housands of Epcot’s best friends gathered this week to celebrate the theme park’s 35th anniversary. There were loads of shared memories – Figment, “Veggie Veggie Fruit Fruit,” Horizons and the ilk – but there also was talk about coming attractions. It’s so Epcot to talk about the future, right?

During a ceremony to kick off Sunday’s proceedings, Walt Disney World President George A. Kalogridis referred to an “Epcot renaissance,” a nice term I could get behind although I don’t want to hear it at every Epcot occasion for the next four years.

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He was referring, of course, to changes that were announced this summer. We’ve already seen the Mission: Space attraction re-open with updates, but when can we see hints, at least, of more changes? “Pretty soon,” says Epcot VP Melissa Valiquette.

“We’re already beginning construction on the new ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ roller coaster,” Valiquette says. “That’s not obvious from the outside just yet but the inside is underway, so you’re going to see some signs there.”

The coaster is taking the place of Ellen’s Energy Adventure. Valiquette says that we will see more indications of construction in the next few months across the park. No opening dates have been announced.

“We’re fortunate that some of this early development that we’ve announced is on land that’s backstage,” she says. “It actually makes it a much easier construction project for us.”

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Such is the case for Epcot’s “Ratatouille” ride.

Ratatouille ride concept“If you’re facing the France pavilion, you’re going to enter on the right-hand side,” Valiquette says. “You’ll actually walk around a pathway that takes you behind the pavilion, and then you’ll enter the attraction back there.”

Part of the ride won’t be directly behind the France pavilion; it will be partially on a “neighboring piece of land,” she says.

The under-construction gondola system at Disney World will be called Disney Skyliner, and it will connect Caribbean Beach, Pop Century, Art of Animation resorts as well as Epcot and Hollywood Studios. (Walt Disney Co.)

Another factor is the construction on the Epcot station for the gondola system that eventually will connect with select resorts and with Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park.

“That construction project is going to be pretty complex back there because we’re building Ratatouille in the same place we’re building the landing area for the Disney Skyliner, which will come into the International Gateway area.”

The Ratatouille ride is a proven winner for Disneyland Paris, and it fits into the Epcot marching orders – more Disney, more family, more timeless, more relevant, Valiquette says.

“We are very, very focused on that — staying true to the core of what has brought us so many loyal fans though the years and making sure that we keep that group loving Epcot as much as they do today,” she says. “But really focused reaching out to new families and young families that maybe haven’t always found their hook in Epcot quite as much as they have found it in Magic Kingdom or some of our other parks.”


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