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(5/17/13) According to our resourceful local area sources Typhoon Lagoon’s untimely closure this week was to perform some emergency water pump / pipe (MORE...)
(5/16/13) Black Market VIP Tours Exposed (MORE...)
(4/29/13) The re-imagined California Grill atop Disney’s Contemporary Resort is looking to reopen “by summer’s end” featuring a new dining room, onstage kitchen and all new dining choices.
(4/25/13) Disney will be making a few announcements in the next 12 hours or so from a media event taking place at Walt Disney World. While we don’t know all the details yet, (MORE...)
Resort Rehabs - The following information is not guaranteed to be 100% accurate.
California Grill restaurant – NOW CLOSED through to Fall 2013
General Resort News - (5/17/13) According to our resourceful local area sources Typhoon Lagoon’s untimely closure this week was to perform some emergency water pump / pipe work in the park. The work permit was just filed on May 9th to have a ‘Page Piping Inc.” come in to work on the park’s North and South Pump Stations as well as two Wavepool Pump Stations. While Disney’s website still says that the park will reopen on Friday, May 17th... a reader who is staying onsite at Walt Disney World right now says that the CMs at their Resort are telling everyone the opening has been pushed back to Saturday.
Walt Disney World has wrapped one of their Monorails to help promote the upcoming Iron Man 3 film. Check out pictures of the beautiful Red and Gold Iron Man-O-Rail sent in by a reader. (You can also see more over at MouseSteps) I got to admit to having a fanboy geek moment upon seeing the “Stark Industries” logo on Disney’s Monorail. I’ve also got to wonder if it will be joined by a Thor themed monorail wrap this fall ahead of the release of Thor: The Dark World coming out this November. (Would that make it the Mjölnirail?) For now I leave you to count the hours until someone releases the inevitable YouTube video montage to a mashup of Ozzy’s Iron Man and Crazy Train.
(5/16/13) Anyone know what’s been going on at Typhoon Lagoon this week? The waterpark was the first one to close last fall for a winter rehab from October through to the first week of January, which was followed by Blizzard Beach taking a winter nap though early Spring 2013. Now it seems Typhoon Lagoon has closed again this week, though they hope to have it reopen this Friday as they finish up some other refurbishment project(s).
In another and far more shocking Walt Disney World story, it seems a local area tour company (Dream Tours) has been running a most despicable “black market” VIP Tour program for guests at Walt Disney World. According to the article in the New York Post, they’re been promoting themselves to wealthy New York families (1%ers) who hire one of these special “VIP” tour guides who are handicapped. The disabled tour guide for hire will then pose as a family member and visit the park with the group for a period of time ($130 / hr, $1040 for an eight-hour day) in order for the family to gain special access privileges to many of the park attractions and shows. Disney policy allowed for disabled guests to bring up to six guests along with them through the handicapped access program.
Since being outed, Dream Tours claims they are no longer offering VIP Tours and has removed all mention of them from their website, but almighty Google knows all and see’s all and has a cached a snapshot of the page before it was removed for everyone to see here. Right in the second paragraph they promise that, “Your guide will provide significantly reduced wait times through the parks. Know how, time management and special entrance to fast pass lines.”
Wow… as the saying goes, there’s a special level of hell for that kind of thing.
(4/29/13) The re-imagined California Grill atop Disney’s Contemporary Resort is looking to reopen “by summer’s end” featuring a new dining room, onstage kitchen and all new dining choices.
(4/25/13) Disney will be making a few announcements in the next 12 hours or so from a media event taking place at Walt Disney World. While we don’t know all the details yet, it seems that the bulk of the announcement will be to promote the “Monstrous Summer” promotion at the parks. Going hand-in-hand with the new Monsters University film, the characters of Monsters Inc. will play a key roll this summer. For example, it seems Disney was testing out a huge projection of Mike Wazowski that covers the surface of Spaceship Earth. I gotta admit, it looks pretty cool, so check it out over at the CoasterRadio Facebook page.
Disney also launched a new Monsters University themed monorail wrap yesterday, that also looks pretty darn cool. (See pictures here) There is also rumored to be another overnight in the park event around Memorial Day (late May) where the parks will be open for about 36 hours or so straight. This is only expected to take place in the Magic Kingdom at WDW, but in California it will take place in both Disneyland and California Adventure for capacity reasons.
Some kind of announcement from the Disney Cruise Line has also been hinted at (possible new ships and/or upgrades to existing ones) as well as a long standing rumor about a possible new attraction coming to Epcot. Plus I’m sure they’ll promote the new interactive Pirates themed game in the Magic Kingdom… and who knows… maybe they’ll have a few Star Wars or Avatar related surprised to talk about as well so stay tuned!
(4/12/13) The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resorts have announced that they will hold their 4th Annual Food & Wine Classic event on October 18-19, 2013. The outdoor festival will include food and beverage seminars, food and wine tastings and live music. Seminars will be led by the hotel's chefs and certified beverage experts, while the hotel's award-winning restaurants will showcase signature culinary selections to pair with tastings from more than 30 wineries. Celebrity Chef Todd English, whose restaurant Todd English's bluezoo is located in the hotel, will be in attendance to meet and greet with guests. ” For all the great official information on what you can expect, check out the official event site.
(3/25/13) Much like last year’s “Avengerail”,
Elsewhere in the resort, Limited Time Magic will take on an Easter theme this next week as both Disneyland and Walt Disney World put on weeklong Easter celebrations starting on Monday, March 25th. In Florida guests will greet Mr. and Mrs. Easter Bunny at the Magic Kingdom at “Bunny Lane” next to City Hall, where they will also take part in an Easter procession down Main Street USA alongside butterflies, flowers and dancing hippos. From there they couple will “hop” over to Epcot to visit the United Kingdom Pavilion where Easter Egg hunts will be held throughout the day, (along with another egg hunt held in Future World East).
(3/18/13) Honestly, I was never sure if there was a rule about this, but according to the local news reports Walt Disney World parks and attractions will change the minimum age requirements for kids entering the park alone. Starting March 23rd, all guests UNDER the age of 14 must be accompanied by a guest who is at least 14-years old. This will be in effect for all four of the major theme parks, as well as Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach and DisneyQuest. This change will also go into effect at the Disneyland Resort parks in California as well.
(2/25/13) For those 21+ who like to have an adult beverage from time to time while visiting Walt Disney World, an A to Z guide and review to the various drinks and unique concoctions you can buy throughout the WDW theme parks and resorts can be found posted to PartyThroughTheParks.com.
(2/5/13) Rumor has it that Walt Disney World is planning on holding some kind major press release event in late April. Could this be for a new series of attractions and shows in the parks? Or will this just be a pre-summer announcement and reminder about the MyMagic+ system? Stay tuned!
(1/30/13) The the wake of Disney’s announcement about the MagicBand / MyMagic+ system, Disney CEO Bob Iger suddenly became the target of Massachusetts’s favorite anti-theme park public official, Ed Markey. (How is it he hasn’t been voted out yet?) Markey has essentially demanded to know just how Disney is going to use the MagicBands to track and gather data on children, with claims that Disney’s new system will “have a harmful impact on our children.”
Bob Iger has responded this week and said that it was disappointing that Markey didn’t even take the time to review Disney’s policies or even try to contact them for information before making his own public attack on the Walt Disney Company. For the rest, I’ll let Iger’s words speak for themselves, “We are offended by the ludicrous and utterly ill-informed assertion in your letter dated January 24, 2013, that we would in any way haphazardly or recklessly introduce a program that manipulates children, or wantonly puts their safety at risk”.
The MagicBands do not gather and save personal data in any kind of on-board storage unit, they do not contain any GPS technology to track your every move from the skies above, and the MagicBands are optional. Guests with any concerns about the longer-range RFID chips in the bands, can opt to use the simple cards instead which only use a short-range RFID chip.
(1/30/13) The Disney Parks Blog has issued a sneak peek at some of the new menu items coming to the all new California Grill atop the Contemporary Resort when it reopens in late Summer 2013, shutting down on February 1st.
(1/16/13) While the option to purchase a ticket that wont expire may be on the way out, you can still purchase this costly add-on… for now. Any mention of the option has been removed from the WDW ticket booths, but if you ask for it, you can still buy it on property. You can still buy it online as well for the moment, if you know where to look. While the main (and new) ticket purchase page I liked to last week (very black & white looking) has removed the option, if you find an older (blue) ticket purchase checkout page, like this one still on the official WDW website, you can still buy it online as well. For now…
(1/14/13) An unannounced change has been made to your ticket purchasing options at Walt Disney World this week when purchasing online. I’m not sure how popular it was to pay for this extra option anymore, but you can no longer opt to pay an extra fee so that your tickets would not expire. The new options bring WDW tickets in line with Disneyland Resort ticket options, where your multi-day passes will expire 14 days after the first day is used.
While the option has been removed from WDW’s online advanced sales, has anyone dropped by an site ticket booth to see if they are still selling that option on site for the time being? And if so… for how much longer?
(1/11/13) Starting Feb 1st, George Kalogridis moves in as President of Walt Disney World, replacing Meg Crofton according to the LA Times. George is moving over to Florida from his current spot as President of the Disneyland Resort, which is great news for WDW, which sure could use some fresh eyes behind the driver’s wheel. Meg Crofton will move up to serve as head of operations for Disney’s Parks & Resorts in the US and France. Certainly Kalogridis’ involvement with the huge growth and quality improvements seen at the Disneyland Resort over the past several years will be a huge benefit to Walt Disney World as they move forward. It is also a homecoming for Kalogridis, who started his Disney career as a busboy in Disney’s Contemporary Resort back in 1971.
Another part of the management shift has seen the promotion of Animal Kingdom VP Michael Colglazier to President of the Disneyland Resort. Replacing him will be Josh D’Amaro, who previously oversaw the Adventures by Disney tour division.
(12/31/12) In a move sure to annoy even the most rabid Walt Disney World fans, starting January 1st, the 20% discount enjoyed by WDW Annual Passholders will be cut in half to a measly 10%. With hefty price increases already leveled at the annual passholders in 2012, increasing the total cost of a Premium AP up to $744.44, Disney now seems determined to start nibbling away at passholder benefits to their most loyal followers which just seems wrong.
(12/19/12) A very interesting article, pointing out in good detail about the long running problems that have been affecting the health of the Walt Disney World parks was posted to MiceChat this week. In addition to a lot of operating problems and complaints that I’ve had about the WDW over the years, it also points out the irony that Disney will spend extravagant amounts of cash on new attractions, and yet leave tattered surface areas of older attraction unpainted and unrepaired for years. The Yeti, the nets under The Tree of Life in Animal Kingdom and now tarps over the Splash Mountain station to catch the crumbling rockwork that is said to be in danger of falling. Check it out.
2013 - FastPass+ / MyMagic+ / Magic Band - (1/9/13) An update on the whole MyMagic+ system posted to USA Today answered some questions I know many of us had regarding just who gets to use the system and if there are any costs involved. According to this article Annual Passholders, Walt Disney World Resort guests and guests who buy a photography package will get the MagicBands for free. All other guests will be issued a RFID enabled ticket card which they can tap to enter the park or redeem their FastPass+ tickets, however these “guests can participate in My Disney Experience and purchase a MagicBand if they wish.”
(1/8/13) At long last, Disney Chairman Tom Staggs has released some official details about how the NextGen project work at the Walt Disney World theme parks is finally all coming together. The official Disney Parks Blog on the subject also finally puts some long whispered pieces of the puzzle into play (ie: RFID enabled wristbands) along with some new official program names.
Of course the goal of the whole initiative was to take the Disney theme park experience to the next level for guests. The most noticeable agenda so far has been the creation of new interactive queue elements at many existing attractions, and built into new ones as they open. The early versions first opened at Soarin’ and Space Mountain several years ago, which had a more video game style format to them, as well as a musical concept tried for a very limited time at Rock ‘n Roller Coaster which never returned. Since then Disney has added some playful elements to the queue for Pooh, a highly detailed and interactive outdoor graveyard scene for the Haunted Mansion (along with a more personal finale scene to the ride itself), the busy crabs in The Little Mermaid caverns, and the huge Circus themed playground under the big top at the new double-sided Dumbo attraction.
There has been a lot more work going on behind the scenes however, which will soon be rolled out, offering a new “collection of tools” to be used at the parks under the new banner name: “MyMagic+”. The big piece of this particular initative will be a new “My Disney Experience” website and mobile app, which will give future guests the option to plan out certain elements of their experience in advance. This will include Disney Dining reservations as well as access to the new FastPass+ system, allowing them to schedule times for certain attractions and shows before setting a foot in the parks.
They do address one of the big criticisms of FastPass+, which is schedule problems. Everyone knows that despite the best planning, no day at a theme park ever goes off exactly as planned, which is where the mobile app comes into play. Through the use of the new mobile app, you can login and make changes to your various MyMagic+ reservations at any time to fit your true schedule.
Now lets talk about the new MagicBand which will be your new gateway to experience this magic as a WDW Resort guest. This new RFID enabled wristband will serve as your room key, theme park ticket, FastPass+ access system, PhotoPass card along with the optional ability to tie it into a credit card for cash-free payments for everything during your stay. Disney has been testing out various elements of the MyMagic+ system lately and will continue to do so and make improvements based on guest feedback and adding new features to the system as time goes on.
Now what Disney isn’t saying is the fact that Disney will be able to gather a huge amount of data from the use of these MagicBands. As guests travel around the park, Disney will be able to tell what attractions they visit, and in what order, what people purchase, where and when, all in effort to maximize the experience. It is also entirely within the realm to eventually have bits of your own personal information downloaded into an attraction when you ride, such as your name and maybe even a few of your likes and dislikes, either taken from an online profile you may have filled out, or assumptions based on purchases you may have made. But imagine the magic your child (or even you) will feel when you visit Tinker Bell who can greet you by name, and may even remember that she hasn’t seen you since you last visited the park in October.
So far the initial launch of MyMagic+ seems likely to be aimed at guests staying on-site at Disney Resorts, but it may not be long until Passholders are also allowed to get in on the act. Just how the MagicBands will be of use to off-site guests, or the occasional day-tripper was not mention, nor was there any mention of a possible purchase price to obtain the MagicBands. Disney has yet to announce an official hard-date for the complete launch of the system, it seems a safe bet that we will likely see MyMagic+ put into action by Mid-2013.
(12/13/12) According to the latest reports, Disney is now issuring their NextGen RFID embedded resort cards to all on-site Disney Resort guests. The cards serve as room key cards but is slowly rolling out in the parks as well to select park entrance areas, FastPass attractions and now to select retail sites too.
Speaking of FastPass… the new FastPass+ system that goes along with these cards is now also testing again for a “limited time” according to various reports on the social media channels.
Early 2013 - Rainforest Cafe Upgrade - (4/17/13) A quick photo report on the new and improved Volcano structure at the Rainforest Café in Downtown Disney has been posted to OrlandoParksNews this week, as well as a look at the outside of the new Lava Lounge.
(2/28/13) DaMouse is back, this time with a look at the progress made over at the Rainforest Café which has been under a lengthy and extensive refurbishment project. According to them, barring any problems, the all new Rainforest Café experience (complete with fire shooing from the new Volcano) should be finished by March 28th.
(10/25/12) According to a report at DaMouse, the renovations to the Rainforest Café in Downtown Disney seem to be moving at a snails pace, and the completion date seems likely to slip back into 2013 at this point.
(8/28/12) OrlandoParksNews has posted an update from Downtown Disney this week, showing off the progress on the Rainforest Cafe rehab and more.
(1/30/12) MouseSteps reports that the Rainforest Café at Downtown Disney is currently undergoing a major refurbishment that will not be complete until at least Fall 2012. Once complete, the restaurant will feature an all new Volcano structure that will offer more of a show experience outside, as well as a new Lava Lounge area inside.
Late 2013 - DVC Villas at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa - Under Construction - (3/11/13) ThrillGeek is back with another look at the Magic Kingdom, but also stops in to check in with the progress of the expansion going on at the Grand Floridian which is progressing quite nicely.
(11/15/12) Disney reports that the newly re-imagined Disney Spa at the Grand Floridian Resort is now set to reopen to the public on December 17th. Make the jump over to the Disney Parks Blog to take a sneak peek inside.
(12/12/11) The official Disney Vacation Club newsletter sent out to members this week confirmed the plans to build new Villas for the Grand Floridian Resort. “Disney Vacation Club has announced plans to build an estimated 147 villas as part of the previously announced expansion of Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Estimated to open in late 2013 near Disney's Wedding Pavilion, the resort's slated to become the 12th Disney Vacation Club property.”
(3/24/11) According to the Orlando Sentinel, plans have been submitted to the county detailing an expansion to the Grand Floridian Resort. The plans describe a 6 to 7 story T-shaped building that will be connected to the main structure by an elevated walkway. The early speculation is that this could be an official DVC-Wing being added onto the resort, much like we’ve seen them add onto the Contemporary, Wilderness Lodge and Beach Club Resorts.
2013 - Polynesian Resort Renovation - (9/17/12) Screamscape sources tell me that the start date for the big resort-wide rehab on the Poly was pushed back from September 2012 until at least January 2013. The plan is to completely remodel each resort building top to bottom, one at a time. In addition to new room improvements they are looking to brighten up the rooms and walk-ways which are said to be a little on the dark side. While there are always rumors about a possible DVC wing addition, this seems unlikely to happen until after the Grand Floridian project is over. Speaking of which, be sure to check out this week’s new photo update of the Grand Flo as well.
(9/14/12) ParkScope reports that Disney has filed building permits to perform room renovations at the Polynesian Resort. If your planning a stay here, plan accordingly.
2013/2014 - New Cirque du Soleil - Rumor - (1/18/11) Remember that rumor about a new Cirque du Soleil show under consideration for Walt Disney World? Apparently Cirque has sent out a few survey’s this week to not only get feedback about La Nouba, but also asked a couple of very interesting questions as well.
One asked, “Let’s imagine that Cirque du Soleil opens a new show in Downtown Disney at the Walt Disney World Resort, right next to where you attended La Nouba. How likely would you be to attend this new show if you were to go back to the Walt Disney World Resort?”
The other one asked for opinions on several types of show concepts “that Cirque du Soleil could open in Downtown Disney”. The very interesting list of options has been posted below, verbatim.
A show created specifically for kids ages 6-14
A Water Show
An adult sensual cabaret
Another family-friendly show (comparable to La Nouba)
A true classic Cirque du Soleil production
A magic show
A show based on a Hollywood blockbuster movie (like Avatar)
A show based on the Disney characters.
(11/22/10) I’ve been told that Cirque is currently planning a whole new show to eventually replace the long running La Nouba show as early as 2013.
2014 - Four Seasons Resort - (4/10/13) MouseSteps shares some pictures of the new Four Seasons Resort Orlando now under construction at the Walt Disney World Resort. No date has been mentioned, but it is believed that it will be ready to open for guests sometime in 2014. (From the look of it, I’d say LATE 2014…)
(9/14/11) According to the Orlando Sentinel, the $360 million deal to build a Four Seasons hotel on WDW property has been finalized at last, and is now set to begin construction on the overdue project this December. The 444-room hotel will not be ready to open until mid to late 2014 however.
(9/2/08) We finally get a peek at just what the new Four Seasons resort on Walt Disney World property will look like, posted over at the Orlando Sentinel. According to the article, site prep has already started and the hotel is looking to open in 2012 instead of 2010.
(3/1/07) Walt Disney World made two surprise announcements today about a major expansions planned for the resort. Disney has struck a deal to construct a 900 acre luxury resort and commercial district on the site of the current Eagle Pines and Osprey Ridge golf courses. The new site will be anchored by an official Four Seasons hotel and include an 18 hole golf course, like keeping one of the two existing courses or perhaps some kind of combination of the two. The site will also include an area for “single and multi-family vacation homes and fractional ownership vacation homes.” Screamscape has heard that the land itself for that has been rezoned from Reedy Creek to Orange County to prevent anyone else’s agenda from getting in the way of Disney and Reedy Creek which is pretty much their unofficial district they maintain control over. Work on the new hotel is supposed to begin later this year, though it wont be ready to open until 2010.
2014/2015 - New Disney DVC Resort Hotel - Rumor - (2/14/11) According to one of our readers, new survey markers were spotted in the Fort Wilderness area along the “nature trails near the marina” and near the Settlement Trading Post. Could this be more signs of forward traction on that proposed new DVC Resort?
(9/1/10) According to our sources, Disney engineers have been spotted going over the site, to determine just what will need to be done to remove the remains of Water Country. Others have been seen near the front of Fort Wilderness talking about plans to build new barn facilities to move the current Tri Circle D Ranch to a new location. As for the resort itself, I’ve been told that this will be a new DVC Resort, with the design being based on the old Buffalo Junction plans from years ago (minus the now defunct Fort Wilderness Railroad and other extra features), filling the gap between the Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness. You can find a nice article about the once proposed Buffalo Junction (aka: Wilderness Junction) concept at Progress City USA. (Note: Previous rumors about the next DVC Resort indicated they were looking at a site across from the Coronado Springs Resort that may have had some kind of California theme with a special pathway to Blizzard Beach).
(8/31/10) Screamscape has been sent an interesting rumor that claims Disney’s Tri Circle D Ranch area, the nearby beach area along the lake and the former River Country property may all be planned to be leveled sometime next summer, to clear the site to make way for a brand new mega Disney resort project. Anyone else know more about this?
2016 - Disney Springs / Downtown Disney Update - Confirmed - (3/22/13) Curious to know a bit more about the planned parking arrangement at Disney Springs? According to the Orlando Sentinel, there will be two separate parking structures built at the two ends of the property, one 4-story structure with 4000 parking spaces and a smaller 3-story structure that will offer 2000 spaces. One of them will apparently even be attached directly to the I-4 so you can exit the freeway directly into the parking structure. The interesting thing is that the Walt Disney Company will not own them and nor will they have to pay for them.
announce the day before, Disney opened up and confirmed all their plans for Disney Springs the very next day. Disney Springs is a way to transform Downtown Disney into a new themed environment with its own story and theme behind it.
Instead Disney’s own government, Reedy Creek Improvement District, which was set up 40 years ago to oversee all aspects of the Walt Disney World property, will pay the $85 million bill for the parking structures. By using their own government muscles, Reedy Creek can avoid paying sales tax on the materials used for the construction and finance the project with 20-year tax-free bonds. This is all in line with the powers granted to Reedy Creek by the state of Florida 40 years ago. As the article in the Sentinel puts it best, they “gave the district the ability to build parking garages — along with everything from an airport to a nuclear-power plant.”
Given that the Walt Disney World property really is the size of an actual city, it does only make sense that they also can wield the power of one when they have to.
(3/15/13) After saying they had nothing to
“Our fundamental goal is to create a welcoming, comfortable space where families can enjoy time together and instantaneously feel right at home. We want to give them opportunities to relax, to be entertained, to wander in and out of unique and distinctive shops or enjoy a world-class dining experience. And because we are Disney, we’ve anchored the entire experience around a story that gives us the ability to deliver on the legendary place-making and creativity for which we are known. The result is Disney Springs, a timeless and vibrant place that celebrates the turn-of-the century lakeside towns that dotted the Florida landscape.”
Once complete, the newly dubbed Disney Springs will expand from 75 to over 150 shopping, dining and entertainment venues, featuring “some of the world’s most iconic brands and restaurants.” Construction will begin in April as they begin the process of transforming Downtown Disney into Disney Springs phase by phase, with expectations to complete it all by 2016.
(3/14/13) Ok, the rumored announcement for yesterday was a bust, and Disney had nothing to say. Of course that rumor also came second hand and seemed a bit off as my own sources had told me weeks ago to expect the next big press event from Walt Disney World to take place around April 26th. So lets just pencil in that general time period and hope for the best, but in all seriousness, anything can and still may happen, since at the time I was given the April 26th date, the plans and layouts for Disney Springs had not yet leaked. So far, in true Disney form, they have kept their lips zipped on this leak so far, and aren’t likely to rush to make an announcement until they are ready. After all, usually when Disney plans a big announcement, they have more than one trick up their sleeve to show off, so stay tuned.
(3/8/13) A great update regarding the future Disney Springs plans can be found over at The WDWNT Network which features some all new concept artwork.
(3/4/13) Good news for fans of Downtown Disney’s Planet Hollywood. According to Screamscape sources who spoke with some anonymous Planet Hollywood peeps the big globe restaurant will be getting an extensive makeover sometime during the next year or so, along with a slightly new name… but it will still essentially be the same Planet Hollywood you’ve come to know, with the same popular menu items.
From this we assume that the structure will be visually transformed to appear less globe-like, and look more like a large themed observatory building instead. I’m also going to guess that the new name for the restaurant may be something along the lines of ‘The Observatory at Planet Hollywood”. Which I actually kind of like to idea of an Observatory theme for a Planet Hollywood restaurant… after all you are there to gaze upon “the stars” are you not? As for the food… it’s nice to know you can still get your fix of Captain Crunch Chicken in Orlando.
(2/18/13) ParkRumors posted a great scoop over the weekend, uncovering a little something filed under the project name “The BVD Corridor Stormwater Project”, which really seems to be Disney’s new masterplan to redevelop the former Pleasure Island area. The old “Hyperion Wharf” idea has floundered and sunk, but this new plan will change the face of Downtown Disney forever.
According to the report, Downtown Disney will be re-branded as “Disney Springs”, which will then feature six themed areas: The Gateway, The Town Center, The Springs, The Landing and the two areas we know well: The West Side and The Village Marketplace.
Gateway will be the entrance area into this new shopping complex, which will feature access and parking in an ample 5 story parking garage that will take over the parking lot just in front of the World of Disney Store and extend down towards the intersection where the Hess gas station sits. The inner lot parking lot area, often used for Valet parking will be developed to become part of this new development. The cast member building and facilities that will be displaced by this will be moved into the tiny lot that is essentially behind the Team Mickey and Once Upon a Toy store area.
Park your car in the new structure and you’ll wandering into The Town Center, an all new themed retail area built on top of former parking lot space. Beyond here is The Springs, which will have shops along the now themed waterway that already exists, running from the old West Side entrance to Pleasure Island, past Planet Hollywood and exit again into the lake behind the steamship that houses Fulton’s. Oh… speaking of Planet Hollywood, the plan has filled in that portion of the waterway and relabeled the Planet Hollywood building as “The Observatory” which doesn’t bode well for the future of one of the last PH’s in existence. The many bridges that exist to cross over the waterway will remain, along with a few new bridges added to taking guests into the former Pleasure Island area that will now be rethemed as “The Landing”, which will be the center for an array of dining and drinking establishments.
The West Side will remain mostly unchanged, while is appears that the old bus drop off area at the Marketplace will be developed into a new retail pathway that will feature a couple of large new retail store buildings, leading to a new bridge that will cross over into the Saratoga Springs Resort.
While this looks to be a much grander and better plan than the old Hyperion Wharf proposal, I do have one important question. For years… decades even, Downtown Disney has been begging for a parking structure to help them handle the crowds during the most busy times of year. Previous Disney management was only willing to fund such a project IF they were willing to start charging for parking at Downtown Disney. Obviously no one wants to see paid parking come to Downtown Disney, which is why we have never seen a parking structure added… until now.
So will Walt Disney World start to ask people to pay to park at Downtown Disney / Disney Springs from now on? Maybe they will only charge you for Premium Parking if you want in the structure and keep the surface lots free? Or hopefully, they will see the added benefit of having the structure as a replacement for the lost surface lots, which will result is increased income from retail sales and leases from outside operators. Lets hope for the later, because no one wants to pay for parking at Downtown Disney.
OTHER WALT DISNEY WORLD PROJECTS:
Golden Oak - Under Construction - (6/24/10) Disney unveiled details about their new Golden Oak residential area set up on Walt Disney World property. Read more here.
(1/27/10) According to this report following the different internet domain names Disney has registered for of late, Disney has nabbed up 20 different domain names referring to the Golden Oak brand names, rumored to be used for the new residential community next to the Four Seasons hotel. The names include DisneyGoldenOak.com, GoldenOakAtDisney.com, GoldenOakAtWaltDisneyWorld.com and many more.
(12/30/09) A Screamscape source has come to tell us a bit more about an small residential area being built as part of the Four Seasons Resort on WDW Property. They tell us that it will be named Golden Oak, a reference to Disney’s Golden Oak Ranch in California, and that it will be fairly small, consisting of only between 30 to 50 homes. Of course these ‘homes’ will apparently all cost in the 7-figure range and will be within a completely gated community that may come with special benefits such as annual passes for the residents. Of course many of these “homes” are likely to become vacation property rentals or things picked up by higher end corporations as a perk for their executives. A sales center and model home building is already under construction. Look for them to start trying to pre-sell the homes sometime in 2010.
Monorail System News - (3/7/13) A very interesting report on the possible future of the WDW Monorail system was posted over at Monorails.org a few weeks back. Their sources claim that a group named Thales Transportation has been hired to design and update the entire WDW Monorail system over the next two years to become a fully automated system, while still using the existing Mark VI fleet.
The monorail Pilots will remain onboard, but only to serve as a babysitter to monitor the train systems. The trains themselves will simply be dispatched, much like any other Disney ride, by an operator at the station. The rumored budget for the project is said to be around $75 million. The article also claims that they may look into reversing the path the monorails take around the beams in order to prevent driving backwards through a beam-switch, but that doesn’t quite make sense to me, as they will still have to drive backwards through the switch, just on the way out to the beam instead of going off the beam.
(4/5/12) I’ve heard this rumor countless times before… but a good source claims that Walt Disney World may be taking another long hard look at expanding the resorts iconic Monorail system once again in order to cut back on their reliance on bus transportation and move towards a functional mass transit network that would service all of the theme parks and bigger attractions eventually. Stay tuned.
(9/14/11) There have been several new reports coming in about what may be near daily breakdowns in the system. I’ve reported in the past on how the WDW Monorail fleet has aged to the point where it is beyond its expected life span and in need of replacement, though to date, it does not seem as if any orders have gone out to construct a new fleet. Even if those orders were issued today, it would likely be another two years or so before the first new monorail could begin test runs on the beams. Case in point… it’s already been over two years since the deadly monorail accident of 2009, and Disney is just now getting the rebuilt monorail back on the beam for testing.
Lets hope Disney is ready to starting ordering some new trains soon, otherwise we could be looking at a repeat of how Disneyland’s Monorail system was just driven to the breaking point, and trains were cannibalized for parts to keep others running until even that wasn’t enough any more. At least the Disneyland Monorail is primarily used for entertainment purposes… unlike the WDW system which is quite vital to ensure the transportation of guests from the Magic Kingdom to the parking lot, as well as shuttling guests between Epcot and the Magic Kingdom.
(7/15/11) According to the Orlando Sentinel, Walt Disney World has begun to trim back the operational schedule of the Monorail fleet. They claim it is due to the age of the current monorail fleet (Mark VI Monorails launched in 1989) and the extended summer hours mixed with the necessary time (90 minutes) to start-up and shut-down the line, can reduce the amount of downtime to as little as one hour per day. The new schedule will see the Monrails shut down 1 hour after the scheduled public park closing time. The new hours are already in effect for the Epcot line and will begin on the Magic Kingdom line starting August 1st. While this will not affect most park guests, those affected most will be the resort guests staying late for the Extra Magic Hours who will be forced to use the Boat or Bus transportation options when leaving.
I do have to wonder just how much longer WDW will be able to continue to run the Mark VI fleet. For comparison’s sake, the Disneyland Mark V Monorails ran between 1987 before being retired in 2008, 21 years later with the introduction of the new Mark VII Monorails. While the WDW Fleet is now older than the last retired Disneyland fleet, I believe they did undergo some kind of system controls upgrade in the mid 2000’s. Eventually though, the Mark VI line is going to be in need of replacement.
Western Beltway Development - (3/22/12) While we haven’t heard so much as a peep about the Western Beltway development area that Disney said they would name Flamingo Crossings, I did come across something this week. While searching through the trademark database, I did find a new filing by Disney for “Flamingo Crossings” filed on March 7, 2012. Perhaps they are getting ready to do something here after all.
(12/4/07) According to the Orlando Sentinel private developers and merchants will be able to run their own small restaurants, a grocery store, retail shops and even a few “value” level hotels as part of Walt Disney World’s new Western development project. Disney has begun to offer parcels for sale for the 450 acre development project that they are calling Flamingo Crossings off Western Way that will be built up over the next decade.
(3/12/07) Disney released some artwork of the Western Beltway Development project area with maps this week. For some reason it all looks very similar to the retail development off 192 just outside Celebration,
(3/1/07) Walt Disney World made two surprise announcements today about a major expansions planned for the resort: The new Four Seasons resort and their Western Beltway Development plans. Disney is planning to develop a 450 acre retail and commercial development just outside the gateway near where Western Way meets the Western Beltway. This new area will include even more 3rd party branded hotels (4,000 to 5,000 rooms), restaurants and gift shops that will be built in phases over the next 10 years with site work also to begin before the end of the year.