New 'play pavilion' and redesigned park entrance planned for Epcot

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Big changes are in store for Epcot, in preparation for the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World Resort.

Disney on Thursday announced plans for a re-designed main entrance for the park as well as a yet-to-be-named pavilion that will be "bursting with interactive experiences, your favorite Disney characters, hands-on activities and engaging entertainment," and housed in what was previously known as Wonders of Life.

“This innovative, new pavilion is beyond anything we’ve ever created and is completely unique to Epcot,” said Zach Riddley with Walt Disney Imagineering. “Built on the power of play, it introduces an immersive and interactive ‘city’ where you can explore, create, and interact with some of your favorite Disney characters.”

At the main entrance, the plaza between the ticket gate and Epcot's iconic Spaceship Earth attraction will get new pathways and landscaping, along with a reimagined fountain. The "Leave a Legacy" photo display will be moved just outside the park's gateway, Disney said.

Additional redevelopment will begin between Spaceship Earth and the World Showcase Promenade, details of which would be announced at a late date, Disney said.

The changes come ahead of the highly-anticipated Guardians of the Galaxy-themed roller coaster coming to Future World and Remy's Ratatouille Adventure, planned for the France pavilion.

Epcot was originally conceived by Walt Disney in the 1960s as an experimental city. In fact, the Epcot name stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.  The city concept was abandoned after Disney's death and Epcot became the second theme park at Disney World when it opened in 1982.

Disney officials say the new additions at Epcot will open in time for the resort's 50th anniversary in 2021.

Other developments in the works at Epcot include:

  • “Beauty and the Beast” sing-along in the France pavilion.
  • Circle-Vision 360 film for the China pavilion and updated O Canada! 360-degree show.
  • Signature Dining experience inspired by the natural beauty of Japan.
  • Space-themed table-service restaurant adjacent to Mission: SPACE.
  • Epcot Forever, a 2019 limited-time nighttime experience over World Showcase Lagoon set to classic Epcot tunes, followed by an all-new nighttime spectacular debuting in 2020.