Walt Disney World Resort
---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(5/13/16) Disney Springs Photo Update (MORE...)
(5/5/16) Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels Offering Discount Rooms For Teachers (MORE...)
(4/26/16) Fulton's To Reopen Under New Name (MORE...)
(4/22/16) New Details about Disney Springs and Town Center (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
Disney’s Boardwalk - Flying Fish Restaurant - NOW CLOSED through Summer 2016
ESPN Club: Yard Arcade and Seashore Sweets - Closed to bring new Experience
Planet Hollywood - NOW CLOSED through June 1, 2016
Fulton's Crab House - NOW CLOSED through Fall 2016
Screamscape’s Guide To FastPass+ Is A Must Read!
Current Ticket Pricing: (2/29/16) After a few years rumbling around as a rumored new possibility Disney decided to move forward with new “seasonal” based ticket pricing at their Florida and California parks on Sunday. The way the new Disney prices work is based on just how busy the parks are expected to be on the day you visit. If you plan a visit on a slow weekday when school is still, you can expect to pay the cheapest price, but try to visit on days when the parks are most packed, like weekends in the summer or anytime around the Christmas holiday season, and you will pay the peak day price. In short, planning a visit to a Disney park will now be similar to the kind of price fluctuation you expect when booking a hotel room.
At Walt Disney World ticket prices are now set into three tiers: Peak, Regular and Value days, and as we’ve seen for the past couple of years, a one day ticket into the Magic Kingdom park also costs a little more than a one day ticket into Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios or Disney’s Animal Kingdom, while multi-day tickets are priced to work at any of the four parks. To know the exact price of each day you will have to now consult Disney’s online calendar that will show prices for the next 8 to 11 months in advance, setting each day as:
Value Day: $97 or $105 for Magic Kingdom for adults or $91/$99 for ages 3-9 and a 1-Day Park Hopper is $155 for adults, $149 for ages 3-9.
Regular Day: $102 or $110 for Magic Kingdom for adults or $96/$104 for ages 3-9 and a 1-Day Park Hopper is $160 for adults, $154 for ages 3-9.
Peak Days: $114 or $124 for Magic Kingdom for adults or $108/$118 for ages 3-9 and a 1-Day Park Hopper is $164 for adults, $158 for ages 3-9.
General Resort News - (5/5/16) The Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels in Walt Disney World are now offering special "Teacher Appreciation Rates" available to preschool, daycare and any kindergarten through college teacher and support staff member in the US and Canada. The offer is available for stays between May 5 and Sept. 30, 2016 at the: B Resort & Spa, Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resorts Hotel, Buena Vista Palace, DoubleTree Suites by Hilston @ Orlando Lake Buena Vista, Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista, Holiday Inn located in the Walt Disney World Resort and Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista. Just follow this link to see the rates available at each hotel.
(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.
(4/8/16) Walt Disney World announced the addition of Ample Hills Creamery, coming to Disney's BoardWalk Inn & Villas this Spring. This will be a new turn-of-the-century themed ice cream parlor from Ample Hills Creamery, who I've never heard of before, but apparently they are a Brooklyn based company, and this will be their first location outside of New York City. Sounds like a yummy new and needed addition to the Disney's Boardwalk.
(4/1/16) Would you believe that Walt Disney World has started their very own Escape Room game? It's true... but the problem is that it isn't in Disney Springs, or even DisneyQuest (where it would be right at home), Disney's "The Escape Challenge" is actually part of the Disney Meetings program, designed as a corporate team-building experience.
If you follow the link you can find photos of the steampunk / time travel themed experience, where guests are sent back in time to a series of themed rooms that they must try to escape from and move on to the next room and solve all the puzzles in just one hour. You'll be trapped on a pirate ship, in a mad scientist lab and more. Watch the video below to see how it plays out.
(3/10/16) According to a post at LaughingPlace, interactive technology that was put in place to take advantage of the MagicBands, may have started some low-key testing at the Aladdin and Jasmine meet and greet at Epcot. While rubbing the Genie's lamp only left them a generic message when they tried to get it on video, there are people claiming that the Genie seemed to know more details about them during their visits, such as their names and where they were from... information pulled from a MagicBand.
If this works out, we could be seeing the start of the roll-out for the StoryMaker program, where characters and even animatronics would be able to interact with guests based on certain data embedded in the MagicBand. For another example, it seems guests names are now being shown on screens near the end of It's a small world as well, as pulled from their MagicBands.
I'd love to see this technology rolled out even further, so that the system may even become aware of the last meal you ate in the park, allowing snarky figures to comment on how maybe you should have held off on the onions on that burger, or even offer you a tic-tac. Now I admit that may be a bit invasive, but it does make you wonder just what kind of data Disney is saving in their database about how each person visits the parks, what attractions are popular at certain times or day, or in what order, within certain guest demographics.
(2/18/16) OrlandoParksNews.com has posted a large update of captured recent aerial images showing off various construction projects all over Walt Disney World, taken around the first week of February. The coverage includes shots of the new Soarin' theater at Epcot, a large clearing across the highway from the Hollywood Studios park that may be a new launch pad for bigger fireworks shows in the future, Rivers of Light and Avatar at Animal Kingdom, Disney Springs, ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and Disney's Wilderness Lodge.
(1/30/16) Time for another edition of "Crazy Theme Park Lawsuit". An Alabama family is now suing Walt Disney World for a couple of interesting events that they say took place back in October 2014. They claim that a snake "escaped" from Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park during their visit, and fell from a tree onto their son and bit him. Meanwhile, they also claim that the "grandmother" with the group witnessed the snake biting the boy, which caused her to go into cardiac arrest and die "a short time later".
Disney has confirmed with their records that they did treat the boy for a snake bite with a simple "band-aid", because he was bitten by a local wild non-venomous snake and not one of the animals from the theme park. (This is Florida after all... ). After this the nurse's report said the family returned to the park, and there was no mention at all about a health problem with a "grandmother" and in fact, no call at all for an ambulance to come to the park for anyone having a cardiac arrest.
The family's lawyer is attempting to sue for the boy's injuries (which would not be Disney's fault) as well as the "wrongful death" of the grandmother.
(1/14/16) One of our readers has sent in a link a video they shot of the first Adventures Club Countdown to Midnight - Hoopla event that took place on New Years Eve. It's fun to listen to the crowd sing along with classic Adventures Club songs once again, like the good old days for a full 40 minutes. Wow... why did they ever close this down?
(12/18/15) In addition to the addition of Metal Detector portals that all guests must now pass through at all Orlando area theme parks, it has also been reported that the Walt Disney World theme parks have pulls all toy-gun merchandise items from the shelves of the theme parks. We're not just talking about the vintage looking pop-guns from Pirates of the Caribbean or Frontierland looking wooden rifles, but also sci-fi toy guns and even squirt-guns. The new metal detector system will also be installed at the Disneyland Resort in California as well in the near future.
(10/30/15) The former Downtown Disney group of seven hotels has now re-branded themselves as the "Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels" and even better, they are now offering special Holiday Rates from November 1st to December 20th. " As a bonus, guests at these hotels also receive the “Downtown Disney Deals” booklet that features exclusive discounts and special offers from over 30 merchants in the Disney Springs area for dining, entertainment and shopping."
For more information about the various special rates being offered at each resort, visit their new official website here.
(10/15/15) The Disney Blog has posted a nice rundown, confirming a bit of what I mentioned last year, that Walt Disney World had a plan in the works that would allow them to build upon some of the property they own that was being held back as "wetlands", in exchanges for converting acres of available property into new a new conservation area.
The plans not only show the possible expansion of the Flamingo Crossings area, but with a heavy focus on adding new land to build upon around the Magic Kingdom area and in between the Hollywood Studios theme park and ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.
2016 - Disney Springs - (5/13/16) MouseSteps takes a look around Disney Springs this week as the work walls prepare to come down and open up new sections. They were also able to try out the new B.B. Wolf's Sausage Co. which was soft open, and spotted several cast members getting to try out the new D-Luxe Burger site as well, still behind the walls.
(4/26/16) Disney announced on Twitter that when Fulton's Crab House reopens this fall, it will reopen with an all new look and name as "Paddlefish". You can see the new artwork and logo here.
(4/22/16) As Disney Springs is quickly approaching the end it’s long construction phase, here are the latest new details released from Walt Disney World about their epic new retail and dining complex. Transformed from the old “Downtown Disney” concept, Disney Springs is a new themed environment, inspired by Florida’s waterfront towns, that will consist of several themed areas: The Landing (replacing the old Pleasure Island area), Marketplace, West Side and the new Town Center that will open in May, and with more than 30 new retail sites open by this Summer. By the time Disney Springs is complete, it will have more than doubled, to 150, the number of shops, restaurants and venues that it previously had.
The Landing, full of waterfront views and restaurants features the already open like The BOATHOUSE, Vivoli Gelateria, Morimoto Asia, the Jock Lindsey Hanger Bar and will soon open STK Orlando later this Spring.
Meanwhile the new Town Center will offer a Spanish “Revival” style architecture and feature the heart of the new Disney Springs, the Springs themselves, where the fresh water flows from below the earth and surrounded by buildings themed to early Florida settlements. Celebrity chef Rick Bayless will soon open a new gourmet restaurant that will serve Mexican cuisine on “planks” rather than plates called Tablas Frontera.
Town Center will also feature an impressive assortment of new restaurants such as D-Luxe Burger, a new Disney owned concept for burger aficionados that will feature a signature blend of beef, unique toppings, freshly baked bun, hand-cut fries, plus an assortment of chicken and vegetarian burgers as well, plus an assortment of Artisanal Gelato Shakes (both non-alcoholic and alcoholic) and floats as well as hard sodas, draft beers and cider.
Amorette’s Patisserie will feature an assortment of sweet treats and pastries in another Disney created speciality shop where you can also get Custom cakes from an assortment made on site daily or pre-order one for a special occasion. It will also offer Champagne selections by the glass and handcrafted hot chocolates.
Also new is Homecoming - Florida Kitchen and Shine Bar from Chef Art Smith, offering “farm-to-fork” cuisine menu and Southern favorites.
Town Center will feature a new array of shops from well known retailers that will open in phases starting on May 15. The list includes: Anthropologie, LACOSTE, kate spade new york, Sephora, Under Armour, M·A·C Cosmetics, Vince Camuto, Vera Bradley, Lucky Brand, Oakley, a Coca-Cola Store, TROPHY ROOM, ALEX AND ANI®, Na Hoku, Shore, American Threads, Volcom, Kipling, francesca’s, Melissa Shoes, UNOde50, Johnston & Murphy, Everything But Water, Free People, JOHNNY WAS, Columbia, Sperry, and Luxury of Time.
Over at The Marketplace, Fulton’s Crab House will reopen this fall. “The re-imagined restaurant will welcome guests with a bow to stern update including interiors reflecting the crisp luxury of modern yachting, and new spaces include a lushly appointed rooftop lounge overlooking Disney Springs, outdoor waterfront bar featuring a “build your own” fish boil and private dining areas. The new menu stars fresh seafood with an oyster shucking bar, Florida stone crab and Alaskan king crab, with hearty steaks and chops, as well as classic and curated cocktails.”
Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique will also move from the current site within the World of Disney store to a new location next to Once Upon a Toy.
Other new eateries to watch for include the all new and rethemed Planet Hollywood Observatory, Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza, Aristocrepes (opening May 22), The Daily Poutine (opening May 15) and B.B. Wolf’s Sausage Co. (opening May 15), and Sprinkles (known for their cupcakes, ice cream and cookies) who will also open an innovated Cupcake ATM where you can buy their sweets 24/7.
(4/19/16) MouseSteps has a new Disney Springs update as they stroll around to shoot the latest photo updates of the main projects still under construction like B.B. Wolf's, D-Luxe Burger, Coke, Town Center, STK, Planet Hollywood and much more.
(4/14/16) Disney has announced that the first phase of Disney Springs' new "Town Center" area will be ready to open on May 15th. Waves of new stores will open between then and early July, though there will still be other projects that wont be finished until later this year.
(4/7/16) The latest photo update from Disney Springs has been posted to MouseSteps this week as construction is kicking into gear for the final push to finish it all as soon as possible. While some locations are nearly finished, there are a few locations where all they have up is the raw steel, so it may be towards the end of the year before everything is complete.
(3/23/16) The Disney Parks Blog posted more details about the new D-Luxe Burger restaurant opening in Disney Springs this May in their latest update, along with some new pictures of juicy new burgers or refreshing cold milkshakes. The menu ranged from your classic Cheeseburger to BBQ burgers, a super spicy El Diablo Burger, a chicken Cluck Burger and even a Veggie Burger for those who aren't carnivores. Oh, and a little something extra... a themed Red Velvet Burger Macaron that looks just like a tiny burger, and even has red raspberry 'ketchup' dripping out the sides.
(2/5/16) According to the local news Fulton’s Crab House will soon be shutting down for a 6-month rehab sometime in early April, and unfortunately it also came to light that the restaurant’s 214 workers will all be laid off as well. Both Fultons and Planet Hollywood (currently closed) were originally scheduled to close at the same time at the start of the year when the Fulton’s rehab was seemingly cancelled at the time. Apparently they just opted to push it back, though having both of these high profile restaurants closed during most of April, May and June at the same time may cause some issues during the more busy weeks of Spring and the start of Summer. Of course, Disney has opened many new restaurants to try in Disney Springs, with more to come, so think of this as incentive to try out one of the new restaurants instead.
While we’re on the subject of Disney Springs, I’ve been hearing that while some of the newer sections may be ready to go by early Summer, the rest of Disney Springs is unlikely to be 100% finished until the end of summer or perhaps even sometime in the Fall.
(1/23/16) A quick look around Disney Springs construction has been posted to MouseSteps this week. This also brings up a couple of other issues I've heard mentioned this week, for example one of the new attractions now rumored to be coming to Disney Springs is a small "World of Coca-Cola Experiewnce", said to be under construction not far from Planet Hollywood according to TheDisneyBlog.
Another rumor floating around claims that Disney's deal with the NBA Experience people may have fallen through, and the project put on indefinite hold, if not canceled entirely. While bad news for NBA fans, the upside is that DisneyQuest is rumored to possibly stay open for all the 2016 and maybe even longer. Who knows... this could be a chance for Disney to look at ideas to upgrade and improve DQ for the 21st century instead of scrapping it. Hey, a guy can dream, right?
(12/30/15) The Orlando Biz Journal has posted a good look at the plans for the new Edison restaurant coming to Disney Springs in 2016, 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.
(10/27/15) Disney has confirmed that they will open a new restaurant called Frontera Fresco in Disney Springs from the mind of Rick Bayless, described as a celebrity chef known for winning Bravo's Top Chef Masters show and over half a dozen major awards. He current has an award winning restaurant in Chicago called Frontera Grill as well.
Now I'm not one to watch cooking game shows or even glance at the food network, but apparently this restaurant will feature an assortment of Mexican cuisine that will make your mouth beg for more, and I'm definitely down with that idea as Disney Springs could use a place to get some nice tacos and guacamole. Look for Frontera Fresco to open in the final phase build-out of Disney Springs sometime next year.
(7/2/15) Unfortunately the news about DisneyQuest closing down to be replaced by The NBA Experience has been confirmed by Disney management. So sad. The only date being confirmed now says that DisneyQuest will close sometime in 2016, though the early rumors suggest that the closure will likely happen in the first half of the year.
(7/1/15) A disturbing new rumor floated to the surface this week that has been quickly gaining traction. According to the rumor DisneyQuest may close down forever in early 2016 and the building repurposed to become the new home for the recently announced "The NBA Experience". Unfortunately, with a building as large as DisneyQuest, I can see how Disney could reuse it for The NBA Experience, which is supposed to feature not only a restaurant, but an assortment of interactive and very hands-on activities.
Can anyone with close ties to DisneyQuest confirm the estimated closing date if this is true?
I can't help but be sad for this move... but there is really only so long that DisneyQuest could continue to run on nostalgia without getting a major injection of capital to make it relevant once again. The problem is, I think Disney may be bailing out at the exact moment that they should be doubling-down.
DisneyQuest 1.0 was very much cemented in the idea of old arcade gaming culture, which means they aimed it mainly at teenage boys and men who grew up with the initial video game generation with an Atari 2600 controller in one hand and a pocket full of tokens to play PacMan in the other.
The thing is, gaming has changed so much since DisneyQuest opened that they could revamp the entire concept into a DisneyQuest 2.0 concept. It is long past time for DQ to embrace a little thing called the internet, bring on mobile gaming, social gaming trends online gaming and much more, all with a Disney twist.
Turn the visit into a social media explosion, give guests an APP to use during their visit to track scores, compete with friends, earn achievements than can be shared on Facebook or Twitter and more. Not to mention the fact that VR is back and bigger than ever, with more affordable concepts just crossing the horizon that could bring VR style gaming into your home just by sliding that mobile phone in your pocket into a piece of headgear (like Google Cardboard).
Embrace the female gamers this time around, because if it is one thing that mobile gaming has brought to the surface is that women love playing competitive games with friends online just as much as men do, especially with the right kind of game. (I should know, my wife, sister-in-law and mother-in-law have been whipping my rear end regularly lately in Yahtzee with Buddies, and I had to flat out retire from Words With Friends)
Time for new themes, new adventures, and new game types for kids, women and men... time to really take the users to the Game Grid for once, time to fight with Marvel virtual heroes or explore the worlds of the Star Wars universe in a new way. Heck, maybe tie it all together under the Disney Infinity brand-name and bring the video game to life, sell some exclusive figures and more. The ideas are endless.
Unfortunately, I fear the time for some renewed vision on the idea is long past.
(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.
2016/2017 - Wilderness Lodge Resort / Water Cabins - Planning - (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.
--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:
Monorail System News - (11/26/14) A few of our more Monorail savvy readers chimed in to let me know more about the WDW Monorail automation program, which is indeed still in the process of being installed, tested and refined. The interesting thing is that the plan still includes an actual pilot still in the seat of the monorail, but they are there for the purpose of being a backup and having someone able to take the controls manually if needed.
The goal of the program is to try and automate the movement of the monorails around the beams, and try to keep them moving at all times, without going into stationary holds, waiting for a train ahead to move out of the way. Instead the automated system would slow the train down to an appropriate speed, while trying to avoid stopping. Needed information sensors and wireless data transmission systems are being added to the beams and stations so that the exact position of each train can be seen in real-time on a master tracking system (as well as view the POV camera feed), as well as the ability to send the actual arrival time of the next train to a display in each station. The automated system would also be easier on the drive system of each train, as it would gradually shift up and down through the throttle levels at a rate that would remove the excessive stress of an eager pilot slamming the throttle to the max, or braking too hard at the last second.
I’m told that full scale testing of the automated system was planned to begin sometime in 2015. According to a post on Monorails.org, who has more technical data on the automation system hardware itself, Monorail Teal has already been retrofitted with the new automation system and has been doing the majority of the initial guinea pig testing of the concept before installing it throughout the rest of the fleet.
(11/24/14) The Walt Disney World Monorail system has been rumored to have been working on and testing a fully automated system for quite some time now, that would remove the need for a driver from the monorails. This would essentially make the Disney system work, more or less, like the Las Vegas Monorail system, which is based on the same design as Disney, as they started it on the initial private line that ran between the MGM Grand and Ballys by purchasing a pair of retired Disney monorail trains.
While we haven't heard much about the proposed Disney automation plan, a reader did notice what looked like a new control podium now installed on the resort line station at the TTC that would be used to control these automated trains. Can any of our more monorail-savvy readers give us an update on this?
(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 / 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.