Walt Disney World
---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(4/11/21) New Cinderella Castle Photos (MORE...)
(4/8/21) Tron Construction Update (MORE...)
(3/27/21) Cinderella Castle Update (MORE...)
(3/26/21) Magic Kingdom Facial Recognition Gear (MORE...)
(3/24/21) Magic Kingdom To Start Testing Facial Recognition Technology (MORE...)
Ride Rehabs - These dates are not guaranteed to be 100% accurate as refurbishments are subject to change.
Walt Disney World Railroad - NOW CLOSED through TBD
Peoplemover - NOW CLOSED through TBD
Hall of Presidents - NOW CLOSED through TBD
Big Thunder Mountain - May 4 through May 21
Other Temporary Closures Include:
Enchanted Tales with Belle
Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade
Main Street Vehicles
Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
Park News - (4/11/21) MouseSteps has sent in a new report from The Magic Kingdom where they take a focused look at all the enhancements don’t to Cinderella Castle ahead of WDW’s 50th Anniversary celebration. The new paint job with contrasting colors is really starting to look quite striking to the eye.
(3/27/21) MouseSteps has sent in a new photo update from The Magic Kingdom taking a look at the updated decor on Cinderella Castle, as it is being prepared for the launch of the 50th Anniversary celebration.
(3/26/21) Our friends at Orlando Experience dropped by The Magic Kingdom this week to check out the new facial recognition technology gear being tested at the park’s main entrance, along with the notification sign you can read before using it.
(3/24/21) According to the local news Walt Disney World will start testing some kind of new facial recognition system at The Magic Kingdom on Tuesday. According to the article Disney will be testing this system as part of new park admission program designed to link a guests face to their admission ticket for faster entry into the parks.
If this sounds familiar, it should. Last year we reported that Universal was going to put a similar program into action this Spring when they open the new Universal Studios Beijing theme park in China, and was also planning on rolling it out domestically when they were ready to open their new Epic Universe theme park in Orlando.
(2/6/21) In a very revealing bit of news, Disney pulled back the veil a little bit about something very special that even I didn't know a thing about. When they drain the waters of the Rivers of America at the Magic Kingdom the Liberty Belle riverboat has to go somewhere right? As the current four-month rehab to the river comes to a finish, Disney revealed that they replaced the track for the riverboat at the bottom of the river and the Liberty Belle was sent to a dry-dock for maintenance that is actually somewhere behind Space Mountain.
How the Liberty Belle gets there and back again is the trick and part of a massive three-night overnight production that transports the Belle through a canal out into the Seven Seas Lagoon and across a water bridge into Bay Lake for a 2.5 mile trek to or from the dry dock.
(1/22/20) After being drained for the past few weeks for a massive refurbishment project, Behind the Thrills reports that the Rivers of America at the Magic Kingdom are slowly being filled once again.
(1/10/21) A heads up to Disney fans… it has been confirmed by Walt Disney World that they will be retiring the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom interactive card collecting game at The Magic Kingdom. Guests arriving at the park would would get a sealed starter set of game cards that could be presented to various interactive screens hidden throughout the park that would set them off on various mission experiences. Upon further visits, guests would be given booster packs containing extra cards to add to their collection, along with various limited-run cards available only by going to various special extra-cost ticket events, such as Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.
The experience was an interesting one, and did add some extra entertainment value to the park by creating an experience that could be done by anyone, even when the park was so crowded that your chance to ride any attractions may be severely limited. Over the years that have followed the installation of the interactive game however, the spread of mobile device technology and interactive digital experiences has only increased and Disney says they have seen reduced demand and use of the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game. As such, the experience will officially be retired on January 24, 2021.
With that said… I do have to think that we may see Disney develop some kind of new experience in the future that would rely more on the use of guest’s mobile devices instead, and even through the use of GPS location points, not unlike popular mobile games like Pokemon Go, Jurassic World Alive and Harry Potter Wizards Unite.
