Last night there was a lot of news focused on new attractions and experiences coming to parks and resorts around the globe last night at the D23 Expo Japan. While last year’s Expo was the main hub of announcements for Walt Disney World, and no major changes or additions were pronounced last night, there were a few other details that we’re released about previously known projects. From luxury Star Wars resorts to Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy’s runaway train there was enough to keep even the most casual observer interested. The one highlight that really caught my attention, however, was the Guardians of the Galaxy attraction coming to Epcot.
There were a couple of pieces in the announcement that caught my eye. For starters, yes, it is going to be one of the largest enclosed rollercoasters in the world. Not breaking any records, but I dare say we can expect something longer and more involved than either Space Mountain or Rock ‘N’ Rollercoaster Starring Aerosmith. Plans had already seemed as if the attraction would burst out of its current footprint and, possibly, into the area of the Imagine parking lot. Armed with what we learned last night, that prospect is almost a foregone conclusion at this point.
The second bit of information to catch my attention was the fact that it is slated to be open by Walt Disney World’s fiftieth anniversary in 2021. That means that they are taking their time to get this right and not rushing to shove a Marvel property, one of the only ones that Disney can utilize on this side of the Mississippi River, into a park as quickly as they can. Considering that Universe of Energy has already been closed for six months and that we’re looking at another three to three and a half years before the out of this world attraction is unveiled, there is definitely an element of caution and precision that is being exercised with this new experience.
This leads me straight into the third tidbit I caught for the Guardians of the Galaxy attraction, and that is that the story is currently being developed by Walt Disney Imagineering. In other words, the story hasn’t been fully fleshed out yet. This begs the question, which version of the Guardians are we going to ride along with in the attraction? The team has already changed between the first two films, and with a third installment on the schedule for 2020, I suspect that will be the line-up we see when we blast off from Epcot in 2021.
In terms of story development, it is also worth noting that just across the way, Epcot already has an attraction that features space flight, so this will have to be something different. Also, I think many of us assumed erroneously that Epcot would keep the theme of energy at the core of the new attraction. There are many universal themes that could be utilized with the Guardians, and a spaceflight mission to find or save an energy source feels too much like an amped-up version of Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. I would love to see a thematic element that has either been missing from Epcot for some time, or one never fully embraced by the park, to be integrated into this new Guardians story.
At this point in the Guardians of the Galaxy attraction’s development, almost everything is speculation, while even points that have been announced are subject to being completely changed. At this moment we have a general idea of the who, the Guardians, the what, an enclosed rollercoaster, the where, former Universe of Energy area, and a when, 2021. For those trying to gleam the how, how it will work and how guests will embrace it, we’ll just have to wait in see. As for the why, Thomas Smith put it right up front in the announcement article on the Disney Parks Blog when he stated, “The ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’-inspired coaster is part of our ongoing work to transform Epcot into a place that’s more family, more relevant, more timeless and more Disney.” Meaning, this is still only the tip of what is to come from the Epcot revitalization iceberg.