Walt Disney World Resort
---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(2/22/17) More Thoughts About The Rumored Walt Disney World Skyway Gondola System (MORE...)
(2/20/17) 500-Room 15-Story Tower Coming To Coronado Springs Resort plus new Caribbean Beach Resort Improvements
(2/18/17) Walt Disney World - SkyWay 2.0 Transportation System Update (MORE...)
(2/17/17) Walt Disney World May Be Planning All New Highway In The Sky Transportation System (MORE...)
(2/13/17) Walt Disney World Increases Ticket Prices Again (MORE...)
Resort Rehabs - The following information is not guaranteed to be 100% accurate.
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge:
Hidden Springs pool, beach, playground, firepit & nature trail - NOW CLOSED through 2017
Typhoon Lagoon - NOW CLOSED through Mar 11, 2017
DisneyQuest To Close Forever After July 3rd, 2017
Screamscape’s Guide To FastPass+ Is A Must Read!
Current Ticket Pricing: (2/13/17) Another year... another Disney theme park price increase has gone into effect. It's become as inevitable as death and taxes and as long as the Disney theme parks are packed like sardeens in a can all year long, clearly the general public is willing to pay whatever it costs to get into Disney's magical theme parks again and again. The increases went into effect on Sunday at both the Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World theme parks.
At the WDW Resort the standard Florida Resident AP has gone up $10 to $559 while the FL Resident Platinum Pass went up $30 to $679. For non-residents, you are looking at $779 for a Platinum and $869 for a Platinum Plus pass, or $125 for just Disney Waterpark AP.
Meanwhile they are keeping the old flexible pricing system in place that bases your cost on just how busy the parks are expected to be, with a 1-day pass to Epcot, Hollywood Studios or Animal Kingdom now clocking in at $99 for a "value" day and up to $119 for a "peak" day. A 1-day pass into the Magic Kingdom however will cost you between $107 on a "value" day and $124 on a "peak" day. A 1-day Park Hopper will also run you between $162 - $174 depending on what day you go.
General Resort News - (12/28/16) It isn't often that someone uncovered a new un-built Disney project, but Walt Disney World News Today has posted a lengthy video blog report about an un-built proposal from 1986 for Walt Disney World called Disney Mountain. From the look of it, it sounds like a lot of the ideas of what eventually became Pleasure Island were once envisioned for the area between Epcot and the planned Studios park where the Boardwalk / Yacht & Beach / Dolphin & Swan area resorts ended up being built instead.
The idea at the time was to build a mega project that would contained up to 10 small hotels, convention space, restaurants, retail, a performance amphitheater themed to look like the Hollywood Bowl, a new waterpark and even an enclosed parking structure hidden from view inside the 5-story fake mountain themed structure. Based on the overhead piece of artwork they show, it really does remind me of what eventually became Pleasure Island, but imagine Pleasure Island if a network of hotel rooms were also built into the structure. Actually, it really reminds me of a MUCH BIGGER version of The Island at Pigeon Forge, where guests can stroll through a variety of entertainment, retail and restaurant options that have been build below the Margaritaville Island Hotel rooms. Meanwhile a lot of what was envisioned for Disney Mountain was built... just split off and separated into their own projects strewn throughout the WDW Resort area instead, leaving just The Boardwalk as a sort of final echo of what was once envisioned at Disney Mountain. If you've got some time to listen, follow the link, sit back and give it a listen.
(12/24/16) You’ve only to scan through the Walt Disney World headlines on Screamscape over the past two months to notice a rather disturbing trend taking place at Walt Disney World. To put it bluntly… the Walt Disney World Resort seems to be launching new “Cash Grab” programs left and right. By my count, over the last 6-8 weeks, we’ve seen at least 7 new programs launch intended to primarily increase sales at the Orlando resort’s theme parks:
1) Plan to increase alcohol sales locations at the Magic Kingdom
2) Planned relaunch of Disney After Hours program at the Magic Kingdom
3) $700 a day Cabanas at the Magic Kingdom
4) Highway In The Sky Dine Around on the Monorail
5) $15 per person Express Bus Transportation (Backstage to Backstage) between parks
6) Epcot to Launch New Festival of the Arts, Extend run of Food & Wine again
7) Launch of new MagicBand 2.0 devices and accessories
While some of these are the more obvious cash grab attempts like the ridiculously priced Cabana program, more booze sales and the $15 a person Express Bus program, others are a bit more sneaky. For example the launch of MagicBand 2.0 may seem like just a simple technology evolution, but behind it all Disney’s new puck devices provide not only cost savings by only having to make the electronic guts once, while opening all new revenue streams with the creations of all new themed wristbands and accessories for guests to purchase to use with it. This kind of falls in line with the same kind of move you may have noticed Nintendo (and to a lesser extent, Apple) like to use, by making old previously purchased accessories incompatible with the next generation of hardware purely for profits sake. For example, each new generation of Nintendo DS created over the years, most of them would require the owners to use a different sized stylus (I’ve counted 5 different sizes so far), and quite often, a power cord with an entirely different shaped connector rather than use a standard USB style universal power cord connector.
