Confirmed: No 'Play' Pavilion at Walt Disney World

October 23, 2022, 1:48 PM · Inside sources that I trust have confirmed to me that the Play Pavilion concept is now officially shelved for Walt Disney World's Epcot.

The Play Pavilion had been planned to take over the former Wonders of Life pavilion in Epcot's old Future World. Disney never did provide specifics on what exactly guests would find in the Play pavilion, after announcing it in February 2019. [See Disney details a new look and a new pavilion for Epcot.]

Play pavilion
Walt Disney World's concept art for the interior of the Play pavilion

"Built on the power of play, [the Play pavilion] introduces an immersive and interactive 'city' where you can explore, create and interact with some of your favorite Disney characters," Walt Disney Imagineering portfolio executive Zach Riddley said at the time. "This innovative, new pavilion is beyond anything we’ve ever created and is completely unique to Epcot."

The trouble with trying something "beyond anything we’ve ever created" is that those Blue Sky ideas don't always end up hitting the budget allocated for them. And thus sealed the fate of the Play pavilion.

Contrary to some reports and rumors, Disney did do quite a bit of work on the Play pavilion before stepping away from the concept. The basic structure of the building has been repaired and reinforced. The roof no longer leaks, and the structure is in good condition to provide a home to whatever new concept Disney might choose to place there.

While the Play pavilion concept art gave heavy "Ralph Breaks the Internet" vibes, there was no IP officially attached to brand the project, which I suspect made its ballooning budget a harder sell for continued support. And before anyone climbs on the "Blame Chapek" bandwagon, may I remind everyone that Disney executives are looking for heavy IP branding in the parks because all the financial and survey data the company collects from its guests is telling them that IP branding is exactly what the public wants?

So if we ultimately get to see the interactive technology that Imagineers were working on for the Play pavilion, it likely will come in the form of new Marvel or Star Wars or Pixar or Disney Animation-branded attractions, rather than something with the generic and - frankly - hard-to-sell branding of "Play pavilion."

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Replies (22)

October 23, 2022 at 3:38 PM

I do think they were serious, the big "WDW 50th" book had a segment on it. But then, for 40th anniversary of EPCOT, saw the original CBS Opening Celebration special with Danny Kaye talking to Alex Haley on the Africa pavilion, complete with model and "see you there next year." It happens, scores of announced and planned attractions that just fall through, can't blame it on Chapek, just seems never worked as hoped.

October 23, 2022 at 5:57 PM

How about a Wakanda Pavilion. And the Living Seas can be Atlantis. And the rest of Future World can be the Stark Expo. Go all in Marvel, why not, EPCOT is gone. Norway can feature Thor, China with Shang-Chi, American Adventure with Cap, change Morocco to Egypt with Moon Knight, so on and so forth - Disney’s Marvel Universe.

October 23, 2022 at 5:53 PM

*Mark Woodbury and his lawyers enter the chat*

October 23, 2022 at 7:01 PM

This is a bummer. Expected news, but a bummer nonetheless. Here’s to hoping that the pavilion is still on the table for something new, just not the “Play Pavillion” we were promised.

October 23, 2022 at 7:14 PM

No worries ! The Disney fanboys will be by shortly to tell us how this is all part of the master plan, that the replacement will be the biggest gate crasher ever, and that we should all be standing and applauding. Now have yourselves a magical evening…

October 23, 2022 at 7:52 PM

I'm not sad to see this particular attraction shelved, personally, but I'll be interested to see what (if anything) comes in its stead in the future. EPCOT just opened a large roller coaster and is slowly putting the finishing touches on a walkthrough attraction amid other infrastructure projects around the park. That's not to say there isn't a need for another project down the road but ... it's probably down the road given everything else going on around the resort, right? I can see that as a reason to shelve this project as much as the ballooning cost.

But, I confess to having less insight on the cadence of Orlando-area projects than others around here. That just seems to make some sense.

