Changes Coming to Walt Disney World in Fall 2017
Change is constant at Walt Disney World, and for this fall’s update on all of the big changes happening around the resort we take a look at big changes coming to the resort in the coming years, including the addition of elevated gondolas connecting Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and the addition of new lands in 2018 and 2019.
In this fall’s update, we take a look at a short-term project at Disney’s Hollywood Studios that has hit the fast track, plus plans to revamp both Future World and Tomorrowland before the end of the decade.
1. Toy Story Land is opening in 2018 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Toy Story Land was officially announced in 2015 during the D23 convention, and as expected it will take over the space that was formerly occupied by the Studio Backlot Tour. Though we don’t know when this new land might open (though we’re thinking it must be before 2019’s opening of Star Wars Land) we do have a lot of information about the new attraction lineup for this new land.
First up is a family-friendly roller coaster with vehicles shaped like Slinky Dog that will zoom around a winding track, passing through tunnels and other landmarks around Toy Story Land. The second attraction, named Alien Swirling Saucers (don’t try and abbreviate that) is inspired specifically by the first Toy Story film and will be designed to look like a play set found in Andy’s room, and will allow guests to board rocket shaped toy vehicles while aliens fly around in toy flying saucers wielding “The Claw”, which will dangle menacingly above.
Construction on Toy Story Land is currently entering its final phases, and the land has been confirmed to be opening in 2018.
2. The last days of Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Back in February 2015, the remnants of the Sorcerer’s Hat at Disney’s Hollywood Studios came down. And though it has been two years since that hat was destroyed, insiders suggest that this park will be getting a whole new identity sometime in the near future, perhaps in time for either Toy Story Land or Star Wars Land to open in 2019. Though we don’t know what the new name of this park will be or when it will take effect, one thing is for sure: the days of “Disney’s Hollywood Studios” are numbered.
3. Star Wars Land is opening in 2019
Though work has only just begun on Star Wars Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney announced in early 2017 that Star Wars-themed lands at both Disneyland park and Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be opening in 2019. This came as quite a shock, as most observers believed that the Disneyland version of Star Wars Land would open first, potentially in 2019, with the Walt Disney World version opening a year or two later. However, now Disney has gone on record as saying that even even if Disneyland beats Walt Disney World by a few months, these twin lands will at least open during the same year. And while we still don’t have all the details about this new land, here’s what we know so far:
The first of two planned rides for this new area is a still-unnamed Millennium Falcon simulator that will allow guests to the Millennium Falcon themselves, turning, banking and even firing weapons in this ambitious new experience.
A second ride will be more of a classic dark ride that will use a motion base ride vehicle to move riders through scenes with screens (similar to what guests currently experience at The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man at Islands of Adventure) on an adventure that will involve new baddies the First Order.
In addition to the two new rides, there will also be a new intergalactic cantina restaurant, a high-end “dinner club” and plenty of opportunities to interact with “in character” cast members (similar to the experiences guests have with in character team members over at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter).
4. New transportation in and out of the Magic Kingdom
According to the filed permits, Walt Disney World will be adding a flyover ramp which will route traffic directly from World Drive so that guests heading for the resort-area hotels can bypass the Magic Kingdom parking plaza altogether. In the opposite direction, another newly-constructed flyover ramp will allow traffic heading from the Contemporary Resort side of World Drive to continue on World Drive beyond the Magic Kingdom parking plaza, directly en route to the BoardWalk Resort and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
In addition, Disney will be widening World Drive as well on both sides of the street, transforming the two-lane sections into three lanes and the three lane sections into four lanes. It has also been heavily rumored (though not explicitly confirmed by the recently-filed permits) that the parking toll booths at the front of the Magic Kingdom will also be replaced during this extensive roadwork.
5. Disney Riviera Resort announced for Disney Vacation Club
In an effort to increase Disney Vacation Club inventory, Disney also announced the new Disney Riviera Resort, which will be located in the recently demolished section of Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. Because of its central location, guests staying at this resort will not only be able to enjoy unbelievable views of nighttime spectaculars at both Epcot and Hollywood Studios from this hotel’s rooftop restaurant, but DVC Members who stay here will also be able to use the currently under-construction Disney Skyway transportation system, which is expected to be operational sometime in the next two years.
