Walt Disney World Resort
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---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(8/10/15) Downtown Disney Transformation Update (MORE...)
(8/4/15) Disney Springs Construction Update (MORE...)
(7/21/15) Downtown Disney Hotels Offering Value Rates (MORE...)
(7/8/15) Walt Disney World “Gaston” Died From Shooting Mortar Off His Head (MORE...)
Resort Rehabs - The following information is not guaranteed to be 100% accurate.
Disney’s Polynesian Resort:
Polynesian East Pool - NOW CLOSED through Early 2016
Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resorts:
Room Renovations - Ongoing NOW Through Aug. 22, 2015
Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort:
Fitness Center, Salon & Casitas Pool - NOW CLOSED through Oct. 12, 2015
Disney’s Wildrerness Lodge - Hidden Springs pool, beach, playground, fire pit & nature trail - Oct. 2 through 2017
Fulton’s Crab House - Jan. 1, 2016 through Apr. 1, 2016
Planet Hollywood - Jan. 1, 2016 through June 1, 2016
Screamscape’s Guide To FastPass+ Is A Must Read!
General Resort News - (7/21/15) For our readers looking for hotel deals when visiting Orlando and Walt Disney World, the seven Downtown Disney Resort Area Hotels will be offering special discount rates from August 1st through to October 4, 2015. All seven hotels are within easy walking distance of Downtown Disney and offer free shuttles to all four WDW theme parks, water parks and Downtown Disney as well that leave on average every half-hour. If you get in on one of these deal windows, you will also get a "Downtown Disney Deals" coupon book. While the prices vary per resort, the starting per-night rate at all seven is less than a hundred a night, so visit the official website to see them all and find the one that fits your needs and budget.
(7/8/15) Like many of us, you probably heard the news headline over the July 4th weekend about how a young man in Maine apparently put a fireworks mortar tube on his head and lit it, killing himself. What has come to light later is that the young man who did this thing was named Devon Staples, who was a Walt Disney World Cast Member many of you might have seen in the past year. He played Gaston in Fantasyland (amongst other characters) where it seems he may have been the "Gaston" who became internet-famous for a short time performing some amazing interactions with guests, like arm wrestling or the famous push-up contest. So sad...
(7/6/15) A website called The Disney Cast Blast has shared an interview with a former WDW Monorail Pilot who answers a series of questions, as well as discussing the memory of the unfortunately accident that happened on the Monorail back in 2009, as well as showing off a great memorial graphic re-design that features Pink and Purple ribbons on the ends of the Monorail Pilot wings emblems, with the words One Rail, One Family. Very nice... follow the link and take a look.
(6/27/15) A company wide ban on Selfie Sticks has been announced by Disney that will go into effect that their US theme parks starting Tuesday, June 30th, and will expand to the international parks on July 1st. The Selfie Stick has been becoming more and more of a problem over the past year and while I'm told that this decision has been in the making for quite some time, the public shutdown of the California Screamin' coaster earlier this week after a thoughtless guest pulled out a Selfie Stick in mid-ride looks to have been the final straw, which will now see them banned entirely from the property.
(6/18/15) According to ThrillGeek, Disney has filed initial plans for the Walt Disney World Speedway site that seem to indicate that they plan on using the site to expand the parking lot.
(4/30/15) According to the Orlando Sentinel the Exotic Driving Experience attraction will not reopen on May 1st, but instead remain closed indefinitely. The Richard Petty Driving Experience attraction however, remains open.
(4/23/15) Following the fatal crash at Walt Disney World on the Exotic Driving Experience, I'm told that while the Exotic Driving Experience attraction is still closed while the investigation is ongoing, the Richard Petty Driving Experience side of things is still up and running. If all goes well with the investigation, rumor has it that the Exotic Driving Experience may reopen on May 1st.
(4/22/15) Walt Disney World is trying something a little different at Typhoon Lagoon this summer with the launch of the "Teen Beach 2 Beach Party at Typhoon Lagoon". Yep, a "Beach Party" will take place inside the park at various times of the day from May 22 through July 5th that will include "Bikers" and "Surfers", themed games and DJ's spinning tracks.
(4/14/15) A 36-year old driving instructor at Walt Disney World’s Exotic Driving Experience attraction was killed on Sunday in the passenger seat when the driver of a Lamborghini lost control on the course and crashed into a guardrail. The driver survived and was taken to the hospital with minor injuries.
The Exotic car experience along with the Richard Petty Driving Experience are both set to close down on August 9th, 2015.
(4/1/15) For anyone wondering… the Richard Petty Driving Experience at Walt Disney World just pushed back their closing date from this June to August 9th, giving summer guests one last chance. The new final day of operations will end with a charity ride for Give Kids The World. Disney has yet to release any solid plans on what they plan to do with the site after the track is demolished.
(2/24/15) A reader pointed out one more feature of the new 2015 ticket price increase that I failed to notice on the last update. The option for paying extra to add-on the No Expiration Option is now no longer available. All newly purchased tickets will expire 14 days after their first use, though older tickets with no expiration date will still be honored.
(2/23/15) As expected, new increased ticket prices went into effect at Walt Disney World on Sunday. The new ticket prices will follow along with last year's more confusing scheme, where tickets to the Magic Kingdom cost more than the other three parks. Now a 1-day / 1-park ticket to Epcot, the Studios or Animal Kingdom will cost you $97 (up $3) for an adult and $91 (up $3) for a child pass, and a 1-day ticket to the Magic Kingdom will now cost $105 (up $6) for an adult, or $99 (up $6) for a child.
Meanwhile Florida Resident Seasonal Passes are $329 (up $10) and Resident Annual Passes are $529 (up $44). For no residents your options are a regular Annual Pass for $654 (up $20) or a Premium Annual Pass for $779 (up $25)
(2/20/15) Remember I warned everyone a month ago this was coming, but the whispering has now turned into a roar and the Walt Disney World parks are expected to raise their ticket prices this weekend, most likely on Sunday as that is the start of their work week for scheduling. This is your last chance to buy tickets and annual passes now at the current rates.
(2/16/15) The local news reports that the long-running Richard Petty Driving Experience attraction at Walt Disney World is closing down in June. On top of this, Disney actually confirmed that the entire racetrack will be demolished at this time to make way for some kind of new transportation improvements.
(2/9/15) According to a few experts and former Disney IT people who have spoken to Screamscape since the layoffs were announced last week, Disney's latest actions may not only be a major mistake, but may be long lasting repercussions that could haunt them for years to come.
As the news did mention briefly, many of the Walt Disney World IT staff were informed last fall that a big shake-up was on the way and they would have to re-apply for their jobs. However, I'm also hearing that many of the higher ups saw this coming well over a year ago, and began to take the necessary steps to jump the sinking ship ahead of time. Long before the layoffs this month, some of Disney's best and brightest IT people have been apparently departing the company anyway in a steady stream for the greener pastures of other major corporations.
Having the experience they did in dealing with Disney's extremely custom and proprietary systems have provided made many of Disney's IT people a very versatile skill-set that can come in very handy elsewhere in the world. Meanwhile... the backside of this is that by outsourcing more and more of their IT responsibilities to India, is not going to be an easy thing for any outside programmer to tackle due to the previously mentioned highly customize and proprietary systems Disney has in place. Apparently this is not Disney's first rodeo in outsourcing to India as well, as I'm told it went very badly the last time around as well.
The bottom line here is this... if and when Disney does realize that they may have made a mistake, they may have a tough time building up their local IT team once again, as a good percentage of the the local market of IT professionals in Orlando has either been burned by Disney in this latest lay-off, or knew someone who was burned, so they may think twice before working for the mouse.
(2/5/15) The local news reports that about 500 IT workers at Walt Disney World were laid off this week unexpectedly. Many of them apparently were involved with the creation and roll-out of the MyMagic / MagicBand technology, so some of these may actually just be part of the wrap-up of that program's installation phase, as it is now fully installed throughout Walt Disney World and whatever extra staff they took on to launch it, may not be needed. The news however reports that some of it may also be due to the growing outsourcing of a lot of Disney's IT needs to India with the signing of a contract with a company called HCL back in 2012.
2015 - Polynesian Resort Renovation / DVC Addition - (4/23/15) The new Kiki Tikis Splash Play area has now opened at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort. You can see a few pictures of it posted to MouseSteps this week.
(4/8/15) MouseSteps returns to the Poly to check out the newly reopened Lava pool area.
(4/1/15) The new Trader Sam's Grog Grotto opened at the Poly and has posted hours of 4pm to midnight. Anxious guests were waiting on hand for hours to be some of the first allowed in to see it... and as in California... seating is very limited, and you know how Disney groupies get... so expect a crowd and for people to sit around for a long time when they visit. The small bar offers some pricy drinks that comes with very themed take home containers for the different special drinks, many of which are also tied to some special effects sequences that go off inside when one is made as well. You can catch a collection of photos (inside and outside) posted to MouseSteps this week along with a video showing off many of the special effects sequences that take place inside.
(3/25/15) MouseSteps has posted a great series of photos showing off the new look of the Polynesian Village Resort lobby as well as progress on the pool rebuild and a peek inside the new Villa rooms as well as our first peek inside the Bora Bora Bungalows.
(3/11/15) According to the Disney Parks Blog the new water bungalow rooms (now called the Bora Bora Bungalows) at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort will open to guests on April 1st, and they have a couple of great new images to show in the update, as well as new details about what may be the most unique rooms in all Walt Disney World.
These new additions, mixed with the new DVC Villa rooms added, has seen Disney give this section of the “Poly” a name to itself, now officially calling it Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows. This isn’t anything new however, Disney did the same thing to all of their resorts that offer separate DVC wings such as the Animal Kingdom Villas, The Villas’s at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Disney’s BoardWalk Villas, etc. It just helps separate the pricing levels for the different style room experinces available at the various Disney Resorts.
(2/17/15) MouseSteps takes a look around the Polynesian Resort this week, checking out the latest construction progress.
(1/12/15) A great photo update showing off the progress at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort has been posted to MouseSteps this week, which has some good views of the new water bungalow rooms.
(12/22/14) MouseSteps takes us inside Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort for the latest look around at the new improvements and at the ongoing construction still under-way.
(12/19/14) Disney has posted some stunning new concept art showing off their new Polynesian Villas and Water Bungalows along with some new resort room details. The 20 water Bungalows will sleep up to 8 guests and feature a “plunge pool” overlooking the Seven Seas Lagoon on the deck, which will be an ideal location to watch the fireworks over the Magic Kingdom.
Meanwhile they will open 360 new Deluxe Studio rooms that can sleep up to 5 guests, and can connect to a second Deluxe Studio room for larger groups. The rooms will each have a bathroom separated into two areas (one with a sink and shower and the other with another sink and a tub/shower) as well as kitchenettes.
They also mention the new Traders Sam’s Grog Grotto which will open at the resort, which hopefully will be as popular as the Trader Sam’s at the Disneyland Hotel, as well as Pineapple Lanai, where guests can get Dole Whips outside the Magic Kingdom.
(12/10/14) A new photo update from Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort has been posted to OrlandoParksNews this week, showing off the newly refurbished lobby as well as areas all around the rest of the site that are still heavily under construction.
(9/26/14) A new construction update from the Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort was posted to OrlandoParksNews last week.
(9/19/14) It’s official… the new sign for the Poly has been installed, displaying the new name for the resort as Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.
(8/13/14) MouseSteps takes us in for a new look around the Polynesian Resort construction site this week.
(7/31/14) A new construction update from the Polynesian Village Resort has been posted to Orlando Theme Park News.
(7/24/14) Screamscape sources tell us that Disney’s Polynesian Resort should see the pool area close on or around July 28th and it wont reopen until March 2015. I’m told that Disney is hoping to try and get the work finished on the new water bungalows as well as the new DVC section of the resort by the start of 2015. They had the same hopes for the work going on at the Great Ceremonial House, but at the moment that phase of the project is said to be behind schedule, so the work may continue on there through as last as February.
(7/21/14) MouseSteps has posted a new construction update from Disney’s Polynesian Resort this week. From the look of things, there are now construction walls pretty much everywhere... both inside and outside. I’m liking the look of these water bungalows though... should be incredible rooms to stay in when finished.
(5/28/14) I’m told that Disney has expanded the scope of their renovation work to the Polynesian Resort. According to what I’m told, there are now three buildings (Buildings 9, 10 and 11) going under the knife to be transformed into DVC style suites instead of just the two. On a related note, a new series of construction photos of the resort has been posted by MouseSteps.
(5/21/14) An extensive construction update Disney’s Polynesian Resort has been posted to OrlandoParkNews this week.
(5/13/14) MouseSteps takes a walk through Disney’s Polynesian Resort to check on the latest construction progress on those water bungalows and to get a last look at the lobby area, as it currently is, before the drastic remodel will change it all.
(5/5/14) Great news for Walt Disney World has Disney has confirmed that the Polynesian Resort will be renamed back to Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. As part of the renovation other improvements will also be made, including the previously mentioned water bungalows, a complete renovation to the resort’s lobby area as well as the creation of the highly themed Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, based on the very popular Trader Sam’s lounge that opened at the Disneyland Hotel back in 2011.
(4/22/14) This week’s look at the progress on the Water Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Resort comes in from OrlandoParksNews.com.
(4/10/14) A new look at the Water Bungalow construction project at Disney’s Polynesian Resort has been posted to MouseSteps this week. I’ve got to admit, I’m really liking the look of this new addition, as it should provide a very unique and special new resort option you can’t find anywhere else in Walt Disney World.
(3/17/14) Special thanks to a reader for sending in two new pictures of the water bungalows under construction at Disney’s Polynesian Resort.
(3/12/14) MouseSteps ventures over to Disney’s Polynesian Resort this week to check out the latest construction progress on the resorts top-secret expansion. The big surprise here is that the framework for the first of the water bungalow rooms is already up, confirming that our earlier suspicions were right on the money.
(1/30/14) The latest construction progress from Disney’s Polynesian Beach Resort has been posted to Orlando Park News, showing off the large new pathway over the water that they’ve been busy putting into place.
(12/31/13) Construction of all those pier style water pathways that will be used to access those new special waterside rooms being added to Disney’s Polynesian Resort can be found over at OrlandoParkNews this week.
(10/29/13) Construction on the shoreline and former Sunset Point area at Disney’s Polynesian Resort has begun. You can find the latest pictures posted to MouseSteps.
(9/18/13) Disney confirmed to the Orlando Sentinel what Screamscape told you a month ago… Disney’s Polynesian Resort will be the next one to add a DVC Wing, with construction set to begin in about a month. Disney wouldn’t go into details about the size or nature of the expansion and improvements on the way, but we can expect to see it ready to open in 2015.
(8/21/13) Want to see more about Disney’s plans for the Polynesian Resort? The ever resourceful Chris Con was able to dig up permit plans Disney has filed for the project, showing off in more detail just what Disney seems to have planned for their waterfront property. In the first two images you can see the shoreline north of the Tahiti building as well as all around Sunset Point. Out in the water, they have placed a large number of little black squares that represent new pilings they will drive into the floor of the Seven Seas Lagoon here, as well as floating barrier that will separate this new development from the open lagoon waters. Closing closer there are twenty sets of pilings in a rectangle shape, all in a row along the shore, which we believe will represent 20 individual and very special “water bungalow” rooms (see the third image with the green circles). There are other various spots with pilings between here and the shoreline that should be for the walkways that will connect these 20 rooms to the mainland.
Want to see just what these exclusive rooms might look like? Ironically, I found a great image showing off another real set of water bungalow rooms built off the shore of the real Tahiti island that will give you a perfect idea of what Disney seems to have in store. It looks like paradise doesn’t it? Hats off to Disney for this one… though the only real heartbreaker in this whole plan is that this is going into a lake in Florida and not into the real ocean, and swimming in the Seven Seas Lagoon is not permitted for both health and safety reasons. Otherwise… you couldn’t ask for a more beautiful looking unique room for special Walt Disney World vacation memory… perfect for a honeymoon trip. In other news, I’ve been told that the Tahiti building is just Building 10, Building 11 is the next building to the south which will also be part of this new transformation plan.
(8/19/13) New rumors about what may be involved with the DVC expansion into the Polynesian Resort plans have come my way. I’m not exactly sure how this will all work, but I’ve been told that new DVC rooms will take over 2 of the existing buildings closest to the TTC, known internally as Building 10 and 11, which I think are better known as the Tahiti buildings. The outside color of these buildings will be changed to appear different from the other Poly resort buildings that have undergone rehab. In addition to remodeled rooms in Building 10 & 11, as well as twenty water bungalows built onto the edge of the Seven Seas Lagoon itself. A new boardwalk would be built to connect these with the rest of the resort, possibly running from near Building 5 near Sunset Point and along the beach moving down towards the TTC Ferry dock area. The resort may get a slightly new name as well, being called Disney’s Polynesian Village.
It’s just a guess on my part based on this information, but I’ve highlighted in yellow on an aerial image of the resort where I believe the location of all this work will take place.
(9/17/12) Screamscape sources tell me that the start date for the big resort-wide rehab on the Poly was pushed back from September 2012 until at least January 2013. The plan is to completely remodel each resort building top to bottom, one at a time. In addition to new room improvements they are looking to brighten up the rooms and walk-ways which are said to be a little on the dark side. While there are always rumors about a possible DVC wing addition, this seems unlikely to happen until after the Grand Floridian project is over. Speaking of which, be sure to check out this week’s new photo update of the Grand Flo as well.
2015/2016 - Walt Disney World Swan / Dolphin Room Refurbishments - Ongoing - (10/28/14) The OBJ has confirmed that the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin hotels are undergoing an extensive renovation… the largest one in the resort’s history actually. According to the article the linked resorts will spend $125 million during a multi-phase upgrade which will see all the guest rooms redesigned and upgraded with new furnishings and new technology.
Renovations for the first phase of 500 rooms at the Swan will be completed by the end of 2014, while the first phase of renovations at the Dolphin wont begin until sometime in 2015. The renovation work on both resorts will be completed sometime in 2016.
2016 - Disney Springs - (8/10/15) A big photo update showing of the progress of Downtown Disney's transformation into Disney Springs can be found at MouseSteps this week.
(8/4/15) A new Disney Springs construction update can be found posted to PixelsAtTheParks this week.
(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.
(6/29/15) A fun look at the Disney Springs construction site from the air, as seen from the Characters in Flight balloon, has been posted to MouseSteps this week. Check it out.
(6/17/15) Disney released a couple of new pieces of artwork late last week showing off The Edison and the new STK Orlando restaurant. You can find them over at the Disney Parks Blog. Meanwhile DaMouse has posted a new video tour from Downtown Diseny showing off the progress of things made so far, now that the project is said to be at the half-way point.
(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.
If that wasn't enough, the new Vivoli Gelateria, an Italian gelato shop, will open up in Disney Springs at The Landing later this month. You can read more here.
(6/6/15) Walt Disney World has announced that they will add something called "The NBA Experience" to Disney Springs. The attraction will include a restaurant, retail store and an assortment of interactive "hands-on activities". This is an exciting development for NBA fans visiting Walt Disney World to be sure, but I do have to wonder how successful it will be when mixed in with the huge assortment of other retail and dining opportunities available at Disney Springs, when the soon to close NBA City restaurant at Universal CityWalk was never able to compete against the smaller number of competitors there.
(5/19/15) OrlandoParksNews takes us for a new look inside DisneyQuest, an attraction I haven't seen or hear much about in quite some time. While Disney has kept up with adding newer arcade games to the site, it has been many years since they have tried to update any of the signature attractions within. According to the report, the exterior of the building was repainted and sometime last year the Ride the Comix VR headset based attraction was closed down and removed as well. With all the major renovations coming along to transform all of Downtown Disney into Disney Springs next year, I do wonder if any improvements or changes are planned for DisneyQuest.
Meanwhile Walt Disney World has confirmed the names of 13 new tenants will be added to Disney Springs. On the retail side of things you will see: Zara, Tommy Bahama, Lilly Pulitzer, UNIQLO, Pandora, UGG, L'Occitaine en Provence and Edward Beiner. The new dining options are: Edison, Sprinkles, Blaze Pizza, Vivoli Gelateria and Tea Traders by Joffrey's Tea.
(5/13/15) You have to love it when a nice surprise falls into your lap, and Walt Disney World dropped off a nice little care package to all Indiana Jones fans a few hours ago. It seems that the aircraft hanger shaped building going into Disney Springs between Paradiso 37 and the new Boathouse restaurant will be a new aviation themed lounge to be called “Jock Lindsey’s Hanger Bar”, themed after Jock… the infamous pilot who flyes in to rescue Indy from the spear throwing natives at the end of the opening sequence of Raiders of the Lost Ark. (You know… the one with the pet snake, Reggie…)
According to Disney the Hanger Bar will seat 150 people, offer unique cocktails and small plate menu items (Rolling Boulder Meatballs anyone?), propeller themed ceiling fans, and more. There is even an outdoor bar, built inside Jock’s old steamboat (also named Reggie), currently hoisted up in dry dock. From what I’m hearing, there may even be a few special effects that get triggered from time to time, or when certain menu items are ordered (like at Trader Sam’s). Look for Jock Lindsey’s Hanger Bar to open to the public sometime this fall! Two pieces of concept art have been added below.
Meanwhile, we've mention the new Amphicar car/boat cruises you can now take, departing next to The Boathouse. They are now prices at $125 for a 20 minute cruise for 3 passengers (no, you don't get to drive, you are just along for the ride) and you can see some great photos and a POV video of what it is like, posted by MouseSteps.
(5/4/15) Disney opened their new Super Hero Headquarters gift shop at Downtown Disney this week, and while it doesn't feature the Marvel logo anywhere on the building, Marvel characters are in full force in the decor, including the S.H.I.E.L.D. emblem displayed proudly on the store's sign. You can take a quick tour inside over at the latest update from MouseSteps and you will quickly notice that all the merchandise is all Marvel related as well, without a sign of any other rival comic characters.
(4/28/15) According to the latest rumor sent in to Screamscape, Bongos may be closing at Downtown Disney in the near future. If the rumor holds true, the source claims that Splipsville may have bought the lease out and plans to open some kind of new Mexican food restaurant on the site instead. Elsewhere in Downtown Disney I'm told that the Hoipoloi store isn't renewing their lease and is expected to close down by the end of May.
(4/14/15) MouseSteps has posted a series of photos showing off the new Amphicars taking people for rides at Disney Springs, launching from near the Boathouse. Apparently you'll have to pay $125 for a group of 3 guests to take a 20 minute ride on them.
(3/27/15) A Marvel hero themed store is coming to Disney Springs in the not too distant future and will replace the current FIFA World Cup store that closed this week. I’m not sure of the legal details, but apparently the store won’t use “Marvel” in the name and will instead simply be called Super Hero Headquarters.
In other news, a couple of odd but very interesting additions have been made to The Boathouse area of Disney Springs, with the addition of Quadskis (Quad Runners that transform into Jet Skis!) and a set of Amphicars (cars that transform into boats). You can catch pictures of both posted to DaMouse.
(3/26/15) Disney has posted two pictures showing off the newly installed pedestrian bridge framework, spanning the road from the Team Disney area over to the Downtown Disney / Disney Springs area.
(3/23/15) Want to know more about The Boathouse restaurant? MouseSteps got a chance to speak with Steven Schussler all about it. Check it out.
(3/19/15) A new construction update from Downtown Disney was posted to MouseSteps this week, which included a great view of all the action as seen from the Characters in Flight balloon.
(3/2/15) Special thanks to a local reader for sending in some new pictures taken at the future Disney Springs area, showing off the latest building progress. Meanwhile Disney and announced a new list of shops that have opened at The Landing area: The Art of Shaving, Apex by Sunglass Hut, Chapel Hats, Sanuk, Havaianas, Sound Lion andErin Mckenna's Bakery NYC (offering a vegan & gluten-free menu).
In other news, Planet Hollywood also released the new concept artwork of how they will transform the Orlando flagship location to look like an old four-story tall Observatory building in time for Spring 2016. It will feature a newly expanded outdoor terrace, an outdoor bar called Stargazers, a refreshed menu, new merchandise and a refurbished interior.
(2/21/15) The latest construction update for Disney Springs and the reworking of the roadways outside the Downtown Disney area can be found over at OrlandoParksNews.
(2/5/15) Downtown Disney is quickly evolving into Disney Springs, and OrlandoParksNews has posted the latest pictures taken this week, showing off what's new.
(1/30/15) A very detailed construction photo update from Disney Springs / Downtown Disney has been added to MouseSteps this week. Lots of things are changing and new buildings and structures are starting to go up all around. Check it out!
(1/20/15) DaMouse has posted a new photo update from Disney Springs showing off the newest addition... what may serve as an icon of sorts for Disney Springs... the light green Boathouse Lighthouse tower.
In other news, fans of Disney's old Adventures Club may be happy to know that several of the former performers there have joined together to start a new show on stage at the Mad Cow Theater on Church St in Orlando called The Explorers Club. The new show will open this Friday on January 23rd, and run Thursdays through Saturdays through to February 22nd, along with two special Monday dates. You can find out more about it at MadCowTheater.com
(12/24/14) A reader sent me a fun picture from the new parking garage at Downtown…errr… Disney Springs earlier this month, that shows off what will be a very handy feature. While not on the ground floor, all the parking decks from the 2nd Floor and up feature a hanging red and green pendulum light globe positioned right over the top of every parking spot. No, this isn't a festive Christmas decoration... it actually is something very important.
While not all of them were working correctly yet, if a car was parked in the space it would shine RED, if the spot was empty the light would shine GREEN, making it very easy to find available parking from far away.
Also this week, OrlandoParkNews, camera in hand, takes us into Disney Springs for a little tour of the latest changes, additions, as well as what’s under construction.
(12/18/14) Walt Disney World has announced another new restaurant that will open at Disney Springs in 2015 called STK Orlando. STK Orlando is described as a modern steakhouse concept that will have an ultra-lounge style relaxed atmopshere. It will take up 14,000 sqft inside a 2-story building at The Landing area of Disney Springs, which I believe is mostly to be built from the former Pleasure Island site.
(11/20/14) Disney Imagineering has installed a new logo for the “Springs Bottling Co.” atop the building that used to feature one of the most famous Pleasure Island signs this week. Check out the time lapse video below.
(11/17/14) The Disney Springs plan is still in flux it seems, as Screamscape was sent an interesting comment from a Downtown Disney insider about changes to the plans for the West Side. “The original plan was to have an elevator and ramps up to the Highline for people to sit there and eat. However, this idea has been canceled. There is currently no plan to have access to it now and they have even altered the original artist renderings for it. The skyline is pretty much just cosmetic and used for lighting, speakers, and foliage. As well as a place to stand under when it rains.”
(11/12/14) WDWNT has posted some new concept artwork leaked for the conversion of Downtown Disney into Disney Springs.
(11/3/14) I’m told that the general public is now expected to be allowed to use the new parking structure at Downtown Disney starting Nov. 20th.
(10/29/14) Our friends at Theme Park Adventure have posted a detailed report on what you can expect to find at The Boathouse, the latest Schussler Creative restaurant concept said to be opening in Spring 2015 at the new Disney Springs area known as “The Landing”, formerly known as Pleasure Island. From the artwork it appears that The Boathouse will take over the area formerly used by the Motions and Rock & Roll Beach Cclub.
Meanwhile Disney Parks Blog has also released some new artwork showing off the fate of the former Mannequins building at Pleasure Island, which will be transformed into Morimoto Asia, a new one of a kind restaurant from famous Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. The new restaurant will be his first pan-Asian restaurant, “featuring flavors from across the continent” as well as having unique “exhibition kitchens”. The two-story Morimoto Asia will open in Summer 2015, also at The Landing along with waterside seating, terraces and grand hall and cocktail lounge.
Meanwhile, OrlandoParkNews reports that Disney Cast Members will be the first to begin using the new parking structure at Downtown Disney sometime in the next few days.
(9/24/14) DaMouse has posted a new photo update of the Disney Springs construction site, complete with aerial photos of the site.
(9/2/14) OrlandoParkNews takes another look inside Downtown Disney at the latest construction changes to Walt Disney World’s expanding retail and dining complex, including some more great looks at the massive new parking structure.
(8/25/14) The latest Disney Springs construction update has been posted to Orlando Parks News this week as the parking structure rises into the sky and construction walls surround the Planet Hollywood area and old bridge entrance to the former Pleasure Island area. Further down the framework for new restaurants is going up quickly while the water bridge from Rainforest Café over to towards Fulton’s is nearing competition.
(7/25/14) ThrillGeek has posted a couple of new renderings showing off how the new parking structures at Downtown Disney (Disney Springs) will look when finished, along with how the road access into them will change the look of things forever.
(7/17/14) The following construction warning / update was issued to all Walt Disney World departments earlier this week, detailing new changes to the traffic flow of Buena Vista Drive and access into Downtown Disney:
As Downtown Disney paves the way for Disney Springs, Monday, July 14 marks a significant milestone as work on Buena Vista Drive shifts from the preparation phase to a major roadwork phase. This work will be even more visible and will continue through the duration of the expansion project.
Those driving on Buena Vista Drive can expect potential delays and should plan for extra travel time.
In addition, speed limits along Buena Vista Drive are now reduced to 35 miles per hour near Downtown Disney. Drivers on this road should remember to travel slowly and safely.
This phase of roadwork will include the following:
ˇ Medians will be paved
ˇ Concrete barrier walls will be used to shift lanes to one side during heavy construction
ˇ Buena Vista Drive will be reduced from three lanes to two lanes going both directions along portions of the road from Bonnet Creek Parkway to Hotel Plaza Boulevard
ˇ Access to Downtown Disney by vehicle will be shifted to:
ˇ Entrance 2 across from the Hess Station
ˇ Entrance 5 across from Typhoon Lagoon
ˇ Various entrances and turn lanes may be closed during different phases of this work
ˇ The SunTrust building intersection will be reduced to right-turn-in/right-turn-out only for cars
Some sidewalk access will also change during this phase of work including:
ˇ Downtown Disney side of Buena Vista Drive:
ˇ The sidewalk directly in front of the new parking garage (across the street from Team Disney) will close permanently to pedestrian traffic
ˇ A small section of sidewalk across the street from the Hess Station and Casting Building that connects to the back of existing Cast Services Building will close permanently
ˇ Team Disney side of Buena Vista Drive:
ˇ The sidewalk between the main Team Disney entrance and the Team Disney back entrance along Buena Vista Drive will close permanently
This work is an extremely important part of the transformation from Downtown Disney to Disney Springs – the largest expansion in Downtown Disney history that will double the number of shopping, dining and entertainment experiences available.
To support this growth and make the area even easier to access, Reedy Creek Improvement District will be enhancing the roadways. Future improvements will include widening Buena Vista Drive to 10 lanes, adding dedicated bus lanes and creating convenient pedestrian bridges that will allow Guests and Cast Members to safely cross over Buena Vista Drive to Downtown Disney.
(7/14/14) A good photo update showing off the latest changes all around Downtown Disney as the transformation into Disney Springs continues, can be found at OrlandoParksNews.
(6/30/14) The latest photos from the Downtown Disney / Disney Springs construction site can be found at MouseSteps this week. According to more than a few reports however, getting in and out of Downtown Disney at this stage in the game is becoming almost more frustrating than it is worth, as the limited parking spaces are quickly filled by the busy summer crowds by lunchtime and the area remains packs until well after dark.
(6/3/14) OrlandoParksNews has a new update from Downtown Disney this week, with a focus on the newly opened Starbucks location.
(5/29/14) DaMouse has posted a new construction update from the Disney Springs project this week, with a few new aerial photos of the site.
(5/22/14) The new Starbucks at Downtown Disney, next to the World of Disney store, is now open according to DaMouse. Meanwhile, over on the West Side, the new Wetzel’s Pretzels and Haagen-Dazs locations have also opened around the side from the exit of DisneyQuest.
(5/12/14) A new Downtown Disney construction update showing off a lot of the progress being made in the parking lot area has been posted by OrlandoParksNews.
(5/7/14) DaMouse has a new update from Disney Springs this week, showing off the concrete work going into place for the new large causeway bridge that will span a large portion of the former Downtown Disney waterway.
(5/5/14) DaMouse returns to the future Disney Springs site for another construction update, focusing on the West Side progress and the new Starbucks location.
(4/30/14) A Screamscape reader sent in some new concept artwork (see below) released for the Disney Springs project. They have also informed me that a new structure will go up in the parking lot behind Cirque will simply be a service building, while the new Cast Wardrobe building for Disney Springs will be built across the street, near the Hess gas station.
(4/25/14) A new Disney Springs / Downtown Disney construction update comes to us this week from MouseSteps where they took to the air on the Characters in Flight balloon to get a great look at what is really going on around the whole area.
While we’re on the subject, a number of big name restaurants are said to be in talks with Disney to set up shop in Disney Springs in 2016. According to this article the list includes: STK (steakhouse), Morimoto (Japanese & Sushi), The Edison (a unique themed restaurant concept from Los Angeles) and The Boathouse (seafood from the Landry’s chain). I’m all for a new steakhouse, and while I’m unsure of how well a Japanese/Sushi place would work, I thought Fulton’s had the seafood market covered, so I just don’t get why adding The Boathouse is a good idea. If Landry’s wants to drop in another semi-themed restaurant with good food, I’d rather see Claim Jumper come to Disney Springs. I think the themeing would be a good fit, if nothing else.
(3/28/14) I haven’t read this anywhere else yet, but but the Pollo Campero restaurant that replaced the old McDonalds a couple of years, along with the other two food stands inside (Bodie’s and Babycakes) have closed down for good. No word on what might replace it yet, but I think the entire building could possibly be removed as part of the Disney Springs transformation.
Meanwhile permits have been filed to install a new unknown restaurant venue into the Pleasure Island building structure that used to be home to 8-Trax and Mannequins. The OBJ reports that it will be run by The Patina Restaurant Group, who are the company behind the new Via Napoli Restorante and Tutto Italia & Tutto Gusta restaurants inside Epcot’s Italy Pavilion. They also run a number of different style restaurants around the New York and Los Angeles area, including five others at Disneyland’s Downtown Disney (Catal, UVA, Naples, Tortilla Jo’s and Taqueria).
(2/1/14) As previously noted the new quick service dining area outside of the House of Blues at Downtown Disney is now open and DaMouse ventures over to take a look around and give a brief review of the menu items they sampled.
(3/22/13) Curious to know a bit more about the planned parking arrangement at Disney Springs? According to the Orlando Sentinel, there will be two separate parking structures built at the two ends of the property, one 4-story structure with 4000 parking spaces and a smaller 3-story structure that will offer 2000 spaces. One of them will apparently even be attached directly to the I-4 so you can exit the freeway directly into the parking structure. The interesting thing is that the Walt Disney Company will not own them and nor will they have to pay for them.
Instead Disney’s own government, Reedy Creek Improvement District, which was set up 40 years ago to oversee all aspects of the Walt Disney World property, will pay the $85 million bill for the parking structures. By using their own government muscles, Reedy Creek can avoid paying sales tax on the materials used for the construction and finance the project with 20-year tax-free bonds. This is all in line with the powers granted to Reedy Creek by the state of Florida 40 years ago. As the article in the Sentinel puts it best, they “gave the district the ability to build parking garages — along with everything from an airport to a nuclear-power plant.”
Given that the Walt Disney World property really is the size of an actual city, it does only make sense that they also can wield the power of one when they have to.
(3/15/13) After saying they had nothing to announce the day before, Disney opened up and confirmed all their plans for Disney Springs the very next day. Disney Springs is a way to transform Downtown Disney into a new themed environment with its own story and theme behind it.
“Our fundamental goal is to create a welcoming, comfortable space where families can enjoy time together and instantaneously feel right at home. We want to give them opportunities to relax, to be entertained, to wander in and out of unique and distinctive shops or enjoy a world-class dining experience. And because we are Disney, we’ve anchored the entire experience around a story that gives us the ability to deliver on the legendary place-making and creativity for which we are known. The result is Disney Springs, a timeless and vibrant place that celebrates the turn-of-the century lakeside towns that dotted the Florida landscape.”
Once complete, the newly dubbed Disney Springs will expand from 75 to over 150 shopping, dining and entertainment venues, featuring “some of the world’s most iconic brands and restaurants.” Construction will begin in April as they begin the process of transforming Downtown Disney into Disney Springs phase by phase, with expectations to complete it all by 2016.
(3/4/13) Good news for fans of Downtown Disney’s Planet Hollywood. According to Screamscape sources who spoke with some anonymous Planet Hollywood peeps the big globe restaurant will be getting an extensive makeover sometime during the next year or so, along with a slightly new name… but it will still essentially be the same Planet Hollywood you’ve come to know, with the same popular menu items.
From this we assume that the structure will be visually transformed to appear less globe-like, and look more like a large themed observatory building instead. I’m also going to guess that the new name for the restaurant may be something along the lines of ‘The Observatory at Planet Hollywood”. Which I actually kind of like to idea of an Observatory theme for a Planet Hollywood restaurant… after all you are there to gaze upon “the stars” are you not? As for the food… it’s nice to know you can still get your fix of Captain Crunch Chicken in Orlando.
(2/18/13) Downtown Disney will be re-branded as “Disney Springs”, which will then feature six themed areas: The Gateway, The Town Center, The Springs, The Landing and the two areas we know well: The West Side and The Village Marketplace.
Gateway will be the entrance area into this new shopping complex, which will feature access and parking in an ample 5 story parking garage that will take over the parking lot just in front of the World of Disney Store and extend down towards the intersection where the Hess gas station sits. The inner lot parking lot area, often used for Valet parking will be developed to become part of this new development. The cast member building and facilities that will be displaced by this will be moved into the tiny lot that is essentially behind the Team Mickey and Once Upon a Toy store area.
Park your car in the new structure and you’ll wandering into The Town Center, an all new themed retail area built on top of former parking lot space. Beyond here is The Springs, which will have shops along the now themed waterway that already exists, running from the old West Side entrance to Pleasure Island, past Planet Hollywood and exit again into the lake behind the steamship that houses Fulton’s. Oh… speaking of Planet Hollywood, the plan has filled in that portion of the waterway and relabeled the Planet Hollywood building as “The Observatory” which doesn’t bode well for the future of one of the last PH’s in existence. The many bridges that exist to cross over the waterway will remain, along with a few new bridges added to taking guests into the former Pleasure Island area that will now be rethemed as “The Landing”, which will be the center for an array of dining and drinking establishments.
The West Side will remain mostly unchanged, while is appears that the old bus drop off area at the Marketplace will be developed into a new retail pathway that will feature a couple of large new retail store buildings, leading to a new bridge that will cross over into the Saratoga Springs Resort.
While this looks to be a much grander and better plan than the old Hyperion Wharf proposal, I do have one important question. For years… decades even, Downtown Disney has been begging for a parking structure to help them handle the crowds during the most busy times of year. Previous Disney management was only willing to fund such a project IF they were willing to start charging for parking at Downtown Disney. Obviously no one wants to see paid parking come to Downtown Disney, which is why we have never seen a parking structure added… until now.
So will Walt Disney World start to ask people to pay to park at Downtown Disney / Disney Springs from now on? Maybe they will only charge you for Premium Parking if you want in the structure and keep the surface lots free? Or hopefully, they will see the added benefit of having the structure as a replacement for the lost surface lots, which will result is increased income from retail sales and leases from outside operators. Lets hope for the later, because no one wants to pay for parking at Downtown Disney.
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.