Walt Disney World Resort
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(8/13/20) Walt Disney World and Actor's Equity Come To Agreement (MORE...)
(8/9/20) Walt Disney World Posts Cut Back Hours For The Fall (MORE...)
(7/30/20) Walt Disney World Updates Their Face Mask Policy (MORE...)
(7/20/20) Walt Disney World Makes Clarification On Mask Wearing Rule (MORE...)
(7/12/20) Disney World Survey Suggest Certain Attractions On Chopping Block and More (MORE...)
(7/11/20) Walt Disney World Adds Specific Mask Requirements To Visit (MORE...)
Resort Rehabs - The following information is not guaranteed to be 100% accurate.
Nothing is known at this point in time...
General Resort News - (8/13/20) According to Deadline, Walt Disney World and the Actors’ Equity Association have finally come to an agreement regarding proper COVID-19 testing that will finally allow the actors to return to work at the Disney theme parks. Disney claims the concession of added testing was not done to satisfy the labor union, but instead is part of a greater endeavor that will see a temporary COVID testing site opened that will offer free testing to all Florida residents, as well as all Walt Disney World employees and their families. The new testing site is said to be located inside Disney’s Maingate office complex near the Animal Kingdom theme park.
Either way, the move will soon see live entertainment offerings at the Walt Disney World theme parks increase and bring back some popular shows and productions that have so far been on hiatus.
(8/9/20) The media has been full of hype the past few days about how attendance at Walt Disney World is down following the reopening of the Resort. The attention getting headlines are all about how the WDW theme parks are scaling back their hours because of this… but that is a bit of an exaggeration. The truth is that the WDW park hours were ALREADY scaled back from normal levels as soon as the parks opened again in July. Disney already knew attendance would be down, plus they cut all of their big night spectaculars out of the daily schedules, so there was no reason to keep the parks open late at night in the summer as they usually would.
Is attendance down, lower than even they expected? Probably… I haven’t visited myself but from what I’ve seen, the parks are fairly empty. Looking at photos sent my way taken at Epcot in late July you would never have believed those photos were taken in the middle of a summer season, unless you knew it was the Summer of 2020. But Disney also knew what to expect when they opened the parks again, as they had plenty of time to watch their neighbor, Universal Orlando, navigate the waters for them well in advance to see how the Orlando market was playing out.
Now what is true is that Disney has indeed set their schedules for the rest of August going forward into the fall to cut back the park hours a little more. What the big media isn’t telling you is that Disney always cut back their hours at this point in August anyway, as the local schools traditionally restart right now, with more hours to be cut going into September, which is also normal. Again, this is 2020, so all schedules are in flux, but this kind of reduction in park hours right now is a normal thing for this time of year. (as if anything in 2020 is normal… but you get my point…)
You’ll have to check the WDW website to see what the daily hours, but here is what the plan looks like in general at the moment.
Magic Kingdom opens at 9am and stays open to about 7pm currently. After Labor Day the schedule cuts back only an hour to close at 6pm.
Epcot opens at 11am and closes at 9pm currently. After Labor Day the schedule here will be cut by 2 hours, closing at 7pm. As this is Epcot however, there is always the possibly that while the attractions may close, the restaurants may still accept guests up to 7pm and let guests trickle out slowly as they are done eating. This is perhaps the biggest change and cut of all the parks, as Epcot was always traditionally a 9am to 9pm theme park experience, year-round, but the removal of the nightly Illuminations show from the schedule would be the biggest reason.
Hollywood Studios opens at 10am and closes at 8pm currently. After Labor Day the schedule is cut by just one hour and closing time becomes 7pm.
Animal Kingdom opens at 8am and closes at 6pm currently. After Labor Day the schedule is cut on both ends, opening at 9am and closing at 5pm. While this is a cut, this kind of schedule was the norm for this park for many years before Pandora was ever a thing.
(7/30/20) Walt Disney World has updated their face mask policy again, this time in response to Universal Orlando’s own new policy. Just like Universal, Disney is now banning the use of face masks that contain “valves, mesh material or holes of any kind” are no longer acceptable.
(7/20/20) Walt Disney World put out a new clarification on their mask wearing issue this weekend to try and course-correct a current guest trend taking place in the parks. According to the official policy, all guests age 2 and up are to wear face coverings at all times, “except when eating and drinking while dining.” Apparently some guests have taken to buying big drinks and boxes of popcorn to walk around the parks with, and keeping their masks down, and when asked to put them up the excuses is that they are eating/drinking. Apparently the clarification is that if you are eating and drinking, you need to stop walking around and finish your food items, then put your mask on again and continue on your way. Or if walking around with a drink, you need to stop, pull down your mask to get a sip, put it back in place and then continue walking. The point is to stop guests from walking around with masks off, no matter what the reason. If you need a snack, you will need to find a personal space to sit or stand away from others while you enjoy it.
(7/12/20) Happy Sunday morning folks… grab a cup of your favorite beverage and get ready to enjoy a little fun Disney fan-made goodness before we get to some more serious news. According to a tweet sent my way, a rather serious Walt Disney World fan finished their “Quarantine Project” by building a model of Walt Disney World in their back yard. Seriously… this thing is fun to see, photographed at night in the tweet and then an entire video tour of all four theme parks accompanied an appropriate audio soundtrack. So check out both of those below.
In other more serious news, I’m hold that many Disney guests have been sent various surveys from the resort asking some in-depth questions regarding their feelings about certain existing attractions. Not every survey is the same, but the one common thread amongst them all is that the attractions they are asking about have all been rumored to be candidates for removal, retirement, or renovation over the past several years. We don’t necessarily have a complete list of attractions being asked about, but so far we’ve confirmed questions about Impressions de France at Epcot, A Bug’s Life at Animal Kingdom, and a few classics at the Magic Kingdom: The Country Bear Jamboree. Tom, Sawyer’s Island and Carousel of Progress. Some of these Magic Kingdom ones may be part of another project development.
(7/11/20) While the rest of the theme park world around the globe has simply just asked to wear face covering of some kind without being too specific, Walt Disney World is taking this to the next level and is banning certain kind of face masks as their parks reopen.
According to new guidelines issued by Walt Disney World all face coverings must adhere to the follow criteria:
Be made with at least TWO LAYERS of breathable material
Fully cover the nose and mouth and secure under the chin
Fit snugly but comfortable against the side of the face
Be secured with ties or ear loops and allow the Guest to remain hands-free
Because of these new requirements, bandanas are not allowed because they are open at the bottom around the chin, and neck gaiter/buff style coverings are also listed as not acceptable as they typically don’t meet the requirement for having two layers of fabric. And before you jump to the next conclusion and try to visit the park in a Darth Vader or other character themed full face mask, costume masks are also still prohibited, such as before the pandemic.
(7/5/20) Remember way back when Disney changed all their policies regarding front of line access for those with special needs to put a stop to those abusing the system? Under the new guidelines those in need are essentially now given a special ticket to come back at a specific time and enter the brief FastPass line instead of cutting to the front immediately. Of course some guests complained, and some so loudly that they hired lawyers and went to court over the matter.
I believe the first such case finally worked through the court system, this one from the mother of an austic child who is the president of the Autism Society of Greater Orlando. As the first case to make it to a court judge, the outcome of this case sort of sets to precedence for any other cases to follow. In this case the Judge sided with Disney, saying that the theme park resort was not being unreasonable with their current system and the retirement of the old system that was being abused.
(7/1/20) Mark this one down for the history books, but the NBA will resume their 2019-2020 season in July in a spectacular new fashion. Starting on July 30, the 22 NBA teams with the highest rankings will all arrive at Walt Disney World to play a series of games that will determine the final seeding for the NBA Playoffs. All of these games will take place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in the Arena, HP Field House and Visa Athletic Center.
Following this the 16 teams seeded for the playoffs will be whittled down to the teams in the Finals, with the season to “end no later than October 13” at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Another unique factor about the rest of this season will be the fact that all of these final games will not only be played on-site at Walt Disney World, but will also be played in arenas completely empty of spectators.
For those of you who may have had pre-existing reservations to stay at a Walt Disney World resort during this time-frame, if Disney alerts you that your accommodations are being moved from one resort to another, this may be due to the arrival of the various NBA teams who will be staying on site.
In other news... for anyone hoping to hit up a friend who may be a WDW CastMember for passes to the theme parks once they reopen… don’t even bother. According to a post from WDWNT, Cast Members have just been alerted that CM Self-Admission, Maingate Passes and One Day CM Guest Passes are now blocked from July 11 through to the end of the current posted calendar, Sept. 30, 2020. There is no word if the block is to be extended even further beyond this point or not, but with attendance being limited at the parks, this was to be expected.
(6/24/20) While Disney is making preparations to open their California and Florida theme parks in July, CNBC reports that a large number of Walt Disney World employees have signed a petition through their labor union asking the company to delay the opening of the parks even longer.
(6/21/20) Walt Disney World has released a little more information about how a visit to their resort will work when they reopen in July. For starters, reservations are required which will allow Disney to limit daily attendance in each of the parks. Your first stop to visit will be the all new “Disney Park Pass System” which is where all guests (daily admission or passholders) must stop to make their advanced reservation to visit.
If you’ve avoided making one in the past, you will need a My Disney Experience account and then you will link your park tickets or passes to the My Disney Experience account. If you are staying on-site at an official Disney Resort hotel, you will also need to link your resort reservation to the app too.
Once you’ve got all this sorted out, you will be given access to the reservation calendar to choose which days you want to visit. One important item to know that Disney has now confirmed, if you have a multi-day / multi-park pass, or an annual pass, you can only make a reservation for one park per day. The act of “Park Hopping”, or jumping between the parks throughout the day, is currently suspended at this time, so whatever park you make a reservation for will be the park you have to stay in for the day.
Disney says that the stoppage of Park Hopping is temporary, but they do not know when this restriction might be lifted. They do note that if you already paid extra for tickets with the Hopper option, there are options available to modify or cancel these ticket options. They do note that while they are not selling the upcharge Park Hopper option on passes for the rest of this year, they are still offering it for visits in 2021.
The new reservation system will be coming online very soon, and will be made available to those with existing Disney Resort reservations first and then to those with existing pre-purchased tickets and annual passholders. The plan is to then begin offering new ticket sales and resort reservations later this summer, based on how things fill up with the current reservation system. If you want to plan a visit for 2021, the window to begin making reservations will open on June 28th.
As we previously mentioned, Disney’s FastPass+ system is no longer active. Actually it kind of sounds like it may be gone for good, because they also mention that in 2021 they will unveil “unveil an innovative new offering as part of the My Disney Experience app that will bring features of a MagicBand to your smart devices, building on the app’s existing digital key feature.” As part of this, Walt Disney World has also confirmed that they will be “retiring our complimentary MagicBand distribution to Disney Resort hotel guests for new reservations with arrivals beginning Jan. 1, 2021.” If you still want to buy a MagicBand, Disney Resort Hotel guests will have the option to purchase one at a discount, but it seems clear that for the future Disney will be focused on guests using the My Disney Experience app on their mobile devices, or though a ‘Key to the World’ card for those who prefer it instead. (If I’m not mistaken, the Key to the World cards were sorta phased out in WDW by the introduction of MagicBands, but have still been in use on the Disney Cruise Lines, so they may be coming back as free MagicBands are being phased out for resort guests.
(6/20/20) According to the official word from Walt Disney World, they have opted to not hold the “Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party” special ticket events at the Magic Kingdom this year. I believe this marks the first major theme park “Halloween” themed event to get cancelled for 2020, though this is not a scary or haunt style event like what most parks have, such as Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights.
So far Disney has not made any decision to on their Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party event at this time, but they have opted to cancel this summer’s Disney H2O Glow Nights at Typhoon Lagoon as well.
(6/18/20) Gideon’s Bakehouse, a local award-winning bakery in Orlando will be opening a new location at Disney Springs. Gideon’s is famous for their “small-batch cookies” that can weigh almost half a pound each. Wow! Check it out below!
(5/29/20) Walt Disney World has announced a few updates about how the park’s new reservation system will work when they reopen. It is also worth mentioning, if you didn’t see it the first time around, they are no longer accepting any new resort bookings or ticket sales at this time. The reason is, for the moment, they have enough guests pre-booked in the resorts (and tickets pre-sold from those who booked their trips a long long time ago, plus annual passholders, that they will need to get these guests sorted out with first dibs on the reservations before allowing new people to enter the system.
Perhaps the most interesting change is that when the parks open the FastPass+ service “will be suspended for the time being” as they will need to use the extra queue space to help spread out the guests in the queues under the new social distancing rules. All existing FastPass+ attraction reservations will be automatically canceled at this time.
It is also worth mentioning that Extra Magic Hours at the parks (early opening and extended closing times for resort guests) will also be suspended for the time being.
If you had existing Dining Reservations, those will also be canceled at this time, in addition to any free ‘Disney Dining’ plans as well as any special “experiences” you may have booked. They will reopen the system for new reservations as they get closer to reopening the parks.
(5/28/20) The moment Disney fans have been waiting for came today as Walt Disney World announced that they will begin a phased reopening of the resort’s theme parks starting on July 11. The plan right now is to open the Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme parks on July 11, 2020 which will be followed by the opening of Disney Hollywood Studios and Epcot on July 15th. That last one surprised me, as I was expecting that it would take Disney a little longer to reopen Epcot than the rest of the parks, but I guess they have a plan.
As expected, there will be some major changes once the parks reopen. Reservations will be required in advance to get into the parks, temperature screenings will be in effect and face masks are mandatory at all times for guests and Cast Members. Many of the standard Disney experiences will be cut for the being as well, with the list including a stoppage for Character meet & greet encounters, parades and all big nighttime spectaculars. In general, anything that would typically draw a big crowd will be put on hold for the time being. Overall park capacity ‘will be significantly limited” as Disney welcomes guests back to the parks at this time.
They have not opened reservations yet and have actually put all new reservations and ticket sales on hold for the time being as they will be making these available first to those with existing reservations and passholders before they open things up to everyone else.
So far nothing has been mentioned about when Disney is planning to reopen their water parks. I also did not see anything mentioned about ‘park hopping’ during this era of required reservations.
(5/26/20) Talk about a bit of crazy news… Walt Disney World is getting back to business, but not inside the theme parks just yet. According to an official statement from the NBA the basketball league now plans to restart and finish the 2019-2020 season by moving all games to Walt Disney World where they will play at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Apparently the plan, which is still in discussion, is to relocate all 30 teams to Orlando where they will be tested for COVID-19 and then play all remaining games on-site at WDW without an audience in attendance. If the deal works out, you can look for games to restart sometime in July.
(5/11/20) According to this news report Walt Disney World will begin to accept reservations to visit their theme parks and resorts for dates starting on or after July 1st, 2020. While Disney has yet to announce any planned dates to reopen the resort, it is as close as they have come to giving anyone an indication about when they might reopen some of the theme parks. Plus the timing is interesting as well, as that would be exactly six weeks following the reopening of Disney Springs on May 20th.
(5/9/20) While Walt Disney World isn’t quite ready to open their theme parks yet, they seem to be following the steps taken by the Shanghai Disneyland resort which will finally reopen their theme park on Monday. Similar to how Shanghai Disneyland first opened their Disneytown retail/dining area back in mid-March, Walt Disney World has announced that Disney Springs will be the first thing to reopen in Orlando, starting on May 20th.
According to the official release from Disney, they will be following the guidance of government and health officials and start with the reopening of “a limited number of shopping and dining experiences that are owned by third-party operating participants will begin to open during this initial phase.”
“We will apply learnings and ideas from leaders in the health and travel industries, and we’re also talking to our unions as we prepare for some cast members to return to work.”
“During the initial opening phase, Disney Springs will have limitations on capacity, parking and operating hours. Given this unprecedented situation, we appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding as we navigate through this process as responsibly as we can. Additional protocols and procedures may be announced closer to the opening date. Please check DisneySprings.com as we get closer to May 20 for the most current information on operating hours, locations and safety procedures.”
Looking to China once again, the Shanghai Disney Resort spent weeks slowly reopening more aspects of their resort, including a hotel, the Wishing Star Park area and a character dining experience in Disneytown. About a month ago there were also reports that they began training Cast Members for new operational and and safety procedures that will take place within the theme park, as well as testing rides, shows and entertainment options in preparation for the park to reopen. I can only imagine that they will begin similar procedures at Walt Disney World in the coming weeks, as it is safe to do so.
(5/7/20) While nothing is official until it is announced, an early rumor sent in to Screamscape indicates that Walt Disney World may be preparing for their first phase of reopening sometime in June. We don’t know what form it will take, or which park or parks, but just something to keep an eye on, especially as they are set to reopen the Shanghai park on May 11th.
(5/5/20) A great post on Facebook has posted close to 80 pictures of the Walt Disney World theme parks as seen from the air this week. Check it out below!
(5/3/20) According to this news report the local police were called in to arrest a man who was found to be camping out at Walt Disney World on the former Discovery Island attraction site. The 42-year old man was arrested on Thursday night after being discovered and refusing to leave the island, where he had been camping out since Monday or Tuesday.
(4/20/20) Orlando Experience has posted a quick video showing off some of the construction projects around the Walt Disney World property.
(4/10/20) Could the demise of the Character Breakfast Buffet be a thing in the post pandemic world of Disney theme parks? It is entirely possible, given that we have heard that many buffets in Las Vegas may never reopen again once we come out the other side of this, and those that survive may be changed entirely to each food section staffed by a worker in a mask and gloves who will dish the food items onto your plate for you. Even cruise lines are apparently looking into making major changes when they reopen, including temperature screenings for passengers as they board, cutting back the number of available seats in dining rooms and theater venues, as well as staffing the buffet stations.
With all this in mind… I’m not quite sure if Disney would reopen with buffets as normal, or if they might have to make some changes before trying them again. Just something to keep in mind before you make your next Disney theme park trip.
(4/2/20) Bad news for Disney employees, as CNN reports that the company has now announced that starting on April 19th they will begin to furlough staff “whose jobs aren’t necessary at this time”. With a Stay-at-Home order in place in Florida that will keep the parks there closed until at least May 1st, this will affect quite a few Cast Members. Unlike how the SeaWorld parks furloughed their staff, at least the displayed Disney staff will remain employees of the company and keep their health and education benefits during this time, while being able to ask for federal and state unemployment benefits.
According to a second article on the matter from CNBC however, it notes that the Disney staff being furloughed will only be their “non-union” employees. Both note that staff that are needed to keep various projects in development, or who are crucial to maintaining park operations during the closure will be able to remain on duty.
One more note for Disney theme park Passholders, the company has confirmed that those with fully paid annual passes will have their expiration dates extended by the number of days that the parks were closed. For those with monthly payment plans, Disney is temporarily stopping all payments for the time being and will actually go back to refund any payments taken between March 14 and April 4.
(4/1/20) According to the local news a Disney subsidiary company has finalized a deal to buy 26.3 acres of property next to Reedy Lake, just to the west of the Magic Kingdom theme park. This new property is said to sit right next to the 235 acres of land Disney bought in the same area back in December.
Elsewhere, and in stark contrast to Universal execs stating that they are moving forward with all current construction projects, the rumors coming from Walt Disney World do not paint as bright of a picture. According to various reports Walt Disney World is now pulling the funding they had in place for many future projects and will instead focus on using the funding to finishing up the projects that are nearing completion.
This means that the projects that are already too far along to quit will still open, such as Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind and TRON Lightcycle / Run will still open as planned. Other major projects, like the Space 220 restaurant is also expected to be finished, as it was said to be about 90-95% complete at the time of the shutdown. Work to spruce up Cinderella’s Castle that had just begun before the shutdown is also expected to be finished before they start the big anniversary promotion, along with the planned opening of the new night show at Epcot later this year.
Major projects that have not really started yet, and some that were expected but not officially announced, may be put on indefinite hold. This list would include a lot of the proposed Epcot renovation projects in Future World which may still happen, just at a slower pace. The planned closure of Spaceship Earth for a update may also be pushed back quite awhile, along with those vague plans for things like a Mary Poppins attraction, that Moana inspired water area and the plans to turn the former Wonders of Life pavilion into a new “Play Pavilion”.
Other than the new Epcot night show, I’d also expect just about every live entertainment act and show to be potentially on the chopping block, as they are often used as quick and easy ways to cut the budget until attendance and budgets recover. The status of Disney’s Star Wars hotel project is also unknown, as the all indoor close-quarters environment certainly is not the kind of attraction that Disney is going to be in any hurry to open, so if I had to guess, construction here may be put on hold until we get a firm grasp of what the world will look like post COVID-19. I don’t see it not being finished… but the opening could likely be delayed until 2022.
(3/28/20) As expected, Disney did finally announce that their parks will remain closed until further notice. It was added that they are extending pay and benefits to Cast Members through April 18th, which falls roughly in line with Universal’s announcement timeline to extend their closure through April 19.
As these dates get closure we will have a better idea if Disney and Universal believe they might be ready to reopen around that time, or if it will have to be extended again until May.
(3/26/20) A couple of items real quick. Lets start with the question everyone wants to know... when will Walt Disney World reopen? For whatever reason Disney has yet to make any kind of update on this matter, even though the original April 1st date is fast approaching. I’ll burst that first bubble for everyone, as I’m told that the local “stay-at-home” order from the county is in effect until April 9th at this point, so you wont see Disney reopen until after that. But with Universal already announcing they will stay closed through April 19, I’m not sure Disney will rock the boat and try to open any sooner. I’d still expect some kind of official announcement to come in the next day or two.
In other news, our friends at Orlando Experience posted a few pictures of the new McDonalds now under construction at Walt Disney World, just outside of the All Star Resorts. This is being built on the same site as the original McDonalds location which shut down at the end of October and was demolished in order to build a bigger and better location. If I had to guess, I’d say we could expect to see this location ready to open sometime later this year.
(3/22/20) While nothing has been officially confirmed by Disney regarding the reopening date of their parks, the rumored extension to the closure looks a little more likely after reports are coming in that Walt Disney World Cast Members were told that the posting of their work schedules during the first week of April have been delayed until at least Tuesday.
The general feeling is that the company is likely expected to make an announcement regarding their intentions to reopen or extend the closure sometime on Monday.
(3/18/20) The one bright side of all of the Walt Disney World parks closing down for fans has been the thought that construction would be able to continue on any new progress at a more rapid pace without the worry of bothering guests in the park. Also the opportunity to push ahead with countless needed maintenance projects also seemed like something that would likely happen during the offtime. However, this may not happen at all.
According to a post at ThemeParkInsider, Walt Disney World is reported to be shutting down all construction projects at this time to comply with federal recommendations against “gathering of more than 10 people”. If this is true, and in effect on all major construction projects, we can expect to see a lot of opening dates for new attractions slip behind weeks or even months.
In other news, I know some were hoping a few entertainment options at Disney Springs might remain open, but so far new announcements from AMC Theaters and The Void have confirmed that they are both also closing down nationwide.
(3/16/20) According to a letter sent out this morning from Josh D’amaro, President of Walt Disney World, they will be closing Disney Springs by the end of today. They are also “working on ramping down our hotels.” Closing the hotels only makes sense for the long run as guests check out and new guests are not going to be arriving until this crisis is over. While a date was not mentioned, Screamscape sources tell us that we should expect to see the various Resorts planning to close down by this Friday.
Regarding the situation at Disney Springs however, while Disney is closing down the things they control in Disney Springs by the end of today, our sources tell us that "operating participants" there can choose to stay open if they wish. For example, AMC Theaters issued a statement yesterday to say that they intended to keep their theater locations open, but would only sell enough tickets so that their theaters would never get more than 50% full, so there is a chance that the AMC Theaters and some other independently run locations at Disney Springs may still be open for a time.
On the positive side of things they have also noted that the quick closing of the resort has left them with a lot of excess food, and they will be donating “excess food inventory like fresh salads, greens and hot items to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.” This is fantastic news as we move through this, and sets a good example for any other attractions who are now closed and sitting on perishable food items.
(3/15/20) While everyone knows that the Walt Disney World theme parks are closing through to the end of the month, Disney just made the hard choice to suspend their Cast Member College Program next week as well as the International Cast Member, Disney Culinary Program, Disney Cultural Exchange Program and Disney Academic Exchange Program. All of those affected will be asked to depart their housing units by March 18 and will be paid through to the end of the month and have their program status marked as being successfully completed.
While many of these Cast Members can be found spread out throughout the entire Walt Disney World Resort at the parks and resorts, the one location that may seem to be impacted the most from this move would be Epcot. Not only is Epcot a very large park, but the majority of Cast Members throughout World Showcase are made up from International CM programs to represent each country. Unless things have changed, I believe the International program members sign up for a year-long work contract, so this kind of thing will have a long term effect.
Thinking about the impact of this, suddenly opens up a whole bag of questions we’ve not even had time to ask. For example, we’ve all been so busy thinking about the growing list of things that are closed, we haven’t even tried to think about how things will reopen again. When the time comes to reopen, how things may play out at Walt DIsney World could be very different from other locations. For example a single site park or attraction like Legoland Florida will likely schedule their staff a few days early to prepare the site to reopen with cleaning, stocking, food prep, maintenance checks, leading to the reopening of the gates to guests. While no one has discussed it yet, it would seem to me that we could very likely see Walt Disney World reopen their parks in phases rather than all at once. When the time comes, the priority would seem to be to open the parks with the best capacity that also have the highest guest demand.
