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Monday, June 27, 2022

Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind

Project Status: Active
Location: EPCOT, Walt Disney World, Bay Lake FL
Ride Format: Launch Coaster
Manufacturer: Vekoma Rides Manufacturing BV
Announced: July 15th, 2017
Replacing: Ellen’s Energy Adventure
Projected Opening Date: 2021

Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind Concept Art
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind concept art. (Photo: ©Disney)

Overview


Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is an upcoming launch coaster dark ride in EPCOT at Walt Disney World. The rollercoaster will feature innovative rotating ride cars taking guests through a sequence of projection scenes featuring the live action characters from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy franchise. The project is currently in its third year of construction, with the possibility the attraction will take a total of five years to complete. Slow construction progress due to lack of funding as well as halts related to the coronavirus pandemic may push the attraction’s opening later in 2021 or even 2022.

Project Origins


In the years leading up to the project’s reveal, there was ample speculation about a Guardians of the Galaxy themed attraction coming to Walt Disney World. The popularity of the property combined with Disney’s interest in implementing Marvel properties into the Disney Parks made it a likely addition. One rumor was a re-theme of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios to Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout. Another alleged plan was to re-theme Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster Starring Aerosmith to a Guardians of the Galaxy themed attraction or a Monsters Inc. Door Factory Coaster. The rumor consistent in the lead up to the 2017 D23 Expo announcement was that Guardians of the Galaxy would be coming to EPCOT to replace Ellen’s Energy Adventure at the Universe of Energy, a rumor first broken by WDW News Today.[1] Common amongst all these rumor discussions was the topic of the Universal Marvel contract.

Universal Marvel Legalities

A binding legal contract entitled “MARVEL AGREEMENT BETWEEN MCA INC. AND MARVEL ENTERTAINMENT GROUP” was signed by both parties on March 22nd, 1994. This contact granted MCA broad exclusivity in the usage of Marvel characters at theme parks east of the Mississippi. This contract was inherited through acquisitions by NBC Universal Comcast and The Walt Disney Company, and has since been the source of much friction pertaining to Disney’s legal ability to implement Marvel at their largest resort. Made clear in the contract is that characters used by Universal in their Marvel Superhero Island are strictly off limits for any other park in the immediate region. An often-cited ‘loophole’ in the contract is an exclusivity limitation clause which permits Marvel to grant additional permissions to other theme parks so long as those specific characters are not being used by Universal.

Exclusivity shall be limited as follows: “East or West of the Mississippi – permitted uses shall be limited to the use of specific Marvel characters and Marvel may not permit a licensee to use the name “Marvel” as part of the attraction name or marketing.”

-Universal Marvel Contract Clause
§ (IV)(B)(a)(iii)

This may give Disney the ability to grant themselves the right to use specific characters not in Universal. In the past 5 years, Disney has been able to host Doctor Strange and Guardians of the Galaxy character meet and greets and even the “Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Live!” show in EPCOT. It is speculated this is the contract language which enables Disney to build a Guardians of the Galaxy roller coaster East of the Mississippi. Despite this, use of the Marvel name and logo is still strictly prohibited per the contract. As such, Disney’s Guardians of the Galaxy attractions do not feature the “Marvel” name or logo in any medium.

Project Announcement


Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind Exterior Concept Art
Guardians attraction concept art revealed for EPCOT at the 2017 D23 Expo. (Photo: ©Disney)

During the Parks & Resorts Panel at the D23 Expo on July 15th, 2017, then Parks Chairman Bob Chapek announced plans for a brand new e-ticket Guardians of the Galaxy themed attraction in EPCOT.[2] Chapek said “this [project] epitomizes our goals for EPCOT in a way that stays true to the original ideals. It’s also more timeless, more relevant, more family, more Disney.” The public received two pieces of concept art, one featuring a look at the attraction exterior and another of the attraction pre-show.

Ride Format Later Disclosed

During Disney’s original announcement, the precise format of the attraction was kept under wraps. This was either due to plans not yet finalized or the format was intentionally withheld for a future announcement.

Whatever the case, at an October 1st, 2017 press event celebrating Epcot’s 35th anniversary, Epcot Vice President Melissa Valiquette confirmed in an interview with Inside the Magic the attraction would be a roller coaster.[3] Valiquette said “we’ve already announced a good handful of new attractions coming including our Guardians of the Galaxy-inspired rollercoaster.” Many speculated this confirmation of the then-rumored ride system was accidental.

