As summer gets into full swing around Walt Disney World, it’s time once again to take a look at some of the big projects Disney has in the works for the next five years.
For our second update of 2017, we take a look at the ongoing development of Star Wars Land, a newly-confirmed “reimagining” of a Magic Kingdom classic, plus the continuing saga of the will-the-or-won’t-they Guardians of the Galaxy attraction at Epcot. But first, let’s look at a resort-wide project that has to be one of the worst-kept secrets of all time…
1. New transportation: gondolas, driverless cars, and more!
Opening in: 2017 & 2018
Though not technically a ride or attraction, it looks like transportation at Walt Disney World is investing heavily in overhauling transportation around the resort, as permits have been filed for several new projects over the past few months.
First off, though technically still unannounced, work has already 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 through a series of elevated, closed-cabin gondolas. According to official documents, it looks like there will be six individual loading and unloading stations for the gondola system, serving the aforementioned four different destinations. You can read more about Disney’s plans for this new system here.
Secondly, according to a report from the LA Times, Disney is in final negotiations with two manufacturers of driverless autonomous shuttles to bring this technologically advanced transportation method to the resort as soon as later this year, first for a limited time test period, and then for full-fledged guest use sometime in 2018. We’ve got more on this development as well here.
2. An untitled new Italian restaurant
Opening in:Fall 2017
Portobello Country Italian Trattoria at Disney Springs closed its doors on April 24th to undergo a major refurbishment, and just a few days later it was confirmed that this refurbishment will be more akin to a total overhaul, with the restaurant now confirmed to be opening again later this year with a new concept and name. Though we don’t have all the details yet, the first concept art for this location has been released (above) and we also know that the overall goal for this reimagined location is to create a more authentic Italian concept including a family-style menu along with a selection of Italian craft beers and wines. This dining establishment is owned by the same company that turned Fulton’s Crab House into Paddlefish, so we’re expecting to see similar modifications here.
4. Slinky Dog Roller Coaster
Opening in: 2018
A brand new roller coaster is coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios that will form the backbone of the all-new Toy Story Land (which we now know will get an official opening date later this summer at the D23 Expo). Described as a family-friendly roller coaster (so expect low speeds and small height restrictions), the Slinky Dog Roller Coaster will see guests boarding vehicles shaped like Slinky Dog and then zooming around a winding track, passing through tunnels and other landmarks around Toy Story Land.
Work on this attraction (as well as the broader Toy Story Land) has already begun and though plans for this attraction have reportedly been scaled back due to budget concerns, it looks like Disney is moving full speed ahead on this fun new family ride.
5. Alien Swirling Saucers
Opening in: 2018
The second confirmed new attraction for Toy Story Land is a spinning flat ride named Alien Swirling Saucers (don’t try and abbreviate that), which will be inspired specifically by the first Toy Story film and will be designed to look like a play set found in Andy’s room.
During the Alien Swirling Saucers ride experience, guests will be able to board rocket shaped toy vehicles while aliens fly around in toy flying saucers wielding “The Claw”, which will dangle menacingly above. Once things get going, riders will rotate quickly around toy planets and satellites, all while special “Space Jazz” music (which was developed just for this new ride) plays whimsically in the background.
6. A New Jungle Cruise
Opening in: 2018/2019
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. Though we don’t know how, where or when, it looks like this Magic Kingdom classic is being “reimagined” to sync up the ride with the new film. 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) We have more information about this project here.
7. Untitled Guardians of the Galaxy Future World ride
Opening in: 2020?
Rumors surfaced last year that hinted that Disney executives were reportedly considering a plan to gut the current Universe of Energy building in Future World (currently home to the truly dated Ellen’s Energy Adventure) and replace the insides with a new attraction featuring the Guardians of the Galaxy. And with WDWMagic reporting earlier this year that height balloons (which are commonly used to test sight lines throughout the park while plans for new attractions are being drawn up and finalized) were seen at Epcot flying over various spots on and around the Universe of Energy building, this project seemed well on last year.
Earlier this year reports surfaced that this project has been either significantly modified or outright cancelled as Disney has been concerned about the high cost. However, just a few days ago local news source WFTV reported that The Walt Disney Company has filed a permit application with the South Florida water management district that covers 1.2 million square feet in this part of the park, including the attraction building itself, as well as the area directly behind it. And though the permit doesn’t have specifics about the project, it does state that the purpose of this project is “to provide a more-contiguous area for possible future changes to parking capacity and back of house areas.” The plans do not mention any demolition to the existing structures. We still have no idea what is going on with this attraction, but right now it looks like something is at least happening in this area, and we could hear more as soon as the D23 Expo next month.
8. Millennium Falcon ride
Opening in: TBA
The first confirmed ride for the forthcoming Star Wars Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be a flight simulator ride that allows guests to “take the controls of one of the most recognizable ships in the galaxy, the Millennium Falcon, on a customized secret mission”.
During a recent Disneyland special on ABC, it was revealed that guests who experience this attraction won’t just be tagging along for a ride (like they currently do on Star Tours) but will actually be piloting the Millennium Falcon themselves! Guests will be able to turn, bank and even fire weapons in this still-unnamed simulation-style experience.
9. Star Wars Cantina restaurant
Opening in: TBA
One development that was rumored for the original Star Wars Land that ended up making the cut for the reimagined version of this brand new land is the iconic Star Wars Cantina. The Cantina will no longer be located on Mos Eisley (Star Wars Land will be its own, unique in-universe planet…and who knows, maybe the Cantina has become a McDonald’s-style franchise), but this dining location will have several familiar entertainment options and will feature the (in)famous Blue Milk drink. Perhaps Disney is hoping Blue Milk will become the new Butterbeer?
10. Star Wars “dinner club” restaurant
Opening in: TBA
In addition to the cantina, it has been confirmed recently that Star Wars Land will feature a “dinner club” style restaurant (featured in the art above) that will likely be either a traditional sit-down restaurant or perhaps even an in-park dinner show, similar to Club Villain at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
11. The First Order battle attraction
Opening in: TBA
While the Millennium Falcon ride will use new technology to deliver a thrilling experience the likes of which hasn’t been seen before at a Disney park, the new First Order ride will be a more traditional dark ride experience, with concept art appearing to show a motion base ride vehicle moving through a scene with screens (similar to what guests currently experience at The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man at Islands of Adventure).
So there it is…Disney’s slate of new additions for the next few years. What are you most excited about?
-From Theme Park Tourist, May 30, 2017 by Amanda Kondolojy
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