There's so much activity at Walt Disney World, it's well-nigh impossible to
keep track of it all. For my own sanity, I've long wanted to compile several
things: the rumors from various trustworthy sources, the rumors one is never
sure about (or that haven't yet been given the full green light), the upcoming
changes Disney has been willing to announce, official news announcements from
Disney, and the smaller, more mundane updates and enhancements. The five, put
together, paint a fuller picture of the WDW kaleidoscope, which changes and
shifts so often that a true snapshot is difficult to take. My method will be to
divide scraps of news or rumor into pre-set categories:
"Confirmed Projects" lists the plans for major projects that
Disney has publicly announced.
"Confirmed News" similarly lists things Disney has publicly
announced, but deals with topics smaller than entire projects or new
"Unconfirmed Reports" lists projects and enhancements that are not
acknowledged by Disney, but seem to be a reality. These are projects that
could realistically have been labeled a 'rumor,' but the reporting source
seems trustworthy by way of a solid track record. Please note that
"Unconfirmed Reports," although likely to be the real thing, do not always
materialize exactly as planned, and sometimes never get built at all. Disney
changes its mind, budgets get slashed, unexpected setbacks occur, and so on.
Some of these reports come from well-known authors, bloggers and folks who
post on MiceChat who are either insiders themselves or well-connected.
Information also comes at times from other sites.
A fourth category, "Rumors and Speculation," lists WDI ideas that
haven't yet been approved. It's also possible this list might include
wishful thinking by the source who provided it (and it's even more
complicated when it becomes difficult to tell the difference). Clearly,
there's some overlap between this section and the one previously mentioned
because both deal with 'rumors,' but it helps to think of these categories
as ends of a spectrum, where certainty rises on one end and falls on the
The fifth category, "Implemented Enhancements or Developments,"
lists changes to rides, shows, and facilities that otherwise would go
unheralded. These are often very small details, but it's precisely this
level of intricate detail that weaves the vaunted Disney magic. Think of
these details as the opposite of the Decline by Degrees (or, to capture the
complicated process a little better, realize that new enhancements add to
the details all the time, but that doesn't stop other, older details from
being Declined by Degrees... often, this schizophrenic result comes from two
different divisions of the company rather than the same people doing
opposite effects). Included in this category will also be updates that
aren't necessarily improvements, but cost-cutting by the company. This
latter type really will be Declines by Degrees.
I want to thank the readers who e-mailed suggestions for a list like this,
and also give a bow to the posters on MiceChat, many of whom were rightfully
critical of my last column that mixed together several of the above categories.
(As a reminder, this listing is not meant to capture rehabs and special events.)
Major projects that Disney has announced publicly:
Slated to open in early 2008 (possibly late April)
in Disney-MGM Studios, this ride will be interactive, like Buzz Lightyear,
and will use a technology to make it look like your weapon fires "through"
the screen, an effect you can see in Innoventions' Where's the Fire
Toy Story Mania.
Pixar Place. Though Disney admits Mickey Avenue will be renamed to
Pixar Place once Toy Story Mania opens, they haven't publicly admitted that
this region will expand even further into the Backlot Tour area.
Yak and Yeti restaurant. To be run by an external vendor, this new
restaurant in DAK's Asia will have a table-service area and a
counter-service area, and will inhabit two floors. It is scheduled to open
in Spring 2008.
T-Rex Restaurant in Downtown Disney. Landry's, the external vendor
who also runs Rainforest Café, will be building a T-Rex themed eatery,
unofficially reported to be between Raglan Road and McDonald's.
DVC Suites at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Disney is adding an entire wing
to DAK Lodge, and will fill the area formerly used for concierge level with
suites as well. This new wing pushes out into the savannah, and recent
construction has caused the closure of most of DAK Lodge for summer 2007.
Western Beltway Expansion. Opening in 2009, this new region off 429
will be like Downtown Disney, only cheaper. Expect dining, shopping, and
lodging options. The idea is to harvest the dollars of budget-minded
tourists that otherwise would turn to SR-192 near the property.
Waldorf-Astoria hotel. This posh hotel will be located in the Bonnet
Creek section of the property, joining a non-Disney timeshare (Wyndham)
already there, and another hotel erected from scratch, a Hilton.
Groundbreaking has begun on
The Jostens Center, an enclosed
arena more than twice the size of the existing Milk House, will open in fall
2008. It will have six basketball courts, twelve volleyball courts, and two
Wide World of Sports new facility.
Smaller projects, and other news stories, that Disney has publicly announced.
Re-opening on November 15th, Spaceship
Earth will sport a new second half of the ride. The assumption is that the
sets as well as the music will change. The voiceover is probably also on the
chopping block; remember that Jeremy Irons has now been the host longer than
Walter Cronkite, who replaced original voice Vic Perrin! Sponsor Siemens has made mention of
interactive touch screens in every ride vehicle where guests create their
own vision of the future, which sounds a lot like the old ending to
Spaceship Earth new ending.
Spaceship Earth wand removal. As part of the summertime rehab, the
wand and stars atop the globe will be removed completely.
Wave goodbye to the
wand! The above is a file picture, but handy
webcams from the Swan hotel already show a crane in place.
Tutto Italia. The replacement for the Alfredo's restaurant in Italy
will be run by the Patina Group (who runs Tortilla Jo's, Catal, and Naples
at Anaheim's Downtown Disney), and will open in 2008.
Tusker House conversion to buffet dining. Starting on November 18,
Tusker House will be buffet dining, with the morning being character dining
(specifically, Donald, leading to the closure of Donald's Breakfastosaurus).
Cinderella's Royal Table price increase. Effective November 11, the
prices will increase. Breakfast now costs $32.99 (adult) or $22.99 (child).
Lunch costs $35.99 (adult) or $23.99 (child), and Dinner costs $40.99
(adult) or $25.99 (child). During peak holiday periods, an even higher rate
("holiday premium") will be charged.
Room reservations now date specific. Previously at Disney hotels, the
start of your visit would determine the amount you paid per night, but under
the rules now in effect, each night is assessed its own rate. Weekends will
now be more expensive.
DAK Lodge closure. Most of DAK Lodge will be closed for summer of
2007, due to construction from the DVC Suites. It should resume normal
operations in early September.
Projects that seem to be occurring (barring unforeseen circumstances), but
Disney hasn't yet made a public announcement
In addition to fixing broken and
throughout the attraction, the summer 2007 rehab will also introduce the
crystal ball "floating Leota" effect from Disneyland.
Haunted Mansion enhancements.
Cinderella Castle lighting makeover. Hundreds of lights (presumably,
Christmas lights) may be added to the castle. It is not certain if this is
something for every visitor, or only to be turned on during the
hard-ticketed event Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. A crane is expected
on property to install the lights from September 12 to November 14.
Diamond Horseshoe Saloon re-opening. To handle the crush of crowds on
the Disney Dining Plan, the Magic Kingdom always has had to struggle. Last
year, the Noodle Station was temporarily converted to an all you can eat
buffet. This year, it will remain counter service. But the unused Diamond
Horseshoe will be opened as an all you can eat buffet during the fall days
when the Dining Plan is most popular (i.e., the period when people who
booked Disney hotels received the Dining Plan for free). An alternate report
calls for the Diamond Horseshoe to reopen only as a counter-service
location, to be operated only during peak periods.
Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique to open inside Cinderella Castle. The salon
currently at Downtown Disney will remain, but a second one will be opened in
the shop on the bottom floor, called the King's Gallery (its contents may
move to Main Street).
Main Street Stores shuffle. The VMK Central shop may be moving to
Mickey's Toontown Fair, creating a gap for the artist watches and Uptown
Jewelers store. Their former home could be occupied by the Kings Gallery
Even the mural is now gone.
Most exhibits at the Wonders of Life have
been ripped out and removed, creating room in the facility. Cranium Command
and Body Wars have been left intact but boarded over, the idea being to
create a facility that is ready to be used for special events and corporate
parties at will, without a need to staff the attractions.
Wonders of Life demolition.
Canada changes. Martin Short will headline the new
show, to open on August 25th. The conversion will require only a few days. At least one
report claims the song "Canada (You're a Lifetime Journey)" will remain, though newly recorded
(possibly by a winner of the Canadian version of "American Idol").
Fantastic Plastics Works closing. In the not too distant future, the
exhibit in Innoventions East that features a running simulator and the
chance to build your very own plastic robot keepsake (for free, no less!)
may be closing.
Teppan Edo and Tokyo Dining. The replacement restaurants for the
currently-closed Teppanyaki Dining, Tempura Kiku, and Matsu No Ma Sushi
Lounge (in the Japan pavilion) will re-open in October 2007. The teppan
location will still have teppan chefs, and the other two closed locations
are being fused into Tokyo Dining, which will re-arrange its kitchen to
provide more seating than the combined two locations previously did.
Snack food kiosks in World Showcase. The meeting point of Future
World and World Showcase currently lacks food, but a snack kiosk may be
under construction here by late summer 2007. The American Gardens Theater
may also receive its own kiosk for quick-service snack items.
Star Tours revision. Anthony Daniels made unofficial mention in an
interview of doing work for this attraction, to open in 2009, so it seems
all but certain. Polarized glasses will be used for a 3-D effect, and some
rumors call for three Audio-Animatronics figures. If reports are true, an
IMAX screen may also be used, with the front and top of the simulator at
times opening up to see the larger screen.
E-Ticket in Disney-MGM by 2010. Cast Members have been told to expect
a new E-Ticket ride in 2010, though it's not clear if this means the Star
Tours rehab or a whole new attraction. Alternate reports make mention of a
major project for 2008 and another one for 2009, indicating that even if
Star Tours is one of the rides, another one may be in the offing.
Jedi Training Academy permanently added. A new stage is being
constructed this year to allow the Jedi Training Academy to be performed all
year long. Possibly this will entail the destruction of some of the theming
in the front area. One hopes that means the Ewok village, but not the AT-AT.
Will the Ewok theming go away to
make room for the stage?
ABC Theater project. A new show may be installed here in Spring 2008
(specifically, in the month of May), but no details are yet known for sure.
Some speculate that the High School Musical show could be moving indoors.
Block Party Bash. The Disney Stars and Motor Cars parade will be
replaced by DCA's Block Party Bash in spring 2008 (one date mentioned is
Backlot Tram Tour closure. After 2007, the Backlot Tram Tour may fade
into Yester-World, to create room for an expansion of Pixar Place.
Journey into Narnia update to Prince Caspian. In early 2008, the
existing Narnia walkthrough will close and be replaced by sets related to
the second movie in the series, Prince Caspian.
Playhouse Disney new shows. JoJo's Circus will remain, but Bear in
the Big Blue House, Stanley, and the Book of Pooh will be replaced by Little
Einsteins and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. It's slated to re-open in February
2008. Note: Playhouse Disney Live (the stage show) is not to be confused
with the Playhouse Disney In-Concert Series, which in 2007 will be housed in
a tent behind Rock 'n Roller Coaster (in a backstage parking lot where the
ESPN weekend puts all the sports activities)
"Meet Mickey" new home. The Sorcerer Mickey meet and greet may be
moving into the Disney Animation building, where it's rumored to receive its
own permanent backdrop from Fantasia for picture-taking.
New pizza in the Streets of America. Paperwork has been filed for a
quick-service pizza location in the Streets of America, which might mean an
expansion to a Chicago street. Or, it could mean the moving of Toy Story
Pizza Planet to be closer to Pixar Place. No word yet on the fate of Toy
Story Pizza Planet either way.
Disney's Animal Kingdom
A ninth row has been added for
loading into the jeeps, and a ninth will be added to safari jeeps themselves
Kilimanjaro Safari vehicle alteration.
Hotels and Other
Still unannounced, a new
building will be replacing the now-razed North Wing of the Contemporary, to
house only DVC Suites. It will connect via breezeway to the 4th
floor "grand canyon concourse" and thus has easy access to the restaurants.
DVC Suites at the Contemporary Resort.
The ground adjacent to the Contemporary is now
Contemporary Resort restaurant shuffle. The Food and Fun Center on
the first floor will be converted a table service location called The Wave,
to open in Spring 2008. The Concourse Steakhouse will close, and a counter
service restaurant will replace it (starting with a temporary one this
summer, called Tempo Grab and Go). All of this is being done to increase the
amount of quick-service available on the fourth floor, which will be even
busier once the breezeway to the DVC building opens a few years later.
Superstar Studios store at Downtown Disney replaced. Sammy Duval
Watersports will open in the spot formerly occupied by Superstar Studios in
Pleasure Island, which has already closed.