In recent days, Disney has confirmed multiple attractions
will be permanently closed, while other previously announced projects are being postponed.
With high fixed costs thanks to the live animals, it should come as no surprise that Animal Kingdom saw some of the most dramatic cuts. Both spinning coaster Primeval Whirl and nighttime lagoon show "Rivers of Light" have been officially retired. Both have long been rumored
to be on the chopping block, with all of Dinoland, U.S.A. thought to be potentially re-themed in the coming years. For years, there have been rumors
that Disney was looking at closing Primeval Whirl, but Dinoland itself is now expected to remain much in its current state, until more is known about the eventual economic recovery ahead.
Photo by David Roark
Animal Kingdom's Rivers of Light nighttime show
Disney used the acknowledgment of the two Animal Kingdom closures to also finally admit that Stitch’s Great Escape in the Magic Kingdom will not be returning. Leaked photos
from inside that closed attraction showed that many elements had already been removed, so the confirmation did not come as much of a surprise. Magic Kingdom’s upcoming Tron coaster looks not to be affected by the pandemic, with construction now resumed.
Over at Epcot, both the Spaceship Earth overhaul and the much-anticipated Mary Poppins attraction have been officially postponed
, while the multi-level Festival Center and other aspects of the Epcot overhaul are strongly rumored to be getting major budget cuts. It should be noted that even prior to the current global issues, the Mary Poppins attraction is believed to have received
a significant value-engineering update that removed many of its more impressive aspects.
At Hollywood Studios, multiple attractions
did not reopen with the park and are believed to be now permanently closed, despite Disney so far not confirming this. (Disney has so far not responded to our request for comment, but we will update this story if and when they do.) Like Animal Kingdom, many of those closures align with previous rumors of an upcoming new land
but, as with Animal Kingdom, those rumored new offerings are now believed to be on an indefinite hold.
For 2021, nearly all aspects of the 50th Anniversary celebration that have yet to be announced are now believed to have been cut, including the return of a nighttime parade
to the Magic Kingdom.
Image via Markydeedrop | Twitter
Dino-Rama at Disney's Animal Kingdom
Almost every project that’s not already significantly under construction now seems to be postponed or slowed. This includes the upcoming Reflections – A Disney Waterfront Lodge timeshare resort, where permits are still being pulled, but progress has been noticeably slower
than it was just a few months ago in pre-pandemic early 2020. Interestingly, Disney does seem to be still moving forward
with plans for a timeshare hotel at the Disneyland resort in California, despite that resort being currently closed with no reopening date.
Across Walt Disney World, those projects that are already well underway, including the Star Wars hotel and various Epcot attractions, still seem to be happening. However, it is unclear if they'll be able to stick to the original timelines.
For Epcot, the Guardians roller coaster, Ratatouille 3D dark ride
and Space 220 restaurant were all expected to open this year. Ratatouille and Space 220 have already missed their Spring 2020 openings. Other attractions in the works
for Epcot, such as the Play Pavilion
and the upcoming film for the China pavilion, look to be still moving forward. However, they too may be delayed to better align the openings with the eventual return of large crowds.
Image via Disney D23
The new multi-level Festival Center heading to Epcot
This slowing of projects means costs can be spread across multiple quarters, lowering per-quarter expenses for WDW. This is a common move by Disney when building large projects where expenses, if reported within only a few quarters, could be cause for concern from stock market analysts who look for quarter-on-quarter growth.
While the current economic slowdown is worrying for Disney (and everyone else), the more significant concern may be the lasting implications of the current cuts leadership has now signed off on. It took Disney three years from the announcement to the opening of the highly themed Seven Dwarfs family coaster in Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland. It was a whopping six years from confirmation to the opening of Pandora – The World of Avatar. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge saw a four-year stretch from announcement to opening.
With many projects that were in the pipeline for Walt Disney World now believed to have been postponed or outright canceled, after the current projects underway open – nearly all of which are expected to welcome guests within the next 18 months – the resort will likely see a drought in new investments for some time.
Image via NBCUniversal
Universal Orlando's Epic Universe park is moving forward, despite the coronavirus-related shutdown.
At the same time, Universal is working to open its new multibillion-dollar theme park, Epic Universe. That park has been delayed
by one year, and now has a planned opening date of 2024.
Based on the historical timeline of recent attractions, if Disney plans to have an arsenal of new attractions to use in marketing against Universal’s new theme park, those projects should be announced sometime with the next year or so, which seems highly unlikely based on Disney’s current financial conservatism. Universal has also shown that they're interested in keeping investments going in their parks, with a major new roller coaster under construction at Islands of Adventure and multiple projects rumored to be in the pipeline for Universal Studios Florida.
In a quarterly earnings call
on April 30, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said the company remains confident in its theme parks.
“We have also delayed construction of the fourth gate in Orlando, and Super Nintendo World Japan is likely to open a few months past our original expectation," said Roberts. "But there is no doubt that our theme parks will reopen, and when they do, I believe we'll benefit from strong pent-up demand. We love these businesses. They have been one of our fastest growing for the last 10 years.”