A heavily rumored Mary Poppins attraction is starting to look more real at Epcot

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PHOTO VIA DISNEY
  • Photo via Disney
A shake-up in leadership at Walt Disney World might point to some big changes on the way for the parks, while also explaining some of the recent mixed messages regarding upcoming projects.

We’ve seen at least one insider referencing sexual allegations within leadership being at least part of the reasoning behind the Main Street Theater project in the Magic Kingdom being postponed. Now we’re seeing other projects that looked to be dead back alive and moving forward. All of this seems linked to a leadership shake-up at Disney Parks.

The most notable promotion during the recent shake-up is Jim MacPhee. Previously the Senior Vice President of Parks, MacPhee is now the Sr. VP of Operations, where he’ll oversee all operations including Food and Beverage, Transportation and Parks, Live Entertainment, and Disney Springs.



While he previously oversaw the theme parks, the new role gives MacPhee more weight for projects he thinks will have a positive impact on the resort as a whole. Maribeth Bisienere, formerly the Sr. Vice President of Disney Springs and the ESPN Wide World of Sports replaces MacPhee to oversee the parks. Bisienere has been at Walt Disney World since 1995 while MacPhee has been with the company for four decades.

With both of these veterans of the resort now in strong leadership roles, rumors of older projects getting a second look are running rampant with the most obvious happening in Epcot. The reimagining of Epcot will be familiar with MacPhee, who oversaw the remodeling of Downtown Disney into Disney Springs and who spent many of his early years with the company working at the park.

According to insiders familiar with the discussions, certain projects like the Coco update to the boat ride in the Mexico pavilion are being slowed down for more in-depth review, while other projects have gained new cheerleaders for them. Just across the lagoon from Mexico, we found a project where this is likely the case.

Mary Poppins has been rumored for the United Kingdom pavilion for years now, but more recently this small addition, that would’ve included a carousel and a recreation of Cherry Tree Lane, was believed dead. This concept was replaced with a Brave-themed dark ride. The Brave ride wasn’t the first dark ride proposed for the land, but unlike the earlier Loch Ness Monster-themed ride, it was one of the first to feature Disney intellectual property.

But now, with early reviews of the still under development Mary Poppins Returns showing promise for the franchise, Disney looks to be wanting to cash in on this iconic franchise in new ways.

Slated for release this Christmas, Mary Poppins Returns looks to bring new blood to the brand with Emily Blunt taking on the role of Mary Poppins herself. Cherry Tree Lane is featured prominently in a new trailer for the film, a move that might be a hint at what Disney has in store for Epcot. Disney is now supposedly looking to revive the former plans for Epcot’s version of the street, but with a much bigger budget.

Last year, insiders known for their accurate leaks regarding upcoming projects began indicating that the Brave dark ride was moving forward. Numerous respected users on the WDWMagic forums including marni1971 and WDW1974, both known for their inside knowledge of upcoming WDW projects, indicated that the Brave ride was indeed happening. Then Marni1971 announced in December that the project was “in flux” with Brave possibly getting the boot for a different intellectual property.

In early February, the YouTube channel Mickey Views announced an Imagineer’s private Instagram account that they had been following was now confirming Poppins was headed to the pavilion. Roughly four weeks later, Marni1971 mentioned the project now in the works for the pavilion would open by the end of 2020. Then, late last week another insider on the message boards confirmed a Mary Poppins dark ride was coming and should break ground by the end of this year.

The project now looks to be the two formerly competing projects shoved together, an idea that Epcot is familiar with. At least one entrance into the expansion area via an existing building with the large meeting hall that sits just behind the pavilion being removed, replaced in part by new events space at the yet to be announced Epcot entrance hotel. The main building for the new dark ride would sit in part of the area where the current special events space is located. The good news is now the Epcot plans seem to include both the hyperreal Cherry Tree Lane while adding to it a family-friendly dark ride. No word on if the carousel from the original pitch has remained, as well. But the new ride building seems to be in an area not included in the original pitch so there would be room for the carousel if they choose to keep it.

Few details on this new dark ride have been shared, but in 2016 Disney’s in-house fan club D23 released details regarding a Mary Poppins ride concept developed by Tony Baxter. This dark ride concept, which Baxter designed before joining Disney, had guests riding on carousel horses past iconic scenes from the film.

There’s no indication on when Disney plans to announce the United Kingdom project, but with the tight timeline on the project it should happen within the next year, possibly as part of a WDW media blitz in May where other new additions may be announced, including a possible new nighttime show, or as part of the marketing around the new film this winter.