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Disney: New Epcot preview center gives splashy look at theme park’s future

Walt Disney World visitors now can get glimpses of Epcot's future through a new preview center at the theme park. The attraction – dubbed Walt Disney Imagineering Presents the Epcot Experience – opened to the public last week.

Its centerpiece is a 360-degree project that surrounds a three-dimensional model representing Epcot's expansion plan. Lighting effects – think Cinderella Castle projections on a much smaller scale – change the look of the model and are accompanied by images touting the changes. Some sights are expanded or animated versions of previously released renderings.

"This experience center will really help our guests visualize that transformation, all while being immersed in the elements that have made Epcot Epcot," said Melissa Valiquette, vice president for the park.

A narrator gives carefully worded, not-too-spoilery clues. During a segment about the "Mary Poppins"-based attraction, visitors hear "over in the United Kingdom, a practically perfect adventure is coming that will have you laughing with delight." During a stretch about the upcoming refurbishment of Spaceship Earth, the curved screen shows dozens of candles.

Projection mapping repeatedly changes the look (and theme) of the model. During a preview that touts the under-construction ride called Remy's Ratatouille Adventure, the lighting makes little Spaceship Earth look like big cheese.

In the areas outside the circular theater are themed photo opportunities and an array of 40 stylized posters that salute Epcot attractions past (World of Motion, for example), present (Morocco pavilion) and future (Space 220 restaurant). A large artist rendering portraying after-dark/after-transformation Future World and World Showcase takes up one large wall. There are also encased props such as Mary Poppins' umbrella.

"We've got some oversized photo ops that are larger than life and you can soar above the clouds of Mary Poppins or you can shrink down to the size of a rat with Remy and all his friends as we prepare for Remy's Ratatouille Adventure coming next summer," said Walt Disney Imagineering's Michael Hundgen.

The preview center is in the Odyssey building, which housed a restaurant in the early days of Epcot and more recently served as a festival center with seminars, souvenirs and/or beer flights. It's located between the theme park's Test Track attraction and the Mexico pavilion. Its hours are listed as 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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