At Disney’s biennial convention, D23, the company confirmed major updates are happening throughout Walt Disney World, as the resort prepares for its 50th anniversary in 2021.
Some unofficial estimates call for a resort-wide increase by roughly 30 percent. Disney insider Jim Hill says
that the resort is looking to sell every single hotel room at the resort – all 30,000 on site – for the entirety of 2021.
The Magic Kingdom will be much of the focus of this golden anniversary. By some estimates, the park will increase capacity by nearly a third with the goal of attracting roughly 6 million more visitors annually. Two major new additions were confirmed for the park at D23.
In Tomorrowland, a new plaza is being developed just to the back of Space Mountain, where a copy of the Tron coaster from Shanghai Disneyland
will be built. Early rumors pointed
to the Tomorrowland Speedway being removed for this attraction, but artwork shared by Disney shows a slightly reconfigured speedway still present.
The Tron motorbike-style coaster in Shanghai has a top speed of 60 mph, the fastest of any Disney park coaster, and features a massive segment that is covered by a wavy, LED lit translucent roof. The Tron coaster at Magic Kingdom will feature the same style roof that will reach from the attraction building, which sits just outside the traditional berm of the park, across the train tracks and to the edge of the speedway. The puffy-looking roof structure of the Tron building sits in contrast to the straight lines of Space Mountain just beside it. The artwork shows one of Magic Kingdom’s iconic steam locomotives about to pass under the roof structure. Stairs can be seen in the artwork at the edge of the roof structure crossing over the train tracks. The small footpath and smoking area behind the Speedway that connects Tomorrowland to Storybook Circus is replaced by a much larger winding pathway.
The art also shows the PeopleMover and Tomorrowland Light and Power Co. (the gift shop at the exit of Space Mountain). Both are stripped of their 1994 Buck Rogers-meets-steampunk design, with both now a stark white accented by a light blue color scheme. It's much closer to the original aesthetic of what is the world’s second Tomorrowland and the first to be designed without Walt’s direct input.
Just off of Main Street, a new indoor performance theater
is being constructed. This aligns with earlier rumors of a 2,000-seat indoor theater being built in the park. Those rumors mostly pointed to Tomorrowland for the location of the theater, but Disney announced it would be in the Main Street area of the park. The most likely location is directly behind
Main Street, where the Main Street relief pathway was opened a few years back. That route is used during busier times of the year when Main Street can become extremely congested. Artwork of the new theater shows a large "street" in front of it. This is likely an updated version of that relief pathway. Another location option that some have mentioned is the current location of the Main Street Theater. This is where the Mickey Mouse meet-and-greet and Tony’s Town Square restaurant are
Few details were shared regarding the new theater, though Disney says they drew inspiration from the Willis Theater in 1920s Kansas City, a theater that Walt Disney, who grew up not far from there, would likely be familiar with.
While Disney has yet to share any specifics on what type of entertainment will be offered, they did hint at a stage show, likely something similar to the ones that Disney California Adventure, Tokyo Disneyland and Hong Kong Disneyland have become known for. These shows are akin to the ones seen on the cruise line, typically featuring popular Disney cartoon characters with large, impressive Broadway-style sets and costumes.
“Across Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, we’ve been upping the game in Entertainment with shows like Frozen Live at the Hyperion,” said Bob Chapek
, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts. “It’s been a huge hit at the Disneyland Resort, and I’m sure many of you have seen it. This new theater at Walt Disney World continues that streak by bringing a new venue for world-class entertainment to the world’s biggest park.”
With Disney wanting to increase attendance so much by the 50th Anniversary, transportation will also be key.
Two new transit projects
were also announced for WDW.
“Minnie Vans” will soon allow point-to-point ride-hailing across Disney World. The polka-dot covered vans are Minnie Mouse themed and will be an upcharge option for those who wish not to use other forms of Disney transit.
The Uber like service has been rumored
for some time with Disney mentioning it in various guest surveys and having cast members run timing tests across the resort according to some familiar with the program.
Disney also confirmed another long-rumored transit
system. The gondola system linking Epcot, Caribbean Beach, Pop Century and Art of Animation, and Hollywood Studios was confirmed by Bob Chapek, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.
The new system will be called the Disney Skyliner and will feature gondolas inspired by the classic Disney park ride The Skyway. Each gondola looks to fit around 4-6 guests with certain gondolas having window tinting that will feature Disney characters such as Mickey and Minnie, Donald and Goofy, and the Hitchhiking Ghosts. The Skyliner is already under construction at Epcot’s International Gateway entrance.
Over at Caribbean Beach, the rumored DVC expansion
was confirmed, but it will not technically be a part of the Caribbean Beach resort instead
being known as the Disney Riviera Resort
. The 300-unit tower resort will feature a rooftop restaurant that offers views of Epcot and Hollywood Studios. It will also feature its own stop along the Disney Skyliner gondola system. This is one of two new resorts announced for Walt Disney World that will open in 2019, the other is a Star Wars themed resort built as part of the new Star Wars land
coming to Hollywood Studios.
Amazingly Chapek confirmed that Disney wants to have all of these additions in place, along with huge ones at Epcot and Hollywood Studios, in time for the 50th Anniversary celebration. “Literally no area of Walt Disney World will be left untouched.” With the 2021 celebration kicking off in less than 40 months they have an impressively tight timeline to get all of this done.