Disney History: Epcot World Showcase Then & Now

One of the areas in Walt Disney World that has remained the most constant since its opening is Future World in Epcot. Of course after 33 years, small changes are evident everywhere, but the broad, sweeping changes that we have observed at other parks have not happened in World Showcase.

World Showcase opened in 1982 with nine pavilions: Canada, United Kingdom, France, Japan, USA, Italy, Germany, China, and Mexico. Two years later, the Morocco pavilion opened and in 1988, Norway rounded out the 11-member showcase. For the past 27 years, the remaining eight spaces have been left essentially vacant. The African Outpost, the miniature train layout, and the World Showplace pavilion have temporarily filled some of the spaces, but each of these venues could be swiftly deconstructed to welcome new permanent pavilions. The Millennium Village gave us a glimpse of some of the countries that could eventually find a home around the World Showcase Lagoon. They included Brazil. Chile, Eritrea, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, and Sweden. What country would you most like to see permanently join the World Showcase roster?

Morocco Was Added In 1988Morocco Was Added In 1988

Live Entertainment has always been an important part of the World Showcase experience. Since opening day, the Voices of Liberty a cappella group has been performing at the American Adventure. Other acts have come and gone, but musicians, artisans, acrobats, comedians, and even lumberjacks have all played a role in immersing guests into different world cultures. In addition to performers representing the culture and heritage of each individual country, the Tapestry of Nations and Tapestry of Dreams parades enjoyed a combined 5-year run to celebrate the Millennium. And while other fireworks shows have lit the night skies, IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth has entertained park guests for 27 of Epcot's 33 years. What is your favorite act or show at World Showcase?

France Offers Fun Acrobatic EntertainmentFrance Offers Fun Acrobatic Entertainment

Finally, Festivals and seasonal events are some of the best reasons to visit Epcot, but the traditions that we know and love haven't always been a part of the World Showcase landscape. In 1994, topiaries greeted the guests of the International Flower & Garden Festival for the first time. Nineteen years later, the festival is still going strong and had added food booths to bolster the event. One of the most popular festivals, The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival premiered in 1995 and will celebrate its 20th anniversary this season. Candlelight Processional, originally conceived at Disneyland, was performed at Magic Kingdom from its very first season in 1971. In 1993, the processional moved to Epcot to give more guests the opportunity to see the annual event. In 1996, Holidays Around the World spread cheer throughout the World Showcase by bringing holiday storytellers to each pavilion. What's your favorite event at Epcot?

Shops in the German PavilionShops in the German Pavilion
Recent and future changes such as converting Maelstrom in Norway into a 'Frozen Ever After' ride featuring the characters from Frozen, the replacement of the beloved Off Kilter musical group with a team of lumberjacks in Canada, and the canceling of popular World Showcase entertainment like the Ziti Sisters in Italy have been maligned by many guests. We'll have to hold out hope that the next round of changes to be announced for World Showcase will bring this beloved land closer to its educational, cultural, and culinary roots.

Norway Is Undergoing Current ChangesNorway Is Undergoing Current Changes

Leave us a comment and let us know what your favorite parts of Epcot are Then & Now!

A big thanks goes out to Guest Author Holly L. for sharing a little bit of her time in Walt Disney World with us. If you'd like to read more about Holly's trip, you can find her sharing her adventures on our member forum.

Skunk wrote on Fri, 09/04/2015 - 12:37:

Skunk's picture

FYI, the first Food and Wine was 1996, so 2015 is the 20th year. Off Kilter and Mo'Rockin were the reason we purchased DVC at the Boardwalk. Bad enough that Disney let them both go last September, worse that they were not replaced by musical entertainment. Music made the WS special. Time for the chainsaws to go!

John Bell wrote on Mon, 09/07/2015 - 00:07:

John Bell's picture

I remember my first time at Epcot we got a glass of wine and the French waiter wouldn't let us leave the country. How things have changed...

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly. If you have a Gravatar account associated with the e-mail address you provide, it will be used to display your avatar.

More information about formatting options