134. Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind (Walt Disney Imagineer Interview)

Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind opened at EPCOT in Walt Disney World on May 27, 2022. Replacing the Universe of Energy pavilion (Ellen’s Energy Adventure), this attraction became the first roller coaster at Epcot, the first roller coaster at EPCOT, the first backwards launching coaster for the Disney Parks, the first E-ticket Marvel attraction at Walt Disney World, and one of the longest indoor roller coasters in the world. Featuring six unique soundtracks (Disco Inferno, September, Cnoga, Everybody Wants to Rule the World, One Way or Another, and I Ran (So Far Away)), this attraction is the first of its kind (an omnicoaster), taking EPCOT travelers to the Wonders of Xandar Pavilion. In this podcast episode, I chat with Senior Producer of Walt Disney Imagineering, Wyatt Winter, who assumed the same role for Cosmic Rewind. Wyatt and I discuss his role on the attraction, the ride’s storyline, the Wonders of Xandar pavilion, the innovative ride system, Easter eggs, and more. What are you looking forward to most when you next experience Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind?

[Intro music plays Matt in and continues to play under him]

Matt: Hello and welcome to the Imagineer Podcast, your unofficial guide to all things Disney. I’m your host Matthew Krul and you’re listening to Episode 134 of the Imagineer Podcast. This week, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind opened at Epcot in Walt Disney World. Since the announcement in 2017, that this attraction would be coming to the park, fans of Marvel, and of Epcot had been speculating, wondering and asking, what is this experience going to be like? And now that the attraction is open, the collective consensus is, wow, this attraction is amazing. And it certainly is an out of this world experience, pun intended. It not only takes guests into the world of Guardians of the Galaxy, but has such a strong fit into World Discovery, which is one of the things we’re going to talk about in today’s episode. If you haven’t had the chance to experience this attraction yet, I strongly recommend you head down to Walt Disney World to give it a shot because it really is an incredible addition to Walt Disney World and one that I know fans are going to be enjoying for decades to come. In today’s episode, I had the pleasure, the honor, of chatting with Wyatt Winter the senior producer of Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at Walt Disney Imagineering, we spoke a bit about his role on the attraction, what it was like to develop this experience and things you should look out for on your next visit to the Wonders of Xandar Pavilion at Epcot. Before we jump into the episode I of course want to give a special thank you and shout out to our sponsor WDW Magazine. You can learn more about WDW Magazine by heading to their website, which you can find a link in the show notes of this episode, or at Imaginingeerpodcast.com, at the end of the episode, I’ll come back and tell you a little bit more about how you can connect with the Imagineer Podcast on all your favorite social media channels, and how you can help to inspire and create the future of the show. So grab some headphones, pull up your favorite armchair and enjoy this episode of The Imagineer Podcast.

[Music fades out as interview begins]

Matt: Wyatt, welcome to Imagineer Podcast. 

Wyatt: Hey, thanks for having me.

Matt: Yeah, thanks so much for chatting with me about Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, brand new attraction at Epcot at Walt Disney World. So excited to chat with you. 

Wyatt: Yeah

Matt: During the conversation, I thought it would be a great idea to start with your role on the project. So can you talk a little bit about your role on Cosmic Rewinds?

Wyatt: Yeah, so I am the served as the senior producer for this project. And that’s my title as well as as well as the role on the job. And what I describe that as is really kind of the project manager and kind of lead for all the creative and design half the project. And so kind of helping everything from ideation, blue sky, what is this to executing it in the field and helping kind of guide and lead the teams.

Matt: That’s a dream roll. I know for a lot of people listening right now. And I am certainly looking forward to asking some specific questions about this project. And one of the ones I wanted to start with had to do with the overall theme and story of Epcot because it’s it’s, it’s evolving into a new direction. And I’m curious how your team went about, you and the, team went about developing the story so that it fit into the narrative of Epcot’s World Discovery.

Wyatt: Yeah, and that was a very important thing for us as a team, we all grew up as a fan of Epcot coming here as a guest through all the different decades. And one of the ways we did that, as we started looking at it was just Xandar, itself felt and looked very Epcotian, as we say, in the project, or in the attraction. And so that was a leaping off point for us and thinking about Xandar and they’re kind of futuristic, city. And then how do we maybe bring that here and then a whole idea of this other World Showcase pavilion, and showcasing their culture and their people and technology, and that really kind of led us into that story? And everything from our Xandar Gallery and the Galaxarium being able to tell stories that if it was about the China pavilion or American Adventure, the same things you really talk about the people and their culture and all of that it just happens to be a totally different planet.

