The 11 BIG Changes That Are Coming to Walt Disney World (Summer 2017 Edition)

Change is constant at Walt Disney World, and for this summer’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. But first, let’s take a look of a new premium dining experience that will be making its debut later this year…

11. Club 33 makes its way to Walt Disney World

Image: Disney

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.

Image: Disney

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 to be among the first to hear more about this exclusive membership and sign up at an as-now undisclosed date.

10. 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. Gondolas to take flight at Walt Disney World before 2019

Image: Resorts World Sentosa

Earlier this year we reported that construction work had begun on Walt Disney World’s as-yet unannounced gondolas project, which will connect Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, and Disney’s Pop Century Resort. And while Disney still hasn’t said anything official about this project, documents obtained by the Orlando Sentinel from the Disney-controlled Reedy Creek Improvement District not only confirm the resort has been planning the project for quite some time, but also include some previously-unavailable details that give us our first real hints about what this new project could look like as well as how it will be structured.

According to official documents it looks like there will be six individual loading and unloading stations for the gondola system, serving four different destinations: Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Epcot, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort and the lakeside area between Disney’s Pop Century and the Art of Animation resorts. While we don’t know exactly where Disney will double up stations, we’d imagine that the additional stations will serve the two theme parks, as these will undoubtedly serve more guests than the resort stations and will need the additional capacity.

In addition it was also discovered that Disney will be constructing three separate lines that will connect these different areas. While we can only guess what the configuration of this new transportation web will look like, we’d wager that at least one will be a direct line between Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, with the other two servicing resorts from the two theme parks.

8. Upcharge experiences rule Walt Disney World

As we predicted back in 2016, 2017 looks like it is going to be the year of the upcharge experience at Walt Disney World, as the resort has already debuted exorbitant new experiences for Disney’s Hollywood Studios and the Magic Kingdom, expensive new tours, and even a $250 per HOUR shopping experience at Disney Springs.

And even with attendance confirmed to be on the rebound it looks like Disney is still trying to wring ever last dollar out of guests with these kinds of upcharge events, so we will be expecting more of these to be announced in the coming months.

7. Marvel slowly creeps into Walt Disney World

Five years ago the thought of Marvel characters in Walt Disney World seemed unthinkable, thanks to the iron-clad licensing deal Marvel signed with Universal back in the 1990s when Marvel Super Hero Island was being developed for Islands of Adventure. However, just last year Doctor Strange made a special appearance at Disney’s Hollywood Studios for a limited-time character experience, and this summer has brought both Star Lord and Groot to this park for character meet and greets as well.

Though Disney is certainly starting small with Marvel at Walt Disney World (and is of course working within legal constraints), it looks like characters from this Universe will be a big part of the resort’s future moving forward, in as much of a capacity as they can be under the terms of the current legal contract.

6. More hotels confirmed for Walt Disney World

During a recent earnings call, Disney CEO Bob Iger hinted that more hotels could be on the way soon for Walt Disney World, saying  “We also have other kinds of expansion opportunities, like hotels, for instance.” Iger continued to say, “Not only do we have the property, but we’ve seen such high occupancy rates in Orlando and California, we believe it would be smart for us to build more hotels out … at both sites.”

While we don’t know when or where more hotels are going be built at Walt Disney World, it looks like more expansions are coming…and soon!

5. New transportation in and out of the Magic Kingdom

Image: South Florida Water Management District

Back in 2016, Disney filled permits with the South Florida Water Management District to redevelop World Drive. For those unfamiliar, World Drive is a major artery of Walt Disney World’s transportation and is the road that brings guests past Disney’s Hollywood Studios and the BoardWalk Resort, right up to the Magic Kingdom’s Transportation and Ticket Center, before continuing past the Contemporary Resort and then tapering around far side of Fantasyland.

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.

4. Star Wars Land is opening in 2019

Image: Disney

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 won’t know additional details about these two lands until this year’s D23 event, here’s what we know so far:

 Image: Disney

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).

Disney will be providing the first real look inside this new land during this summer’s D23 Event, with an entire pavilion (with models, artwork, and more) at this event dedicated to the Star Wars-themed lands coming to both Disneyland park and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

3. DisneyQuest officially closing in a few weeks

Back in 2015, it was announced that DisneyQuest was going to close for good sometime in 2016 to make way for a new sports-based facility: the NBA experience. Though no official date was ever revealed, Disney stopped including DisneyQuest admission with top-tier annual passes immediately, and Cast Members were notified that they were likely going to be relocated in the near future.

However, as you undoubtedly already know, 2016 came and went, and Disney Quest never did close. Behind the scenes, rumors swirled about what was going on with this location, with several sources claiming that Disney’s negotiations with the NBA had broken down over construction costs associated with the project as well as issues with the projected theme.

However, even though this project seemed to have stalled for a bit, it was confirmed earlier this year that Disney really is still looking to bring the NBA Experience concept to Disney Springs, and the first step towards making that goal a reality will be the closure of DisneyQuest on July 2nd. And yes, it looks like they actually mean it this time.

Fortunately, during this location’s last day, Florida residents as well as annual passholders can purchase up to five discounted tickets to DisneyQuest for $33.75 ($29.25 for ages 3-9), which is 25 percent off the regular ticket price.

2. The last days of Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Image: Disney

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.

1. Toy Story Land is on the way for Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Image: Disney

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.

Image: Disney

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.

We don’t have an official opening date for this land yet, but many are suggesting that a 2018 debut will be announced at the D23 Expo this summer


-From Theme Park Tourist, June 11, 2017 by Amanda Kondolojy



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