Construction has already begun on this resort, and Disney is trying have this hotel open by the fall of 2019, again in time for the opening of Star Wars Land as well as the debut of the new Skyliner transportation system.
6. Star Wars gets its own one-of-a-kind hotel
In an effort to extend that Star Wars experience beyond Star Wars: Galactic Edge (opening in 2019) Disney has announced plans for a new Star Wars themed hotel that will allow fans to experience this amazing universe in a whole new way that is unlike any other Disney hotel. Guests who stay in this hotel will take part in an immersive experience designed from the ground up to be a living adventure that allows guests to immerse themselves in an entirely new form of Disney storytelling.
Inside the hotel guests, will discover a starship alive with characters, stories, and adventures that unfold all around them. Guests will be able to live and breathe their own story with themed dining, activities and more that will touch every single minute of their day, culminating in a unique journey for every person who visits. Everything from the decor to the furniture will be a part of the theme, with nothing in this hotel recalling our world. Even the windows will be themed, with views of the various planets, starships and more from the world of Star Wars visible from guests’ rooms.
Construction on this new hotel experience has not begun yet, but it has been suggested that Disney is targeting a 2019 opening date to coincide with the opening of Star Wars: Galactic Edge. Interestingly, Disney also has not released any information about exactly where this new hotel will be either, so we are definitely looking forward to learning more about this project in the coming months!
7. Disney Skyliner gondolas to take flight at Walt Disney World before 2019
Though Disney started construction on an elevated gondola transportation system earlier this year, they didn’t actually confirm the existence of this project until just a few days ago, sharing some interesting details about what guests who board what is now being called the “Disney Skyliner” can expect.
First of all, as previously rumored, this new system will connect Disney’s Art of Animation, Pop Century and Caribbean Beach resorts with Disney’s Hollywood Studios and the International Gateway at Epcot. It was also confirmed via concept art that the actual gondolas will also be enclosed (with windows so guests can enjoy the view), which should help shield guests from those afternoon showers every summer.
However, in a fun development, it was also revealed that the various Disney Skyliner cabs will also feature favorite Disney characters, including the fab five as well as the hitchhiking ghosts. Unforutnately, no construction timetables or opening dates were shared, but we’d imagine that Disney is hoping to have this project off the ground, quite literally, before Star Wars Land opens at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 2019.
8. Say goodbye to the Jungle Cruise in its current form
In case you haven’t already heard, Disney is making a Jungle Cruise-inspired film, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. And while this already seemed like a pretty fun addition to Disney’s ever-expanding live action film slate, thanks to The Rock’s Instagram account, we now know that Disney has bigger plans for this movie that will extend far beyond the silver screen.
According to The Rock’s aforementioned social media post, the actor will be partnering with Disney’s Imagineers to help re-engineer and re-design the Jungle Cruise ride in all the Disney theme parks around the world. This big change will take place during a major refurbishment, which has yet to be officially scheduled sometime next year, which is incidentally when the Jungle Cruise movie begins filming (presumably for a late 2018 or early 2019 opening date)
Now of course, details in the social media post are pretty much nonexistent, but we’ll probably learn more about the changes coming to this classic attraction in the coming months.
9. Club 33 makes its way to Walt Disney World
One of the worst-kept Disney secrets in history is that of Club 33, a private lounge and restaurant at Disneyland that is located in the New Orleans Square area of the park and is only accessible via a secret door. And though you’ve probably heard of this “secret” location, chances are slim you’ve ever been, as the cost to just get in the door requires a hefty $25,000 initial payment, followed by an annual fee of $10,000. Oh, and did we mention that, even if you have the cash, there’s a lengthy waiting list as well?
However, even though you might never have the chance to dine inside Club 33 at Disneyland, it looks like plans are coming together to bring this ultra-exclusive, incredibly upscale (and of course insanely pricey) experience to Walt Disney World. Interestingly, it looks like there will be an individual Club 33 coming to each theme park, for a total of four locations inside Walt Disney World, as opposed to the single location at Disneyland Park.
Though it has only just been announced, insiders have said Disney is hoping to open the first such location inside one of its theme parks before the end of the year. Pricing and details have yet to be released, but if Disney is hoping to rush this opening, we’d imagine that we’ll learn more in just a few weeks.
A waitlist for information on Club 33 at Walt Disney World has already been established, and Guests interested in joining can now email WDWClub33@disneyworld.com to be among the first to hear more about this exclusive membership and sign up at an as-now undisclosed date.
