Walt Disney World Resort
---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(9/22/2023) A final look at Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser (MORE...)
(9/2/2023) Is Blizzard Beach Returning Soon? (MORE...)
(7/17/2023) Polynesian Village Construction Update (MORE...)
(7/11/2023) Attendance Appears To Be Soft This Summer (MORE...)
(6/24/2023) Walt Disney World Making Genie+ Changes This Week
Resort Rehabs - The following information is not guaranteed to be 100% accurate.
Blizzard Beach - NOW CLOSED through to TBD (Likely Fall 2023)
General Resort News - (9/22/2023) With the fate of the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser about to set sail into the history books forever, a long time industry friend of Screamscape, Dave Cobb, was able to secure his voyage on the attraction just before the final days. As a well known voice and creator within the attractions community, I do value his opinion greatly and he has shared his own first-hand experience on the Halcyon Starcruiser which is worth reading.
Towards the end of the journal, there is some talk about what could become of the Starcrusier once it closes, including some possible ideas about rebooting the attraction after reengineering the experience and the pricing to make it resonate more with with your average Disney guest.
(7/12/2023) In an interesting development, it is being reported that attendance at the Walt Disney World theme parks is much lighter than expected, especially give that we are in the middle of the busy summer season. Given the rising costs of… well… just about everything under the sun lately, perhaps this could be taken as a sign that Disney’s year-after-year strategy of ever rising prices may have finally gone too far.
(5/18/2023) A few very interesting Disney projects in Florida were canceled today. The big one for guests is that Disney has confirmed that they are throwing in the towel on the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser faux-space cruise. According to the statement, the Starcruiser will depart to take its final voyage on Sept. 28, 2023, and return passengers on Sept. 30th. At this point the resort will close down after just 18 months of service, and conveniently, coming to an end on the last day of Disney’s financial year, which kicks off their Q1 for the next financial year on October 1st, 2023.
Currently Disney is said to have put all new reservations on hold until at least May 26th while they reach out to customers who had already purchased their voyage on the Starcruiser for dates after the closure to see if they wanted to reschedule for an earlier date. After that, Disney will reopen bookings for the final voyages to the public.
It seems the writing was already on the wall as Disney has already announced a small reduction in the schedule and offered some small discounts to DVC members and some passholders. Still, it is a bit shocking that Disney was just not willing to even try to lower the price, or alter the experience in order to perhaps offers a scaled down experience at a more affordable price, perhaps only offering voyages that take one night’s stay instead of two, and eliminating the unnecessary play-day in the Disney Hollywood Studios theme park in order to focus more on the exclusive experience on the Starcruiser.
So what will happen to the 100-room Ultra-Themed Resort concept now? I would be surprised if Disney were just going to scrap it entirely, but then again, by Walt Disney World Resort standards, 100-room is a very small resort. On the other hand, Disney could just re-work a few things and offer it as a very highly themed Star Wars themed hotel, open to anyone willing to pay to stay in the rooms, and skip out on all the role-playing. Whatever fate has in store for it, keep in mind that the world was watching how this all played out, as I’m sure there were some other potential resort concepts under consideration by competitors, who now may now be thinking twice, or reworking their concepts to not make the same mistakes.
Oh… and while I did not visit the Galactic Starcruiser myself, I did try to write up and in depth look at what the experience had to offer, cost-comparisons to other things, like a real voyage on the Disney Cruise Line, and what appeared to be possible failings of the concept back in March 2023 that may be worth another read.
As for that other Disney project that was canceled… Disney has officially canceled their plans to build an new ‘employee campus’ in Lake Nona, just east of the Orlando airport. Disney had previously informed about 2,000 of their corporate staff, especially on the creative side of things, that they should prepare to relocate from California to Florida in order to keep their jobs. Based on the original timetable, this move should have been completed between 2022 to 2023, but various delays pushed the timetable back to as late as 2026. Now Disney has cited “changing business conditions” as their reason to now cancel this project entirely, and some staff who already made the move early may be able to move back to California. Take it for what you will, but to many this is being taken as a warning-shot from Disney to Florida’s Governor DeSantis.
(5/13/2023) Just a quick update on the Florida VS Disney legal wranglings. After Disney appeared to finally have enough and filed a lawsuit against the state, the Governor instructed his staff to file a counter lawsuit against Disney. In the latest earning call, Disney CEO Bob Iger commented on the issues, including pointing out that Disney’s long established “special district” is nothing new or unique in the state of Florida.
Iger pointed out that “There are 2,000 special districts in Florida to foster business and investment,” including one at the nearby Daytona Speedway. “It’s easy to say Reedy Creek benefits us, but it’s misleading not to say how it benefited the state of Florida.”
Disney is Florida’s largest tax payer, and deposited over $1.1 Billion into Florida’s coffers last year alone, as well as being the state’s largest employer. Iger also pointed out that the state has no set rules as to how the various special districts are established or run, and that there was never even talk about dismantling the Reedy Creek special district until the company spoke out against state legislation last year.
“This is plainly a matter of retaliation.” According to the Hollywood Reporter, Iger concluded the earnings call with a message aimed directly at Florida’s Governor DeSantis, “Does the state want us to invest more, employ more people and pay more taxes or not?” This is clearly in reference to a proposed $17 billion Iger says that The Walt Disney Company has planned to invest in the Florida theme park resort in the coming years. Clearly Iger is implying that the $17 billion could easily be invested in their properties outside of the state of Florida.
(4/29/2023) The ongoing battle between The Walt Disney Company and Florida Governor DeSantis has been a non-stop assault on our senses for months now. First the Governor took issue with Bob Chapek’s leadership of the company in early 2022, and when he was replaced by returning Bob Iger in late 2022, many hoped that a peace would be made. Instead DeSantis seems to have doubled-down in a refusal to back off on the relentless assault on Disney’s presence in Florida as a show of strength while preparing to make a play for the US Presidency.
No matter on which side of the issues you may fall, the situation has resulted in what can only be described as a complete media circus, with the Governor now taking political blasts from fellow Republicans as they all seek to position themselves in a run for the Oval Office in 2024.
Now I stay away from Politics as a general policy here on Screamscape, unless they impact the operations of our theme park operator friends out there and this has definitely had an impact on how Disney ran things at the Walt Disney World Resort. Apparently things reached a breaking point over at the Mouse House as Disney has now officially filed a major lawsuit against Governor DeSantis, claiming that his actions “threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights”
Regretfully Disney has been left with no choice by to take legal action, further stating that “having exhausted efforts to seek a resolution, the company is left with no choice but to file this lawsuit to protect its cast members, guests, and local development partners from a relentless campaign to weaponize government power against Disney in retaliation for expressing a political viewpoint unpopular with certain state officials.”
“In America, the government cannot punish you for speaking your mind”.
(4/15/2023) According to the local news Cirque du Soleil’s “Drawn to Life” show at DIsney Springs has been updated with some new acts, along with some adjustments to some existing acts this month.
(4/12/2023) Forbes is back again with yet another update about how Disney may be preparing to launch a 5th theme park in Florida. This time, they also take a close look at the ongoing power struggle between Disney and Florida’s Govenor DeSantis. This includes a good breakdown of how the well timed announcements from Bob Iger about planning to spend about $17 Billion in the state or Florida over the next decade, along with the creation of 13,000 new jobs, may be Disney’s secret weapon in getting DeSantis to back off a bit. Or at least keep things in a stalemate until DeSantis removes himself from the equation with an attempt to run for President.
(4/4/23) A rundown of the latest happenings with Bob Iger and the future of Walt Disney World has been posted to Fool this week, and it’s a doozy. When asked about the ongoing issues between Disney and Florida’s Governor DeSantis, Iger ‘voiced his frustration’ with the state’s retaliation against Disney, when Disney is also Florida’s largest taxpayer. He also dropped a mega-bomb of sorts, claiming that Disney was currently expecting to spend a mind-boggling $17 BILLION DOLLARS on their Florida resort over the next 10 years. Yes… that’s BILLION with a “B”!
Can you even begin to imagine what Disney could build with $17 Billion? In addition to that huge sum, Iger also mentioned the expectation of creating up to 13,000 new jobs in Walt Disney World over the same time period. Again… I’ve got to think that Disney may be in the early phases of planning a 5th theme park for their Florida resort. That would certainly explain both the huge investment numbers as well as the large number of jobs, as it will take an army to design, build and then finally staff an all new theme park.
(4/2/23) The latest word regarding the slipping occupancy rates for the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is that Walt Disney World is finally offering up to a 30% discount for Annual Passholders on most voyages taking place in April, May and June.
This is ahead of an already confirmed cutback on the number of voyages taking place starting this fall. Currently the Galactic Starcruiser experience, which is a two-night experience, departs every two days like clockwork, but starting in October the Starcruiser schedule will be reduced to just two voyages a week. With the exception of a voyage departing on Tuesday October 3rd, the rest of the voyages for the month will only depart on Fridays and Sunday, with the Starcruiser sitting empty on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for the rest of the year with the exception of the week of Thanksgiving and Christmas when a Tuesday departure will be added.
Beyond 2023, nothing is known as Disney is only accepting reservations through to the end of the year. It’s also worth noting that unlike visits to Disney’s theme parks and regular resort hotels, and even the Disney Cruise Line, the rates for the Stacruiser do not fluctuate based on high or low occupancy days of seasons.
The new fall schedule does give them the perfect opportunity to offer a discounted mid-week voyage if they wanted to experiment with the concept and pricing going forward. And just thinking outside the box… it would be interesting to see Disney come up with an alternate voyage concept with a different series of events that could take place over 2 days and only require a 1-night stay that would skip out on the day excursion to Batuu (aka: Galaxy’s Edge) that could be offered at an entirely different price-point. Just a thought.
(4/1/23) The latest rumblings say that as Disney’s own Reedy Creek Improvement District board made some changes on their way out the door to limit the power of district has over the theme park request, they may have also approved plans for a 5th major theme park. This seems to be based on a document you can see posted on Reddit that shows that the resort property’s plans approved now through 2023 include permission to build one more major theme park, as well as up to 2 more minor theme parks (like Typhoon Lagoon).
Keeping in mind this is not entirely new, as the long term land-use plan for the Walt Disney World property has actually ear-marked sites in the resort for decades where they can build several more theme parks if the need arises. So just as they were about to lose control of the special district, they at least seemed to set some permissions in place to allow for possible expansion over the next decade… but only if the need arises.
Does this mean Disney will build a major theme park and two minor parks between now and 2032? Certainly not… the chance of that kind of growth happening is nearly impossible, and yet the pressure being applied on Disney by the ongoing growth of Universal Studios in Orlando who is now building their 3rd major theme park can not be denied. Bob Iger’s own comments on how the company wants to operate going forward seem to almost hint that a new park may be considered. Iger confirmed that Disney will continue to limit attendance in the parks to improve the guest experience by keeping the controversial reservation system in place. At the same time he also agreed that they can’t just keep raising prices to increase their profit margins, and yet they want to continue to grow. So if you aren’t going to let more people in to the parks you have, and if they really aren’t planning on placing major price hikes for the guests they do let in, the only way to continue to grow their theme park business is to add more parks.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the last major theme park to open at Walt Disney World, did so way back in 1998. If Disney were to begin working on a 5th WDW theme park now, it would probably be about 5 years at the earliest for it to open… so roughly 2028… an astounding 30 years after the opening of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. When you consider there was only about 27 years between the opening of the Magic Kingdom in 1971 and the opening of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the huge gap in development seems even more shocking. Over the years since, Walt Disney World has spent more time building resort hotels and the development of Disney Springs than anything else. It has only been in the past decade or so that we’ve seen a renewed focus on updating and renovating the four existing parks with new lands and attractions. There was New Fantastyland and now Tron at the Magic Kingdom, Toy Story Land, Galaxys Edge and Runaway Railway at the Studios and Pandora: The World of Avatar at Animal Kingdom. Now as they work to finish up plans to renovate Epcot, the next logical step might be to turn their focus on the idea of building an entirely new theme park experience.
(3/26/23) Walt Disney World fans… how many of you remember and miss Pleasure Island? If you’ve never heard of Pleasure Island, imagine if Disney build a sort of ticketed nightime only park experience around a cluster of nightclub experiences, each with a different theme, and where New Year’s Eve was celebrated every night at midnight with fireworks, confetti and a street party?
That was pleasure island, and while a few clubs remained basically the same throughout the run from May 1989 to September 2008 such as Mannequins Dance Palace, Comedy Warehosue and The Adventures Club, several other clubs with changes identifies and themes over the nearly two decade run. I believe the two shortest lived club concepts was the original XZFR and Videopolis East.
I first visited Pleasure Island myself in May 1990 at at the time XZFR’s still existed, but had been redubbed as XZFR’s Rock ‘n Roll Beach Club which featured fun rock music and the occasional live band performance. However, the original version of the club from the year before was called XZFR’s Rockin’ Rollerdrome where guests could rent a pair of roller skates and skate, dance and drink to the rock ‘n roll music. Obviously safety issues and guest injuries from falling on skates, especially if drunk, came into play and the roller skates were retired in less than a year’s time.
During the same timeframe, Videopolis East, an dark indoor club experience featuring a large number of TV monitors mounted throughout the venue as a spin-off of the original Videopolis dance club concept from Disneyland that opened in the mid-80s. The club was quickly updated less than a year later to become “THE CAGE”, embracing the late-80’s and early 90’s Industrial Music scene, along with some updated darker themeing and black-light scenery. The soundtrack would blend a mix of popular 80’s New Wave from New Order, Depeche Mode, Dead or Alive with darker Industrial hits from the likes of Ministry, KMFDM, Nitzer Ebb and Nine Inch Nails. Yes… for a time between 1990 and 1992 Disney embraced the dark side. From a historical point of view, perhaps one of the most interesting features here was that The Cage was possibly one of the first Disney venues to feature a signature cocktail in a take-home glass. While the Adventure's Club had the Kungaloosh I don't think it had a take-home glass, but the bars at The Cage would heavily promote a drink called TOXIC WASTE that was heavy on the alcohol mixed with pineapple juice and served in a white plastic Toxic Waste themed barrel (that would glow in the club’s blacklight) with The Cage’s logo on the side that you could take home with you. (NOTE: I’m eternally angry that I lost mine somewhere, many years ago…)
For more memories of The Cage, check out a new article posted to PopCultureBeast in remembrance of The Cage that brought all these fun memories back to life for me this week. In a way Disney sort of revived the old Videopolis concept for a time at California Adventure about a decade ago when they launched the temporary EleTRONica street party event at the Disney California Adventure park when Tron Legacy hit theaters, so wouldn’t it be great if an East coast version of EleTRONica could pop-up in The Magic Kingdom this summer as part of the launch of the new Tron Lightcycle/Run coaster in Tomorrowland. They’ve got the stage already there... time to get the digitial DJs and Laser Man and let’s make it happen!
I’m just saying! Oh, and speaking of Tron... check out TRON riding TRON Lightcycle/RUN in a video from Disney showing actor Bruce Boxleitner taking the new coaster for a spin with his sons below, and for those who have never heard of the epic EleTRONica event at DCA... check it out in all it’s glory in the second below below!
(3/20/23) Walt Disney World has confirmed that a number of special characters will return to the parks over the next year, along with the premier of some new ones never seen before. For example Moana will appear on Discovery Island inside Disney’s Animal Kingdom starting on April 22, which will also mark the 25th Anniversary of that theme park.
Figment will appear in person at Epcot at the Imagination Pavilion starting in the Summer and Mickey Mouse and friends will appear in Communicore Hall later this year at Epcot. Meanwhile in the Magic Kingdom look for Mirabel from Encanto to appear in Fairytale Garden this fall, along with the return of other character experiences such as Enchanted Tales with Belle, Ariel to return to the underwater grotto, Pete’s Silly Sideshow and the return of character dining in Cinderella’s Royal Table.
(2/26/2023) Is attendance continuing to decline over at the Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser resort experience? The virtual space cruise ship experience normally would offer two differently timed dinner services, as the dining hall is not big enough to accommodate a full load with one service time. However, according to a report at WDWNT, for at least one upcoming voyage (possibly more) guests are being told only one dining service is being offered for their voyage, which seems to be a clear indicator that the voyage(s) affected are probably only running at about 50% occupancy. A similar move was done on select low-occupancy voyages in the fall as well, where the rumored occupancy rate was as low as 25%.
(1/21/2023) Back on March 1st, 2022 Walt Disney World premiered their new Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser interactive resort on a faux Cruise Ship through outer space. The experience came with an ultra-heavy price-tag that set the experience up as something you would expect only the most wealthy tier of guests to experience. While I myself have not set foot upon the Starcruiser, I did wonder at the time just how sustainable the concept was at the initial price point, along with some speculation about just what might happen after the initial wave of fans and hype had passed and booking rates started to fall.
10 months later and it sounds like we are starting to see these events start to happen. According to a post by ThemeParkTourist, the first sign of failing bookings may have been in late 2022 when Disney Vacation Club members were offered a 30% discount for using their points on select dates for the the Galactic Starcruiser experience.
More shocking however is what has happened this week. According to the update, a number of departure dates in July, August and September 2023 have actually been canceled due to low-occupancy, with those guests being offered to re-book the experience on different dates at a 50% discount.
It should be very interesting to see how things evolve over 2023 at the Star Wars ultra themed resort concept, as there is certainly a large enough fan-base out there to make the concept viable… but only at the right price point.
(1/11/2023) Walt Disney World has announced a series of new perks coming to the resort. Starting now, overnight parking for guests staying at a Walt Disney World Resort will once again be complimentary. This is the way it was for a very long time, and Disney has decided to bring this beloved benefit back, giving more value to staying on-site at a Walt Disney World Resort.
For WDW Annual Passholders, one of the things you’ve been asking for will soon begin to happen. In the coming months, Annual Passholders will be able to visit the theme parks after 2pm WITHOUT A RESERVATION, with the only exception being that visits to the Magic Kingdom on Saturdays and Sundays will still require a reservation. So while the reservation system is remaining in effect for now, at least this is a step in the right direction for the passholders.
Also coming in the near future, Disney guests who purchase the Genie+ service will soon find that digital downloads of their Disney PhotoPass attraction photos will be included for free with the purchase of the Genie+ service.
(10/23/22) I figured it was only a matter of time until this happened, but a pair of Walt Disney World Passholders have now filed a lawsuit against the theme park giant over their restricted access to the WDW theme parks due to Disney’s ongoing use of a required reservation system and limitations on “park hopping”. Based on the amount of complaints online, I’m actually surprised this lawsuit is only coming from two people, though a similar lawsuit was also filed in California against the Disneyland Resort in 2021 that is still pending.
As purchasers who have had premium level annual passes to the Walt Disney World parks since before the pandemic, they say that these passes were sold with the feature of having no blockout dates, or no dates on which they would be denied access to the parks. Instead Disney put a reservation system in place when they reopened in 2020 as part of their pandemic related restrictions, which is fine. However now that all other parks (other that Disney) in the nation have dropped all such restrictions, the Disney parks are still actively using their reservation system to limit park attendance and have said they would continue to do so through 2023.
Another part of the lawsuit also addresses the limitation on park hopping (which used to be unlimited) and the restriction stopping a guest from being able to park-hop until 2pm.
(9/29/22) Walt Disney World announced that their “Disney After Hours” extra-ticket events will return once again starting January 4th at Disney’s Hollywood studios and on January 9th at the Magic Kingdom Park. To summarize, Disney After Hours events allow guests to purchase a separate ticket that will allow them to stay in the park for an additional three-hours after closing time and the rest of the regular guests have left. Special treats and select beverages are also Included in the price of the ticket. Attendance is limited to prevent overcrowding, so once the tickets are sold-out, they are gone for good.
Advanced ticket sales will begin on October 7th, but the prices are a little steep (between $129 to $159) considering that this is a 3-hour event and does not include an all day-ticket to the park beforehand. After Hours events for the two parks will be scheduled only on select nights between Jan. 4th and April 19, 2023.
(9/10/22) According to another Screamscape source, you can look for Typhoon Lagoon to close for a winter rehab at the end of October 29th, which backs up the reports that Blizzard Beach will reopen either just before or after Typhoon Lagoon closes.
Personally, I’ve always preferred the attractions offered at Blizzard Beach to Typhoon myself, but from the sound of things the reopening of Blizzard may be temporary. According to our source Blizzard is likely to shut down once again sometime in March 2023 when they are ready to reopen Typhoon Lagoon once again. Unfortunately this seems to indicate that Walt Disney World is not quite ready to return to running both waterparks at the same time just yet, despite having amazing attendance in the main theme parks. I’m not sure if this is still a reflection of staffing issues, or if they are instead just pondering an odd future schedule concept of running each park for only 6 months out of the year, with Blizzard in the Fall and Winter and Typhoon in the Spring and Summer.
(9/3/22) If you haven’t had a chance to visit Walt Disney World during their 50th Anniversary celebration, the mouse has now confirmed when the party is going to come to an end. New verbiage added to the WDW website now says that the 50th Anniversary Celebration will come to an end on March 31, 2023.
MagicBand+ - (7/23/22) Walt Disney World has confirmed that their new MagicBand+ wearable will launch on July 27th. The updated MagicBand will still perform all the same features as the original, but will also offer a few new ways to interact with the resort in combination with mobile apps, such as in the Disney Fab 50 Character Collection game or a Batuu Bounty Hunter mission in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. The lights on the bands will also light up and flash in sync with the nighttime Harmonious show at Epcot or Disney Enchantment show at the Magic Kingdom.
Unlike the previous system however, these are not being given out to free to resort guests, so if you want one, it will cost you. Disney will be charging $34.99 for the new MagicBand+ at select shops located throughout the four Walt Disney World theme parks at various Disney Resorts and at the Disney Pin Traders shop in Disney Springs.
(5/8/22) Walt Disney World has sent out some updated information for the upcoming launch of the MagicBand+ system coming this Summer. Much like the old MagicBand system, guests will use the wearable device as their admission ticket, a link to the Disney PhotoPass system, a wearable key for room entry to on-site Walt Disney World Resorts, as well as for purchases of food and merchandise items if linked to a credit card. The new MagicBand+ system will add color changing lights and haptic vibration to the wearable device, which will also be able to recognize certain user gestures, to make the wearable part of the interactive experience.
One new item you can do with the MagicBand+ is partake in the “Disney Fab 50 Quest”, a scavenger hunt spread throughout the four Walt Disney World theme parks, allowing the wearer to interact with the 50 golden character statues spread throughout. Combined with use of the Play Disney Parks app, guests can keep track of the statues they have found, unlock digital achievements and use an added augmented reality feature.
While in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge wearers can join in the “Star Wars: Batuu Bounty Hunters” experience to find various hidden virtual bounties within the Black Spire Outpost. Guests will track them down using the lights and vibrations from the MagicBand+, along with other enhancements and tracking of progress through use of the Play Disney Parks app.
The MagicBand+ will also put the guest into the action during certain nighttime spectaculars, as they will find that the bands will light up in various ways along with the action taking place around them during Harmonious at Epcot or Disney Enchantment at the Magic Kingdom.
Disney Genie / Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane - (6/24/2023) Walt Disney World has confirmed that some big changes are coming to the Disney Genie+ service on June 27th. Once the change goes into effect, when you go to purchase a Genie+ plan you will be presented with different price options based on which park you want to visit, or if you are planning on visiting multiple parks on the same day with the park hopping option.
Based on examples presented by Disney, it may be common to see a Genie+ plan for the Magic Kingdom priced at the same level as visiting more than one park on the same day, while Genie+ plans for parks will less attraction, such as DIsney’s Animal Kingdom, could be offered at a much lower rate.
Just like how pricing for general admission to the parks now changes day-to-day, park-to-park, based on how busy they expect it to be, you can now expect the prices for the Genie+ service to also fluctuate in similar fashion.
(11/26/2022) According to TheStreet, Disney has quietly changed some of the language about their Genie+ service. Previously changes were made so that guests at Walt Disney World were unable to purchase the Genie+ service until the day of their visit, as it seemed that some days the service was being overbooked. The problem of having too many guests trying to use Genie+ was far worse at the Walt Disney World parks compared to the Disneyland parks, where I believe advanced purchase is still allowed.
At the time this happened earlier this year, it was predicted that this change was being made in anticipation of a future change that would limit the number of guests able to use Genie+ on any given day. According to TheStreet, this change may be coming sooner than later as Disney has now added fineprint on their website that says “Please note that there may be days where day-of Disney Genie+ sales are stopped based on demand for the service.”
This new disclaimer has replaced the previous one that simply said that Genie+ was subject to “limited availability and is not guaranteed”. Previous efforts to limit the number of guests using the Genie+ service were based on raising the price of the service on any given day as a deterrent.
With all this in mind, if you really want to ensure you’ll have access to Genie+ during your visit to the WDW parks, you’ll probably want to sit up until midnight and grab it as soon as it is available just to ensure it doesn’t get sold out. Obviously this isn’t a perfect concept for everyone. If it were me, I’d think that the best way to make sure everything is fair would be to make guests wait until they actually enter the park itself before allowing the Genie+ service to be purchased.
(10/16/22) According to various reports Walt Disney World has changed the price of their Genie+ service to a new “variable pricing” method. Previously Genie+ was offered at a flat $15 per person / per day charge, but starting this week the price for Genie+ will now range from $15 to $22 depending on how busy the park’s are on that day, similar to the pricing tiers Disney already uses for general admission tickets.
(5/21/22) Walt Disney World is making another change to the Disney Genie+ program starting June 8th. According to this article Disney will be removing the ability to pre-purchase the Genie+ service ahead of your visit, instead all guests interested in purchasing the service will have to do so on the My Disney Experience app on the actual day of your visit. The ability to purchase the Genie+ service will also be “based on availability”, which seems to indicate that Disney is trying to make a course-correction here to limit the number of users each day.
This is likely another step in the process to improve the service offering following ongoing complaints that purchase of the Genie+ at the Walt Disney World parks can be a waste, as so many of the attractions run out of passes far too quickly early in the day. If this sounds familiar, it should, as that was the same problem Disney had created with the former FastPass+ system which was free. The idea behind a paid service like Genie+ was to reduce the number of people slamming the system at once, but clearly this has not worked out quite as expected. So beyond what now looks to be an attempt to actually limit the number of users per day to improve the experience, I’m guessing the next action to be put into place would be a price-increase.
For comparison’s sake, the Disneyland Resort version of Genie+ is $20 a day instead of $15, and so far we’ve seen a number of reports about how much better the system seems to work for guests of the California parks earlier this year. In addition to the price difference, the California system doesn’t let guests start using the system until they have scanned their tickets and physically entered the actual park, while the Florida version lets resort guests start making reservations into the system at 7am from outside the parks. Currently the Disneyland version is still allowing guests to pre-purchase Genie+ with their tickets in advance of their visit.
What I haven’t been able to determine is if the new change coming June 8th that limits the purchase of the Genie+ service to the day of your visit to the park is simply that, or if they are taking on the California style requirement that you scan your ticket and actually enter a park physically before being able to use the service, which would likely be the best way to improve the Genie+ experience in Florida.
(2/25/22) According to information released by Walt Disney World, there will be a few changes made to the Genie+ service starting today through to August 7, 2022. Three former Lightning Lane only attractions will now be included as part of the Genie+ service: Space Mountain (Magic Kingdom), Frozen Ever After (Epcot), and Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway (Hollywood Studios).
This is good news for the Genie+ service users, as thus far the reactions I’ve heard about the use of the service have been quiet interesting, and a bit polarized. Those who used it at the Disneyland Resort so far this year swore by it, saying that they definitely got their money’s worth from using it. By contract, those who I spoke with who used at at Walt Disney World this year instead reported that they felt they wasted their money, and that most of the attractions they wanted to use it for were out for the entire day only a few hours after the park’s opened, which sounds a lot like how things went with FastPass back in the old days. Adding new popular attractions to the service at the three most popular parks will help add some needed extra capacity to the system in WDW.
Ticket Pricing Updates - (5/17/2023) While we’ve all complained long and endlessly about how the cost of admission to visit Walt Disney World has risen over the years to crazy levels, would you believe Disney is set to offer an actual deal on tickets later this month?
According to the official Disney Parks Blog, starting on May 23rd you can buy a “4-day, 4-Park Magic Ticket” for $396, which comes out to just $99 per day of your visit which is a steal based on today’s normal pricing. The ticket will allow you one day of admission into each of the four Walt Disney World theme parks… so like the name says, 4-days. 4-parks! Unfortunately Park Hopping is not part of the deal, but on the plus side no theme park reservations are required! These special tickets are valid only between June 1st and September 29, 2023, and they are blacked-out July 1-4 and Sept 1-4. The tickets will also expire 7 days after their first use, so you’ve got to use all four days within that time-frame. Follow this link to read all the official details.
(11/18/22) According to CNN, Walt Disney World will raise ticket prices to their parks on December 8, 2022. While Disney World ticket prices already were a bit confusing before with all the tiers and a different price between the Magic Kingdom and the other parks, it’s becoming even more complicated now, with entirely different pricing ranges being set for each other parks.
According to CNN, the new price ranges will be:
Magic Kingdom - $124 to $189
Epcot - $114 to $179
Disney’s Hollywood Studios - $124 to $179
Disney’s Animal Kingdom - $109 to $159
It was noted that the pricing for Disney’s Animal Kingdom will actually remain the same as it is today, seemingly as some kind of reflection that the park hasn’t added anything new in the past few couple years compared to the other three parks.
On the positive side of things, they also mentioned that if you are just buying a single-day ticket to one park (no park hopping) you will no longer have to make a park reservation to visit that day. Otherwise Reservations are still required for all other ticket types.