Further Project Details


2018 D23 Expo Japan

On February 11th, 2018, then Parks Chairman Bob Chapek officially announced that the Guardians of the Galaxy attraction would be a rollercoaster, despite EPCOT’s VP already confirming such suspicions 4 months previously. In the announcement Chapek revealed that the attraction would be one of the longest indoor roller coasters ever made and feature a revolutionary ride system. This was the first of many times in further fan events where Chapek highlights the massive scope of the attraction. Later, at a ‘Destination D’ Fan Event in November, Bob Chapek disclosed that the ride building could fit the volume of four Spaceship Earths inside of it.

Ride Car Developments
Guardians Ride Vehicle
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind ride vehicle (Photo: ©Disney)

Photos of the revolutionary new ride system were leaked a month later on the Theme Park Review forums, posted by MrRC. The photos of a new, rotating ride car were taken from a Vekoma Rides Manufacturing BV test facility. At the IAAPA 2018 Conference, Bob Chapek officially confirmed the 360-degree ride vehicle, showing footage of vehicle testing taken from the same Vekoma test facility photos had leaked from earlier in the year. At the time, the ride vehicle had yet to be fabricated, so the vehicle imagery was relegated to concept art. 10 months later, Disney would post the first official look at the then-fabricated Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind 360-degree ride vehicles in action.[5]

2019 D23 Expo
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind Pre-Show 'Galaxarium'
Concept art of the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind ‘Galaxarium’ pre-show. (Photo: ©Disney)

On August 25th, 2019, Bob Chapek elaborated on the attraction, announcing that the ride will launch with guests seated in reverse. The attraction’s official name was revealed as ‘Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind.’ He also offered a new view of the ‘Galaxarium’ featured in the queue building of the attraction. The 2019 D23 Expo largely focused on Disney’s plans for overhauling EPCOT. A major aspect of this overhaul announcement was the division of Future World into three themed lands: World Discovery, World Celebration, and World Nature. This park-wide rebranding results in Cosmic Rewind no longer being located in Future World East, but rather, the newly-minted ‘World Discovery’ area.

Edutainment
Star Lord in EPCOT
Fictional photo of Star Lord visiting EPCOT as a kid. (Photo: ©Disney)

As part of the 2019 New York Comic Con, Marvel released a press release covering some of their collaborative projects with Walt Disney Imagineering. In regards to Cosmic Rewind, Marvel told parks fans “expect to find some real-world information about space and beyond in the preshow queue.” This allusion to edutainment-style elements being present in the attraction gave some reassurance to EPCOT fans, building further on past appeals. In the original 2017 ride announcement, Imagineer Tom Fitzgerald revealed that as part of the attraction’s lore, Star Lord visited EPCOT as a child.

Project Timeline


Permits Filed

Guardians Building Permit EPCOT
Guardians project scope first revealed in this wetland relocation permit. (Photo: ©Disney)

Even prior to the official project announcement in July, Disney had already been filing permits with the South Florida Water Management District to begin work. The project’s giant footprint called for the removal of one canal and the expansion of another to compensate. At the time, why Disney required so much space for the project was strictly speculative, as the format of the attraction and the fact that it had a massive ride building had not been disclosed.

Ellen’s Energy Adventure Closes

On August 13, 2017, Ellen’s Energy Adventure ran for the final time before demolition and interior work began for its replacement. The ride broke down shortly after the final ride began, allowing fans to unload in the middle of the attraction and get up close photos with the primeval diorama. It has been speculated this chain of events may have been purposeful as a treat to fans. Word from maintenance sources was the attraction’s infrastructure, in particular the giant turntable and wire guidance system, was already ‘borderline non-operational.’

Construction Work Begins

Guardians Ride Building Concrete Foundations
Guardians ride building receives its concrete foundation at EPCOT. (Photo: ©Disney)

In September 2017, land clearing began at the future site of the attraction’s ride building.

In October 2017, construction walls rose around the Universe of Energy pavilion promenade.

On May 4th, 2018, Disney uploaded a later released video[4] featuring a 17 hour time lapse of the ride building’s horizontal construction being locked into place with 9,260 cubic yards of cement.