Matt: Yeah, when the project was announced, I was curious, how is this going to fit into Epcot. And now that it is here, and I’ve seen as much as I possibly can about the attraction, it seems to fit so perfectly, which is such a a great part of this attraction. You mentioned the Xandar, the Wonders of Xandar pavilion, and I love the fact that it’s the same bones of the Universe of Energy pavilion. So as you mentioned, you’re, you know, a fan of Epcot, what was it like to sort of repurpose the existing Universe of Energy pavilion into the Wonders of Xandar pavilion?

Wyatt: Yeah, I mean, that’s a big part of this whole project was kind of paying homage to the past, looking forward as well and kind of straddling those two worlds. And that Universe of Energy building is just this massive kind of iconic piece of Epcot architecture. And so taking that evolving, it really is the outside is the main part that remains inside is totally different. Barely anything remained there. But it was kind of how do we keep that and it was fun to have an attraction that we no one really can see it. We built that building existed, we built the other building out back. And so we could build all of this and have a good surprise at the end for everyone.

Matt: It definitely has that wow factor now that it’s open, and people are able to experience it. And we have to talk about I want to go back to Marvel in a little bit. But I really have to ask about the ride system. It’s such a unique design I love when Imagineering combines existing ideas, this feels like you take a roller coaster and you put an omnimover on top of it. So how did your team go about thinking about and creating this ride system?

Wyatt: Yeah, some of our team members had had this idea for a roller coaster system that could do this. So that was out there. Around the same time, we were coming up with this idea for a replacement for Universe of Energy. So we married those two things up. But I think what made it truly unique was to be able to control that rotation. Because we at Disney have had other attractions other coasters that rotated and there’s some others out there in the world. But this one is unique in the way it does it and that we can program it. And really, like you said, an omnimover. This is the next evolution of it. And we wanted to again, pay homage to that past while looking forward and put you into that story. And I think one of the that was what drove it and started it. But then it really created some new sensations and physical feelings that were totally different. 

Matt: Yeah it

Wyatt: That was not a surprise, but it was a we always wanted that. But I think to the extent that happened was it. It was even more than we had hoped for.

Matt: It’s an amazing design, it’s I’m always amazed to see the new attractions and the new technology that’s available in the create- it’s really a lot of creativity that’s involved here, which is fantastic. And the sort of, you know, characters, the integration with Marvel, of course, we have the the Guardians of the Galaxy, characters and storyline integrated into the experience. What was the driving force? You mentioned a little bit about the the the sort of perfect fit with Xandar, which I think sort of answers the question of why Guardians of the Galaxy. But when you think about the the timeline, there’s always with Guardians with a with sorry, Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, we know the timeline is sort of set between the events of Star Wars – The Last Jedi and Star Wars – The Rise of Skywalker. How do you think about that timeline placement within the MCU for this attraction?

Wyatt: So one of the things with this attraction, and some of our others around the world that have opened up or soon to be is they really take place today. They are here and now and today. And so that pulls it a little bit out of the movie timelines. We obviously talk a lot about the Battle of Xandar. And what stuff events that happen after the first Guardians film. So we kind of say that we’re after that, but we are not in any specific timeline tied to the films and so we are our own kind of world, if you will, I guess you can almost say it’s not a multiverse, if you will. But it’s we’re our own thing. And some of the stuff at Disney’s California Adventure and upcoming in Paris take that same idea that it’s here today in its own kind of time period.

Matt: Absolutely. It makes so much sense and it can evolve with the 

Wyatt: Yes

Matt: New series and movies and anything else that comes out the placement will be evergreen within Epcot, which is a great thing.

Wyatt: Exactly

Matt: You know, Guardians of the Galaxy. One of the main components as we know is music. It’s why Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout, you have these incredible songs that are part of the experience and it’s the same with Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. I can imagine you have, you know, hundreds of potential songs on the list to now narrow down to just six soundtracks. How did the team go about picking the six soundtracks that we now have for the attraction?

