What’s 10 years? When you’re young, it seems like forever. For me, now solidly in middle age, 10 years can seem to pass in the blink of an eye.
In theme park terms, a lot can happen in the span of a decade. Take the 10-year period of 1989-1998, when Walt Disney World opened two theme parks: Disney-MGM Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom; two water parks: Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach; and a dozen resort hotels: Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club, Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter, Dixie Landings (Port Orleans Riverside), Disney’s Vacation Club Resort (Old Key West), All Star Sports, All Star Music, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Disney’s Boardwalk Inn and Villas, Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa and Caribbean Beach Resort.
No one can expect that kind of progress over the next 10 years. But combining what we know is coming to Walt Disney World with the needs and opportunities at Disney’s Florida park can provide some clues to what we can expect to see in the year 2025.
In this, the first of two posts, we will look at the theme park experience. In part two, we’ll look at future resorts and transportation changes.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom: By 2025, Pandora – The World of Avatar is eight years into its existence and has been bolstered by three sequels to the highest-grossing film of all time produced by James Cameron. This land, along with the Rivers of Light nighttime spectacular and the evening version of Kilimanjaro Safaris, have transformed Disney’s Animal Kingdom into a full-day park, increasing its attendance past Epcot. A year after the opening of Pandora, Expedition Everest was taken down for an extended refurbishment in which the dormant Yeti was finally restored to its full glory. Meanwhile, a re-imagined DinoLand USA has just opened, taking its cues from Pixar’s “The Good Dinosaur” and including a kid-friendly dark ride alternative to DINOSAUR.
Disney’s Hollywood Adventure?: As strong as attendance is at Animal Kingdom, it’s still behind Magic Kingdom and, yes, Disney’s (insert name here for the renamed park). Star Wars Land has had a Potter-esque impact on this park, jumping attendance so much that an expansion of the five-year-old land is already in the works. With the continued success of the new Star Wars films, shows and games, Imagineers have even more material from which to draw. The addition of Toy Story Land has also spurred further Pixar expansion talk that could either be a version of Radiator Springs Racers or the long-rumored Monsters Inc. Coaster. Meanwhile, Aerosmith has company on Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, as other artists are enlisted for the pre-show and soundtrack, which rotates throughout the day to give riders different experiences.
Changes are occurring in Epcot’s World Showcase once again, as it appears that The Canadian Lumberjack Show will no longer be taking place, according to the Orlando Sentinel. The show, which was performed on The Mill Stage at the Canada Pavilion began in October 2014 and featured two lumberjack teams, clad in plaid who competed against each other performing tradition log show demonstrations.
The Canadian Lumberjack Show replaced the fan-favorite celtic rock band, Off Kilter. (And for those who are curious, yes Off Kilter does still perform, both in and around Orlando, as well as across the country. Matter of fact, I recently caught the band performing in Celebration for their Fall Festival and they were just as great as they were in Epcot.)
As a reminder, another band just ended their run in World Showcase. Seth recently reported that the Paul McKenna Band will no longer be performing at the United Kingdom Pavilion. A new accoustic group called Quickstep will be taking their place. In addition, Ribab Fusion has replaced B’net Al Houwariyate in the Morocco Pavilion.
Illuminations: Reflections of Earth, the long-running nighttime spectacular at Epcot, is beloved by many. But is it really that good? Let’s break it down.
Backstory: The first incarnation of an Epcot nighttime show premiered in the fall of 1982 and was called Carnival de Lumiere (no relation to the candelabra from the not yet conceived Beauty and the Beast film.) This small scale fountain show was replaced a year later by A New World Fantasy and that show was replaced yet another year later by Laserphonic Fantasy. Both of these shows used fireworks, lasers, lights, and projection screens on barges all set to classical music. The first version of the show actually titled IllumiNations began in 1988 and continued with some variations until 1999 when it was replaced by the current show Reflections of Earth. This version of the show was originally conceived as a signature attraction of the Walt Disney World Millennium Celebration but has been showed continuously ever since with the only variation being a special ending for the Christmas holiday season.
Touring Strategy: The show takes place at the center of World Showcase lagoon so it can be seen in full from anywhere around the lagoon, with the fireworks visible from many parts of Future World as well. The really good spots for IllumiNations do go early, however, especially in busier times of year. Without a reservation at a restaurant on the lagoon, your best walk-up locations to see IllumiNations are the raised area in front of the Italy pavilion and the area in front of the Yorkshire County Fish Shop in the United Kingdom pavilion. If these areas are being used for special events, consider the bridge between France and the United Kingdom and the area between Mexico and Norway. Just keep in mind that these locations can fill up by 45-minutes before showtime. If you don’t mind being partially blocked by a tree, a fence, or a guy taking selfies in front of you, then you can grab a location at pretty much any point before the show begins. (FastPass+ is not recommended but if you choose to use it, you will be positioned between the gift shops at the front of World Showcase and should arrive at least 20 minutes before showtime.)
Disney will soon be rolling out the Made with Magic interactive merchandise collection to Epcot beginning on November 23. For those who don’t know, Made with Magic products are programmed to light up and change color along with moments that occur during nighttime events in the parks, such as Fantasmic, The Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights, and Wishes. At Epcot, these products will soon be able to interact with key moments that occur in World Showcase.
Guests will be able to choose between the light up Mickey Ear Hat, the Minnie Mouse Headband, Mickey Mouse Glove, or Sorcerer Mickey’s Wand. The Made with Magic merchandise costs $25 each and guests will be able to pick them up at the following locations in Epcot:
Kiosk near Disney Traders
American Adventure Cart
With the addition of these items now working in Epcot, as well as the recent new products that are offered, are you more likely to purchase a Made with Magic item?
As per usual, when one Epcot festival ends, details on the next festival get released, which means that we now have the first details about the 2016 Epcot Flower and Garden Festival. This will be the 23rd year for the event which will take place for an unprecedented 90 days, from March 2 through May 30.
Each year, new and returning favorites help to make up this unique event. As far as what’s new for 2016, we’ll see a brand new front entrance topiary display featuring Donald Duck’s nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, alongside their Uncle Donald and Daisy in a display inspired by the 1943 comic book, “The Victory Garden.”
Also on display for the first time ever will be the Ranger Mickey topiary which will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service.
Located behind Spaceship Earth will be a new Floral Sun Garden which will feature golden colors and yellow “sunbursts.” At night, twinkling lights will shine.
For the little ones, there will be an innovative new play garden featuring the Fab 5, Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, and Donald, in topiary form with musical instruments built into the outdoor climbing system.
Walt Disney World and the Christmas Season. It just doesn’t get any more magical than that. I absolutely love this time of year as the Disney World Parks and Resorts begin to deck their halls and debut their annual holiday events and roll out new festive merchandise, it sort of helps me to kick off my own holiday preparations. One way to prep for the upcoming holiday is to take a few moments to drop by the Magic Kingdom or the Santa Chalet at Disney Springs to let the kids, and yourself, tell Santa what’s on your wish list. This tradition got me thinking… If I could, what would I ask Walt Disney World to get me for Christmas? If you will, indulge with me in a little bit of Christmas fantasy as I fill out My Disney World Christmas Wish List!
Bring Back the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights – Of all the holiday entertainment at Walt Disney World, the Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights is my personal favorite. I love the fake snow, the music and carols, the looks on everyone’s faces as they take in the lights, and the fact that it’s free with park admission! So as you can imagine, I was pretty much crushed when I heard that this is the last year for the Osborne Lights, yet I’m just as thrilled about the new developments coming to Hollywood Studios such as Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land. At this point, I’m holding onto a hope that Disney may move the Osborne Lights to another location at Walt Disney World. An announcement confirming my hopes is most definitely on my Christmas Wish List this year.
I caught up with the quartet, who posted on Twitter that they are returning to Scotland to record an album, after a recent afternoon performance. They said that they have no plans to return to Walt Disney World after next week, so if you are a Paul McKenna Band fan you only have a few days left to see them without having to fly across the pond.
It’s fair to say that, although McKenna and company are talented performers who authentically represent their musical tradition, they never enjoyed the kind of cult-like popularity garnered by Off Kilter, the Canadian rock band that was controversially canceled prior to McKenna’s debut.
In case you never had a chance to experience the Paul McKenna Band in person, I’ve immortalized one of their sets on YouTube for posterity:
Disney World has truly spectacular offerings during the holiday season.
It’s no secret that I dress for success when I plan my outfit choices in Walt Disney World – no detail is left out. While this usually refers to some light DisneyBounding, it means something a little different in December, when a cute dress and Mickey ears isn’t enough to get you through the cold evenings in the parks. Thanks to the fantastic holiday offerings, December is one of the most exciting times to visit Disney World. You’ve got Magic Kingdom’s Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP), Epcot’s Candlelight Processional, and Hollywood Studios’ Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. On top of that, the resorts and parks are decked out in their holiday finest, so even if you don’t want to spring for the extra cost of a party ticket to MVMCP, you can still enjoy the ambiance during the day. Just make sure, as you’re planning for your holiday trip, to give serious consideration to the weather. As unlikely as it sounds, Florida gets COLD at night in December!
I know what you might be thinking, “I’m from [insert cold state here — mine is Michigan]; Florida doesn’t even know what cold is! I walk eight miles uphill both ways through six feet of snow just to get to the Disney Store!” Okay, that might not be exactly what you thought, but it is pretty close to my viewpoint on the subject before my first December trip. Luckily, I followed the advice of others and (even though I scoffed) I packed for the cold weather. And thank goodness I did! Based on that experience, I’m going to give you a breakdown of my 5 must-pack items for cold weather, some tips specific to nighttime holiday entertainment options, and a few final pieces of advice so you can dress for success on your holiday adventures in Disney World!
The rag tag band appears to be officially going away. Guests are invited to celebrate and watch Captain EO change the world one last time because the show, which is playing at the Magic Eye Theater in the Imagination Pavilion, will see its farewell mission on December 6.
Captain EO returned to the park back in 2010 to celebrate Michael Jackson after his death. This spring/summer Captain EO closed for sneak previews of both Tomorrowland and Inside Out. Many thought at that time the attraction would be closed forever, however, it returned in July to many people’s surprise.
Disney has now officially announced what is taking Captain EO’s place. Guests will be able to experience beloved Disney and Pixar animated shorts in 4D with the Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival. It will include a look into the visionary minds behind some of the most iconic animated films today, as well as the ability to enter the imaginative worlds of three animated shorts in ways never seen before.
One thing is for sure, at least for me anyway – I have enjoyed joining Hooter, Idie, Odie, Fuzzball, and the rest of the gang on their adventure helping them change the world, with brighter days and good times.