Believe it or not, Walt Disney World will be turning 50 years old in just over five years. I hold the opinion that a lot of the changes to the parks and resorts are anticipation of this anniversary. Disney likes to have big event around the major anniversaries of the resort. The 25th anniversary was a big celebration. The 5th and 10th anniversaries were smaller but big events. The 40th anniversary was the first event in the “age of social media.” I was in attendance along with lots and lots of others. It was a one-day event and the Magic Kingdom was very crowded especially at night. Now, I feel that the 50th anniversary is going to be a large, year-long resort-wide celebration much like the 60th anniversary celebration currently going on a Disneyland.
The best way to see the plan for the 50th anniversary is to breakdown what is going on in the long-range planning for each theme park and the resorts in general.
Hollywood Studios is the easiest to figure out since it has the most going on at the moment.
What will be new:
- Star Wars Land – a massive park expansion bringing the popular series of Star Wars movies into the parks
- Toy Story Land – another park expansion giving Hollywood Studios a larger Pixar presence.
Both of these expansions are huge and will take a couple of years to complete. Ideally, Disney needs to have these expansions done by, at the latest, mid-2019 so the attractions can have a year of new-ness which will bring in large crowds and then have the attractions go through a cycle of routine maintenance so they can be ready to go on October 1, 2021.
Another park that is easier to figure since most of the Avatar expansion will be finished this year.
What will be new:
- Avatarland – the world of Pandora comes to Animal Kingdom starting in 2016
Avatarland is the start of the move toward “normal” park hours for Animal Kingdom. Animal Kingdom will feature a new Rivers of Light night time show. During the summer, this will keep the park open until, at least, 8 or 9 pm maybe later depending on Extra Magic Hours. While Hollywood Studios may lose attendance in the short term, Animal Kingdom could pick up that foot traffic lost by Hollywood Studios.
A third park which has completed a major park expansion with the addition of New Fantasyland.
- New Fantasyland – a large addition to Fantasyland which added new attractions and doubled the capacity of the Dumbo ride
- Massive expansion of the Hub Area – better viewing for fireworks
Disney should be maintaining what Magic Kingdom has. There shouldn’t be any large expansion or removal of attractions. Just maintain what is there to make sure everything is ready to go come October 1, 2021.
EPCOT is the biggest question mark out of all the parks. There really hasn’t been a lot of expansion or new-ness coming to the park. It’s just sort of been allowed to drift without a direction and turn into a “retro future” view of Future World.
That said, there will be some new-ness coming to the park:
Expanded Norway/Scandinavia pavilion with a meet and greet area for Anna and Elsa along with the transformation of Malestrom into Frozen Ever After
- Expanded Character Spot added to Future World
- Expanded Soarin’ and film converted to Soarin’ Around the World
What I would like to see:
- Any pavilion that has a film to change their film. Some of them (looking at your France) have never changed their film since EPCOT opened in 1982. If they want to run both films during the 50th anniversary, that’s fine. But a new film must be run.
- Convert some the under-utilized space into utilized space. Most specifically, the Captain EO Theatre and the Odyssey spaces. Convert Captain EO Theatre back into an attraction (Inside Out maybe) and turn the Odyessy into a restaurant which fuses Future World and The World Showcase
Something I would like to see but Disney would be very hesitant to do would be to build a new resort. Not have a third-party like Four Seasons to build a new resort but have Disney spend their own money and build a resort. Ideally, I would be another moderate family-suite type resort like they did with Art of Animation. In my opinion, moderate resorts are the resort in most demand.
Why would Disney be hesitant to do this? Building new resorts increases room capacity and increased room capacity means more room that have to be sold during off-peak periods. This could increase the chance of discounts (room only, free dining, etc.) that Disney may have to offer to increase capacity during off-peak periods. Good for consumers but bad for Disney’s bottom line. So while it sounds like a good idea, I doubt Disney will go forward with it.
Those are my thoughts, what are yours?
Thanks for reading!