Wyatt: Yeah, that was one of the most fun and probably hardest ones, because we do, everyone has an opinion on what song it should or shouldn’t be. We, for years have been talking about it. And we played some different songs, we do animatics, and different digital studies for any of our attractions, and this one is no different. And we lay music on top of it. And so we would start to listen to it. We went in with, hey, here’s some of our favorites, here’s what we think could work. And surprisingly, none of those that worked digitally through our animatics worked physically on the ride. They’re just once you layered in the physical sensations, it didn’t quite match up. So it’s very interesting, we started to figure out what did what didn’t work, something that needs to work right out of the gates and be recognizable and part of the launch, but then keep that energy all the way through the entire ride. And eventually, September, was one of the first songs that we probably about halfway through or a little bit more than halfway through our process landed on, and it was like this worked, this was fun was enjoyable, you could sing you could dance, and all of that. And then we kind of went from there to eventually get our six. And I think there’s amongst our team and hearing our guests and our cast members talk about it. Everyone has their favorite. And it’s been funny that I don’t think there’s any consensus that one of the songs is by far in a way lead. There’s really this kind of a love for your own personal favorite.

Matt: Yeah, I love that too. There’s a couple that are in particular, I think really strong fits for the story, 

Wyatt: Yep

Matt: Like One Way or Another I’m Gonna Getcha, and 

Wyatt: Yup

Matt: Everyone Wanna Rules the World. And I feel like there’s a really strong tie into the storyline that happens on the attraction too, which is so great. You know, obviously, we’re talking a little bit about Marvel. So I imagine that there was probably some teamwork with the team at Marvel. And I know that the cast specifically recorded a lot of footage, unique footage, original footage for this attraction. So what was it like to work with the team and the cast over at Marvel for this experience?

Wyatt: Yeah, it was great to partner with them as a whole and with the studio to kind of bounce ideas off for the story from early days of what is this? How does it work, to then reviewing scripts and being onset in Atlanta, with the film team to film and so from James Gunn, and the cast all of them right there on set. And then filming our other characters with Glenn Close and Terry Crews joining us as well. That was a separate shoot, that was a ton of fun to to kind of step back into that world for her and his first time as part of that world.

Matt: Yeah, I the pre-shows are amazing. I’m not going to spoil anything, I’m not going to ask how you did certain things with the preshows,

Wyatt: [Laughs]

Matt: Because there’s some incredible effects there that will blow everybody’s minds when they experience it for the first time. But I’m curious, I’m curious, personally for you, what is your favorite part of the attraction?

Wyatt: Oh, that’s, I get that question. And it kind of changes depending on what’s going on. To be honest, I think probably two-fold. I guess I’m going to cop out and give you two answers. 

Matt: That’s fine. 

Wyatt: I think this new ride system is a huge one, having kind of added to that pantheon of Disney coasters and all of that, that doesn’t happen every day. And so in being so unique and different was a fun one for that. And then I think just the scale of this project and this attraction, you don’t quite grasp it until you see it in person and do it all and we it was kind of a badge of pride that we were able to keep a lot of it pretty secret along the way and then reveal it and I don’t think people realized how much was going to be in there. And projects like these don’t come along every day and so it’s to be part of that and kind of bring it to life but front door to exit there’s something really almost for everybody and almost multiple attractions in one.

Matt: Yeah it it definitely that’s a that’s a great answer. I love I’m okay with the multiple answers. 

Wyatt: [Laughs]

Matt: I I get questions like that. I’m always the same way 

Wyatt: Yeah

Matt: I can’t pick just one. You mentioned earlier, the just a couple more questions. The fact that this you know you’re fans of Epcot, I know that a lot of nostalgic Epcot fans were were wondering what this experience is going to be like but the great thing about it is not only is it such a great a a sort of you know future attraction for this park. But it also is, I found, loaded with Easter Eggs and even some nods to the Universe of Energy. So what are a couple of things that Epcot fans who have grown up with this park can look forward to in terms of Easter Eggs from Guardians of the Galaxy or from Marvel or the old Epcot?

Wyatt: Yeah, so there’s all of those in there. Some are a little more hidden. Some are more overt. I think Universe of Energy, obviously, because we were there. There’s a couple things we use the old icon for the pavilion that plays a part throughout different graphics. We talk about how is Xandarians learn about us Terrans. They’ve learned about Epcot Center and radial city plan designs and kind of connecting original Epcot Center to some of their city planning and the shared love of good design. And then I think my favorite one is we were able to redo the Universe of Energy song in a rock version that plays and if you know it, you hear it, but it’s plays when you first the villain, when Eson and Guardians and you all meet up on the ride. Um, you hear that song, and I think to be able to get that in, was kind of a early moment. And then it was like we did it. It’s fun and plays on multiple levels.