October 23, 2022 at 8:29 PM

Look, if you want to give the people what they want, just call it LOOK AT YOUR PHONE IN AIR CONDITIONING. It'll be filled all day, teenagers will say it's their favorite place in the park.

October 23, 2022 at 8:50 PM

thecolonel wins the Internet.

October 23, 2022 at 9:47 PM

I personally do not like Ralph Breaks the Internet at all, and it's one of my least favorite Disney animated movies. The emoji/smartphone/internet theme of this attraction (and movie) always felt SUPER tacky to me, which, compounding with the slight IP tie-in of Wreck-It-Ralph 2, makes me glad to see this go. I like the concept of an interactive play space, but in a post-COVID world, I can see Disney wanting to veer away from touch screens in their parks. However, I don't think the lack of IP was the drive to cancel this. While yes, the pavilion had no outright theme, the attractions inside would have all been based on IP. Edna Mode, Duck Tales, Wreck-It-Ralph. I just think Disney missed the opportunity to complete this because of the pandemic (along with other canned EPCOT attractions), and decided to wait until the next cycle ten years down the line when it's EPCOT's turn to get new attractions again. Then they can pull out another plan for this (now reinforced) building as an easy fix instead of using any of the many expansion plots within world showcase.

October 24, 2022 at 12:19 AM

Robert, any truth to the rumor that the replacement for this now gutted, empty pavilion will be repainted to look like Bob Chapek’s head? The interior completely empty except for a giant Audio Animatronic of Mickey Mouse holding a tourist upside down by the ankles and shaking it as loose change falls from its pockets. Genie + is rumored to be required to be allowed to EXIT.

October 24, 2022 at 7:54 AM

On the wall of my office I have a framed/matted map of Disneyland that was published in 1961 -- before Mr. Disney had (allegedly) died. At different locations on the map there are orange dots that represent "Future Developments". These include "New Orleans Square" and a "haunted house" -- both of which became a reality. But there were also projects appearing on the map (publicized/announced) that were never built. Among them were a wax museum, a "Thieves Market" and two well-drawn concepts right off of Main Street USA called 'Liberty Street' and 'Edison Square'.

The company's history illustrates how the practice of shelving previously announced attractions/developments is not limited to modern day Disney.

October 24, 2022 at 8:25 AM

I think this concept was doomed from the start, and I'm pretty surprised that Disney initially committed to it by publicly announcing it, only to take nearly 3 years to realize it was a deeply flawed idea.

From all available descriptions, Play Pavilion was a cross/extension of Innoventions and Disney Quest. The idea of numerous smaller attractions gathered under a single roof and loosely connected under an overarching theme has been tried and failed twice at WDW (including in EPCOT). Both attractions failed because they were difficult (nearly impossible) to maintain and keep updated with the latest technology. At least Innoventions put the a majority of the cost of updating attractions onto corporate sponsors, but once that money dried up, you could slowly see the concept die out as sponsors put less and less effort into developing individual attractions until there was practically nothing left. Over at Disney Quest, the concept was similarly grand, but as games/attractions aged or new technology was developed to improve gaming experiences, Disney was unable to keep up across the facility, meaning parts of Disney Quest felt brand new while others looked and felt from the stone age.

Play Pavilion as described by WDI was a concept with the exact same flaws that doomed both Innoventions and Disney Quest, and there was no clear communication from creators as to how the attraction would address the issues that plagued its predecessors. I think executives bought the pitch from WDI because the project could be delivered at a fraction of the cost of a brand new d-ticket because of the reutilization of space and existing/proven small scale attractions in WDI's unused concept portfolio. WDI was undoubtedly excited about Play! because it could be the proving ground/test market that they lost after the closures of Innoventions and Disney Quest (perhaps WDI even pitched Play! as a future attraction technology incubator), but the appeal of the concept to guests (without associated IP) was going to be about as dull as Disney Quest and Innoventions eventually became, Also, the ongoing costs to develop and update attractions within the Play Pavilion was going to be unwieldy, even though it would give Imagineers projects to work on during slow period for the group.