The idea of having unique pricing for each park is also an interesting one that goes against the grain of Disney’s long established concept that all the park’s would have the same ticket price, even though some were more popular than others. For years people who argue that park’s like Disney’s Animal Kingdom should have been priced less than the other parks since it offered less to do and was often referred to as a half-day park experience.
Over the past few years, Disney began to charge a little more for guests to get into the Magic Kingdom, but the other three parks would be offered at the same price as each other, until now. With Epcot now being home to Walt Disney World’s two newest rides, and the Hollywood Studios park having become very popular due to its own new rides, including the Star Wars themed Galaxy’s Edge, it is interesting to see Animal Kingdom offered as the lowest price option.
(11/24/21) In an interesting bit of news, Walt Disney World has actually pressed the pause button on the sale of most of their Annual Passes once again, after just starting to sell them again in late August. As of Sunday, you can no longer purchase the Pirate Pass, Sorcerer Pass or Incredi-Pass, which are the top three tiers of passes sold. The Incredi-Pass was the only version available to those who live outside of Florida, unless you were a Disney Vacation Club member, and then you could have purchased the also-paused Sorcerer Pass. The only pass still being sold is the lowest tier pass, the Pixie Dust Pass, which is only available to Florida Residents and has the most blackout days, being primarily only available for use during most weekdays.
The good news for existing passholders however is that the pause in sales only affects the sale of NEW passes. Existing passholders will be given the option to renew their passes and keep them going.
While no official solid excuse was given, it may be due to a mixture of the resort entering the busy Holiday season to finish out the year, as well as the return of International tourism to the resort, which is expected to be off the charts for the rest of the year. If this is the case, we may see passes return to being sold sometime in early 2022 once again.
(8/31/21) Walt Disney World has announced that new Annual Passes will go on sale once again starting September 8, 2021. The Annual Pass program has been re-worked completely, as you might expect, and will now offer four different tiers of passes to choose from. Disney has confirmed that all four tiers will allow park hopping, come with free parking and include select discounts on merchandise and dining.
The lowest tier is the Disney Pixie Dust Pass for $399 + tax that is good only on “most weekdays” and requires an advanced reservation to visit. It will include the most number of blackout dates, and is only available to Florida Residents.
Next is the Disney Pirate Pass where the price jumps to $699 + tax. It also is only available to Florida Residents, and will allow users to visit the parks on “most days” but will require an advanced park reservation to visit. There will still blackout dates however, just not as many as the Pixie Dust Pass.
Next is the Disney Sorcerer Pass, and this pass is only available to Florida Residents as well as Disney Vacation Club Members and costs $899 + tax. Like the other passes, reservations are required to visit and there are still blackout dates, just less than the lower two tiers, as most of the blackout dates will primarily be during the busy holiday periods.
Finally we get to the top tier… Disney Incredi-Pass, the only annual pass option available to those who live outside of Florida who aren’t DVC members, and it will cost you $1,299 + tax! While advanced reservations are still required to visit the parks, there are no blackout dates.
Disney is also offering extra cost optional upgrades to the passes to add-on Disney PhotoPass downloads, Water Park and Sports options.
For current Walt Disney World Passholders, your pass will continue to be good with the same perks you previously had until it is time to renew your pass. At that time, you will be given the option to renew your pass as one of the new four pass options at a special renewal price.
(2/20/21) While it looks like Walt Disney World will spare guests from a ticket price hike in 2021, it seems they are sneaking in a nearly invisible price-hike for those who plan to visit in 2022 already. Reservations for trips in 2022 have opened up, and just like 2021 ticket prices will still maintain a range between $109 to $159 per day depending on the season when you visit.
What is said to be changing in 2022 is that there are now far less of the cheaper “Value” level dates on the 2022 calendar when compared to the 2021 calendar. Pricing for dates is always subject to change at any time, but for now it looks like this may be a new way for Disney to increase ticket prices, without actually changing their set prices.
(2/7/19) When it comes to the price of admission, how much is too much? Surprisingly, despite what your initial take is, when you get down to it, this really is more of an individual choice question. Doubly so when it comes to Disney fans and the price of admission into Disney theme parks which have steadily been on the rise each year for the past several decades. This week I decided to take a look at past price increase trends from Disney and even predict where the price is going between now and 2030, based on past increases, all in my latest article for BlooLoop.
Blizzard Beach / Typhoon Lagoon Updates - (9/2/2023) Is Walt Disney World preparing to flip the switch on their waterpark operations soon? While no announcement has been made yet regarding the possibility of reopening Disney’s Blizzard Beach waterpark, the operational trend from the past couple years has been to only open one waterpark at a time, keeping Typhoon open in the warner months of the year because it has night lighting and was set-up to host the H2O Glow night events, only to open Blizzard Beach in the cooler Fall through Spring months.
Currently Walt Disney World’s online operational calendar only shows operational hours at Typhoon Lagoon from now through to Saturday, Sept. 30th and then no hours posted for either park on October 1st. Things were posted in similar fashion last year until we got closed to mid-September when Disney formally announced that Typhoon would go into hibernation and Blizzard Beach would reopen.
One other thing to consider however is that Oct. 1st is also the start of The Walt Disney Company’s new fiscal year, so they may not have made a final decision about their waterpark hours just yet, even though the theme park hours are posted. And finally, one last consideration is that after being closed for the past 4-5 months, Disney may still be assessing what maintenance work projects still needs to be accomplished within Blizzard Beach before it will be ready to reopen. So stay tuned!
(4/24/2023) While Disney’s Blizzard Beach is once again closed for ‘ refurbishment’ while Typhoon Lagoon will open for the spring and summer seasons, it seems some water slides at Blizzard Beach will be getting replaced.
A new aerial photo posted to Twitter by Bioreconstruct last week now shows a large number of new slide pieces have been delivered to a backstage, and are just waiting to be installed.
As most of the park’s waterslides are all the same ice-blue color, it is hard to know right now which ones are getting worked on.
(3/7/2023) Just as we heard rumored months ago, Disney’s Blizzard Beach waterpark will close once again on March 19, at which time Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon waterpark will reopen. As speculated at the time, it just seems like Walt Disney World isn’t ready to go back to operating both waterparks at the same time currently, and is moving towards a schedule that will see them each run for about six months and then swap for the foreseeable future. If this pattern holds true, then look for Typhoon to close and Blizzard to reopen again sometime in the Fall, between September and October.
If you’re wondering why Disney is trying to reopen Typhoon so quickly after just reopening Blizzard last fall, it’s because they have installed all the night lighting and infrastructure at Typhoon to allow for those H20 Glow After Hours special ticket events to take place during the warmer months. This year’s H2O Glow will return on May 20th.
(12/4/2022) From the sound of things, Walt Disney World still does not appear to be ready to open both of their waterparks at the same time. According to a new rumor, the maintenance teams currently refurbishing Typhoon Lagoon were apparently told to make the park ready to reopen by February 11th. At this time, the thought is that Blizzard would once again go into hibernation, starting as early as Feb 10th.
If true, this would mean that Blizzard would only have been allowed to reopen for 4 months before getting shut down again. I’ve got to admit, that is a little strange, as one previous rumor out there made it sound like they were going to alternate parks every 6 months before deciding on it they were ready to return to running both at once. Of course, perhaps there are some other big improvement projects on the way for Blizzard Beach that may require the early closure.
Either way, stay tuned as we probably wont see an updated official schedule for the waterparks until sometime in early 2023.
(10/26/22) Disney has finally confirmed that Blizzard Beach will reopen once again on Nov. 13, 2022. When the park opens there will be some added extra Holiday season fun, food and more through to Dec. 31st. In addition to the new tube lift we already reported added to the slides at the back of the park, Disney says to look for all new themeing in the form of characters from Frozen that has been added to the Tike’s Peak kiddie pool area.
As previously reported, Typhoon Lagoon will close down for refurbishment when Blizzard Beach reopens, so your last day to visit Typhoon Lagoon for awhile will be Nov. 12.
(10/9/22) Screamscape sources tell us that while the plan is still to reopen Blizzard Beach this fall, the opening timeline is said to have been pushed back a week or two to finish up a few projects, as well as clean-up and repair damage from Hurricane Ian. So from the sound of things, we may be looking at a November opening date then. Currently Typhoon Lagoon’s operational schedule (see online calendar) has already been extended through to November 5th on the website.
(10/7/22) According to a Screamscape source, Disney is currently working towards reopening Blizzard Beach, finishing park prep and beginning early staff training. The rumored last day for Typhoon Lagoon previously sent to us was Oct. 29th and this is so far looking to hold true, as WDW’s online calendar for their parks does indeed only show hours at Typhoon Lagoon through to Oct. 29th. But they also have not posted any hours for Blizzard Beach to open on Oct 30th, or any other date just yet.
While on the subject of Blizzard Beach, our source also tells us that the rumored plan to add a raft conveyor for the three Red Slope’s Runoff Rapids slides at the back of the park has indeed been completed. A picture of the massive tube conveyor added to the back of the mountain can be seen in the tweet below from Bioreconstruct. I’d say this addition was LONG past due for the Disney waterpark.
(9/8/22) Orlando Theme Park News is reporting that Disney’s Blizzard Beach could be ready to reopen to guests sometime between late October or early November, at which time you can expect Typhoon Lagoon to close once again for a winter refurbishment. After sitting closed since the start of 2022, it was the general thought that Blizzard would sit closed for the majority of the year before reopening.
They also believe that the park’s Tike’s Peak play area may have received some minor upgrades. Follow the link for more.
(3/20/22) For those wondering, now that Typhoon Lagoon is open once again, many have been wondering when Blizzard Beach will reopen. According to Screamscape sources Blizzard Beach is now expected to remain closed for 2022 to allow Blizzard Beach to perform some needed maintenance projects.
I’m sure there is a long laundry list of items that will be addressed, but some of the items to be address will include work on the chairlift, possibly adding the much requested Red Slope tube conveyor for the three Runoff Rapids slides, adding better night lighting to the park to allow for after-hours events, and more.
Summer 2022 - Disney Vacation Club Expanding At Grand Floridian - Confirmed -
(5/22/21) The Disney Vacation Club has announced a new expansion project is on the way that will transform one of the existing buildings (Big Pine Key) at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort into new Disney Vacation Club Villas accommodations. Look for the new expansion to be ready by Summer 2022.
Late 2024 - DVC Tower at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort - (7/17/2023) A construction update showing off the current progress on the new DVC tower at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort has been posted to MouseSteps this week.
(5/20/2023) MouseSteps is back with a look a the construction of the new DVC Tower over at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.
(4/22/2023) While we’re on the subject of Disney DVC properties today, MouseSteps has posted new construction photos of the new DVC tower going up at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. The new tower is expected to be ready sometime in late 2024. Follow the link to check it out.
(3/17/22) Disney isn’t finished rebuilding their Polynesian Village Resort it seems. The company has announced a new large DVC tower will be coming to the resort to replace the existing “Luau Cove” area, looking to replace the closed Spirit of Aloha dinner theater that has been closed since the pandemic started and was just confirmed as being closed permanently.
Like all big projects, the time-table is a bit fluid, but the concept art says it could open as soon as 2024.
2024 - DVC Cabins at Fort Wilderness Campground - (4/22/2023) The expansion of the DVC (Disney Vacation Club) brand throughout the Walt Disney World Resort properties continues with this week. Walt Disney World announced that the 350+ stand-alone cabins at the Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground will be replaced with updated versions that will become the next DVC timeshare vacation property at the resort. The basic footprints will remain the same, but the cabins will be updated to be more modern and more ‘environmentally friendly’. Look for the transformation to be complete sometime in 2024, and like other DVC properties at WDW, regular non-DVC guests are still able to make reservations to stay here as well.
???? - New Magic Kingdom Resort - (10/23/21) Is Walt Disney World planning some kind of new resort for the Magic Kingdom area? New permits filed by Walt Disney World for a “World Drive Phase III” now show plans to move the existing Floridan Way road as it approaches the Grand Floridian. The roadway will turn to the left and cut through a small section of the Magnolia Golf Course that will essentially wipe out Hole 16 to get around a backstage work and parking area and then head North again with an all new road to eventually reconnect with the existing road at the intersection of Maple Rd.
I drew up a quick graphic showing the approximate location of the new planned route for Floridian Way and how it would open up a rather large piece of land just to the north of the Grand Floridian along an undeveloped section of the Seven Seas Lagoon. Well, almost undeveloped… you may recall that Disney management FINALLY completed the “decades in the making” walkway from The Magic Kingdom to the Grand Floridian resort with the construction of two bridges and a pathway. While the pathway was announced a long long time ago, the reveal of this new piece of the puzzle makes me wonder if they finally had a good reason to finish this pathway after all these years to provide walking access to the Magic Kingdom from any possible new resort they might choose to put there. (The distance isn’t far enough to bother with adding yet another monorail stop between the park and Grand Flo…)
Now don’t go expecting to see a new building rising in the next year or so. This is a fine example of Disney’s long term strategy at work here, and I think they’re just setting the stage for something special to come in the future… but not until they are ready.
OTHER WALT DISNEY WORLD PROJECTS:
Reedy Creek District Status - (4/28/22) According to the latest update on the situation posted to CNN, it seems that the state of Florida’s plan to dissolve the Reedy Creek special tax district that Walt Disney World operates within may not be able to happen after all. According to a statement made by Reedy Creek, the 1967 law that created the special tax district also includes text stating that the state of Florida “will not in any way impair the rights or remedies of the holders … until all such bonds together with interest thereon, and all costs and expenses in connection with any act or proceeding by or on behalf of such holders, are fully met and discharged.”
So in other words, it seems to be saying that the state of Florida actually can’t actually do what they are trying to do, unless the bond debts are fully paid or taken care of. This doesn’t m mean that the state of Florida couldn’t somehow make other arrangements to get those debts paid, but it does indicate that the issue of the current bond debt will be a key item to address if they wish to continue this course of action.
As mentioned before, and confirmed here again, the Reedy Creek Improvement District currently has almost 1 billion in outstanding bond debt. A statement released from Reedy Creek says, “In light of the State of Florida’s pledge to the District’s bondholders, Reedy Creek expects to explore its options while continuing its present operations, including levying and collecting its ad valorem taxes and collecting its utility revenues, paying debt service on its ad valorem tax bonds and utility revenue bonds, complying with its bond covenants and operating and maintaining its properties”.
(4/23/22) A lot has been flying through the headlines as of late, as the current Governor of Florida has now taken personal offense to the negative reactions that the Walt Disney Company has had to his latest political actions and agenda. I’m not going to get into that bit of politics right now but the end result has been the loss of any financial support or monetary donations to his campaign funds in addition to words of disapproval and non-support from the empire that Walt Disney started.
Unfortunately it appears that in a bit of anger Governor Ron DeSantis quickly threw together a new bill to essentially get revenge on the Walt Disney World property by revoking the creation of the “special district” that was created for Walt Disney World over 50 years ago, known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Essentially the creation of this special district allowed Disney to create and run their own form of mini-government for their massive property, giving them the advantage to being able to take quick action in order to build what they need to build quickly, but also allows them to fund and build their own infrastructure around the resort property. In other words, the very road system you drive upon once entering Disney property was built, paid for, and maintained by this same Reedy Creek special district. If a pot hole developed in the main road to Epcot, rather than going through weeks and months of government red-tape to have it fixed, they were able to just pick up the phone to report the problem and get a work crew sent out to take care of it ASAP. The special district also means that all the on-site fire departments, water and sewer treatment plants and other important public works functions were all funded and paid for by this special district.
The political “spin” on the revoking of this special status seems to try and make it sound like Walt Disney World is getting to keep all the tax dollars that are paid to the Reedy Creek district, but those funds are going to pay for the infrastructure and not somehow padding Disney’s large pockets. In fact, the Reedy Creek Improvement District actually apparently operates at a loss and currently has almost $1 billion in debt.
As the district currently resides in both Orange and Osceola Counties, if the DeSantis’ bill go into effect and the Reedy Creek district is dissolved, not only will those counties now be on the hook for Reedy Creek’s debt, but they will also be responsible for coming up with the funds to continue to operate all the existing infrastructure (fire, water, sewer, public works, power, roads) that Reedy Creek and Disney were previously in charge of overseeing.
This is where it gets really bad… the only way to attempt to make up these funds will be for Orange and Osceola Counties to raise the property tax on their residents. According to reports the tax controller of Orange County has already estimated that they would have to raise property taxes by as much as 25% and the number could be even higher for residents of Osceola County. So obviously it goes without saying that the residents here are not in favor of this plan, and the local county governments are really unlikely to be in favor of this plan as well.
So other than a personal attempt to unruffle DeSantis’ feathers, it seems that the only negative for Disney here will be the loss of essentially being able to ask themselves for permission when it comes to building new projects. They will still get to essentially build whatever they want, they’ll just have to send the plans through their local county office as Universal and SeaWorld already do. Oh, and those potholes are going to take a long longer to fix. But as someone who was once a former home-owner in Orange County when I lived in Florida, I’m damn glad I don’t live there right now if this is the way things are going.
It is also worth pointing out that the Reedy Creek Improvement District is hardly the only special tax district set up in the state of Florida. Florida is home to dozens of other special districts spread-out throughout the state that are not currently under attack by the Governor, including one for the Daytona Motor Speedway. From this point of view, I do wonder if Disney would be able to legally defend itself (and possibly file a lawsuit against the state of Florida) from being attacked so directly, but that’s a question way above my pay-grade. Meanwhile Orange and Osceola Counties are facing “financial ruin” from this poorly thought out plan of action. As a politician who's career would seemingly depend on making the lives better for those who elected him to office, this course of action by the Governor does seem counter-productive to that cause of self-preservation.
You can read more in a great report explaining it all from a local Orlando reporter below.