Throughout the second half of 2018, the interior and exterior of the former Universe of Energy was ‘gutted’ for the installation of a new ride queue and updated entrance facade.

Rise of the Ride Building

Guardians Building Construction Aerial
Aerial view of the Guardians ride building construction on October 21st, 2018. (Photo: @bioreconstruct on Twitter)

In early May 2018, following the completion of the ride building’s foundations, vertical construction began on the housing for the attraction’s track. The Universe of Energy pavilion itself is incapable of housing a rollercoaster of e-ticket magnitude, and instead serves as the queue and load area for the attraction. Throughout the summer the ride building grew in height and scale, with the ride building’s full size being reached in Fall 2018. At this point, the ride building began to be enclosed with sky blue and “go away green” panels. Disney’s choice to enclose the space prior to the vertical construction of the track has been subject to much speculation. It’s more expensive and resource intensive to construct a roller coaster inside an enclosed space, requiring specialized machinery rather than simply utilizing cranes like those used at Tron Lightcycle / Run. Possible motivations include, desire to keep the attraction’s layout a secret or a need to build infrastructure for the attraction’s many projection screens in conjunction with the track, requiring an enclosed space shielded from the Florida climate.

Launch Tunnel Assembly

The installation of  the ride building’s paneling continued through late 2018, followed by construction on the “launch tunnel.” The launch tunnel is a bridge of sorts which goes over the backstage road Avenue of the Stars and connects the former Universe of Energy building load area to the the new ride building where the attraction unfolds.

Track Install

For a short time in the start of 2019, a track sloping upwards was visible, extending from the launch tunnel into the ride building. Quickly, both the sloped portion of the launch tunnel roof and the launch tunnel itself received colored panels just like the ride building itself. Aerials of Guardians of the Galaxy track pieces disappearing from their staging site signalled the ride track had been assembled inside the ride building.

Additional Work

Spitz, Inc Projection Dome
Projection dome manufactured by Spitz, Inc. (Photo: ©Spitz)

In March 2019, a permit was filed at the address of the Guardians of the Galaxy ride building for installation of “fabrication and installation of show screens” by manufacturer Spitz. The company is known for making some of the largest domed projection screens in the world. A later released piece of concept art inside the attraction’s queue appears to show one of these “planetarium” style screens. It’s likely they are also featured inside the attraction itself.

In late summer 2019, vertical work began on a new maintenance bay and storage facility building located on the back of the Universe of Energy building.

Throughout 2019 and early 2020, visible work was centered on the fabrication of the queue interior, as well as the installation of frames on the roof for a new generation of solar panels that will be visible as part of the attraction’s facade. Work was suspended in March 2020 due to COVID-19.

Once work resumed in the summer, the visible work centered on completing the installation of solar panel frames on the exterior, as well as adding scaffolding for the Nova Corps spaceship, which will reside outside the front of the attraction.

Major Delays Due to COVID-19


Guardians Aerial October 2020
Aerial view of the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind Coaster site on October 11th, 2020. (Photo: @bioreconstruct on Twitter)

As a result of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, all construction work was halted at Walt Disney World for six months. In the case of Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, the pandemic hit harder than most other Walt Disney World projects. Since the attraction relies almost entirely on live-action footage composited with CGI, it is impossible for the project to progress without the footage of the franchise’s cast. Allegedly, this footage was to be filmed at the start of production for the third Guardians of the Galaxy film. Lockdowns began shortly before film production began, shutting down all studios and relegating actors inside ever since. Project construction resumed in August 2020. Cosmic Rewind is rumored to be temporarily halting work entirely as Disney attempts to cut capital expenditures.

Other Projects


References


    1. Corless, Tom. “UPDATE: Universe of Energy at Epcot Likely to Close Soon for Guardians of the Galaxy Attraction“. WDW News Today.
    2. Guardians of Galaxy Epcot Announcements & More Future World Plans | D23 Expo 2017“. YouTube via The DIS.
    3. Epcot’s Vice President Melissa Valiquette discusses coming attractions and changes to Epcot“. YouTube via Inside the Magic.
    4. Work Continues On The ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’-Themed Roller Coaster at Epcot“. YouTube via Disney Parks.
    5. First Look at the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind Ride Vehicles“. YouTube via Disney Parks.

Additional Works: