Walt Disney World announced that the Magic of Disney Animation and the Animation Courtyard will be closing in July and August respectively. This adds to the list to recently closed attractions at the park. It has also led to some people complaining that Disney should start offering discounted admission to what is rapidly becoming a half-day park due to the lack of attractions.
Some people look at the glass half empty. In this case, I’m looking at the glass has half full. Closing attractions at Hollywood Studios is just one phase of a much longer end game for Walt Disney World as a whole.
Disney is closing attractions to make way for new ones
In this case, Disney is not closing attractions for the sake of closing attractions. Disney needs to close attractions to make way for new attractions. The Studio Backlot Tour was a nice attraction but it had a very large footprint. This footprint can hold a two, three, or even four attractions depending on their size. The same could be said for any potential Indiana Stunt Show or Lights, Motor, Action closures. These attractions just eat up space. Space that could be better utilized.
Why haven’t the new attractions been announced with the attraction closures? Most likely because Disney Imagineering has fully developed what is going into that space or they can not legally announce what is going into that space currently. I will admit this sucks for the consumer because it gives them nothing to look forward too and/or leads to speculation that nothing will replacing the attraction. Disney will not be leaving Hollywood Studios in this reduced attraction state. They, most likely, want to build something that knocks it out of the park and that takes time. Time to plan and time to build.
Why close everything now?
This is where I think Disney’s longer end game comes into play. The 50th anniversary of the Magic Kingdom and Walt Disney World are rapidly approaching in 2021. Disney Imagineering has already expanded Fantasyland. Magic Kingdom, in terms of attractions, is likely to be same in 2021 as it is today. I would expect a lot of these attractions to be down in 2020 for some type of refurb in preparation for the 50th anniversary in 2021. It would be very much like what Disney did in Disneyland leading up to that park’s 60th anniversary.
Animal Kingdom’s expansion will be completed next year when Avatarland moves into the Camp Minnie-Mickey area. Again, this park will up and ready to go for the 50th anniversary.
What I see happening (and this is just my opinion) is The Studio Backlot Tour closure is phase 1 of a two-phased project for Hollywood Studios. Disney Imagineer can go two of three directions for the two-phased project. They can expand Pixar Place. They can expand the Star Wars area. Or they can add a Marvel area to the park. Pixar and Star Wars are the easiest ways to expand because Disney owns the attraction rights to those movies.
Marvel is a bit of sticky wicket. Universal owns the theme park rights to Marvel characters and any potential Marvel attractions in the United States. If Disney wants to build Marvel attractions or have a Marvel character meet-and-greet, it needs to acquire the rights from Universal. Will Disney go pay up the money for the rights? What is Universal’s price for the rights? Disney would love to have a Marvel presence in Hollywood Studios but at what cost. Disney would probably looking at billions (cost to acquire rights + cost to build attractions) to get a Marvel presence.
It would probably be more cost-efficient to have an expanded Pixar Place and an expanded Star Wars area. I would expect (again, just my thoughts) that an expanded Pixar Place will announced shortly to take the space used by the Studio Backlot Tour. My ideas for that space can be found here. Any potential announcement would likely come in 3rd or 4th quarter 2015. Add in 18-24 months for construction of the new area and you are looking at a completion date of 1st to 3rd quarter of 2017. Once Pixar Place is created, it would likely be announced that Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular and/or Lights, Motor Actions would be closing to make way for an expanded Star Wars presence. We will take the later dates on this one. Figure a hypothetical announcement would come in 3rd quarter 2017. Add in other 18-24 months for construction and it’s 1st to 3rd quarter of 2019 for a completion date. This give Imagineering plenty of time to get the new attractions up and running and then spruce up the current attractions for the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World.
Ideally, if Disney is able to buy the Marvel attraction rights from Universal, they could use the Magic of Disney Animation space for a Marvel attraction(s) and character meet-and-greet depending on how far back they want to expand the area.
Sorry for the long-winded answer but there was a lot of flesh out and a potential long-end game to explain. Now, if we could get Disney Imagineering to do some upgrading to Future World and update some films in World Showcase, we would be golden!
Thanks for reading!