In the end, what they all share in common is a way for Walt Disney World to take their existing infrastructure and find a way to make some extra money from it. Some of these make more sense than others however, as over the past couple of years the popular Epcot Food & Wine festival has seen it’s run extended from what was once a five to six week event (October to mid November) to now starting the 2017 event on August 31st, adding a little over a month onto the overall run. Epcot is also adding the new Festival of the Arts event to the slowest weeks of the year (Jan. 13 to Feb. 20) in order to help drive up some extra business as well, which will have a heavy focus on the culinary arts... aka: food sales.
So why the sudden urge at WDW to generate more cash inflow than they already do? Some might simply lay it down to Disney trying to have the profits from the theme park division offset the falling profits other faltering divisions (I'm looking at you ESPN), but if that were the case, then we would be seeing this kind of activity taking place at Disneyland as well and not just launching only at Walt Disney World just as Disney kicks off their first new financial quarter of 2017. While I'm sure there are a small variety of reasons, Screamscape was informed that one of the key reasons behind the WDW imitative was the once scheduled December 1st, 2016 launch of the new "Overtime Final Rule" from the US Department of Labor. While the new Overtime rule is currently on hold, pending litigation after a Federal judge in Texas set an injection in motion to stop it, the new Overtime law would have had a big affect on some of the various departments within Walt Disney World.
How? Well to summarize it briefly, the current Overtime laws allow for companies to create specific positions that are paid at a "Salary" level instead of "Hourly". Hourly pay is what most of the jobs at Walt Disney World (and elsewhere) are, where employees are paid a specific sum for every hour they work, and by the Federal labor laws once you work over 40 hours in a week, all hours beyond the first 40 are paid at an "Overtime" level which is typically 1.5-times the regular hourly wage. (ie: someone making $10 per hour, will get $15 per hour Overtime). Things are different for those in Salary positions, where they are paid a specific lump sum regardless of how many hours they work, removing the possibility of getting any overtime pay as long as they make at least $455 / week or $23,660 annually. Those levels were set decades ago and have never been overhauled to reflect inflation and the increase in pay levels over the years, so it isn't difficult at all for a salaried employee working a full-time schedule to make well over $23,660 a years. The new law that was to have gone into effect would have raised that bar significantly to require wages of $913 / week or $47,476 annually for them to be exempt from Overtime pay for hours worked beyond 40 per week.
This is where certain departments within Walt Disney World apparently began to panic, as Disney has long had a habit in most of their departments of creating a management structure that was fairly full of middle-management staff that were salaried positions making less than $47,476 annually. Now the new rule, if and when it does go info effect, would only affect those workers who were actually working over 40-hours a week, and in many departments I'm told that this wouldn't be an issue at all. However, while interviewing some anonymous WDW Cast Members (current and former) about the issue, we were told that some specific departments were quite guilty of expecting their salaried staff to work well over 40 hours a week on a regular basis to help their departments meet their budget expectations. While no one currently employed was willing to point a finger, one previous WDW Manager did tell us that during their employ that the Foods and Finance departments were known to be guilty of the practice at the time.
So suddenly Walt Disney World found themselves with a virtual platoon of low-paid middle-management CMs, all in Salary positions, threatening to put them into a very tricky pickle. This is a result of Walt Disney World's established management hierarchy system combined with their notorious reputation for paying CMs what was described simply as "horrible salaries" that were "well below average". The solution? Pretty much what we have been witnessing Walt Disney World unfold over the past two months, hopefully along with internal changes within the various departments where needed.
(12/22/16) Disney World kicked off another new premium service a couple of weeks ago called Express Bus Transportation. If you follow along on twitter, you may have seen me mention it before, but I had forgot to explain it in detail here until now. What it breaks down to is a new upcharge park-to-park "Express Bus" service to speed up the transition between parks for those able to park hop. The service costs $15 per person, or you can pay $24 per person for a multi-day pass, but the real trick is how they do manage to speed up the travel-time between the parks.
These special Express Buses actually drop-off and pick-up guests from backstage areas within the parks and wisk the guests away to their next park, dropping them off in the middle of the action, bypassing the crowded main gate areas and additional bag-checks.
From how I understand it, the four bus stops are located:
Magic Kingdom - Near the exit of Buzz Lightyear
Epcot - Near Spaceship Earth
Studios - Next to Rock 'n Roller Coaster
Animal Kingdom - Near the entrance to Kilimanjaro Safaris
The idea is interesting and on really crowded days I can see the advantage of it. Now I'm just curious is anyone has done any time studies to determine the average travel time between parks with Express and without it.
(12/1/16) Walt Disney World will launch a new dining option on Dec 2 called the Highway In The Sky Dine Around. The cost is said to be $150 per person (ouch!) and will be offered on Tuesday, Friday and Saturdays where you will get priority boarding on the monorail and taken on the circuit around the line, stopping at the Grand Floridian, Polynesian Village and Contemporary Resort along the way for the various meal courses.
