Before I begin today’s post, I first wanted to apologize for the three weeks between posts – as readers know, I like to post once a week. However, between a variety of other writing projects, there simply hasn’t been the time. But alas, here I am once more!
Secondly, I am delighted to announce that I have been selected to advance to Round Two of the Disney Parks Moms Panel! As far as I can tell there are three rounds, during which thousands of applicants are whittled down to 20 successful applicants that join the panel, so I am very happy to just be deemed good enough to continue in the process. Hopefully, I will have a successful Round 2!
But now, on to the post!
At this rate, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is going to be all construction walls.
The park, which will apparently be renamed once again – this time to Disney’s Hollywood Adventure – has essentially abandoned its original intent of being a working studio with attractions, and will now embrace its destiny as a full-blown theme park. Since the summer, the following attractions have closed: the Sounds Dangerous theatre, American Idol Experience and the Backlot Studio Tour (goodbye, Michael Bay!). Closing in the future will be the Great Movie Ride. While nothing has been confirmed yet, the new attractions that will be taking over these areas of the park will be an expanded Star Wars Land which will include the Mos Eisley Cantina, an immersive Tatooine experience, and several attractions ranging from A-ticket to E-ticket. Going in on the footprint that Backlot Tour currently occupies is rumoured to be an expansion of Pixar Place, and the American Idol and Sounds Dangerous areas will likely become the permanent homes of the Frozen Sing-Along and potentially the Jedi Training Academy. It’s also been rumoured that the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, originally slated for closure at the end of the year, has been saved from closure.
There are definitely some exciting changes coming to the park, and I can’t wait to see what Disney is going to bring on board to what has essentially become a half-day theme park for many visitors. The reason is pretty simple – little kids aren’t likely to do Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster or Star Tours, meaning that their day will consist of some combination of Great Movie Ride, Toy Story Midway Mania and the Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast shows. Teenagers and adults may eschew the shows, especially if they’ve already experienced them in the past, and DHS doesn’t have the parades, fireworks or restaurants to entice people to stay all day.
Combine this with what I talked about a couple weeks ago – Universal Studios’ Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley opened in the summer to rave reviews, and construction is under way on the King Kong attraction in Islands of Adventure. Rumours abound that now that the final Hobbit movie is coming to theatres this year, negotiations to bring Lord of the Rings into Islands of Adventure will be going full steam ahead. It may only be a matter of time until DC Comic properties are brought into Universal in the form of Batman and Superman as well. The new Jurassic World movie will mean a large-scale refurbishment of Jurassic Park at Islands of Adventure, especially since there’s some buzz that Jurassic World will the first of a new Chris Pratt-helmed Jurassic Park franchise of films. What it all means is that Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure are priming themselves to jump in the theme-park-attendance rankings in Orlando – the four Disney theme parks occupy the top 4 slots, while Universal and IoA are 5th and 6th – they are closing the gap. Disney Imagineers recently toured Diagon Alley and came away knowing that Hollywood Studios needs a full-scale makeover in order to stay strong in the standings.
Star Wars Land is going to be an immersive experience; you will walk into the desert planet of Tattooine, where you will find the Mos Eisley Cantina and potentially a pod-racer attraction. Another section will likely be dedicated to Endor, as a land-speeder attraction has been talked about for a long time. The idea will be for Star Wars Land to become the Cars Land of Florida; this will ensure that Disney World and Disneyland are not copies of one another, and will give sufficient reason for people to visit both resorts.
A building permit was recently filed for the soundstage that sits between Toy Story Midway Mania and Backlot Studio Tour. The rumour is that they’d be adding an extra track to Toy Story, but that makes no sense to me. Why spend money on a pre-existing attraction that is already the most popular attraction in the Disney Parks? I think the permit has something to do with the Pixar Place expansion.
The expanded Pixar Place is a little more blue-sky than anything else right now, but a funny event that apparently happened a few years ago may give us a hint of what may come. According to Jim Hill of Touringplans.com, the internal Cast Member communication intranet contained an email with a preview video of a forthcoming Monsters Inc. “Scream” Coaster – it would be a dark roller coaster designed to emulate the experience of Mike and Sully in the “doors” room. This email was retracted, but a Monsters Inc. attraction would make a lot of sense. The other attraction that would make sense is one based on The Incredibles, especially given the forthcoming sequel. This ride was once supposed to go into Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom, and was supposed to use the Kuka robotic arm technology that is used on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. You’d also be able to adjust your individual ride experience to various levels of intensity (Jack-Jack to Mr. Incredible).
The other franchise that potentially requires some presence at Walt Disney World is Cars. Cars 3 is coming out eventually, but opinion is split on whether or not a full-fledged Cars Land should come to WDW. Cars Land, currently existing only at Disney’s California Adventure at Disneyland, is huge, but is it required in Florida? The ride technology used for Radiator Springs Racers is the same that is used in Test Track at Epcot, and the other attractions in Cars Land are B- and C-ticket attractions that are easily emulated with any other franchise, and don’t take up a lot of real estate. My belief is that Disney will want to keep Cars Land in California and will make Star Wars the key concept in Florida.
However, there are a couple other franchises that I am surprised have not received more attention at the parks, though they have been rumoured – Tangled and Brave. How To Train Your Dragon is also a big property, and Disney now has a couple more that they will want to get into the parks in one way or another – Big Hero 6 and Guardians of the Galaxy. While the latter is not a Pixar property, it would allow Disney to get a Marvel property into the parks that Universal doesn’t own the theme park rights to, and could give them a chance to build an attraction similar to Spiderman or Transformers over at Universal.
The only impending closure that makes me sad is Great Movie Ride, but it is an attraction that has gone relatively unchanged for 25 years (despite it being the impetus for the construction of the then-MGM Studios in the first place). Word is, it won’t close until 2017, because you can book weddings and other events in the Wizard of Oz part of the attraction, and they have been booked 3 years out. What is going in is anyone’s guess, but one rumour is that the ride technology from Disneyland Paris’s Ratatouille attraction will be used. I’d love to see a rebuilt Great Movie Ride, where they strip it down to the studs and rebuild using the new technology and new movie scenes, but maybe something a little less straight-forward (what if they built it out and up, and did something a little similar to but on a smaller scale than Spaceship Earth?) Or, maybe they can do something less intense than Dinosaur but with similar technology – you have a nice peaceful ride through a couple calmer movies, but then it gets jacked up while going through a scene from Guardians of the Galaxy. I think that would be neat.
Anyway, I’m really looking forward to the new attractions coming at DHS and Animal Kingdom. How about you?