EpcotThe Parks

A Look Back at 40 Years of Innovation at EPCOT – Part 2

On October 1, 1982, Walt Disney World Resort invited guests to imagine what life would be like in the 21st century with the opening of EPCOT Center. This first-of-its-kind theme park showcased ideas and technologies the world had never seen before. Learn more about forty years of EPCOT below!


Now known as EPCOT, the park inspires curiosity, imagination and wonder through its international festivals, innovative attractions, and cultural experiences.

We’ve already looked at the milestones in the first half of EPCOT’s history. Here’s a look at some of the milestones in the 40-year history of EPCOT from 1999-2022:


  • March 17 – Test Track opens in Future World. The park’s first thrill attraction, it takes guests on exhilarating twists and turns in a test vehicle.
  • Oct. 1 – TheMillennium Celebration begins at EPCOT. The 15-month event marks the debut of the popular nighttime spectacular, “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth”, that will run for 20 years. Also new is Millennium Village – celebrating the cultural achievements of 25 countries – and the Tapestry of Nations parade. The celebration also brings pin trading to the forefront for Disney collectors everywhere.


  • Oct. 1 – The Art of Disney shop opens in Future World, selling Disney artwork, prints and other collectibles.
A celebratory hot air balloon shaped like Spaceship Earth flies over EPCOT in 2000 at Walt Disney World. (Credit: Disney/Alain Boniec)


  • Aug. 15 – Mission: SPACE opens in Future World. The attraction takes guests on a simulated training spaceflight to Mars.


  • Nov. 16 – Turtle Talk with Crush opens in The Living Seas. The first-of-its kind attraction enables Crush from Disney-Pixar’s “Finding Nemo” to talk with guests, as he learns about humans and shares his stories of life in the ocean.


  • May 5 – Soarin’ opens in The Land pavilion, taking guests on a breathtaking aerial adventure over iconic California locations.


  • Oct. 1 – “The Year of a Million Dreams” begins. Across EPCOT and the other Walt Disney World theme parks, Dream Squads surprise thousands of guests with an array of prizes, from special attraction access, and merchandise to Disney vacations.
  • Nov. 26 – The Living Seas pavilion is transformed to become The Seas with Nemo and Friends pavilion. Its official dedication will take place Jan. 24, 2007.



  • April 6 – Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros opens inside the Mexico pavilion. A re-imagining of the pavilion’s opening-day boat ride El Río del Tiempo (River of Time), the updated attraction features Donald Duck, José Carioca and Pistoles Panchito from Walt Disney’s 1942 film “Saludos Amigos.”
  • April 25 – The Project Tomorrow: Inventing the Wonders of the Future exhibit opens at Spaceship Earth. The series of exhibits showcases advances in medicine, technology and energy management.
  • Oct. 1 – The 25th anniversary of EPCOT is marked by a rededication ceremony and a gallery showcasing memorabilia from the park’s history.


  • Feb. 15 – After extensive renovations, Spaceship Earth reopens with an expanded storyline. The new narration follows the history of human innovation from prehistoric times to the 21st century.


  • Jan. 28 – Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure interactive attraction opens. Guests transform into secret agents as part of Team Possible to save the world via the Disney Play! App on mobile devices. The scavenger hunt-style experience interacted with seven World Showcase pavilions.


  • April 4 – House of Good Fortune merchandise location opens in the China pavilion. The new shop sells authentic Chinese merchandise.


  • June 23 – Phineas & Ferb: Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure opens, replacing Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure. The new quest takes guests on an adventure with Agent P to solve clues and thwart Dr. Doofenshmirtz’s evil plots.
  • Dec. 6 – Test Track – Presented by Chevrolet re-opens. The re-imagined attraction allows guests to design their own vehicles before setting off on a thrilling test drive.


  • May 30 – L’Artisan des Glaces Ice Cream shop opens in the France pavilion. The shop makes its own ice cream.


  • Jan. 20 – Spice Road Table opens in the Morocco pavilion. Inspired by the outdoor cafés throughout the Mediterranean, the restaurant serves small plates, specialty wines and aperitifs from the region.


  • June 17 – Soarin’ Around the World debuts in The Land pavilion. The reimagined attraction takes guests on a flight high above many of the world’s natural and man-made wonders.
  • June 21 – Frozen Ever After opens in the Norway pavilion, replacing Maelstrom. The attraction takes guests on a boat ride through the kingdom of Arendelle. Along with the ride-through attraction, Royal Sommerhus opens, allowing Queen Elsa and Princess Anna to meet with guests inside a charming cabin.
  • New holiday experiences are found across the theme park as part of what’s now the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays.