The trip starts with a cocktail at "The Wave" at the Contemporary before going to the Poly for "sips and appetizers" then off to The GrandFlo's Citricos for an entree with wine pairing followed by more wine and cheese in the lobby, then back to the Contempory for dessert, cordials, and coffee on a private patio where you can watch the fireworks over the Magic Kingdom.
(11/19/16) Awhile back, late in the Summer, it was discovered that Disney had filed some paperwork with the FCC for a new version of the Magicband technology that instead of being emedded within a “band”, the pictures shown in the filing showed off a “puck” or pebble shaped device. It wasn’t entirely clear how Disney was planning to incorporate this new design style into their Magicband system eco-system, one that makes a healthy profit by enticing customers to upgrade their existing bands for special alternate themed versions, or even limited time collectable versions.
Well… now we know… as Disney released a first peek at what they are calling MagicBand2 this week at a D23 event. The small plastic pebble like devices will now be embedded into a wearable band and can be removed with a small screwdriver by taking out two small screws to remove the ring that holds the puck in place. This will allow you to buy as many themed “bands” as you link, and be able to swap the puck back and forth.
Of course this also comes with a huge advantage for Disney… as the cost to make the new bands themselves will be greatly reduced as they will have zero technology embedded within them, as everything will now be kept entirely within the puck. Oh… and all the local fans who have ravenously gobbled up the first generation collectible bands will now have to buy MagicBand2 versions to go with their new puck. Don’t like the wristband? Apparently Disney will have you covered with alternate ways to carry your puck as well, such as a keychain version, and I can’t imagine that a necklace version will be far behind as well.
According to Disney, they will begin to mail out the new MagicBand2 system to passholders starting sometime in December and the new bands will also begin rolling out to upcoming Walt Disney World vacation guests starting sometime in January 2017.
(11/16/16) Walt Disney World has finally pulled out their discount card in order to try and boost sagging attendance with a new limited-time ticket offer called the "4 Park Magic Ticket". Priced to break-down to a $70 per day cost, the ticket will get you a 1-day admission into each of the four Walt Disney World theme parks, spread across four separate dates.
They are only going to be sold from now through March 5, 2017, and they are blacked-out between Dec. 17 through Jan. 2, and again from Apr. 10 through Apr. 21. Once you use your first day, you have just 14 days to use the rest of lose them forever and the last day to use them is May 26, 2017.
Follow the link to see the details on how you can buy them in addition to hotel and ticket package combo offers.
Ongoing - Disney Springs Additions - (2/1/17) I've been expecting part of this announcement to come with a lot of dread, but Disney made it official a few hours ago that DisneyQuest will close forever on July 3, 2017. The big surprise was that DisneyQuest is still closing to make way for the previously announced "The NBA Experience" attraction, despite reports last year that the efforts by the NBA Experience people had fallen short and that they would be unable to move forward. Apparently they fixed whatever went wrong over the past year and The NBA Experience project is now moving forward again, following the demise of DisneyQuest.
(1/27/17) Good news for sea food loving Walt Disney World fans, as the Paddlefish tweeted that they will finally open to guests on February 4th.
(1/25/17) Walt Disney World announced the latest over-to-top upcharge service today... a new Personal Shopping Service now available at Disney Springs that will run you $250 an hour. Yeah... you apparently pay someone to go shopping with you and give you fashion advice... for those who can't make decisions on their own or who apparently can't get a friend to go with them shopping anymore... at Disney Springs. You'd think you could just offer to buy a friend a really tasty meal in exchange for shopping with you get off a lot cheaper than renting a "proven fashion advisor" to tag along.
Time will tell if this option goes the way of the Magic Kingdom Cabanas.
A final serious note: While I am aware that there really are people who spend money for these kinds of services... I have serious doubts that Disney Springs is their shopping location of choice. I would think they might be more inclined to head to The Mall at Millenia instead.
(1/11/17) While we are still waiting for the all new Planet Hollywood Observatory restaurant to open in the near future, the Disney Parks Blog shared a look at some of the new menu items (from Guy Fieri) along with confirming that we would see the return of PH's famous Chicken Crunch. They also give off a look at an assortment of new giant crazy milkshake creations smothered and covered with candy and cake that look oh-so inspired by the opening of Universal's Toothsome eatery that opened last summer.
(10/1/16) According to an update from the Orlando Sentinel, Walt Disney World is already making plans to add a third parking garage structure to their Disney Springs retail/dining area… formerly known as Downtown Disney. The estimates are that the garage will offer at least 2000 new parking spaces and they are looking into placing it across Buena Vista Drive from the existing Lime garage (which is also about 2000 space I believe). Options like a pedestrian bridge over Buena Vista Drive are also being considered.
I did have one thought however, if they place this across from the Lime structure, isn’t that the area currently used for parking for WDW’s Casting Center building? I’m kinda curious why they are avoiding building this up in the far parking lot out behind Cirque.
While on the subject of Disney Springs, it has also come to light that the STK restaurant concept isn’t doing as well as they had hoped, with claims that they just aren’t selling as many high-end steak meals as they had hoped. While I’ve never been to STK myself, I’ve heard that the atmosphere is a a bit of a confusing cluster as well, mixing the concept of a high end (read: EXPENSIVE!) steak house restaurant with the atmosphere of a lively and loud nightclub experience. One might say that perhaps the two concepts just don’t mix well. Or perhaps the fact that there are many very fine (and expensive) steak restaurants already in the area that end up costing less than STK because they are off Disney property. In any case, look for extensive modifications to STK to be forthcoming in both the appearance and menu selection being offered to fit in better with Disney’s family dining crowd.
(7/20/16) Walt Disney World has announced a new restaurant that will open in 2017 at Disney Springs called The Polite Pig. The Polite Pig will be a "sister restaurant" to The Ravenous Pig in Winter Park, FL and feature a number of wood-fired smoked and grilled menu items. Look for it to appear in the Town Center area of Disney Springs.
(12/30/15) The Orlando Biz Journal has posted a good look at the plans for the new Edison restaurant coming to Disney Springs, including the various themed rooms. There is also a space nearby for another rumored eatery called “Walt’s” as well as the spotting of underground facility plans that are rumored to possibly be for an underground bar style location that will use the name, Neverland Tunnel.
(6/10/15) Disney has pulled back the curtain on a couple of new attractions coming to Disney Springs. The first will open next year from the Patina Restaurant Group and Kinetescape's Andrew Meieran. It's called The Edison, an "Industrial Gothic" style restaurant and bar that will serve American style food, incredible cocktails and feature some unique live entertainment options.
If this sounds familiar at all to California readers, it should... as the group also runs the original "The Edison" in Los Angeles, set inside a historic power plant. The new Florida site will feature several uniquely themed rooms that will tower above you through the use of 35 foot tall ceilings. Look for The Edison to open in The Landing sometime in 2016. If you want to see more, a quick Google search shows off many impressive pictures from the West coast version of The Edison.
2017 - Wilderness Lodge Resort / Water Cabins - Planning - (10/3/16)
HHNUnofficial sent in a photo to us showing off the new bungalow buildings under construction by the waterside at Disney's Wilderness Lodge resort.
(6/22/15) The Orlando Sentinel has confirmed a rumor I had previously heard about, claiming that Walt Disney World will build 26 special "cabin" themed rooms along the shore of Bay Lake at the Wilderness Lodge Hotel. Plans have already been filed with with South Florida Water Management District, and according to the previous rumors I had heard, these new high-end units will be essentially very similar in concept to the water bungalow rooms just added to Disney's Polynesian Village Resort. The article also mentions that the plans include a new boardwalk, a "bar grill" and a new pool at the Wilderness Lodge.
2017 - New Raft Slide at Typhoon Lagoon - (1/20/17) Walt Disney World has confirmed that the new 2017 waterslide coming to Typhoon Lagoon has been given a new name. Instead of Miss Fortune Falls they are now going to call it Miss Adventure Falls. A new piece of concept art was also released on the official website along with a new description about how the attraction is owned by Captain Mary Oceaneer, a treasure hunter who's fortune was scattered across the area by a rogue typhoon. As you slide through adventure you can spot various artifacts along the way and possibly the captain's 'old diving partner', an Animatronic parrot.
(8/3/16) Walt Disney World has named the new slide attraction on the way to Typhoon Lagoon for Spring 2017 as "Miss Fortune Falls". As rumored, it will be a new family raft experience taking guests through the "fabled Captain Mary Oceaneer's past." It seems Captain Mary was a treasure hunting adventurer before a rogue storm stranded her at Typhoon Lagoon. Miss Fortune Falls is expected to feature a total ride time of two-minutes, making it one of the longest attractions at any of the Disney waterparks.
(6/28/16) Screamscape sources tell us that Disney has filed paperwork indicating that they were planning on adding a new ‘family raft’ slide to their Typhoon Lagoon waterpark, near the park’s latest additions, the Crush ‘n Gusher water coasters. Given the timeline, I would guess that we could see this new attraction added in time for the park’s 2017 season as long as they start construction on it before the end of the year. Anyone know more?
2019 - Disney’s Coronado Springs Expansion - (2/20/17) Walt Disney World has announced a large 15-story tower will soon be added to Disney's Coronado Springs Resort that will add an additional 500-rooms onto the property. As this is regarded as a very popular "convention" hotel it isn't uncommon for the resort to run out of rooms far short of the overall demand for some of the events held on site here, so the additional 500 rooms are very much needed.
According to the release from Disney we can expect the new tower and other changes to be open in about 2-years, so look for it in 2019. The new tower will feature suites and concierge level service as well. The new tower will also feature a unique rooftop dining opportunity that will offer a unique view of the popular nighttime fireworks visible from the nearby theme parks.
Meanwhile over the same time-period you can look forward to the existing rooms to also be upgraded and refurbished, as well as see the addition of other features to the landscape. One such mentioned was a "floating garden" and an "island oasis that connects the resort through a series of bridges".
2019 - Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort Improvements - (2/20/17) Between now and 2019, Walt Disney World has announced that their Caribbean Beach Resort "will be reimagined with new additions to the resort’s current marketplace, Centertown, including new waterfront dining and retail shopping areas. This centralized location will offer the resort’s guests more convenient access to services, amenities and dining."