With this in mind it would be easy to see WDW attempt to reopen Magic Kingdom first along with Disney Hollywood Studios at the same time, or shortly after. Reopening Disney’s Animal Kingdom would likely follow as the park would have been staffed non-stop anyway with the various animal care members. Of all the park’s, Epcot would likely be the last park to reopen if Disney were to do this in phases, as a large portion of Future World is under construction anyway, but the large park that includes perhaps more restaurants than any of the others, will also require the most staffing to bring it back online. This includes the International Cast Members that were just sent home and recruiting a whole new wave could take some time, especially as I would expect there to be some extra medical screening procedures to be put in place for all future International and College Program members, if and when these programs restart.
(3/13/20) Walt Disney World announced last night that in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and “in the best interest of our Guests and Cast Members” they will be closing all of their Florida theme parks starting starting Monday, March 16th which will remain closed through to the end of the month. It is nice to see that Disney will continue to pay their Cast Members “during that closure period.”
The various Walt Disney World Resort Hotels and Disney Springs area will remain open as normal “until further notice”. The resorts staying open in Florida is where things differ from how the California resort is handling things, as the west coast resorts close on Monday. In Florida however, there are a large number of international tourists who are likely already on site who sometimes stay for 1 or even 2 weeks at a time and may not have anywhere else to go until their flight home.
(3/5/20) According to the local news, a woman appears to have committed suicide at Walt Disney World yesterday by jumping from the Contemporary Resort. The local Sherriff’s Department arrived at the resort around 4pm on Wednesday and discovered the body after getting several calls from witnesses who reported seeing an unknown person jump.
Unfortunately this is not the first time this has happened at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. I believe the last jumper reported to have taken their own life there was back in 2016.
(1/17/20) The Disney Parks Blog has announced that tickets for the H2O Glow Nights events at Typhoon Lagoon are now on sale for a third season. Disney H2O Glow Nights will take place from 8pm to 11pm on select nights from May 27 through to August 29, and guests can enter the park as early as 6pm. Follow the link for details on how to buy your tickets.
(12/24/19) According to this report Walt Disney World has just purchased an additional 235 acres of land north-west of the existing property boundary for an approximate $6 million. The new property is said to be along the south side of Reedy Lake, directly north-west of Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course property. While you never know what Disney is cooking up, there is no telling just what Disney may be planning to do with this property. Given that the location is quite close to the 270 acre solar energy farm Disney opened with Reedy Creek Improvement District and Origis Energy USA in early 2019, it may not be the most scenic lakeside property, so it simply could be used to keep in a natural state in exchange for Disney being able to develop other property they own closer to the parks, while maintaining a healthy bit of border property between the Magic Kingdom and new developments along the border.
(9/23/19) Guests has to be rescued from a Walt Disney World Monorail over the weekend off the Epcot line after the monorail came to a stop mid-run at about 10:30pm. Rescue crews were brought in to lower the guests back down to the ground, but it was reported to be about 1:15am or so before everyone was safely removed from the monorail.
(9/10/19) It has been a long time coming, but Walt Disney World guests may remember that once upon a time Disney promised that they would build a pedistrian pathway to connect the Grand Floridian Resort to the Magic Kingdom. They even build a pathway full of those personalized bricks way back then to run from the Magic Kingdom towards the Grand Flo… and then it never progressed from there.
Until now… because while the bricks are being removed and new pathways formed, they are at long last building the bridge to connect the Grand Floridian to the Magic Kingdom. No word on when it might be complete, but you can already see sections of the future bridge are already on site if you visit OrlandoParksNews.
(6/19/19) Are big changes coming to the FastPass system at Walt Disney World? According to a post at Orlando Weekly changes could be in the works for the highly criticized FastPass+ program where advanced reservations have gotten so out of control that you have to pre-plan just about everything you want to do anymore. Unfortunately other than scrapping the program, or a return to the original FP system, Disney may be looking to launch a paid-tier FastPass ticket into the already crowded waters of the Walt Disney World system, perhaps not unlike the MaxPass that was added to Disneyland last year.
Current Ticket Pricing - (2/11/20) While all ticket prices went up at Disneyland, Walt Disney World actually just increased the price of their annual passes as of today, but I’d imagine the daily tickets will also be bumped up in the not-so-distant future.
Gold passes for Florida residents jumped $20 to $719, Platinum is now $1195 and Platinum Plus is now $1295.
Oh… and if you go all in with your Disney habit and have the Premier Pass that gets you into both Disneyland and Disney World parks, the price just leaped up to $2,199 from the early 2019 price of $1949.
About this time last year I wrote a great article for BlooLoop where we looked over the history of these huge annual price increases for the Disney parks, wondering at what point they were going to go too far. We also predicted the likely prices for the parks in 2020, 2025 and 2030 based on a chart of past price increases, and our calculation for 2020 was $155 at Disneyland, so nice to see we were very close to the mark, but where these prices will go by 2025 and 2030 is kind of scary to see.
(1/30/20) A wave of big changes may be about to arrive at Walt Disney World in the next few weeks. For starters the next annual price increase for admission to the Walt Disney World theme parks is expected to take place sometime in the next 2-3 weeks, possibly as early as Feb. 1st, so if you were planning on buying tickets in advance, do it sooner than later to take advantage of the current lower pricing.
The other rumored big changes may have a lot to do with Disney current FastPass+ system. We know some charges are already taking place over at the Hollywood studios in terms of the attractions available for Tier 1 and Tier 2 reservations, along with adding Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run to the system on Feb. 19, but other more significant changes could be afoot.
One rumor says, Disney knows the current FP+ system is a bit of a mess, with too many advanced reservations taking place, making it impossible to even get FP+ reservations for the most popular attractions, even years after they have opened, such as the case with the Pandora area attractions. I’ve also wondered about the new systems Disney has been testing out with the Galaxy’s Edge attractions, having guests clumped together into Boarding Groups, and not allowing that system to be accessed until guests are actually on-site within the theme park itself. Logic would dictate that Disney may be testing out future concepts that could possibly be rolled out as a replacement for the current FastPass+ system.
The other big rumor, and this one is gaining more and more steam behind it, is that we may see Walt Disney World launch their own version of the MaxPass system as early as February. MaxPass was launched at Disneyland a couple of years ago as “paid” version of the FastPass concept. Guests can still get free FastPass access, but they can pay extra to have several more added to their accounts for the day.
Again, these are all rumors right now, but something to definitely keep your eyes open for as it is only a matter of time before a PAID FastPass program is added to Walt Disney World as they have already been rolled out at most other Disney owned parks around the globe. This includes the previously mentioned MaxPass at Disneyland, the Disney Premier Access pass program at Shanghai Disneyland and and a couple of paid tier programs in effect at Disneyland Paris under names like Super FastPass and Ultimate FastPass.
(9/25/19) Walt Disney World is apparently looking into possible new ticket options to possibly change things up in the future. One of our readers was asked to take a survey that mentioned three possible new ticket concepts.
Option 1 sounds like a nice return for a long-lost ticket benefit that would include the benefit of Park Hopping to guests who purchase a 4-day of longer ticket at no additional cost. As I seem to recall, Park Hopping was once included for free, back in the days before Animal Kingdom existed, to anyone who bought a 3-day or more ticket.
Option 2 was something called ‘Restricted Hours”, where Walt Disney World may offer a cheaper multi-day ticket option (example, $88 per day instead of $110) that would not let you enter any theme park until after 12 pm each day. Not a bad option for those who like to sleep in, or prefer a more relaxed pace in the mornings instead of being there for the drop-drop at the crack of dawn.
Option 3 is called “Long Duration Benefit / Free Days”, where the purchase of a 4-day theme park ticket would come with the benefit of 2 additional free days admission. So 6 days in the parks for the price of 4. Not a bad deal at all and just the kind of thing that might persuade a family to spend an entire week at Disney and go no-where else.
While none of these discounts or extra benefits may ever appear in the real world, the most interesting aspect to be gleaned from this survey is that for the first time in a LONG TIME, Walt Disney World is looking into options to add extra benefits and value to the money they ask their guests to pay, rather than simply just increasing the price every year. In about every option here, they are also looking into benefits they removed in the past for inspiration for these concepts. To be honest, I was surprised they didn't bring up the idea of including free waterpark admission into park-hopper passes if you buy 5 days or more.
In a final update… it looks like Walt Disney World has begun testing Option 2 as a ‘4-Day Mid-Day Magic Ticket’ option, as we just saw ads promoting this new option being advertised on Facebook, with official details found here.
(6/19/19) Just a quick heads up for Walt Disney World Passholders, but the mouse has raised those AP prices once again, ahead of the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge this August. A good list of the various changes that hit just about every pass level for both regular guests and Florida Residents can be found here. The biggest hit however comes to those with Disney Platinum Passes that saw the price jump $225 from last year's price increase that actually just happened back in October 2018.
(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.
2019 - Disney’s Coronado Springs Expansion - (5/17/19) A new construction update for Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort can be seen over at MouseSteps this week. Check it out.
(2/20/17) Walt Disney World has announced a large 15-story tower will soon be added to Disney's Coronado Springs Resort that will add an additional 500-rooms onto the property. As this is regarded as a very popular "convention" hotel it isn't uncommon for the resort to run out of rooms far short of the overall demand for some of the events held on site here, so the additional 500 rooms are very much needed.
According to the release from Disney we can expect the new tower and other changes to be open in about 2-years, so look for it in 2019. The new tower will feature suites and concierge level service as well. The new tower will also feature a unique rooftop dining opportunity that will offer a unique view of the popular nighttime fireworks visible from the nearby theme parks.
Meanwhile over the same time-period you can look forward to the existing rooms to also be upgraded and refurbished, as well as see the addition of other features to the landscape. One such mentioned was a "floating garden" and an "island oasis that connects the resort through a series of bridges".
Fall 2019 - Disney DVC Riviera Resort / Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort Improvements - (12/12/19) Walt Disney World will stream the grand opening of their new Disney’s Riviera Resort on Dec. 16 at 9:55am EST though a link that will be posted at the Disney Parks Blog that day.
(4/19/19) A new construction update all about what’s going on with the new Disney’s Riviera Resort has been posted to MouseSteps this week, along with a look at the Skyliner system installed to run by there and through Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. This includes a look at the massive central station that all three of the Skyliner lines will connect to that is still under construction.
(7/20/17) As expected, the next official DVC Resort was confirmed as coming to take over the site that was previously used as the front half of Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort. The new DVC Resort will be called the Disney Riviera Resort, and it will be attached to the new Disney Skyliner aerial tram transportation service that will connect guests right to the Epcot and Hollywood Studios parks.
Disney Riviera Resort is planned to open in Fall 2019 and feature 300 units along with a new rooftop restaurant that will allow for great views of the big nighttime spectaculars over at Epcot and the Studios.
2020 - Cirque du Soleil / Drawn To Life - (3/4/20) A brief sneak peek at the new Cirque du Soleil’s Drawn To Life show coming to Disney Springs can be seen below. The new show will officially premier on Apr. 17, 2020.
(12/12/19) Disney has confirmed that the new Cirque du Soleil show coming to Disney Springs in 2020 will be called Drawn to Life. Preview performances will begin March 20, 2020 ahead of the official premiere date on April 17, 2020. Click here to grab your tickets now.
(11/23/19) Disney has released a preview video showing off a bit more about the new Cirque du Soleil show coming to Disney Springs in Spring 2020. The show’s story will be centered around a little girl named Julie who grew up with her mother who was an animator and dreams of following in her footsteps as she grows-up.
Tickets for the preview performances are already on-sale starting on March 20th, ahead of the official public opening which I believe takes place about a month later in April 2020.
(8/27/19) Disney has confirmed that their new show being created with Cirque du Soleil will begin previews in March 2020, and have a premier on April 17, 2020.
(12/20/18) Could Cirque du Soleil be preparing to reopen their Orlando show as early the end of 2019? Quite possibly, as Cirque put out a casting call for a role to play in a new permanent Orlando show that is definitely all about Disney.
According to a storyline summary from Cirque, “This new Cirque du Soleil show in Orlando will honor Disney animation's rich history. After paying homage to some of entertainment's greatest artists, such as The Beatles and Michael Jackson, Cirque du Soleil will leap into the iconic world of Disney. Cirque du Soleil is incredibly inspired by Disney’s immense creative universe. Bringing Disney’s magic to life on stage will touch audiences and bring them back to their childhood.”
They are seeking a female performer (child or adult between 4ft and 5ft in height) to play a non-verbal 12-year-old girl character in the show. Auditions are in mid March 2019, and job starts in Sept. 2019 for a minimum contract of 2-years.
(10/4/18) Are Cirque du Soleil and Walt Disney World gearing up to create a new show for the theater in Walt Disney World? The venue’s old show, La Nouba, ended their long running show on December 31st, 2017 and thus far the theater has sat quietly at the far end of Disney Springs. That said, Cirque du Soleil has posted an job online for a temporary position that will last 17 months starting in late October in Montreal, Canada for a “Project Manager - Set - WDI”. Just a hunch, but could be the first sign of work starting for a new replacement show.
(12/19/17) Disney has confirmed that they are indeed working with Cirque du Soleil on a brand new show experience for the Disney Springs theater, to replace La Nouba. This will be an original show designed to “pay homage to Disney’s rich history of animation, with a vivid story told in a way that only Cirque du Soleil can deliver.”
No word yet on when it will be ready to opening, but I’m sort of picturing something along the lines of Cirque’s “The Beatles: Love” show, but with a Disney animation theme. Meanwhile you’ve still got a few days left to catch a final performance of La Nouba before it is gone forever when the curtain goes down on New Years Eve.
(3/6/17) In a somewhat unexpected announcement, Disney and Cirque du Soleil have announced that their long-running La Nouba show at Disney Springs will finally come to an end at the end of 2017. Several years ago we had reported that Disney had been asking Cirque to start looking into making a new show for the venue, though instead it looks like Cirque opted to simply begin a program of replacing and refreshing many of the various acts in the show instead in an attempt to keep things fresh and new. It worked... for a time at least, but rumors report that La Nouba seldom sells out anymore outside of peak season and after a nearly 20 year run, the time has come to simply let it ride off into the sunset.
Neither Disney, nor Cirque, will confirm what the future has in store, but I'd say it is a fairly safe bet that they've already got a brand new show concept in production already to swoop in and replace La Nouba with an all new experience sometime in 2018. Until that time however, the extreme West End of Disney Springs is going to end up being somewhat of a ghost town when La Nouba goes dark, as DisneyQuest next door is also pulling the plug on the video-game fiesta this July.
In the meantime, I'm sure sales of La Nouba tickets will soar once again for the rest of the year and everyone scrambles to see this awesome show "one final time", or finally get around to seeing it if they've been putting it off. So whichever camp you fall into, I'd look to pick up your tickets sooner than later.
2020 - Blizzard Beach Improvements - (12/8/19) You can see an aerial photo found on Twitter (posted by @Bioreconstruct) that shows off the Summit Plummet waterslide replacement taking place. Based on this angle, it looks like they have already removed all the old slide pieces from the attraction as they prepare to install the new slide’s fiberglass pieces.
(11/22/19) Screamscape sources have confirmed to us that the slide pieces in Blizzard Beach’s parking lot are indeed there to replace Summit Plummet. I’m not sure who made the original, but the new slide pieces are from ProSlide and it is supposed to be a much smoother experience than the original. I’ve also been told that if you can get the right view of it, the top of the Summit Plummet slide structure is surrounded by scaffolding.
(11/20/19) A new photo update from OrlandoParksNews dropps by the parking lot of Blizzard Beach, which is still closed for it’s extra-long winter slumber. While checking out the area around the park they spotted something very interesting… a whole bunch of brand new light blue waterslide pieces sitting in the remains of their shipping containers, left out in the guest parking lot.
As they were quick to mention, all of these ice-blue slide pieces are straight slide pieces, so no turns. There are standard slide pieces and then the bottom splash-down trough style pieces which are square instead of round, so it does look like the pieces for a drop slide. Considering this, and the color of the slide pieces, it does make me wonder if they are replacing the Summit Plummet slide pieces.
Which leads to my next question… anyone able to get a view of Summit Plummet from outside the park to tell if they are working on removing the old slide pieces, or have any sign of work equipment up there on the mountain near it?
(7/5/19) According to a source Blizzard Beach may be getting some extra attention during the off-season that may result in a longer closure than normal. How long? According to our source Blizzard Beach could close for the season as early as Sept. 7, 2019 and stay closed through to January 5, 2020 when Typhoon will then close for it’s off-season rehab. This is much longer than normal as typically neither of Disney’s waterparks closes until at least mid to late October.
So why the longer than normal off-season for Blizzard Beach? Rumor has it Disney wants to make some improvements and needs the extra time. There are always rumors of a new slide being added but until we see some early signs of pre-construction taking place (clearing, ground survey markings, etc…) then I’d take that one with a grain of salt.
Instead the biggest rumor claims that they may opt to install a full park wide lighting package that would allow Blizzard to be open after dark to offer special after-dark extra-ticket events like the H2O Glow Nights events at Typhoon Lagoon. These special night-party events allow Typhoon to offer something a little different after dark, typically from 6pm to 11pm, with DJs playing music, a dance party on the beach, special characters, and due to the limited number of tickets sold for these, the crowd levels are way down so you can actually enjoy more time on the slides, all with no risk of sunburn.
There may also be another long overdue improvement coming to Blizzard Beach, a tube lift is also rumored to be added to serve the three Red Slope slides, also known as Runoff Rapids, located at the back of the park. In addition to the convenience of not having to make the hike up the stairs while lugging a tube, having the tubes already there also makes the slides immediately accessible to those riding to the top of the mountain on the chairlift from the front of the park. I’m sure more will be revealed on these rumors as we get closer to the end of the Summer.
2020 - Disney Springs / M&M Store - (12/29/19) The Disney Parks Blog has revealed that a new M&M’s stone will arrive at Disney Springs in 2020 that will offer a fun and “immersive experience”. Look for the new M&M store to near the new NBA Experience, in the location of the former Curl and Fit2Run stores.
Apparently the existing “M&M’s World” store located at the Florida mall will be closing in order to relocate and transform itself into this new location at Disney Springs. If this is anything like the Las Vegas location, it should prove to be an M&M themed equivalent of the existing Coca-Cola Store at Disney Springs.
2021 - Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser - (2/8/20) Walt Disney World has announced that they will begin taking the first bookings for the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser experience sometime later this year. Prices have not been set yet, or at least not made public, but the rumored expectation is that when the 2-Day / 2-Night stay on the Starcruiser begin in 2021, it will be quite costly. Even more so than a trip on the Disney Cruise Line.
They have posted a fun new video explaining more about what you can expect from a voyage on the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, which you can see below.
(12/4/19) Good news for Star Wars fans, especially if you have a fat bank account, because the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser resort experience will officially open sometime in 2021 where you can live 24/7 inside the Star Wars Universe during your two-night, cruise-style itinerary.
Disney also released a new piece of art showing off the Galactic Starcruiser Terminal where guests will arrive for their trip, and are prepared for launch on a pod transport that will take you up to the Halcyon for your cruise, along with a “spaceport of call” stop at the Black Spire Outpost included in your itinerary. New artwork showing off the interior of the special transport shuttle that will take guests from the Halcyon to the Black Spire Outpost on Batuu can also be seen below.
(8/27/19) The latest word on the “Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser” experience is that all stays here will last only two days. Just like a cruise-ship experience, all guests will check-in on the same day and depart on the same day, with a unique stop-over at the planet Batuu for the guests in the middle of the journey.
No prices have been given for the unique themed experience yet, though you can count on this being a very expensive bill to pay once all is said and done. What I’m really curious about is the check-in experience, as Disney says all guests will check-in for their stay at a terminal building somewhere within Walt Disney World before being loaded into a launch pod to get blasted into space to dock with the Starcruiser Halcyon.
(8/23/19) A few new details about the Star Wars Hotel project were announced, with the reveal of the location where guests will be staying. As we mentioned before, it was expected that guests would be staying on-board the Star Wars Universe version of a space cruise ship and that is indeed the case as D23 as I belive the name of the resort will be Star Wars Galactic Star Cruiser where you will board the Halcyon, part of the Chandrila Star Line. Photos of the huge starship and all new concept art can be found over at Slashfilm.
(6/2/18) I came across a few fun aerial photos discovered on Twitter to share this morning from Bioreconstruct. For starters, the site for the future Star Wars Hotel site has been apparently confirmed as going into the large open area to the right of the parking lot toll plaza. A very large clearing has been made here on both sides of the little creek that runs through the site, so I'm not sure if the hotel will take up all this property, or just be on one side, though I suppose the resort could be closer to the park and the further away site used for parking.
Speaking of parking... WDW Resort guests visiting Disney's Hollywood Studios will eventually be entering the parking lot through a whole new access road and parking toll plaza off the Osceola Parkway exit from I-4. The next photos down show off the new massive clearing for this new road into the park, along with the already installed new parking toll plaza already in place. From the look of things, guests may be exiting the park out to Osceola Parkway as well once this is complete, leaving the current parking lot exit in use for the busses.
(2/24/18) Disney has released a couple of new animated art previews showing off what guests can expect to see inside the new Star Wars themed resort planned for Walt Disney World. While the themeing inside is wonderful, the point being driven home is that when you stay here, there will be no windows to the "real" outside world, but instead every giant window you come across will be a display portal showing off the outer space realm of the Star Wars universe, which is alive with stars, planets and passing starships.
The other very cool aspect of staying at this resort is apparently guests will be given the opportunity to have a Star Wars themed wardrobe experience before boarding the "starship", so you can dress is appropriate themed clothing for the experience to a Galaxy Far Far Away. I'm kind of envisioning this as more of a "Westworld" kind of arrival experience rather than a Bibbidi Bobbidi Bouttique experience, but you never know.
The new starship resort will also have a seamless connection right into the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge land at Disney's Hollywood Studios. This makes me wonder if there could be some kind of after-hours resort-guest only activities planned in the theme park land as well, once the park closes and all the day-guests are gone.
(2/14/18) A few new details were revealed by Disney about their plans for the upcoming Star Wars Resort.
"This first-of-its-kind resort will combine luxury with complete immersion into an authentic Star Warsstory. Guests’ journey through space will start when everyone departs together for a multiday Stars Wars adventure by boarding a starship alive with characters and stories that unfold all around them during a voyage through the galaxy."
"At the resort, guests immediately become active citizens of the galaxy and can dress up in the proper attire. Every resort window will also have a view into space. The opportunity for immersion at this resort will also stand out among all Disney resorts around the globe, as it will be seamlessly connected to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, allowing guests a total Star Wars experience."
(7/20/17) Remember those rumored plans and dreams for a Star Wars themed resort hotel? Disney just confirmed all of it, calling it part of a new 'Disney 360 vacation concept" that will create a "living adventure that allows guests to immerse themselves in an entirely new form of Disney storytelling."
“It’s unlike anything that exists today.” Bob said. “From the second you arrive, you will become a part of a Star Wars story! You’ll immediately become a citizen of the galaxy and experience all that entails, including dressing up in the proper attire. Once you leave Earth, you will discover a starship alive with characters, stories, and adventures that unfold all around you. It is 100% immersive, and the story will touch every single minute of your day, and it will culminate in a unique journey for every person who visits.”
No timeline was mentioned as to when it might open however, so we'll have to wait and see.
(7/11/17) Like everyone, I heard the first rumors of a possible Star Wars themed hotel concept pitched for Walt Disney World and once the initial “Oooohh!” moment passed, I had to scoff at the idea. The cynic in me was pretty sure that nothing like that would ever happen, at least not like what was being shown in the survey’s Disney was quietly showing off to select guests.
Yeah… while I don’t think the project has been given the final green light to proceed, apparenly Disney really is developing a Star Wars themed hotel concept that would be built right at the Studios park next to the Star Wars Land itself. Don’t look for anything to happen until they get their new parking lot configuration up and running, but once they are ready to close down the current toll plaza entrance off World Drive in favor of the new park entrance off Osceola Parkway, work could begin on the new hotel concept.
So what this really supposed to be? Well, you can see some concept art used for a guest survey posted here, but in the end it may be more simple to explain the basic premise like this... imagine going on a cruise ship... that really goes nowhere at all. The concept is a something of a dream for some designers out there that has never really been built out as far as I know, but some refer to it as a LBC... aka: Land Based Cruise. The hotel would be themed as a giant Star Wars Universe themed starship... an interstellar cruise ship experience... and guests would book a stay for several days, much like they would at a normal WDW hotel, expect you can expect this one to cost much much more. The idea is that while guests would leave the hotel during the daytime to visit the Disney theme parks as normal, they would return to the starship in the evening hours which would offer extra dining, exclusive entertainment, and even special themed excursions and adventures themed to the Star Wars Universe. In short all these bonus adventures are only available to the guests of Star Wars hotel, and unlike the other Walt Disney World Resorts, other guests would not be permitted inside to visit.
I’m told that Disney pitched a similar idea several years back, before Disney bought Star Wars, that involved building a similar themed hotel experience that would have been based on the myths and ghoulish legends of the Haunted Mansion, allowing guests to experience something akin to spending the night inside the Haunted Mansion with lots of themed spooky fun events to take place throughout the evening hours.
The Star Wars idea is an interesting one, and it would finally give Disney something they’ve been after... an upscale park experience that guests will pay top dollar to experience much like SeaWorld’s Discovery Cove. Except this isn’t just an upscale park experience, this bundles in a whole new resort category into the mix as well. It should be interesting to see if Disney goes through with it or not, and if guests are willing to drop around $1000 per person for a 2-3 day experience.
2020 - The Cove (3rd Dolphin / Swan Hotel) - Confirmed - (3/1/19) As you can see in the latest update to Orlando Parks News, demolition of Disney’s Fantasia Gardens special event pavilions have begun, clearing the site to make room for the new “The Cove” hotel next to the Swan & Dolphin hotels.
(12/20/18) OrlandoParkNews reports that the first sections of a construction barrier are now going up at the tennis courts so that work can begin on The Cove.
(11/30/18) The name and new details for the third hotel joining the Swan and Dolphin at Walt Disney World came out this week. The new hotel, opening in 2020, will be called The Cove and feature a 14-story tower on the site of the old tennis courts. It will include 22,000 sqft of meeting/event space, 349 rooms, and is supposed to have a rooftop viewing area that should be able to see the fireworks from the nearby theme parks. You can find some of the new concept art posted to Attractions Magazine.
(11/4/18) In the middle of an article about how a new $627 million debt package deal was struck between Bank of America and Tishman Hotel & Realty and MetLife that is secured by the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin hotels, it confirms at the bottom that the deal will provide the funding to build that rumored third hotel next door to the Swan and Dolphin on land leased to Tishman & MetLife for 99 years.
The new hotel will be branded as an “Autograph Collection by Marriott" and is expected to be ready to open by early 2021, so I’d expect serious construction to begin on the site very soon. According to Marriott, their “Autograph Collection” resorts are as small collection of smaller “boutique hotels” each with a unique design that will offer an custom experience that reflects the local culture as well as the vision of the creator.
When finished, all three hotels will still be run by Marriott, though the Swan is under their Westin brand and the Dolphin is under their Sheraton brand.
???? - Reflections - Disney’s Lakeside Lodge - Under Construction - (4/24/19) In the lower half of the latest update to Disney & More you can see that crews are finally clearing out the site of the former River Country waterpark at Walt Disney World. The site is being cleared for future use for a new resort property being called “Reflections - Disney Lakeside Lodge” project anticipated to open sometime in 2022.
(10/19/18) Walt Disney World has announced the plans for their next resort project this week that will be a “mixed-use” resort with a “nature’ theme that will open along the shore of Bay Lake in 2022 between Disney’s Wilderness Lodge resort and Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. The new unnamed resort will feature over 1,700 rooms (including DVC villas)
(6/4/18) According to several reports Disney may be planning on pushing ahead in the next year or so on their next Walt Disney World / DVC combo resort project, which is said to be dubbed internally as "Project 89". The interesting thing is that the new resort site is expected to take over the site of the former River Country water park.
This isn't the first time that Disney has drawn up plans for a new resort for this site, but with the newest DVC resort, Disney's Riviera Resort, under construction and taking over part of the Caribbean Beach Resort site, I wouldn't expect actual construction to begin here until that project is finished up at the end of 2019 at the earliest. It is also my understanding that typically Disney doesn't start work on the next DVC Resort until the previous one has sold out as well. With all that in mind, this one may not be ready to open until 2021/2022, especially as an increased interest in the Star Wars Resort project could possibly slow DVC sales.
???? - Epcot Resort - Rumor - (2/6/18) BlogMickey has posted a great look at some Epcot area permits that may give us a clue about that rumored hotel project for Epcot, along with the planned creation of a large new body of water. According to the report, Disney may be tipping their hand as to the location of the new hotel project, because a large area right outside the park entrance that runs west all the way to the new body of water is marked some some future development purposes. This also matches up with a second rumor Screamscape was sent, claiming that there were two possible locations for the proposed Epcot hotel: either right over the main entrance, or if not there, they were looking to place it behind The Living Seas and Land pavilions just to the west of Epcot's main gate.
As the new lake is built up, in two phases, it should be an interesting site to see from the Epcot line of the monorail, as the northern shore of the lake conforms perfectly to the monorail beam in and out of the Epcot area. This is assuming that there wont be a need to suspend operations to allow for excavation work to be done.
(12/1/17) I haven't heard this rumor myself, but WDW News Today has posted an interesting rumor claiming that Disney may be looking into the idea of building a new resort hotel over the entrance plaza of Epcot. I can't imagine they would want to block the iconic view of Spaceship Earth, so I can only imagine that the hotel would be divided into a couple of huge but taller wing structures on either side of the entrance, allowing the view of Spaceship Earth to remain. Another big benefit is that this would also likely become a new Monorail Resort, as I'm sure they would attach any new hotel structure to the existing monorail station.
The idea is interesting for certain, but with Disney focused on building a number of other resort projects, like the Coronado Springs expansion tower, the new DVC Riviera Resort and the planned Star Wars resort attached to the Studios park, it may be a few years before they get around to finalizing any plans for an Epcot resort. Plus it also follows along with the rumors of a Haunted Mansion themed resort concept also being floated around.
OTHER WALT DISNEY WORLD PROJECTS:
Fall 2019 - Disney Skyliner - (10/16/19) Walt Disney World has confirmed that the Disney Skyliners reopend once again to guests the other day. There will be some planned closure times for select lines today and over the next two days as well.
Oct. 16 - The Disney Hollywood Studios line will be closed, but the other lines will only be open from 1pm to 10:30pm.
Oct. 17-18 - All Lines will only be open from 1pm to 10:30pm.
(10/11/19) According a few local news reports, Disney was seen testing the Skyliners yesterday, but no guests are being allowed to ride yet. No word on when it might reopen, but I’m sure it wont happen until Disney has a firm grasp of what happened, what exactly went wrong, and procedures in place to prevent it from happening again.
(10/8/19) Just a quick update, but according to Walt Disney World, the Disney Skyliner system is currently closed until further notice while they investigate the incident that took place over the weekend.
(10/6/19) An interesting incident took place on the Disney Skyliner system last night causing riders to be stranded in mid-air for a few hours. Some were apparently removed in mid-line by rescue crews while others waited until the system began slowly moving again closer to midnight, or at least those are the various reports I’ve read. The stories are all over the place, and no one seems to know exactly what took place that caused the incident in the first place, which cascaded into some interesting looking issues in the stations.
The photos that seems to start it all show off the Riviera Station where a bunch of yellow cabins are backed up and with a blue cabin on the far left of the image appearing to be smacked into the yellow cabins and left tilted at an angle. There is even a second tweet with a video clip from this same person shows off what looks like a pile of broken plexiglass on the ground below the tilted blue gondola. (See images below)
Visually, the story being told by this image is that the blue car flew into the station and crashed into the yellow, but this couldn’t be further from the truth, because at this point in the system at the Riviera station the cars are actually moving from right-to-left, where the line of yellow cars would have been actually pushing up against the blue car which was not being dispatched from the tracks onto the moving cable. So if the glass broke on the blue car, it would have been from the pressure and pushing of the yellow cars moving in behind it before the system could be e-stopped.
So while this seems to be the most photographed image from the incident, the true story itself should involved what caused the cable-line itself to come to a stop, while the cars in the station were still being moved. For those not in the know as to how these systems work, the gondolas detach from the moving cable-line when they come into the station and ride along a track system, where they are pushed along by a separate motor system while in the station to keep everything in constant motion until they get to the other side of the station and are then ‘dispatched’ from the tracks through an accelerator system to match speed with the cable, where they then re-attach to the cable and soar off into the sky once again. (Fun Note: the older style gondola systems, like the one removed from The Magic Kingdom, would actually use gravity for the accelerator, where the gondolas would be placed into a dispatcher with a timer to space them apart and drop them down a small hill to reach the proper speed where they attach to the cable in motion.)
