There's a lot about Walt Disney World that is up in the air right now. While Disney Springs has begun to reopen, and will see more stores welcoming guests this week, the hotels and parks have no set date for reopening, and that means that not only the present, but the future of the parks leave much to be determined. There were a lot of major projects already under construction when Disney World was forced to close, but now one of the biggest questions surrounds an iconic attraction that was supposed to close. Spaceship Earth was set to begin a major redesign today, but with the parks closed, it's far from clear what the plan now is, as things could go in one of several different directions.
Rumors of a major redesign to Epcot's geodesic dome, Spaceship Earth, had been rumored for sometime and they were finally confirmed at last year's D23 Expo. As, then Parks Chairman, and now CEO, Bob Chapek explained, the plan was to not simply refurbish but redesign the attraction, which was the centerpiece of the original Epcot. It would no longer be a dark ride that took guests through the history of human communication, but would instead focus more specifically on the history of storytelling.
This would require some of the animatronic vignettes to be redesigned, while others would be completely replaced. Concept art shows a new show building next to the iconic dome and reports indicated the entire track layout was being redesigned. The expectation was that the redesign would require the ride to be closed until 2022, reopening for Epcot's 40th anniversary.
However, that closure was set to begin today, and with not just Spaceship Earth, but all of Epcot and Walt Disney World closed, it's unclear what the plan is now. No major construction is currently taking place at Walt Disney World and we don't know if construction will restart alongside the parks reopening, or come sometime after in order to keep occupancy in the parks as low as possible.
We could potentially see construction on Spaceship Earth begin in earnest. Construction could begin before Epcot even opens, or it could start alongside the park opening. If that happens then we'll probably see construction go more or less exactly as we have expected it to.
Alternatively, we could see construction delayed for a minor period of time. If Disney isn't ready to get the reset underway, but still plans to do it, we could see Spaceship Earth remain closed when Epcot reopens. We could also see the current version of the ride get a stay of execution, and perhaps it will reopen with the park for a few weeks or months until plans are ready to get back under way.
But there is a third option. We could potentially see the redesign greatly scaled back, or perhaps cancelled entirely. It's no secret that Walt Disney World has been losing a lot of money due to being closed, and things aren't expected to be a great deal better even after the park reopens, as a lot of people are going to be without the disposable income needed for a Disney World vacation.
With that in mind, one has to be at least open to the possibility that the attraction might not get the transformation we're expecting, or it could be delayed for a long time until the park is in a better financial position.
Spaceship Earth's redesign is just one part of a major Epcot transformation, much of which was already underway when the park was forced to close. Right now, we just don't know how much of it we'll ever see, or how long it will actually be before we do.