Nothing was mentioned about that rumored new aerial gondola transportation system, but the timeline also fits, as they seem to want to get the new additions in place in time for the Star Wars Land to open at the Studios in mid to late 2019.
Note: 2016 Update - (4/11/16) A few changes have been made to the Walt Disney World FastPass+ reservation process as of Sunday. According to an update posted to AttractionsMagazine guests can now select a basic time-window when choosing your first three FP+ reservations online or on the app. Previously you had to take whatever options the app gave you and then try to massage it into something more of your liking later on.
You can now also opt to only pick one or two FP+ reservations instead of being forced to choose 3 right off the bat.
But perhaps the biggest change is that guests can now book an additional FP+ reservation after you have used your first 3 by using the Mobile App or Website on your smart-device, instead of being forces to use an in-park kiosk, though the kiosk option will still be there for in-park guests as well.
--FP+ Only In One Park--
Fastpass+ is currently being offered to all guests in all four parks. Guests can have up to 3 FP+ for the day, but they are only valid in a single park. So, you cannot, for example, book 1 FP+ in Epcot and use the remaining 2 in MK. If you book FP+ in a park, but do not use any of them, you can cancel them and set them for another park, but if you use even just one, they are locked into that park for the day. This started in the beginning so the individual infrastructure for each park could be built up and made more reliable, and also to see which attractions (both new to FP and used to it) guests were going to. This continues today to ensure the parks can hold thousands of people a day on the system, and WILL eventually change so guests can use their FP+ in multiple parks a day.
--Only 3 FP+ A Day--
Guests have the ability to book 3 FP+ a day, and cannot book anymore, even after all 3 have been used. The reasoning behind this is to ensure that most of the guests have the ability to get their own FP+, and it spreads them out across the board, making it fair to all guests so the people who enter the park at 2pm for example still have a fair shot at getting some. I at this point am unsure about this changing, but when the “park hoping” happens, you will most likely see a change in this as well.
--Why Can’t I get Test Track and Soarin?--
The reasoning for the tiered system both at Epcot and Studios is to give more guests the opportunity to get a FP+ for a “big” attraction, and to ensure that they have not all been given out within an hour of the park opening as Test Track, Soarin, and Toy Story have consistently done. The tiered system will not be changing.
--Explain the Tiered System at Epcot and the Studios--
Epcot and Hollywood Studios have a tiered system when it comes to FP+. Essentially what this means is that there are two categories that you get to choose from, category A and category B. In Category A, you may select 1 attraction. In Category B, you may select 2 attractions. You cannot select more than 1 attractions from A, and cannot select more than 2 attractions from B. (At Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom, guests can select any 3 attractions they'd like.)
Category A: (select one). Category B: (select 2)
-Illuminations Viewing Area. -Captain EO
-Soarin. -Journey Into Imagination
-Living With the Land -Meet Mickey & Friends
-Test Track. -Spaceship Earth
-The Seas with Nemo & Friends
-Turtle Talk with Crush
Category A: (select one). Category B: (select 2)
-Toy Story Mania. -Disney Junior Live on Stage
-Beauty and the Beast Live -Voyage of the Little Mermaid
-Fantasmic! -Tower of Terror
-Rock 'n' Roller Coaster -Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular
-The Great Movie Ride -Star Tours
-Lights, Motors, Action!
-Muppet Vision 3D
NOTE - When it comes to switching FP+, guests cannot switch between categories. It must be switched with an attraction from the same category.
--The Difference Between Resort Guests and Day Guests--
Resort Guests have the ability to make FP+ selections up to 60 days prior to the beginning of their stay. Day Guests do not have this option, but can make day of selections at any FP+ Kiosk once inside the park.
As of right now, APs can enter the park and make fp+ selections day of. They do not have the ability to book in advance, UNLESS they are staying at a WDW resort. There is currently a test that started not too long ago that gives APs the ability to book FP+ in advance for a total of 7 days for every 60. The days do not have to be consecutive, and this does not mean that they ONLY get 7 days of fp+ period, even if they visit more than 7 days. APs still have the ability to make FP+ selections the day of their visit at any FP+ Kiosk once inside the park. The ”7 Day” test is only being done with advanced reservations. And yes, APs are going to be able to customize their own AP MagicBands.
OTHER WALT DISNEY WORLD PROJECTS:
???? - Aerial Gondola Transportation System / SkyWay 2.0 - (2/22/17) I did some fun numbers calculations about that proposed WDW Skyway 2.0 Aerial Tram layout we've been talking about. Using measurements from Google Earth I roughly calculated the distances involved, and they are quite massive, possibly making the longest aerial tram systems in North America. By my rough measurements:
y in 2010.
The distance between a possible Epcot station and Turn 1 would be 2275 feet.
Turn 1 to Turn 2 (on Caribbean Beach property) would be 3,455 feet.
Turn 2 to the Station south of Caribbean Beach would be 2,000 feet.
From CB Station to the Disney's Hollywood Studios would be 3,745 feet.
This gives it a one-way, park to park distance of 11,475 feet, or 2.17 miles one-way, 22,950 feet (4.35 miles) if traveled round trip.
Now the interesting thing is the potential time involved in traveling that distance. While the true trip length would be determined by the speed the cable travels, which is unknown... I do happen to recall that the speed of the Skyride at SeaWorld California is roughly 6mph, allowing it to make a round trip journey in 6 minutes. If the possible WDW system were to run at the same 6mph, a park to park trip (not counting for any extra time spent switching cars / lines at CB if required to do so) would take just under 22 minutes. That seems a bit longer than I think Disney would be wanting their guests to be locked up in boxes in the sky, so I can only imagine that this system would have to move a little faster. Either way... gives you another idea to think about in comparison to just how long it takes to travel between the two parks by bus or even by boat, especially since the boats make 3 extra stops between the parks at a) Boardwalk, b) Yacht and Beach Club and c) Swan and Dolphin docks.
(2/18/17) For anyone wanting to see a bit more about what the rumored Disney SkyWay 2.0 system could look like, especially at how loading in the stations are easy and do allow for wheelchair access, check out the video below from Doppelmayr showing off a system installed in German
(2/17/17) Over the past couple days an interesting rumor has come up for Walt Disney World that may excite you. While not for a new themed attraction, it seems Disney may be ready to pull the trigger on adding a new form of park-to-park transportation that might link up the International Gateway rear-entrance of Epcot to the Studios park, along with a stop at a station at the south end of Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. Here is the kicker though… this wont be an expansion of the Monorail.
For decades Disney’s planners and Imagineers have long looked into ways to expand the resort’s popular Monorail transportation system. Countless plans and paths have been drawn up over the years to do exactly this, including plans that would have expanded the Epcot line to run through the Swan & Dolphin and over to the Studios that way. There were even proposals to running an entirely new Monorail beam (or Light Rail even) that would link Animal Kingdom, Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon, and Downtown Disney.
The same obstacle would rear an ugly head each time… MONEY. The cost to expand Disney’s beloved Monorail system was just deemed far too costly an endeavor, especially as a free method of transportation. I’ve heard many rumors over the years at what it could cost to expand the system, but the breakdown was always that it would cost around $1,000,000 - $2,000,000 per beam section… which can be more easily envisioned as a cost of $2 million for each and every upright support required to build it. That doesn’t even begin to cover the costs of the Monorail trains themselves, or ongoing operational costs. For a more accurate cost comparison, the current Las Vegas Monorail system which uses the exact same beamway specs as Disney’s (because it started when MGM Grand bought a couple of retired Disney cars to run between two casinos) cost over $650 million to build the 4.4 mile beamway system.
In comparison, it was easy to see why Disney instead just opted to buy a fleet of buses that could do the same job at a fraction of the cost. But times are a changing… companies are looking to do things perhaps a little more “green”, and the time may be right to try a new and cheaper form of mass transit that is gaining momentum in countless proposals across the world. Aerial Gondola Systems… much like the old Disney Skyway attraction that was retired from the Magic Kingdom (and Disneyland) long ago… but all grown up and modernized. In America most people see these systems and immediately think of them as Ski Lifts, as that has been their most popular use, but Aerial Trams and Gondola Systems have slowly been gaining use throughout the world, both as tourist attractions (because the views are incredible), but also because they are more budget friendly and very simple to install, requiring only a few towers along the route to support the cableway.
While in the US most of these systems are still in the proposal phase, around the rest of the world they have been put into action already, some already running for decades. Those who have visited New York may recall seeing the Roosevelt Island Tramway system that has been running since the late 70’s, but that is what is known as an Aerial Tram that features large gondola cars that are fixed to the cableway and shuttle back and forth on the same line. Gondola systems use dozens of smaller cars that can attach and detach from the moving cable. While smaller in capacity most modern cars can take at least 8 to 10 riders per car, some even more. They are enclosed and some even powered with climate control systems, which would be a must in the Orlando weather. When built for high capacity these systems are able to dispatch fully loaded cars about every 15 seconds, and the number of cars on the line is only limited by the length of the distance travelled and the speed that the cable is traveling. For example the Awana Skyway in Genting, Malaysia has 99 gondolas on the line at once and promotes special glass floor gondola rides and the ability to charge your mobile devices while you ride. Oh… and if you are worried about lightning strikes? Don’t both… these systems are designed to take lightning strikes as the towers are simply just a bunch of guide wheels for the cable without any needed motors of electric equipment, all of that is safely located on the ground in the stations. If you recall the old Disney Skyway being shut down for lightning, yes… this was true, but those featured open air cabins, so any passing rain storm would cause it to see downtime. In an interesting but brief article on the subject matter found at GondolaProject, an engineer quizzed about why there is so much worry about lightning from the public but not the engineering side had this to say:
“We just think no one would let us build these things if they couldn’t handle lightning. I mean, they must be able to handle lightning. We wouldn’t build them if they couldn’t. And because we do build them and are allowed to build them, then we assume people know that they can handle lightning… I guess we must think differently.”
So really the only weather related problem that would see the system shut down would be for extremely high winds that could cause the cars on the line to swing a little too much. While each system is different, and the direction the wind is blowing at your line will cause different movement, I seem to recall that we had to have gusts blowing in the the 28-35 mph range to see a temporary shut down of the SeaWorld SkyRide from most directions, but if it hit from just the right direction at 18-20 mph, we would also go into a wind hold and pull the cars from the line. But our cars only held 4 riders and were much smaller than what I assume Walt Disney World may be planning.
So back to Disney… and just what are they planning? Well some clues came to light on Tuesday after messages posted to the forums at WDWMagic includes locations of some odd shaped structures coming to Disney property near Carribean Beach, The Boardwalk, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios park. They were separated into two different filings, each one with a fairly remarkable rectangle shaped structure, and with one oddly shaped “V” style structure. Seeing these for myself, and having a history of knowing quite a bit about the old Von Roll style skyway attractions used in parks after working at the one at SeaWorld California for 3 years growing up, I recognized the odd V-shaped structures as turning stations for a possible gondola system. Again those who remember the WDW version of the Skyway will remember it too would leave Tomorrowland and drop towards the ground and enter a turning station located inside the Speedway attraction grounds before going back up into the sky to complete the run to the Fantasyland station. The existing Skyride at Busch Gardens Tampa also performs a similar maneuver inside it’s own turning station.
With the exact placement of the buildings shown on the permits, it is easy to put them on an aerial map of Disney property and draw a straight line from each station to the next, going from a station structure outside Hollywood Studios (near the boat dock), running East towards a large structure at the south end of the Caribbean Beach Resort, north over the resort to a turning station, then west to another turning station located at the back of the guest parking lot at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort, and while nothing more has been found yet, if you follow a straight line from here to the north you end up perfectly at the International Gateway rear-entrance to Epcot.
So with enough high capacity cars Disney could be looking at a unique new transportation method that could handle around 3,000 if not possibly 4,000 guests per hour. The larger structure south of the Carribbean Beach Resort is also interesting to me, as it is significantly larger than the station structure placed in front of the Studios park. It isn’t just a direction change station, so it would make sense to allow for the nearby resort guests to climb on and off here, and the location would also be within light walking distance from the nearby Pop Century and Art of Animation Resorts as well. But why is the building so much bigger? Maintenance and Storage.
Every detachable gondola system needs to have at least one main station in the system with storage tracks in the back to place the gondolas when they aren’t in use, as well as serve as the systems maintenance and repay bay. The Tomorrowland station at the Magic Kingdom was much larger for this very same reason, with the storage lines for their gondolas kept hidden behind the station, just above where the Tomorrowland restrooms are now. Their second-floor home has since been removed along with the Skyway station section of the structure, but they kept the first floor bathroom facilities. (Fun note, I believe the Disneyland version hid their storage tracks behind the Fantasyland station)
So will this happen? The fact that Disney seems to be in the early phase of permitting that shows off locations makes me think that there is a very solid chance that this is already in the works. Disney also just announced some upgrades and changes will soon be coming to the aged Caribbean Beach Resort as well (more on that later) so if I had to guess, I’d say they may be trying to get all their ducks in a row in order to open it all in time for the opening of Star Wars Land in late 2019. It is also worth noting that I’m sure Disney is aware that not everyone will want to take the Skyway, especially anyone who is afraid of heights, so I’m sure bus transportation will always still be available as well to all locations, but attaching the Studios to the back entrance of Epcot is sure to be a big way to not only increase foot traffic to this underused entrance, but also to the nearby restaurants and attractions attached to the Boardwalk Resort as well. It should also be interesting to think about where else Disney may be looking to run similar systems across their property, because for the past couple years I’ve also heard rumors that Universal was eyeballing the exactly same concept as a way to transport guests from the main Universal Orlando Resort to whatever project they have planned to replace Wet ‘n Wild on I-Drive.
Western Beltway Development / Flamingo Crossings / Possible 5th Theme Park - (11/19/14) As we have been following for some time, it seems clear Walt Disney World is performing some kind of land-grab by adding new property and planning to exchange some of the property they have reserved for wetlands preservation to make bigger chunks of property they can develop. Previously we were led to believe that the new chunk of property added near Flamingo Crossings, might be for a 5th theme park. The latest rumor sent in from an anonymous source however claims that the property’s true intention may be closer to what it was already zoned for by the previous developer… housing. In this case, our source claims that the former housing development property may still be used for housing, but in this case, it will be for new housing for Walt Disney World’s vast College Program Cast Members program. Currently the College Program housing areas are located just on the other side of I-4, in close proximity to local shops, but I’m told the addition of a new housing area on the West side of WDW property would allow Disney to position College Program CM’s into housing closer to their work locations.
(10/17/14) The Orlando Sentinel reports that the developer behind the first two hotels coming to Flamingo Crossings said that he plans on building a total of seven resort hotels on the property over the next 4-5 years. The announcements for the second two hotels is expected to be made within the next year, and have those two open in 2017, while the first two (TownePlace Suites and SpringHill Suites) will open in January 2016.
While this would have the four hotels up and running in time for the Avatar land to open at nearby Animal Kingdom, nothing was brought up about the rumors of a possible 5th Disney theme park in the backyard of the new hotels. With a plan to build 7 hotels on the barren western outskirts of Disney property, I’m still thinking someone knows a bit more about what the future may hold for the site than they are letting on.
(10/10/14) Screamscape has been informed that the new Springhill Suites and Towneplace Suites at Flamingo Crossings will be breaking ground on October 16, and projected to open by January 2016.
(10/8/14) So if Disney were to be planning a 5th theme park, the big question is going to be… what would the theme(s) of it be?
Finding something that is the right fit for Walt Disney World may be tougher than you might think, as the best idea would be something that would not be a repeat of anything that already exists, while still being able to compliment the themes and ideas already used in the other parks.
For example… many of your might scream for a Star Wars themed park… and while this could be a possible idea, the existence of Star Tours over at the Studios park might make this troublesome.
Marvel? Not going to happen… at least not without Disney coming to some kind of terms with Universal for a partial or full buy-out of their current Marvel contract for Islands of Adventure.
Pixar? Possible… as I’m sure we would see some elements from Pixar films in a 5th theme park, but I doubt we would see an entire park themed to nothing but Pixar films. Especially as many of Pixar’s big films already have attractions spread throughout the Walt Disney World parks: Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin at the Magic Kingdom, It’s Tough To Be A Bug at Animal Kingdom and Toy Story Midway Mania over at the Studios.
Frozen? Ehhhh… not going to go there. Plus Frozen is coming to Epcot. But for a fun tonuge-in-cheek look at what an entire park themed to Frozen could be like, TotalOrlando has come ideas.
Perhaps our best clues could come in the form of what Disney Imagineering is rumored to have been toying with for themed for other possible land and park themes elsewhere in the world, as well as hit attractions that have opened at parks outside Florida that may not fit very well into one of the four existing parks. For example, one of the rumored possible themed for a 3rd park planned for California was said to have an overall theme about “Heroes and Adventure”, which sounds a lot like Islands of Adventure, doesn’t it? While the overall concept sounds like a solid base to build upon, many of the rumored land concepts (Marvel, Star Wars, Avatar and Pixar) might not work in Florida.
Looking to Tokyo DisneySea, as well as the Hong Kong and Shanghai Disneyland parks might also shed some light on attraction ideas, allowing Disney to hand-pick some of the more popular rides from each park. Hong Kong’s Mystic Manor certainly is very popular, and features a trackless ride system we haven’t seen used in the US yet. While the Shanghai park is adding many Disney staples, there are a few unique ideas like the Tron Lightcycles Power Run coaster, or the rumored new flume ride system said to be put to use for their version of Pirates of the Caribbean that could be repurposed to work with a new theme. Of course the greatest collection of ideas we haven’t seen anywhere in the US could come from DisneySea… with hit attractions like StormRider, Aquatopia, Journey to the Center of the Earth, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage, Raging Spirits or even a copy of Indiana Jones: Temple of the Crystal Skull would fit in nicely (especially if they retire the Indy show at the studios).
Of course, looking back, the most popular idea that became all the rage with the internet’s Disney fans many years ago was the rumored concept for a Villians park, also known as Dark Kingdom. I kind of like the idea of a mixture of a Heroes/Adventure park concept with the Dark Kingdom concept myself. In the end, the possibilities are endless, so we’ll just have to wait and see if this rumored 5th gate plan comes true or not.
(10/6/14) WDWNT reports that construction is starting in the old Flamingo Crossing project area at the end of Western Way, that will see the build out of two new Marriott chain hotels: TownePlace Suites and Spring Hill Suites, with a combined total of 500 rooms.
Now I’m going to add a little something to this story… as back in August I was told that Disney has been quietly buying up even more land in the Flamingo Crossing area, stretching out to the west and north from the intersection of Western Way and 429. Overall it seems they own over 3,000 acres out there now and filed a huge 900 page application to show off how they are planning to develop it… in particular with a lot of attention to a specific area 300 acre section of it. I’m told that the whole 3000 acre addition has already been annexed by Reedy Creek, putting it fully under Disney’s control, and the property was previously ear-marked by the previous owner for a large housing development project.
So why the build up of land outside Flamingo Crossings? The working theory is that they may be setting up the site for a future 5th theme park gate. Building their newest theme park outside the previously known existing WDW property would be both unexpected, but also suddenly give all that Flamingo Crossing property they are trying to lease out to new developers a HUGE push, as they would all be right on the doorstep of this newest theme park.
So if this is all true, and Disney is looking to finally build a 5th theme park… when would they do it? If I had to guess, I’d say 2021 would be a perfect time to open a fifth park, just in time for the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World, and 6-7 years would also seem to fit Disney’s lengthy development cycle for new parks.
(5/12/14) Behind the Thrills reports that plans for two new non-Disney branded hotels have been posted for the Walt Disney World property, going into the undeveloped Flamingo Crossings area on the West side of the resort property. The two hotels will be partially joined Marriot branded hotels (Springhill Suites & Towneplace Suites) that will share a pool and gym area located between the two. Follow the link to see the plans and details.
(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.