News Summaries, Rumors and Speculation:
Over the last couple of weeks, Disney has made some announcements about upcoming changes and additions that are being made to Walt Disney World. Many of you are aware of what’s being planned, especially if you follow other Disney news or information sites. However, I know that not everyone follows everything, so I wanted to give a summary of some of what’s been said, and sprinkle in a few rumors I have heard floating around as well. Most of these announcements came from the “Rock Your Disney Side” press event that took place at the beginning of this month where invited press and travel agents were invited to special parties and presentations over the course of a couple of days. (Someday Disney; Someday you’ll invite me too.)
Disney has announced that “Harambe Nights” will begin on June 7th, and will occur on Saturdays through August 9th. Tickets start at $119 for adults and $79 for kids. The event will run from 7 to 10:30pm. The event is slated to involve special live entertainment, specifically “The Lion King: Concert in the Wild” which will include live versions of scenes from the movie with various special celebrity narrators. It will also include food, drinks, and a street party afterwards.
Disney has also announced the “Rivers of Light” lagoon show. This new show will combine live music, floating lanterns and animal imagery on water screens. The event will take place on Discovery River between Discovery Island and Expedition Everest. Concept art shows strong similarities to Disney’s World of Color show at Disney’s California Adventure, but in some images it appears that there would be floating barges as well, but we won’t really know for sure until more details are released.
The World of Pandora (Avatarland) continues to plod along. There were some video updates given at the press event. The indication is that the opening will be sometime in early 2017. I have not seen any new earth shattering concept art related to this project. Some rumors indicate that the land is being scaled back due to budget increases of $800 million in Shanghai, but that again is rumor.
Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade to end on or around the end of May. Apparently, the parade has already run longer than planned, but ended up returning after the 2013 holiday season when speculation indicated that it would not come back. Rumored, but very likely, the parade will run until the return of the Lion King show begins again, and that is scheduled for the beginning of June.
The new Lion King Theatre is scheduled to open in the beginning of June in its new location in the Africa section of the park. There have been no reports of any major changes to the show, but the theatre, and show elements are supposedly going to be used in the Harambe Nights special ticket events going on this summer, so logically the show would be ready to go in the beginning of June for the first event.
The addition of these new attractions and night time shows are clearly Disney’s attempt to make Animal Kingdom a “Full Day” park, as many think it’s not. I disagree however, I have considered Animal Kingdom a full day park for quite some time. I think that if you are just there for the attractions, you can consider it a half day, but, in my opinion, that park was designed and intended for your to wander, take your time, and appreciate the theming and detail that was involved with its creation.
Construction continues at the Poly, as well as an announced name change, or change back, depending on how you look at it, to its original name of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. The resort’s pool and Great Ceremonial House (Lobby Area) are getting a makeover. Lots of folks are upset by the removal of the water feature of the lobby. The concept art show’s its replacement, and many people do not like the change there.
On the positive side, a “new” lounge is reportedly coming, Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto. Clearly inspired by the success of Trader Sam’s at the Disneyland Hotel in California, this location promises Tiki cocktails and Polynesian inspired tapas. Concept art shows some of the proposed atmosphere, and if you are familiar with Trader Sam’s in California, you can see that some of the same “gags” will probably be used, as well as some new ones. I have a review of Trader Sam’s available if you care to learn more. I enjoy it quite a bit, and did reference the rumor indicating it’s coming to the Poly. I have heard some grumblings from a few bloggers about Disney simply copying a proven concept and placing it in a new park. Sometimes I agree with those theories, but in this case, I don’t mind one bit. My only fear is that the popularity of the location with locals will cause the location to be overly crowded for tourists like myself, but we’ll see how that goes when the place finally opens.
Work continues on the Disney’s Polynesian Village Villas and Bungalows. These are “hut” type structures that extend out, and sit above, the waters of the Seven Seas Lagoon. While they do look interesting, and I would love to stay in one sometime, I am sure the prices will be quite exorbitant. Also, I have heard that the new construction takes away many of the “Park View” room’s actual “Park Views” I would assume that this mostly applies to rooms on the first floor. Until I can actually stand there and see it all in person, it’s hard for me to see how much the construction adds, or detracts, from the resort, and the great views of the Magic Kingdom that it has. Judgment should be reserved until all the construction is finished at the entire resort.
Unless you live under a rock, or have no interest in Disney (and if you had none, why would you be reading this) you know that the 7 Dwarfs Mine Train was dedicated (but not actually opened) on May 2nd with much pomp and circumstance. Many complete ride through videos are available online so if you want to see it, you definitely can. The official opening is scheduled for May the 28th and with this final attraction in place, “New Fantasyland” is complete. General consensus is that the animatronics are great, some of the best ever, and that the ride is better than expected. Obviously there are going to be those that put it down for one reason or another, there are always going to be people like that. If you take it for what it is, a highly themed, family friendly, “coaster” ride with a short show scene, it’s a pretty good attraction. I also hear that the videos don’t do it justice, and that to really get a sense of how good it is, riding it is required, and I’m sure that’s true.