(12/24/20) The Electrical Water Pageant has returned to life at Walt Disney World on the Seven Seas Lagoon. A great video all about the return of the water show that travels around the lagoon can be seen below.
(12/2/20) The new pathway and bridge allowing guests to walk from The Grand Floridian to The Magic Kingdom is now open. You can see pictures posted over at MouseSteps this week.
2021 - Jungle Cruise Update - (3/22/21) Disney has added new details about what we can expect from the new version of The Jungle Cruise to open later this year at Disneyland and The Magic Kingdom parks. According to the latest details in addition to the push towards adding more ‘humor, wildlife and skipper heart’ to the attraction, they will also add new characters from around the world to the story. This will include a series of new scenes that guests will experience along the river ride as well as a storyline that will add new details into the backstory of the attraction, “centered around Alberta Falls, granddaughter of world-renowned Dr. Albert Falls, as the proprietor of the Jungle Navigation Company Ltd.”
Make the jump over to the Disney Parks Blog where they have posted an old publication that features an in depth interview with Alberta Falls that also ties in with Disney’s fictional storylines about the “Society of Explorers and Adventures” (SEA) group that weaves in and out of several attractions at Disney parks throughout the world.
(1/29/21) According to an official statement from the Disney theme parks, the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland and Magic Kingdom will soon undergo a bit of a remodel. The plan is to actually redo some of the theming and enhance “the story of the Jungle Cruise” on the attraction, while staying true to the experience with all the bad skipper jokes, while taking a more respectful approach to other cultures. Or as Disney put it they want to “reflect and value the diversity of the world around us.”
Ahem… you can take that for what you will, but in much the same vein that Disney has sought to course-correct themselves by altering select scenes on Pirates of the Caribbean over the years, they are now ready to tap their wand of political correctness a few times on The Jungle Cruise. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, as in 2020 they were also quick to announce that Splash Mountain would retire the South of the South theming and replace it with a new story themed around The Princess and the Frog. So clearly there is an ongoing initiative at Disney’s Imagineering to update their attractions where needed to remove any cultural stereotyping for today’s modern audience.
Of all the attractions at Disney theme parks, perhaps The Jungle Cruise could be the one most in need of an update in this regard. I’m a bit surprised they aren’t taking the initiative to tie it in more closely to the look and theme of The Jungle Cruise film starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt. Then again, what really has always made the Jungle Cruise experience so special over the years has been the Skippers, and it is nice to see that this new enhancement of the storyline is expected to rely heavily on a new storyline involving the Skippers. After all… without the Skippers the Jungle Cruise would be… dare I say it… well… kinda lame.
Obviously the new roll out of the attraction changes will take place in Florida first, as that park is the only one currently open, but with Disneyland closed, they also have the freedom to make all the changes right away far away from the prying eyes of guests, so I would expect it to also be ready to roll at Disneyland as soon as the California park is given the green light to open once again.
2021/2022? - TRON Lightcycle / Run - (4/8/21) A new TRON construction update was posted earlier this week to MouseSteps where it looks like the temporary support structures for the canopy are now starting to come down. It also appears that they may be getting ready to rebuild the railroad track through this area, as piles of new railroad ties and rails were also spotted on site.
(3/22/21) Special thanks to one of our readers who dropped into The Magic Kingdom this weekend and sent back a couple of fantastic shots of Tron: Lightcycle/Run under construction with what looks like a fairly complete canopy framework now in place. The crew still has to fill it all in and make it solid, and eventually they will also go inside and remove the dark colored temporary support structure to allow it to stand on its own.
(3/16/21) A detailed TRON construction update was posted to MouseSteps a few days ago that is worth checking out for the views of the attraction area from all directions.
(3/10/21) The structure to hold up the massive canopy in front of Tron is said to be nearly complete. You can see the section closest to the ride building is now almost fully in place in a photo below from Bioconstruct and then below that BlogMickey reports that the canopy had a flag placed at the highest point as part of their Topping Off tradition this week. Once the full structure is in place, they will begin the process of adding all the various panels to the structure, as well as an impressive lighting system that will enhance the coaster experience as it passes under the canopy.
(1/28/21) A new set of photos from the Tron construction site have been posted to MouseSteps this week. As you can see, the canopy structure is growing once again, this time it is reaching out towards the main attraction building.
As previously reported, the entrance into the attraction building for riders as well as the coaster track has been sealed up, which only seems to reinforce the rumor that Tron will not open in 2021 as originally expected. If the rest of the rumors hold true, once the canopy and the rest of the outdoor construction is complete, we should see the visible work on the attraction come to a halt, with the inside work rumored to not begin again until at least October 2021.
(1/11/21) A new collection of Tron Lightcycle/Run construction photos have been posted to MouseSteps this week. This includes a good look at the massive canopy structure that will dominate the front view of the attraction, which can also be seen from various locations throughout the park. After dark, it should be quite a sight to see, as it will light up in spectacular fashion as well.
The back half of the canopy has yet to go up however, but one thing many have noticed is that the entrance hole where the coaster track is to re-enter the building has now been sealed up around the track. Just below it you can also see where the workers have begun the process of sealing up the actual walkway entrance for the riders to get into the attraction building queue with another temporary wall.
So why seal the entry paths into the attraction building? Well going back to the rumors making the rounds not long ago, as part of a budget cutting measure work on Tron was expected to grind to a halt as soon as all the outdoor construction was complete, and with the attraction building and track now in place, the last outdoor steps to finish would be the canopy and then whatever work needs to be done to get the Railroad track back in place. Sealing up the building almost seems to bring the claims that all interior work on the attraction would be paused until late 2021, likely not starting until the start of Disney’s next fiscal year which is typically the first week of October.
(12/28/20) A great aerial picture of the Tron Canopy status was posted to Twitter by Bioreconstruct about a week ago, showing that the entire front curve is now covered, leaving only the return track back to the show building left to be covered.
(12/13/20) Today we’re going to see the latest construction update for the Tron Lightcycle/Run coaster at the Magic Kingdom. MouseSteps has posted some new pictures of the attraction taken from both inside and outside of the park, so you can see how the rising techno-canopy going up in front of the main attraction building is changing the skyline of the park.
It does create an odd new look to the park when seen from outside the gates, especially in some images taken from the Wedding Pavilion area where the canopy is seen poking up over the buildings of Main Street USA. This is just the front section of the canopy still, as the section that will cover the rear-half of the outdoor coaster tracks as they return and re-enter the attraction building at the tallest point has not yet been assembled.
(12/2/20) A new Tron construction update has been posted to The Coaster Kings this week. They get up close to get a look at the construction site, and a view of the huge section of canopy structure that is now in place. There is still a lot more that has to go up, but you can already get a good idea of how Tron Lightcycle / Run is going to alter the skyline of Tomorrowland.
(11/15/20) A new aerial photo found on Twitter shows that the canopy that will cover the entrance plaza and outdoor track in front of the Tron coaster at The Magic Kingdom now looks to have installed a significant portion of the framework. This would cover the portion of the track from the launch tunnel and about half of the outdoor portion of the track at this point, but more importantly it gives off a better look at the overall shape of the canopy which will be what everyone sees as they approach the attraction.
(11/11/20) OrlandoExperience takes us in The Magic Kingdom this week for a look at the Tron coaster. Construction is still moving forward, buy as I’ve heard it said, progress seems to be slowing a bit compared to the previous pace.
(10/27/20) A new construction update showing off the progress on Tron Lightcycle / Run has been posted to CoasterKings this week. You can really see the support structure rising into place for the giant canopy that will cover the outdoor portion of the ride as well as the entrance.
(10/26/20) I’m not sure how valid this rumor is, so please take this one with a grain of salt for now and as a warning if you’ve been planning a visit to Walt Disney World for the later half of 2021, hoping that the new Tron or Guardians of the Galaxy coasters would be open.
According to the rumor the construction crews working on Tron Lightcycle/ Run (Magic Kingdom) and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind (Epcot) will continue their work only until all the major structural and outdoor construction aspects are finished. At that point, they say that construction may come grinding to a halt with Disney leaving the interior work and theming of the rides unfinished. The plan would be to put all the rest of the construction work on hold until October 2021, the start of Disney’s next fiscal year, where it would start up again with the goal of finishing up the attractions in time for late Spring or Summer 2022 instead.
Again… this is just a rumor right now, but one that definitely sounds like something that could be Wall Street driven as a cost-cutting measure meant to stop the financial bleeding by being able to cut various contracted team members working on these projects right now with the goal of hiring those they need back in a year’s time by essentially pushing the pause button on the spending needed to finish these two major attractions for almost a year.
Can anyone else with insider knowledge confirm or deny this rumor?
(10/14/20) A new TRON construction update has been posted to CoasterKings this week, with a lot of new structure up out in front of the main ride building for the giant canopy structure that will serve as the main entrance as well as cover the outdoor portion of the track. And it should light up really cool at night too.
(9/18/20) CoasterKings is back with a new report from The Magic Kingdom where they checked in on the Tron construction site where there was a lot of activity going on. Looks like they are trying to speed things up, which is a good sign.
(9/10/20) A fresh look at the construction over at the Tron site has been posted by Coaster Kings this week. Follow the link to check it out.
(9/4/20) A new Tron construction update was posted by MouseSteps this week. You can see a lot more of the support structure for the massive canopy that will cover the entrance plaza to the attraction has risen into place.
(8/30/20) A new photo posted by Orlando Experience shows that framework for the large canopy over the front of the Tron attraction at the Magic Kingdom is now going up.
(8/27/20) MouseSteps has posted a new construction update from the Magic Kingdom, this one focused on the work at the Tron attraction site. Based on the photos, it looks as if some of the framework for the massive Tron-brella is being put together. What I’m calling the “Tron-brella” is a light-up roof structure that will sit over the plaza in front of the ride, and over the outdoor portion of the coaster track that should closely resemble the one built first at Shanghai Disneyland.
(8/15/20) Orlando Experience has posted a new video this week showing off the construction progress on the Tron coaster at Disney’s Magic Kingdom as of August 2020. As you can see, the current pace of visible progress seems to have slowed down compared to how things were going before the shutdown in the Spring. This has many wondering if the coaster will be able to be finished and ready to open in 2021 or not for the 50th Anniversary celebration. While the coaster itself is up, along with the show-building, there is still the matter of the huge Tron-brella structure that will sit over the front of the ride building and cover the outdoor portion of the track that has yet to appear. This and the installation of all the theming elements that need to go inside the queue and show building will take some time, so this will be one to keep an eye on.
(3/28/20) A quick video showing off the state of the Tron attraction at the Magic Kingdom was taken just before the shelter-in-place went into effect in the area can be seen below. Work crews, before construction was halted appeared to be putting up the wall panels to enclose the massive building's framework.
(3/2/20) BlogMickey has posted some real fantastic aerial photos of the TRON coaster construction site, showing off how it all fits together into the Tomorrowland landscape with the equally massive Space Mountain structure sitting right next door. Make the jump and take a quick look!
(2/15/20) A Screamscape source sent in some new pictures showing off the outside progress on the Tron attraction going up in Tomorrowland. As you can see they see to be busy putting up the walls to enclose the attraction building now, but there are also plenty of footers placed outside that should be used to hold up the shaped and light-up roof structure that will cover the outdoor portion of the ride and attraction entrance pathway.
Based on the look of things, I wouldn't count on seeing the railroad run through here anytime soon, as they still have a lot of work to do before they can build the new railroad tracks through here.
(12/18/19) According to the Disney Parks Blog, the Magic Kingdom has set up a pair of TRON Lightcycles for guests to climb onto and take their pictures with in the Magic Kingdom as a preview for the upcoming new TRON Lightcycle / Run coaster attraction opening in 2021.
(11/27/19) Earlier this month Disney’s construction crews installed the final piece of track onto the Tron Lightcycle / Run attraction. You can watch the video of it being set in place below.
(11/22/19) Thanks to one of our readers for sending in great new photos of the Tron coaster under construction at The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. These are fantastic images from a new point of view we haven’t seen before and gets up close to the outdoor portion of the track that was installed recently.
(10/30/19) A new Tron construction photo update can be found over at MouseSteps this week, and the big surprise is that a ton of outdoor track for the coaster has now been installed. At this rate, I’d expect the layout to be complete by sometime next week of all goes well.
(10/24/19) A large batch of new photos of the Tron Lightcycle Run coaster under construction have been posted to Midway Mayhem’s Instagram. The launch track is now installed and the large supports are being set into place for the outdoor portion of the coaster.
(10/9/19) A great aerial photo showing off the entire Tron Lightcycle coaster construction site can be seen here. The main indoor track is complete, and you can spot the brake run and switch into the left/right loading station tracks. From here you can spy the footers in place for the rest of the station and turn into the launch track and big outdoor turn in place. From here you can also see why the Railroad is still not running, and obviously wont be back up anytime soon. Maybe sometime in mid to late 2020 perhaps.
(9/10/19) A new construction photo report from the Magic Kingdom shows off the status of the Tron Lightcycle Run coaster this week where the building framework is now quickly surrounding the coaster, while a huge dirt pile is being built up in front of it all for some reason.
(9/6/19) A new construction video showing off the progress on the Tron Lightcycle coaster being built at Magic Kingdom can be seen below.
(7/12/19) Some fantastic aerial footage of the Tron coaster under construction was posted by a local news station. You can see the track for the double sided loading station has been installed, and while the launch track is not in place yet, you can see the footers in place for the outdoor portion of the ride following the launch, before the LightCycles venture back into the attraction show building.
(6/21/19) Some great new photos of the Tron coaster under construction at the Magic Kingdom were posted to MouseSteps this week. From the look of things most of the “indoor” action part of the ride’s layout is now in place. Based on the layout drawing we have, the tallest section you see would be the first ‘red arrow’ the ride encounters where is at the point where the outdoor portion of the ride rises up and enters the building. The rest of the tangled mess matches up to this layout, ending with the final red arrow (aka: brake run) as the coaster will head towards the return passage back to the load/unload station.
And really… that’s all there is to the ride, other than the high speed out and back it will perform outside the main show building just after the launch. If you are thinking that this ride appears to be very short compared to the new Hagrid’s coaster that just opened at Universal, then you would be right. Assuming this is a clone of the Shanghai ride, then the overall track length is said to be 3,169 ft, compared to the new Universal ride which is almost 2,000 feet longer.
(6/4/19) Just the other day we saw a giant batch of black steel supports up on the Tron coaster site at the Magic Kingdom, but you wont believe what it looks like now. Seriously… the site is jam packed full of supports and huge sections of complete track. It’s hard to believe just how fast this coaster is rising now. Check out the video below from Midway Mayhem along with a look at a new odd bit of construction taking place in front of the Magic Kingdom near the bus stops.
(5/22/19) Good news for Tomorrowland fans, as the Tomorrowland Speedway is now open once again. A good assortment of photos of the reopened attraction have been posted to MouseSteps this week.
Then be sure to check out their new collection of Tron coaster construction photos as well.
(5/6/19) A few pictures showing off a collection of the first large black coaster supports now installed for the Tron coaster at the Magic Kingdom can be seen at WDWNT this week. If we assume that the layout here is the same as the one in Shanghai Disneyland, then I’ve also got a graphic showing off the basic layout of the coaster for you as well.
(4/27/19) MouseSteps drops into the Magic Kingdom this week to check out the construction on the new Tron coaster and the impact to the nearby Tomorrowland Speedway attraction.
(3/19/19) We can look forward to seeing the steel of the Tron coaster at the Magic Kingdom soon begin to rise. According to a posting at the Disney Parks Blog, Cast Members were invited to sign their names on one of the first steel supports for the ride that has arrived on property.
(1/11/19) New photos posted to WDWNT show that a big section of the Tomorrowland Speedway has now been torn out to make way for construction on the new Tron Lightcycle coaster project. Don’t worry, the Speedway will return eventually… though personally I think they should have taken the opportunity to totally vamp the Speedway into a Sugar Rush themed race ride from the Wreck It Ralph films. The two attractions would have fit in nicely next to each other I think.
(7/20/17) Fans of TRON, your day has come, because Disney confirmed at the D23 Expo that a copy of the Tron Lightcycle Power Run coaster attraction will indeed be coming to the Magic Kingdom in time for the 50th Anniversary of WDW in 2021. The Speedway will survive however, as Tron will be placed just to the left of Space Mountain, with the main attraction building residing on the other side of the railroad tracks, just like Space Mountain.
I've got a feeling we'll see some renovations take place on the Tomorrowland Speedway, along with a reconfiguration of the track layout, in order to accommodate the new Tron coaster. Now... can we talk about putting a third Tron film onto the production slate as well?
2021/2022 - Hall of Presidents Refurbishment - (1/22/20) Walt Disney World has confirmed that The Hall of Presidents attraction at The Magic Kingdom quietly closed down in time with the inauguration of Joe Biden as President. As has been the tradition for years, shortly after a new president takes office the attraction is closed for renovations to take place to the show, as well as to add a new animatronic figure to the stage representing the newest President of the United States. There is no timeline set for the reopening of the attraction, but in the revamp of the attraction could take anywhere from 6 months to over a year to complete, depending on how much work needs to be done.
2021/2022/2023 - The Princess and The Frog - Confirmed - (7/12/20) Various survey’s Disney has been sending out over the past week are asking guests how they feel about a number of different older attractions. Based on past rumors and whispers over the years, the majority of these attractions being discussed have long been rumored to be on the list of potential attractions for retirement due to age, low guest satisfaction numbers, or if they simply just can’t handle modern throughput requirements. A couple of interesting items reported to being on the surveys include Tom Sawyer’s Island and The Country Bear Jamboree, both of which exist in Frontierland.
As mentioned in a previous post about the announced conversion of Splash Mountain into a Princess and the Frog themed attraction, one rumored idea being thrown around and discussed by many is the possible conversion of Frontierland into another New Orleans Square land, not unlike the one at Disneyland which sits right next to their own Splash Mountain.
While I had previously mentioned this was an idea I had myself in the last update, I do have to correct that to say that it was an idea had by many individuals and not just myself, so I was not trying to take credit for the idea. So let us just say that this is something being discussed in many circles, as well as some very important ones. These new surveys only back up the rumors that Disney may be seriously ready to renovate the entire land into something else, leaving just Big Thunder and the Railroad station as the possible last pieces of Frontierland to remain.
It is also interesting to consider just what the Magic Kingdom could possibly do if the back-half of the river and Tom Sawyer’s Island were removed entirely and the property used to create a new Frontierland expansion, or perhaps even an entirely new land to explore. After all, in our current world where COVID concerns are primary in everyone’s mind, a high-touch environment like Tom Sawyer’s Island may have outlived its purpose.
(6/29/20) While no timeline was given for the announced transformation of Splash Mountain into a new Princess and The Frog themed attraction, I’ve been giving some thought as to how the experience seems to be a perfect fit for Disneyland, but couldn’t be more wrong for The Magic Kingdom. At least, it just seems wrong given the current theme of the area in front of Splash Mountain, where it will be inside the middle of Frontierland.
This all changes however if you stop for a moment to wonder if this may just be a part of a larger overhaul that could see the old original part of Frontierland transformed to become a New Orleans Square style land, not unlike the one at Disneyland. Some of this is my own thoughts, mixed with conversations with others, but if you would retheme Frontierland from the pathway starting just past the Diamond Horseshoe all the way down to the Peco Bill’s restaurant to have a New Orleans theme, it would then fit right in with the waterfront, complete with the Liberty Belle paddlewheel boat passing by… ending with the revised Princess and the Frog themed version of Splash Mountain. Unfortunately this would shrink Frontierland down just the railroad station, Tom Sawyer’s Island and anchored by Big Thunder Mountain, but it would still work on it’s own in much the same way that Critter Country at Disneyland worked as a small land anchored by Splash Mountain and the Country Bears (with the later eventually turned into a Winnie the Pooh dark ride).
The one downside to this concept of mine would be the loss of the Country Bears show from The Magic Kingdom, but to be honest I think the park has been looking for an excuse to retire that old attraction for ages and this might be it. Again… just something to think about… and nothing rumored… yet.
(6/27/20) I’m not quite sure where to begin with this post, but Disney dropped a bombshell of an announcement this week that I was not really expecting. Disney announced that they are planning to retheme the Splash Mountain attractions at Disneyland and The Magic Kingdom parks to The Princess and The Frog animated film.
I’ll let that sink in for a moment… Brer Rabbit and the whole Zippey-Do-Da-Gang are being removed, and the ride will be rethemed around the world of Princess Tiana and friends. According to the Disney Parks Blog this new story will begin just after ‘the final kiss’ from the film where riders will “join Princess Tiana and Louis on a musical adventure - featuring some of the powerful music from the film - as they prepare for their first-ever Mardi Gras performance.”
As someone who grew up and was a huge Disney park fan throughout my early years, this kind of shocked me. I’m not the biggest fan of changing some of the Disney attractions, just for the sake of change. The older the attraction is, the more of an attachment I think I might have had to it from my childhood. Case in point, I wasn’t a fan of the idea of changing the classic auction scene in Pirates to the current version where “Redd” is now a pirate.
I do not hate the new scene, as it is well done, but like any major change, I think it just takes some getting used to the idea and seeing the new version in the end to appreciate it. After all, like many of you, I grew up for decades chanting ‘We wants the red head’, which is now only part of the Disney history books.
I was a teenager when Splash Mountain was first built… in fact I had no idea it was even going to be a thing at all until visiting Disneyland during my Grad Nite event in 1988. I could see the huge steel structure rising into the night sky, surrounded by construction walls promoting the new ride to open in 1989. While I was already a fan of Disney parks, it was this moment that made me interested in the process of how Disney designed and built massive new attractions like these. My curiosity was sparked that night, which obviously had an effect on me for years to come.
So understand me when I say that upon first seeing the announcement this week, I probably dropped an F-bomb in disbelief. It didn’t help that a few weeks ago some news outlets were reporting that there was an online petition of activists asking Disney to do this very thing, but according to Disney this is actually a project that the Imagineers “have been working on since last year”.
I’m still surprised… but not entirely. Splash Mountain always had a rather interesting choice of IP in using the characters and theme from the film, The Song of the South. This is the one film that Disney has chosen to lock away in their vaults forever, with no plans to ever release it again, not even on Disney+. The 1946 film is a mix of live action and animated segments set in the old South following the end of the American Cival War and the abolishment of slavery. The film became criticized over the years since then due to the depiction of the Southern African-American characters and their animated counterparts as being potentially racist or offensive.
Despite this, the IP was tapped as the theme to build not just one, but three Splash Mountain attractions at Disney parks across the world. The original Splash Mountain opened in Summer 1989 in California followed by another in Walt Disney World in 1992 and a third at Tokyo Disneyland, also in 1992. There is no reference to the film at all, and the ride seeks to tell its story through the various animated characters from the film mixed with some new friends, that were actually retired Animatronic figures from Disneyland’s America Sings attraction. It is safe to say that the attraction has been a smash hit for Disney parks ever since, and as the ride system itself is staying, it will continue to do so, even with a new theme. The attraction was designed to carry riders through the various scenes accompanied by a fantastic musical soundtrack, so I can easily see how it can be rethemed and ‘plussed’ by Imagineering in this endeavor. If you take a look at the concept art you can see the classic look of Splash Mountain will be altered to look more green and lush, especially at the top of the drop where the old tree stump will now become Mama Odie’s House, featuring a full tree holding the broken boat high in the branches above where the logs emerge and take their plunge.
As a concept, I can easily see how many aspects of the current Splash Mountain layout and scenes can be changed to The Princess and The Frog. The report that this all takes place after the “last kiss” does make me hope that they can somehow include the return of Dr. Facilier (aka: The Shadow Man) as I’d love to see the scenes in the belly of Splash Mountain’s from the mid-drop up to the approach to the big drop be given over to create a scene with the voodoo man and the forces from “the other side”. Of course we all know the ending scene of Splash Mountain with the River Boat will probably be kept and updated to be a Mardi Gras celebration with Tiana and Louis, which is only fitting.
So with all this in mind, I can see how the overall ride experience may actually be improved here by going forward with a new theme. I know how tempting it is to say you wont like it just because it isn’t the ride you grew up with, but look at just how many people seem to enjoy the Guardians of the Galaxy version of the former Twilight Zone attraction at Disney California Adventure now. Many say that the Guardians version was a dramatic improvement over California’s Twilight Zone version, so we really will just need to wait and see what happens.
My only final thoughts here have more to do with the overall theming of the lands and such involved. Clearly changing Splash Mountain to now have a New Orleans theme in Disneyland is a no brainer, as the modified look of the new attraction will fit right like a glove positioned next to The Haunted Mansion there, creating an extension of the existing New Orleans Square theming, and leaving Pooh at the solitary inhabitant of Critter Country. In Walt Disney World however, the change is going to be a bit more disturbing to the current theming of that park where Splash Mountain is set smack in the middle of Frontierland, positioned between Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and the Frontierland buildings that are home to The Country Bears attraction and the Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe. I don’t have a solution or answer to this particular issue, so I’m curious to see how WDI will address it.
It is also interesting to note that, for now at least, Splash Mountain will live on in Japan, as there has been no plans posted to update or change the version at Tokyo DIsneyland at this time. At this point in time, Disney has given no time-table as to when we may expect to see this transformation process begin at either park, but hopefully there will be time to have a few more final rides on Splash Mountain before the old version is gone for good. (Now if maybe Disneyland can work in a plan to modify their trough system to use the same double-wide boats that WDW uses, that would be great as well...)
???? - New Tomorrowland Attraction - Rumor - (10/1/19) Ever since Stitch’s Great Escape was fast-tracked for retirement there have been several rumors claiming that Imagineering was working on possible replacement ideas. The rumor that got the most traction was for a rumored attraction concept that might have used VR gear to bring the world and characters of the Wreck-It Ralph to virtual life. While people still pine for this concept to this day, it was not to be… though I was sent an interesting new message today claiming that another new concept for the empty space may now be in development.
With that in mind, we have to ask if anyone out there has heard any new rumors about what could take over this space. As for Wreck-It Ralph… I still believe that Disney has already missed their best opportunity by failing to transform the Tomorrowland Speedway into a Sugar Rush themed race-course.