I think it was clear that once the rubber hit the road, WDI couldn't justify continued investment in a project that could never meet expectations and would turn into a money pit to make it continuously appealing to guests.

October 24, 2022 at 8:48 AM

Colonel, Disney has that attraction already. It’s called “My Disney Experience”.

October 24, 2022 at 3:24 PM

RM: "The idea of numerous smaller attractions gathered under a single roof and loosely connected under an overarching theme has been tried and failed twice at WDW (including in EPCOT)."

Me: I would re-write that sentence and say "Disney has failed in the management and ongoing development of the concept of having numerous smaller attractions gathered under a single roof and loosely connected under an overarching theme." I still like 'The Land'. And at the height of their best days 'Journey into Imagination' and the 'Living Seas' were pretty great.

October 24, 2022 at 9:07 AM

I would concur TH, and WDI has come up with some great ideas and concepts that were well received by guests (Turtle Talk being the most notable), but even those successes are exceptions to the rule when WDI is not given the budget to improve and maintain those attractions.

October 24, 2022 at 9:53 AM

We should start bets to see how long the building will be SBNO. I'd say 5 years

October 24, 2022 at 10:05 AM

@Postcott - It depends on how you define SBNO, because the building was still being used as a festival center and VIP/member lounge long after Wonders of Life was officially shuttered in 2007. I think the odds are higher that Disney eventually demolishes the building for a replacement attraction than reutilizing the building for anything other than a festival/special events/exhibit space.

October 24, 2022 at 11:00 AM

I think the moment I knew this was going to be in trouble is when Disney failed to mention it at D23. They mentioned all sorts of Blue Sky ideas but nothing on Play. I agree with a lot of the comments before on how the concept for this seemed, worrisome without an IP or major attraction to anchor. Perhaps Disney is going to turn their attention and energies to those previously mentioned Blue Sky ideas at Magic Kingdom and/or Animal Kingdom. Dinoland needs the love much sooner than that corner of Epcot!

Kudos to TH for making two great points. I have a souvenir book from the 60's and it shows concept art for Edison Square and Liberty Street that never came to be at Disneyland among other things. The Land is a winner at Epcot. It's three attractions, two restaurants, and overall vibe of the place gets me in a nature-y mood. Not to mention the A/C is always welcomed. But Play lacked any mention of a Soarin-ish or Living with the Land scale attraction. It was just a vague description of things.

Appreciate the reporting on this.

October 24, 2022 at 11:11 AM

Disney scrapping a concept isn't new and it could have evolved into a concept that's easier to present as "new". I do think a pavilion that focuses on smartphone interaction has a ton of potential to be wildly successful.

I was in line at test track and saw a kid (maybe 5) trying to get the attention of the 3 adults in her party while they were focused on their phones. I said to my wife "It's gotta be hard to be the only person in your group without a phone to look at." as I mulled on this new way I see parents disappoint their children. (I mean to say all parents disappoint their kids at times but you couldn't do it this was when I was a kid.)


The current west side pavilions at EPCOT already have lots of guests focused on their phones for one thing or another. I think a few additional options will be fine for a majority of folks. I'd wager in 15 years that percent increases.

October 24, 2022 at 12:28 PM

Disney wants less guests because it's too crowded.
Disney Play is shelved but it's a good thing because consumers want more of the same.

Or maybe they are going to store the barges in here of their failed night time show until they found some use for it?
Whatever it is I have the feeling Disney is totally cloudless.

October 24, 2022 at 4:27 PM

@Russell-

I'm just saying that nothing major will be operating inside or in that area for a while.

October 24, 2022 at 6:45 PM

They should lean into the Guardians theme and make it a spaceport / watering hole for wayward travelers. And in a sly nod to Star Wars they could call it the Galactic Boozer.

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