Also, Anna and Elsa from Frozen have recently moved into Princess Fairytale Hall. I have heard postings of up to 4 hour stand by wait times. This is definitely a selling point for Fast Pass Plus technology as I cannot imagine wanting to meet any character so bad that I stand there for that long. Hopefully waits will start to drop as time goes on, but with increased summer crowds, we’ll have to see what happens.
Epcot has announced, and has already started two new nighttime experiences. These ticketed events coincide with IllumiNations. The IllumiNations Sparkling Dessert Party allows guests to enjoy the fireworks in a special viewing section as well as sample desserts from around the world, expertly paired with sparkling wines. After Illuminations, guests can stay even longer with the Epcot After Hours Wind Down. Some of Epcot’s best chefs and wine experts will pair a beverage flight with small bites from various cultures. Apparently guests can choose from four different locations and reservations are required.
Strong rumors have also been circulating that Norway’s Maelstrom ride will soon be receiving a “Frozen” overlay to capitalize on the popularity of the movie. It’s no surprise that Disney would want to do something soon with the highest grossing animated film of all time, but many Epcot purists are quite upset at the idea. However, I am sure if you ask the majority of Disney travelers, they would be quite excited to see the attraction changed. I however, would prefer to see them do something new if they want to ride the coat tails of the movie’s success, but I do understand that an overlay can be done more quickly, and at a greater cost savings, than creating a whole new attraction.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios:
Over at the Movie Park, Disney just celebrated its 25th anniversary very quietly. A special fireworks show marked the day, along with a few merchandise pieces and the obligatory 25th Anniversary special Cup Cake.
Star Wars Weekends (May 16th to June 15th) continues to grow in popularity and expand its offerings. Special guest stars are appearing each weekend, and available for autographs. Limited edition merchandise will be made available. Special Star Wars themed entertainment and fireworks will also be there. New this year is also Star Wars Character Dining for those fans that want to meet characters while they eat mediocre food named after various Star Wars References. Recently, I covered my Local Disney Star Wars event on May the 4th at the Mall of America, and I did get my special limited edition pin. Feel free to read more about there here if you wish.
Rumors continue to swirl about changes to this park. First it was that Radiator Springs was coming where Lights Motors Action and the Backlot tour are currently located. Then it was that it was not Radiator Springs as a whole, like in California, just the main attraction, Radiator Springs Racers. After the acquisition of the Star Wars, along with other Lucas Film properties, the rumor changed again saying that they were going to scrap the installation of any part of Cars Land, and build a Star Wars Themed land. That’s not even saying anything about the Monsters Inc. Door Coaster rumor that has been around for years, but who knows. I don’t really care what they do, but that park needs help, and fast.
Disney Springs (Downtown Disney):
Construction is progressing at Disney Springs. This is the complete redo of Pleasure Island at Downtown Disney. Some major upscale restaurant names were recently announced as possible tenants: These include: Morimoto, a Japanese and Sushi Restaurant from Iron Chef Great Masaharu Morimoto. STK, a modern steak hours with locations in New York, Miami and Las Vegas. Edison, a Los Angeles restaurant that celebrates the era of Edison and Innovation, and the Boathouse, which is expected to be a themed restaurant as well.
This summer, Disney is bring in more immersive outdoor entertainment with acts scheduled nightly. There are more than 30 free, live performances every day. Special event are also occurring like Cars Masters weekend in an attempt to draw guests during the construction.
Other additions include the Marketplace Co-Op – a testing space for new Disney retail concepts and products; Beautifully Disney – location featuring makeup, fragrances and beauty accessories; Cherry Tree Lane – Upscale accessories for “sophisticated” women; D-Tech on Demand – location to personalize and customize electronic accessories; The Trophy Room – Vintage inspired lifestyle sports apparel; Disney Centerpiece – Home furnishings and textiles with Disney embellishments; Zoe and Pickles – A trendy spot for girls. In addition, United World of Soccer is scheduled to open in May offering soccer jerseys and accessories. The Happy Hound should also be open soon with dog tags and various other dog toys and merchandise. The Food Truck Park is also scheduled to open later this summer offering a permanent location for Disney Food Trucks.
The area will be opening in sections as work is completed with all the work scheduled to be completed in 2016. For most people, locals specifically, the best addition will be the new parking structures offering over 6,000 parking spaces. If you have ever tried to park at Downtown Disney, even when they are not super busy, you know exactly why.
That about wraps it up for now. More detailed information on any one of these topics is available online if you want to know more information about any specific topic. I just wanted to quickly run through some of what I have heard just to pass it along. One more quick note regarding My Magic Plus, the highly debated program continues to evolve and will begin to offer the ability to add additional fastpasses after your first reserved ones are used, and also give you the ability to park hop. There is much debate on the benefits, or lack there of, using of Fast Pass, so much so that it’s probably an entire article on it’s own.
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