Of the four theme parks at the Walt Disney World Resort, there’s one that gets the brush-off more than any other. But this often-underrated Disney World theme park might just become the theme park at the top of Guests’ “must-see” list, beginning May 27.
The EPCOT that Guests experience today is wildly different than the idea Walt had for it when he first said the name “EPCOT” out loud. Walt’s idea for an “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow” was one of his many efforts in the way of forward-thinking and progress. The experimental community was to be a prototype for others to come–one in which self-sufficiency (the community’s, not necessarily the individuals’) would be king and reap rewards.
But Disney’s utopian dreams died in part with Walt as dystopia became the shocking reality when he passed away suddenly in December 1966, shortly after he purchased tracts of Florida swampland and five years before any of that swampland would become the “Florida Project” Guests know today as Disney World.
In their attempts to simultaneously honor Walt’s legacy, process their grief, and create a marketable, Imagineers worked to infuse some of the elements of Walt’s version of EPCOT into Walt Disney World’s second park. When it opened in October 1982, it was indeed different. After all, Walt’s EPCOT was a community where people would live and learn and grow and create.
And for all of its perks and offerings, Disney World’s EPCOT is still a theme park.
Over the years, as the Walt Disney World Resort continued to expand across acres of Florida swampland, more options outside of EPCOT became available, and over the years, EPCOT has become–for some–the “forgettable park.”
Many Disney fan sites that offer tips on planning your Disney vacation will suggest you skip EPCOT and enjoy a double dose of another park. Comments online from fans of the parks will tell you if you have only 3 days at Disney, EPCOT’s the park to skip. And don’t worry about Park Hopping; it simply isn’t worth it.
That was pre-2022.
It wasn’t enough for EPCOT to be the home of Spaceship Earth, an attraction that by all accounts is a wonder. Both the ride and the structure of Spaceship Earth are fascinating, and the way in which the not-quite-perfect geodesic sphere is held up and partially suspended is an engineering marvel in itself. You can read more about that here.
It wasn’t enough for EPCOT to be the only place at the Disney World Resort where Guests could stand under a structure during a torrential rainstorm and never have rainwater drip onto their heads. (Spaceship Earth’s design funnels the rainwater down, away from Guests and eventually out to the World Showcase Lagoon.)
It wasn’t even enough that EPCOT is home to World Showcase. And never mind that the park did and does host multiple international festivals annually. While Guests enjoyed and still enjoy these offerings, EPCOT needed more. It needed something that would level the playing field and forever remove its stigma as “the park to skip.”
Yes, EPCOT needed a coaster. And not just any coaster–“coaster fever” fails after a while.
It wouldn’t be enough to have a coaster that was just more of the same with a “space” or “earth” or “world” theme to it. No, EPCOT’s coaster would have to be–like Spaceship Earth–an engineering and physics marvel–a first, a “never-before-done” coaster–an experience that would change the narrative about EPCOT. No–an experience that would revolutionize the narrative about EPCOT as the park Guests won’t miss if they miss it.
Walt Disney Imagineering must have known this, and it’s evident in every fiber of EPCOT’s new coaster–the one that will revolutionize everything for Disney World’s second park. Enter Guardians of the Galaxy: COSMIC REWIND.
EPCOT’s COSMIC REWIND coaster is a first. Marvel.com says “It’s an experience that needs to be seen to be believed.”
For starters, Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and Groot have their work cut out for them. Eson, a celestial, has stolen the Cosmic Generator from the Wonders of Xandar so he can move quickly from place to place. It’s all systems go as Star-Lord and the rest of the Marvel heroes have to save the universe yet again.
A new character, Centurion Marik, is featured in the attraction, and Glenn Close reprises her role as Nova Prime. And another first inside the attraction is Worldmind, the Xandarian supercomputer.
The attraction itself (the ride) features some amazing elements. According to Disney Parks Blog, COSMIC REWIND is the first-ever coaster attraction at EPCOT, the first reverse launch for a Disney coaster, and the first Disney Omnicoaster, meaning the ride vehicles make rotations that are controlled “to always keep Guests focused on the action.”
EPCOT’s new coaster is a wonder in another way: it’s been deemed “thrilling” and “intense” by those who’ve experienced the ride already, but without the usual coaster features.
Travel & Leisure had this to say about the coaster:
“You won’t experience any inversions or heart-stopping drops, but you won’t miss them,” reads a recent post detailing the new coaster. “It’s simultaneously thrilling, family-friendly, genuinely funny, and visually stunning. And, for what it’s worth, I rode it three times in a row and did not get motion sickness.”
Though the opening date for COSMIC REWIND was leaked prematurely, cheers and nearly-audible roars of excitement from Disney fans who double as coaster enthusiasts ensued. And while May 27 marks the first day the ride will be open to Guests at the Walt Disney World Resort, the date perhaps serves–more importantly–as the beginning of a new narrative and a new era for EPCOT.
One in which EPCOT is the park NOT to miss.