Leave a Legacy The History of Epcot's Hated Entrance Plaza Redesign

Disney Parks History

Yellow Monorail Passing Over Leave a Legacy Epcot Disney World

Epcot has gone through a lot of changes over the years, some for the better, some that made the park worse, and usually with some level of controversy over if they made the park better or worse. But few changes were as universally panned as the addition of the Leave a Legacy monoliths to the entrance plaza of Epcot.

Welcome to Disney Parks History where we explore the stories behind Disney rides, entertainment, lands, and more. Be sure to check out the entire series here. Today we are exploring the history of the Leave a Legacy entrance plaza which graced the park from 1999 to 2019.

For most of its history, Epcot Center's entrance featured a collection of small planters and a central fountain featuring now-iconic glass pillars with Epcot's logo on them. It was simple, but perfect as it pointed attention to the true icon of Epcot, Spaceship Earth.

Millennium Celebration Spaceship Earth Sorcerer Wand Epcot Walt Disney World Concept Art

But in the late 1990s, it was decided to redesign the park's entrance, the glass pillars were removed and the landscaping was dug out to make way for a new entrance plaza for the new millennium. This was a change that would also bring the sorcerer's wand over Spaceship Earth and other major changes for the Millenium Celebration. 

Leave a Legacy Epcot Concept Art Walt Disney World

The new entrance plaza, known as Leave a Legacy, was similar to the Walk Around the World bricks that were being sold at about the same time at the Magic Kingdom and the Transportation and Ticket Center. The idea was to have a piece of you permanently (or for at least twenty years according to your contract) at Walt Disney World.

Kiosks were set up throughout Epcot where you could buy a spot on the Leave a Legacy monoliths at the entrance of the park. A photo of you, or you and another person could be purchased to be engraved on metal as a part of the monument, where it would be permanently made a part of the park.

This was never really as popular as Disney wanted it to be, and despite the photos being sold until 2007, they never sold out all the spots on Leave a Legacy.

Epcot Leave A Legacy Monoliths At Night Epcot Walt Disney World

The longevity and permanence of this created some problems for frequent visitors. It was no longer fun to visit your tile if the person in the tile with you was no longer a happy memory. Tiles being there for twenty years meant there was a decent chance death, divorce, or other fights making group photos problematic years later. Although you could always just forgo visiting your own photo and go visit the members of NSYNC who all got spots with each other on Leave a Legacy.

But the main problem with this entrance plaza wasn't the permanence of the photos, or the lack of sales of the tiles, it was the design itself.

What had initially looked promising in concept art did not have the same impression when actually built in the park. The design was frequently compared to that of tombstones, made worse by the photos of people from many years prior by the end of the monument. It also obscured views of Spaceship Earth in an unflattering way.

Leave a Legacy Monoliths Epcot Walt Disney World

Unfortunately, unlike other unpopular things added to the Disney parks at about the same time that obscured icons, like the sorcerer's hat and wand, this came with a contract that guaranteed the photos would be displayed for twenty years. Since the photos stopped being sold in 2007, this placed an end date of 2027 on the monoliths.

Epcot Entrance Fountain Glass Pillars Concept Art Disney World

But that isn't what actually happened, with an announcement being made that the Leave a Legacy entrance plaza would be replaced with one evocative of the original, even featuring a return of the original Epcot fountain design.

Statements were initially made that at least the tiles would be relocated just outside Epcot, and this redesigned rainbow Leave a Legacy area has since reopened just outside the gates of Epcot.

This was an idea that was great in theory, but failed in execution. The complicated design clashed with the simplistic former entrance and was often misplaced for things that have no place in a Disney Park outside the Haunted Mansion. It left as the last major piece of the Millennium Celebration in the park, to give life to an entrance fitting the newly reimagined Epcot that is yet to be.