In theory, and in proper operations, if the main cable where to come to a stop for any reason (controlled, sensor-stop or manual E-Stop button push) then the system that moves the gondolas through the Riviera Station should have also come to a stop, and the “crushing” action in the station should not have been possible, unless the station movement system remained active, or was put into motion by the crew there in some kind of manual or maintenance mode.
So far Disney has only acknowledged that the incident happened, and claims that the two gondolas that were photographed were empty at the time. There is a report on social media from someone who claimed their party was in the yellow one as it began to crush up against the blue gondola and crack the glass before they were removed. Without video of the actual incident taking place, there is no way to verify if this is true or not, but it does seem to back up my theory that for some reason the cars in the station were moving, while nothing was being dispatched onto the main cable running towards Epcot from here.
(9/25/19) Orlando Experience has posted a fun, but long, video showing off the ENTIRE RUN of the new Disney Skyliner experience, including , running from Epcot to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and showing off all the resort stops along the way. Looks like you get a really good look into the Ratatouille attraction area as you depart Epcot.
(9/22/19) Walt Disney World has finally released the operations schedule and a few more details about the new Disney Skyliner aerial tram service. For starters, the gondolas are said to be quite roomy and able to hold 10 guests at a time in the seats. If your group has a stroller or wheelchair, they can also be loaded into the open space in the middle with the group without any need to transfer to a seat, with the station and cabins built to allow for them to be wheeled straight in without any difficulty. Service animals are also said to be welcome aboard to fly the friendly skies. So far the reports from those who have ridden on hot days say that they are well ventilated to allow for air to pass through them quite well as they soar across the sky, so the lack of onboard AC shouldn’t be much of an issue. One word of warning however, if you see a possible lightning storm on the horizon, head for a bus stop rather than the Skyliner station, as they will not be loading guests into the Skyliner cabins when a lightning storm is in the area.
While the operating schedule of the system is subject to change throughout the year along with park hours, the initial operating schedule plan will see the Epcot line open at about 8am each morning (earlier if the park has Magic Morning scheduled) and close typically between 10 or 11pm each night, and sometimes as late as midnight.
The Hollywood Studios station will open typically open earlier, usually between 5:45 and 6am, and run typically until about 11pm each night, but sometimes as late as midnight. As always, these hours are subject to constant change, and I think will also likely change as they experience real-world guest use patterns once the system opens, so be sure to check on the schedule before marking your plans for the day.
(9/18/19) While the official opening of the Walt Disney World Skyliner transportation system is not until Sept. 29th, it looks like it may have soft opened to guests a little early, or at least in time to shoot some promotional videos. Check the system out in action below and if you are visitng this week, keep an eye on it to see if it has soft opened to guests or not.
???? - Mark VIII Monorail Fleet - In Development - (11/20/18) I’ve got a quick correction to post about that monorail door story from last week. While I was in Orlando over the past few days I was told that the door of the monorail did not simply break off on its own, as the initial posts on Twitter wanted us to believe. Instead it seems a guest riding “a mobility scooter” rammed into it and broke it, which makes a heck of a lot more sense than the door simply falling off.
Also keep in mind that Disney has yet to confirm the rumors that they are working on a new fleet of monorails to replace the existing ones. Those who have asked through official channels have gotten the standard answer that nothing is planned or budgeted for at this time, despite the statement from Bob Gurr back in April who claimed during a Q&A session on Facebook that “contracts were underway” for a new fleet. We can hope, but nothing is official until they announce it.
(11/14/18) Next time you ride the Walt Disney World monorail and they say to stay no lean on the doors… they really mean it. According to a report posted at WDWNT it looks like one of the doors to Monorail Lime detached in the station while loading at the Grand Floridian Resort. Lets hope that the rumor from earlier this year claiming that a new fleet of monorail trains had been ordered was legit... because they may want to speed up production a bit.
(UPDATE - Correction posted above... the door did not just fall off.)
(4/29/18) In an interesting update on the Walt Disney World Monorail situation, a special live stream Q&A session was held on Facebook last night with Disney Legend, Bob Gurr who discussed a number of topics. In the later half of the live stream a guest at the event asked Gurr if we would see a new updated monorail rolled out to WDW within the next 3 years or so.
Gurr, as someone involved with some of the early versions of the monorail, joked that while systems like this are typically designed with a 20 year service lifespan, the WDW version was quickly approaching 30 years of service, and he liked to call it the "duct tape monorail".
Following that, Bob Gurr did confirm that "contracts were underway" for a new fleet and if all goes well, they will come from Bombardier, who designed the current fleet.
(4/26/18) While I haven't had time to do much digging into this rumor, the word going around is that Walt Disney World may have finally bit the bullet and entered into the starting phase of a deal with Bombardier to design, engineer and build a new fleet of Monorails (Mark VIII?) for Walt Disney World.
According to the rumor-mill, the funds needed to begin this project may have been appropriated by the sudden dropping of the plans to build a Broadway style theater off Main Street USA at the last second earlier this year. The theater was said to be ready to begin full speed construction within a week or two of the rumored cancellation, and shortly after the incident in mid-January where a monorail door opened in mid-ride between Epcot and the TTC.
If this is true, I'm all for it, as the idea of a Broadway theater on Main Street always struck me as kind of an odd choice anyway, and anything that results in the continued operation of the Walt Disney World Monorail system is news to my ears. Anyone else know more?
(1/17/18) As many other news source have jumped on our story about the possible future closure of the Epcot monorail service, please keep in mind that according to our anonymous sources, this is simply a possible plan that was being discussed, but one that they felt at the time would likely have to happen SOMETIME in the near future… but not right now… not just yet. Of course, Disney could reverse course on this idea completely and opt to build a completely new fleet of monorail trains and refurbish the beamways as well. At this point, nothing is supposed to have been decided either way just yet.
Backing this fact up is an official response from the Walt Disney World Communications department, who states: “We wanted to reach out to you to let you know this is not true. There are no plans to end the system.”
Certainly this seems to be good news, as the existence of the Walt Disney World Monorail is simply an deeply embedded part of the entire Walt Disney World experience. The sight of the trains sailing across the “highway in the sky”, the sounds… the smells… it just isn’t a proper trip to Disney World without a little bit of Monorail as a part of your day, which is why fans have been begging for decades to see the system expanded to add destinations to the Studios and Animal Kingdom parks, or to add stops to other Disney Resorts or locations like Disney Springs.
For now… hold on tight and stay clear of the doors. A world of adventure awaits...
(1/12/18) Crazy news from Walt Disney World this week, as an interesting incident apparently took place on Monorail Red as it was running on the Epcot beam. If you haven't seen it, the video speaks for itself... as one of the doors opened by itself and stayed open while the monorail ran down the line. (See below)
We've talked for years about just how OLD the current fleet of monorails are, living and running daily, long past their expected lifetimes. This adds into another rumor I've quietly been hearing... that the time of the Walt Disney World Monorail may be coming to an end.
How?! WHY?! According to one source, Disney has run the numbers forwards, backwards, upside-down and sideways and determined that in no uncertain terms that the ongoing operation of the existing monorail system has become nothing short of a nightmare. The system has aged to the point where reliability has become a major concern, the cost to update it is said to be beyond anything they are willing to pay. On top of this, the rising costs and downtime issues to try and maintain the current system as-it-is, has risen to the point of just being almost unfeasible to continue to due for the long term.
So what is the plan? Lots of options are being discussed... but the one item that I'm told has become 100% necessary is the eventual closure of the Epcot Monorail line. In light of this latest incident... this could happen much sooner than later. This would be the first phase, allowing Disney to take an entire beam-offline and give them time to do some proper refurbishments to those trains to allow the two Magic Kingdom lines to keep running for a time. Ironically, I'm told the plan to close the Epcot line is also one of the reasons the concept of building a new giant resort hotel project over the entrance to EPCOT has come up.
The buying of time for the MK beams also gives Disney time to decide if perhaps they could fund a refurbishment of a smaller system that could continue to see the Resort and Express beams continue to operate. If not, eventually the Express Beam will also close, and Disney will use what's left of the fleet to keep a single monorail beam running for the resort guest line only.
So for now the monorails will continue to run, but from what I'm hearing, the clock is ticking and someday the monorail may depart to Neverland. For now, we'll just keep an eye on the future of the Epcot line, as any future incidents like this latest one can only serve to shorten the lifespan of that route. Of course, the performance of the new Skyliner system that will run between Epcot and the Studios may also factor in heavily. If successful, the distance traveled by Gondola between Epcot and the Studios is about the same as the distance between the front of Epcot and the TTC, and they could even re-use the same travel pathway is they so desired.