10. The Magic Kingdom prepares for a new live theater venue
While live theater is a big part of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom (and Epcot, to a lesser extent), the Magic Kingdom has historically been a little lacking in this area, with only the castle forecourt stage being used for regular performances during the day. However, this will be changing in the very near future, as Disney has unveiled plans to build a brand new entertainment venue on Main Street USA.
This new location will be based on the iconic Willis Wood theater that existed in 1920s Kansas City, where Walt Disney lived after he left his hometown of Marceline. This historic recreation will be built in what is currently the backstage bypass area between Main Street U.S.A. and Tomorrowland, which will now presumably stay open once this venue opens.
Much like the Tomorrowland project, we don’t know when construction on this new theater will begin, or when Disney is planning on opening this new entertainment venue. And of course, there’s an additional question here: what kind of show Disney might debut here. Disney California Adventure has had great success with its Broadway-style shows, including Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular and Frozen: Live at the Hyperion. Could the Magic Kingdom be considering adding these longer-form entertainment options to its repertoire? There’s no concrete information right now, but it is certainly interesting to think about!
11. Tomorrowland also preparing for an overhaul
Earlier this year we finally got confirmation that Disney is bringing a duplicate of Shanghai Disneyland’s Tron Lightcycle Power Run attraction to Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom. This attraction, which allows guests to board a train of two-wheeled Lightcycles and go on a high-speed adventure through Tron’s high-tech universe, has been one of the most popular attractions at Shanghai Disneyland, and certainly is a sensible addition to the Magic Kingdom that should help draw thrill seekers and sci-fi fans to this park. You can check out a ride through of the version in Shanghai (which is supposed to be virtually identical to the upcoming Magic Kingdom version)
However, in an interesting twist, it looks like rumors that predicted the destruction of the Tomorrowland Speedway to make way for this attraction were premature, as concept art shows Tron Lightcycle Power Run being built in an unused area next to Space Mountain, with a re-worked (and possibly re-routed) Tomorrowland Speedway in the foreground. Interestingly, it looks like changes may also be in store for some of the Magic Kingdom’s transportation options as well, as concept art shows the Magic Kingdom railroad going through the Tron building and the Tomorrowland Peoplemover being upgraded and possibly re-routed as well. Though the addition of the Tron Lightcycle Power Run is certainly exciting by itself, it looks like this addition will continue the Magic Kingdom’s quiet transformation of Tomorrowland with subtle improvements to other areas of this land.
While we don’t know when construction will begin, we’d imagine that Disney will break ground on this project in the next year, and will announce an opening date sometime in the next 18 months.
12. Future World gets reimagined
After months of speculation, Disney has unveiled a new vision for Epcot’s Future World which will bring a lot of changes to this area of the park, including the addition of an all-new Guardians of the Galaxy attraction in the former Universe of Energy building. Disney has said that this franchise makes for a good addition to Epcot’s Future World because it gives guests the chance to experience the excitement and adventure offered by space travel.
Even though we know that this ride is definitely coming to Epcot sometime in the next few years, we actually don’t know what kind of ride this will actually be. Rumors circulated last year that this new attraction would be an indoor roller coaster of some sort, and this still could be possible. However, it is also equally possible that they could create a dark ride of some sort with more of a narrative focus as well. Unfortunately, it looks like we’re going to have to wait a little longer to find out exactly what this attraction is, as Disney has not provided even the broadest of details.
13. Grand Avenue set to replace the Muppet Courtyard at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
It was announced just a few weeks ago that the Muppets Courtyard, along with a portion of the former Streets of America, is being re-imagined by Walt Disney Imagineering to become a new area called Grand Avenue. If this name sounds familiar to you, its because Disney announced earlier this summer that it would be introducing a new land that would encompass some of the old Streets of America facades as well as a new watering hole in the former Writer’s Stop named the Baseline Tap House. However, it new looks like Disney’s plans for Grand Avenue extend beyond this small area of the park, as this new land will encompass both this reopening area as well as the entirety of the Muppet Courtyard.
Inspired by the spirit of present-day Downtown Los Angeles, the now-confirmed Grand Avenue “land” (which is actually based by a real street in California) will feature some familiar facades with some new colors designed to recall the look of vintage office buildings and warehouses that are common in Los Angeles.