  • Jan. 12 – The EPCOT International Festival of the Arts debuts, expanding the park’s festival offerings to all four seasons.


  • Aug. 25 – The historic multi-year transformation of EPCOT is announced at D23 Expo 2019.
  • Oct. 1 – “EPCOT Forever” nighttime spectacular debuts at World Showcase Lagoon, replacing “Illuminations: Reflections of Earth.”
  • Oct. 1 – Walt Disney Imagineering presents the EPCOT Experience opens, offering a preview of attractions coming as part of the theme park’s multiyear transformation.
  • July 5 – Takumi-Tei opens in the Japan pavilion. The signature dining table-service restaurant specializes in wagyu beef, sushi and signature cocktails.
American Platter with brisket, pulled pork butt, and ribs with a side of baked beans at Regal Eagle Smokehouse.


  • Jan. 17 – Three new films debut around World Showcase. “Awesome Planet” debuts in the Harvest Theater inside The Land pavilion. The new film showcases the beauty and diversity of our planet. “Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along” premieres in Palais du Cinema inside the France pavilion. The new film offers a new twist on the classic Disney movie. “Canada Far and Wide in Circle-Vision 360” debuts at the Canada pavilion, updating the O Canada! Circle-Vision 360 film.
  • Feb. 19 – Regal Eagle Smokehouse: Craft Drafts and Barbecue opens at The American Adventure pavilion. The fast-casual restaurant serves classic American backyard barbecue and home-style craft brews.
  • Dec. 22 – A transformation of the main entrance is completed with the unveiling of a new fountain, inspired by one that originally debuted with the theme park’s 1982 opening.


  • Sept. 15 – Creations Shop opens in World Celebration. The new flagship store features unique merchandise dedicated to EPCOT, as well as other Walt Disney World collectibles.
  • Sept. 20 – Space 220 opens in the Mission: SPACE pavilion. The new restaurant gives guests the chance to enjoy a meal among the stars, after a simulated flight 220 miles above the Earth’s surface.
  • Oct. 1 – Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary celebration begins with new experiences across all four theme parks. In honor of the celebration, Spaceship Earth transforms into a spectacular Beacon of Magic at night, illuminating the skies with brilliant colors. As part of the park transformation, three new neighborhoods – World Celebration, World Discovery and World Nature – join World Showcase as the geographic areas that make up EPCOT.
  • Oct. 1 – The expanded France pavilion opens with Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, a new ride-through 4D experience inspired by Disney-Pixar’s “Ratatouille.” A new restaurant, La Crêperie de Paris, offers guests a delicious taste of French cuisine.
  • Oct. 1 – “Harmonious,” a new nighttime spectacular, debuts with the 50th Anniversary celebration. The show celebrates the way Disney music inspires people across the world and features a culturally diverse soundtrack coordinated with spectacular visuals and fireworks.


  • April 27 – Connections Café and Eatery opens in World Celebration, offering guests a new selection of internationally-inspired cuisine.
  • May 27 – Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind opens in the Wonders of Xandar pavilion. The family thrill coaster features myriad firsts, including the first ever reverse launch on a Disney coaster and ride vehicles that rotate 360 degrees. It’s also one of the world’s largest fully enclosed coasters.
  • Oct. 1 – Walt Disney World Resort celebrates the 40th anniversary of EPCOT, as the park continues its multi-year transformation.

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Chad & Cindy Nykamp

After years of multiple Walt Disney World vacations, Cindy and Chad's dream of living in Orlando came true in 2010. After friends and family made them their go-to-people for Walt Disney World advice, Cindy and Chad launched DisneyLists.com in August 2015 to share their knowledge and love of Disney. Chad and Cindy have been Disney World Annual Passholders for years, DVC members, together have raced more than 70 runDisney races, and particularly love cruising on the Disney Cruise Line. Chad and Cindy also regularly represent DisneyLists.com at Walt Disney World media events. While attending these events, they get an insiders view of all the new things that have come to Walt Disney World. These experiences have helped them gain knowledge and expertise they happily pass on to their followers. They still can't believe how lucky they are to have such an amazing opportunity and will continue to share Disney with anyone who will listen!
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