Matt: Absolutely. I I I loved that, by the way. I heard that and I’m like that is so incredible. 

Wyatt: Yeah

Matt: Last question for you, Wyatt. I you know, there’s so much that went into this project, it was years of work, now that it is finally here. What are you most proud of from the last several years of working to now seeing it come to life?

Wyatt: I think I’m gonna give quick two answer to that one I get two. I think the team and all of us together, you really kind of forges families, you’re in the trenches together and sometimes spend more time together than with your own family or friends. 

Matt: Yeah

Wyatt: And so kind of all of that together. And then knowing that this thing is going to be here for decades, years, decades at Epcot, and people enjoying it and seeing the reactions out there. I don’t think we, we always hope that people are going to enjoy it and have fun. And I think the reaction of this one has been over the moon and just fun to see all that is people laughing and smiling when they get off.

Matt: I’m sure that’s going to be a thing that you’ll see for decades to come and one that will bring many new guests and returning guests to Epcot to experience again and again. Wyatt thank you so much for answering some of these questions and chatting with us. I know you have a very busy schedule and for all your work with Cosmic Rewind, it’s been such a pleasure to chat with you.

Wyatt: Yeah, happy to do it. Thanks for having me.

[Music plays them out, and continues under Matt]

Matt: And with that, we close out Episode 134 of the Imagineer Podcast, I want to give a very special thank you to Walt Disney Imagineering and in particular to Wyatt for taking the time to chat with me about this attraction experience and learn a little bit more about what it was like to develop this incredible new attraction at Walt Disney World, of course want to turn this conversation over to you and hear what you’re looking forward to the most on your next trip to experience this attraction. And perhaps is there a particular soundtrack that you’re really hoping for on your next ride through this rollercoaster? You can send me your answers and feedback in so many different ways. I would encourage you as always to follow us and connect with us on social media on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and LinkedIn @Imagineerpodcast you can join our Facebook group. The ImagineNation also called the Imagineer Podcast Disney Fan Community. And you can follow us on YouTube at youtube.com/imagineerpodcast and on Twitter @Imagineernews, I would encourage you to connect in all of those places. Of course, if you don’t already, subscribe to the show, make sure to hit that subscribe or follow button on your favorite podcast app. And if you have us just a moment to leave us a rating or review, or both, in the Apple Podcast store that does so much to help this community out. And I want to thank the more than 620 of you who have left a five star rating in our Apple Podcast store which gives us an overall total of 4.9 out of 5, I sincerely appreciate it. It has helped this community out tremendously and encourages me to keep moving forward and making this community and this podcast even better for you. If you want to take your love of Imagineer Podcast to the next level, definitely look into our Patreon group over at patreon.com/imagineerpodcast where you can help to support the show financially and in return, get extra perks, rewards, bonus content and so much more. You can see what is currently available by heading to our Patreon page, and you can find the link to that in the show notes of this episode as well. And when you’re ready to book a trip to Walt Disney World to visit Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, or any other Disney destination for that matter, definitely look into our travel partner Magical Park Vacations and their sister company WDW Park Planners. You can learn more about them at magicalparkvacations.com and wdwparkplanners.com. And again, I’ve got the links for you in the show notes of this episode, and over at Imagineerpodcast.com. Last but not least, I want to encourage you as always, to go after your hopes, your dreams, your goals, whatever you might be looking to accomplish. Take those first steps today to make those dreams come true. And remember as always that amazing quote from Horizons if you can dream it, you can do it. Thank you so much for listening to the show and we’ll see you again in a future episode of The Imagineer Podcast.

[Music plays show out]

Tal Marik: Welcome people of Epcot, Epcoters, Epcotians, Citizens of Epcot, does anyone know what they call themselves? 

Child Audience Member: People 

Tal Marik: What 

Multiple Child Audience Members: People, humans 

Tal Marik: Someone needs to tell me when I’m on. Welcome Epcot terrans! 

[Fantastical music begins and plays under them]

Female Commercial Voice: When you’re at Walt Disney World Resort for the world’s most magical celebration, every moment is amazing, the joy is never ending, and the memories last a lifetime. Because when you celebrate with us, nothing could be more magical.

Matt: Contact Magical Park Vacations to book your Walt Disney World Resort vacation today call 585-662-3686 or visit magicalaprkvacations.com

[Music plays show out]

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