue sky art made it to the final version of EPCOT outside of more green spaces.

We can’t help but point out that Disney’s recent practice of showing wild blue sky concept art that ends up looking nothing like the finished product causes more harm than good. Remember the Parks Presentations where Disney showed what they “could” do in Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom?

Those investments, if they happen, are years away and yet Disney builds expectations by releasing early concept art. Some of these projects may not even happen (remember the Magic Kingdom Main Street Theatre?), making Disney look even worse. Guests who are disappointed in World Celebration point to what was cut and lost rather than enjoying the final result. Disney says they want guests to be apart of the conversation on what’s coming, but there’s minimal value in doing that outside of covering up a lack of real projects to market.

Time passed and new art was released in 2019 showing different ideas in the EPCOT transformation.

2019 EPCOT Concept Art:

EPCOT concept art in 2019 featuring the Festival Pavilion.
EPCOT concept art in 2019 featuring the Festival Pavilion.

The 2019 concept art showed more details including the elevated Festival Pavilion, a water feature area that could be interpreted as the Journey of Water attraction, and some sort of pink walkway.

A closer look at the multi-story Festival Pavilion:

Concept art of the EPCOT Festival Pavilion.
Concept art of the EPCOT Festival Pavilion.

The Festival Pavilion would’ve had a landscaped roof with a viewing area for EPCOT’s nighttime spectaculars, an indoor area that could host festival events, and more. Disney fans were quick to point out the building’s design looked like a coffee table and questioned another paid fireworks viewing location. However, the building’s design was certainly creative and ambitious despite all the potential concerns and memes.

It’s worth noting that all of the 2019 concept art, as well as the video from the EPCOT Experience Center in the Odyssey building, depicted at least one fountain or water feature in what’s now the center of World Celebration. Unfortunately, the finished space does not have any fountains.

The lack of a dynamic feature such as a fountain makes World Celebration feel like it’s missing something. The space is perfect for a decent fountain, especially since it sits on the grave of the Fountain of Nations. A new fountain wouldn’t have to be nearly as big and would be perfect in the planter in the middle of the EPCOT logo.

What other ideas did Disney have for EPCOT’s old Future World?

Unreleased Alternate Plans for EPCOT:

Epcot Future World Concept
Unreleased EPCOT concept art from Martin Smith.

In late 2019, one of the best Disney insiders shared some unreleased concept art depicting an alternate future for EPCOT’s center spine. The image from Martin Smith showed a plan for EPCOT that saved Innoventions West from demolition. It also depicted an updated version of the Fountain of Nations while adding in some needed landscaping to the heart of EPCOT.

The unused plan retained EPCOT’s symmetry and would’ve been significantly cheaper than what Disney actually did by tearing down Innoventions West just to rebuild some of it as CommuniCore Hall & Plaza. Remodeling and refreshing the existing spaces would have retained some of EPCOT’s history.

What do you think of the finished World Celebration and how it compares to Disney’s concept art? What elements from the art do you wish Disney built?

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David is a Disney travel expert who created Notes from Neverland in 2018 after visiting Disney theme parks countless times. Previously, David spent way too much time writing about sports, and was featured in Sports Illustrated, MSN, Yahoo!, and in many other publications. Learn more or contact us.

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