Deb Wills speaks with Brad Rex, Vice President of Epcot at the Year of a Million Dreams Press Event 1/27/07

Deb Wills and Brad Rex

Editor-in-Chief Deb Wills attended Disney's Year of a Million Dreams press event and had the chance to speak at length with Brad Rex, Vice President of Epcot. Brad began his tenure at Epcot on September 10, 2001.

He noted that Epcot's undergone "lots of great changes" the last few years, including the addition of Mission: Space "Green," the less-intense version of the ride that simulates a trip to Mars. "Guest response has been very positive about the Green version," Brad said. "My wife Nancy is a good example – she went on the original Mission: Space, the Orange version and said I'll do it once, but that's it. Recently she tried the Green version and really enjoys it and said she'll go on it anytime."

Another change to Future World that Brad is excited about is the gradual renovation that has taken place at the Seas with Nemo and Friends pavilion formerly known as The Living Seas. "We call it the 'Extreme Makeover' of the pavilion," Brad said, "and its success has been unbelievable. It's been a great renaissance, coming in phases — the character Meet and Greet, Turtle Talk, and now we've added Nemo and Friends (Clam-mobiles). The ride really begins before you enter the building with the seagulls. One of my concerns is that guests don't get the whole impact, that they rush through the queue to get on the ride and the queue is part of the storyline."

"Not too long ago the park was tilted to the Test Track and Mission: Space side," Brad added. "Now there is a good balance with the enhancements at the Land and the Seas."

Some of the other highlights of Deb's conversation with Brad Rex:

— Brad revealed that Turtle Talk with Crush, which closed yesterday for a rehab, is moving into a larger theater — according to him, the queue will be in one of the pods that is closed right now, and the theater used will be the one that formerly showed the Living Seas preshow movie. The new theater will retain the intimacy of the show, although there will be additional seating, and children will still be able to sit on the floor.

— Brad said that although 2007 marks Epcot's 25th anniversary, there was no big celebration planned, although there would be private observances behind-the-scenes for cast members.

— Brad also said that a new Spaceship Earth postshow area sponsored by Siemens will open in the March/April timeframe. The new area will have hands-on exhibits.

— There are plans for more additions to Innoventions, but there are still no definite plans for the Wonders of Life pavilion at this time.

— As has been rumored for some time, the Mexico pavilion in World Showcase is adding The Three Caballeros to the El Rio del Tiempo ride. The walkaround characters, which have been making appearances in the pavilion for the past few months, are immensely popular — "far beyond our expectations," Rex added. The boat ride and the boats will stay the same, Rex said, although the visuals throughout the ride will be updated.

— O Canada! in the Canada pavilion is going to be updated and the new movie will possibly debut in summer or early fall.

— A short segment will be added onto the film montage (about 45 seconds) of the American Adventure.

— As previously reported in ALL EARS®, there will be a major rehab of the Teppanyaki restaurant in the Japan pavilion. Rex said that while they want to "hold onto the classic" they need to update other areas. "But the chefs will still cook in front of you!" he added.

— The change to an automated spiel on the Living with the Land ride has been met with positive feedback from guests. "Folks seem to be enjoying more of the attraction and no longer focus on the Boat Captain," Rex explained.

— Finally, Brad explained that while the IllumiNations show is a classic, we're looking at new technology all the time. "The Earth globe will be worked on later this year and other elements will be added to make up for the globe being out of service for a while." He had no details on the timing of this renovation.