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.
This week’s SATURDAY SIX is our annual Thanksgiving Special and takes a look at Six Reasons for Theme Park Fans to Give Thanks. 2015 was another great year to be a theme park fan, and for this Thanksgiving we are going to take a quick break from all the turkey, football games, and Black Friday planning to count our blessings and thank the parks and resorts we love so much. So, for one day only, we ask that all Disney and Universal fans put aside their differences and spend a moment appreciating all the wonderful things that we can share together, starting with…
The selfie stick ban was definitely a controversial move to be sure. Universal had earlier become more strict on preventing selfie sticks on rides, but Disney outright stopped people from even entering the park with them. Now we joked earlier about only kids and narcissists using them, the truth is that selfie sticks have become increasingly popular across almost all demographics. While people using selfie sticks inside the parks can be a nuisance, they were starting to become a serious safety factor on attractions. You may have seen what is called an Envelope of Protection as Imagineers test out the attractions. This device makes sure that all the attractions are safe for every rider, basically simulating the possible reach of every guest in the ride vehicle. This is why while it may seem like your may lose your arms in Space Mountain if you hold them up during the ride, but in actuality you are nowhere close to hitting anything. What the Envelope of Protection doesn’t take into account though, is guests holding on to anything that extends their reach.
Ok theme park fans, it’s time to talk turkey! If you want to have the Best Week Ever at Walt Disney World, common wisdom says that the Thanksgiving holiday isn’t the most stress-free time to visit in terms of attendance. In fact, the last week of November can be one of Orlando’s busiest seasons, right behind Christmas Week and Spring Break. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a great time in the parks this week, as long as you go in armed with some advice from your friends at Touring Plans, plus a whole lot of patience. To prove the point, I recently spent an afternoon elbow-to-elbow with Magic Kingdom Thanksgiving Week crowds to bring you this turkey day travelogue. Hopefully you won’t find it too fowl!
Violating the first rule of holiday touring, I showed up at the Magic Kingdom not at rope drop, but at high noon, just as park attendance should be reaching its peak. Much to my surprise, I was parked not in outer Siberia, but in the Zurg section of the Villains lot, right night to medical parking. From here I could walk to the TTC as easily as taking the tram, a nice treat on a busy day.
There is a lot of spirited debate in the Disney community comparing Walt Disney World to Disneyland Resort, with passionate opinions on both sides of the issue. Indeed, there have been plenty of articles comparing the two parks on this site and others, and our very own Savannah Sanders has an ongoing series comparing attractions at the two resorts.
The following is objectively true: Disneyland is smaller, has fewer parks, fewer hotels, and fewer restaurants than Walt Disney World, and versions of most of the major Disneyland attractions can also be experienced in Orlando. Accordingly, a common misconception seems to have developed among Walt Disney World veterans that Disneyland is a “lesser” park and there’s no reason to go when you could go to Walt Disney World instead. The oft-cited fact that “Walt walked there” isn’t enough to convince them to try out the original park.
The reality, however, is that the World’s smaller, older sibling has merit — a lot of merit, in fact — and is very worthy of a visit. Moreover, far from providing you with an excuse to skip Disneyland, your familiarity with Walt Disney World makes it an even betterdestination than for someone who had never been to either park. I’m going to take this a step further, however, and tell you that if you’re an Orlando veteran, you need to get to Anaheim and take in the original at some point for reasons that have nothing to do with which place is “better” or the footsteps of one Walter Elias Disney.
Ring in the holidays with this video of the 2015 Osborne Family Spectacle lighting ceremony. (Photos/video by Seth Kubersky)
Walt Disney World‘s holiday season celebrations are in full swing, and the final season of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights is drawing huge crowds each night to the Streets of America at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Recently, I brought you video of the Spectacle, featuring three full performances from the Dancing Lights. After that posting, some readers wondered whether the small ceremony that kicks off each evening’s illumination is still occurring. Well, wonder no more, because I’ve brought you this complete video of the 2015 Osborne Family Spectacle lighting ceremony:
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.
New Force Awakens footage is featured in Star Tours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Star Wars Episode VII doesn’t open until next month, but the Force is already awake inside the Star Tours ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Unlike Disneyland, Walt Disney World won’t debut the Seasons of the Force special event (which replaces the long-running Star Wars Weekends) until January 5 (Launch Bay with displays and character greetings opens December 1), but one element of the event is already having its “soft opening” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. As of November 16, new Force Awakens footage has been added to DHS’s Star Tours attraction, and we were there on the first day to experience the changes.
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: