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4. Construction is increasing on TRON Lightcycle / Run


Video: YouTube, Jett Farrell-Vega (My Kingdom For a Mouse)

In exciting news, it looks like construction has picked up again for TRON Lightcycle / Run (based on the TRON Lightcycle Power Run coaster at Shanghai Disneyland). This Tomorrowland attraction was originally slated for opening in 2021 but a delay to 2022 (or even later) is appearing more likely considering the continuing effects of closures on Disney parks.

We dove into details surrounding the construction in a recent feature, but the basic rundown is that it appears Disney is working to complete the exterior construction of the building soon. The best place to view the construction is from the queue of The Barnstormer mini-coaster in Fantasyland, though parts of the ride can also be seen from the Tomorrowland Speedway. The day we visited, support beams holding up the roof were still in place (these have been removed since then), and the coaster’s exterior track looks like it is mostly complete, along with the showbuilding and frame of the roof canopy.

Reports have suggested that Disney is aiming to complete all exterior elements of the ride, then take a break to reassess what it will take to get the inside done before announcing a projected opening date.

5. Tom Sawyer Island is opened again (with some caveats)

Tom's Landing Sign on Tom Sawyer Island
Image: Jett Farrell-Vega

In exciting news, Tom Sawyer Island is back! Disney just completed some refurbishments on the island, and rafts are now running to and from the island again. Even on a capacity day, we are happy to say that Tom Sawyer Island remains one of the most peaceful places in all of Magic Kingdom.

There are a few things to be aware of if you’ll be visiting the island during this season. First off, you will need to plan extra time to get to and from the island. The day we visited, waits ranged from 30-40 minutes to get onto the rafts, with waits almost equal to that to get back. This is largely due to social distancing requirements on the rafts. Only three parties are being loaded at a time. The waits were significant, so be careful if you head out to the island that you have plenty of time to explore and get back if there is a long wait.

Most of the island is open including all three caves and Fort Langhorn. The Scavenger’s Fort playground is currently closed, and the barrel bridge remains under refurbishment—to the point it actually has no barrels at the moment. The inside of Harper’s Mill is also not currently functioning (you can hear sound effects but none of the gears are moving).

I was pleasantly surprised to see the island’s caves open—Injun Joe’s cave, in particular, contains some extremely dark, narrow passageways that would make social distancing challenging, but it seems Disney is trusting guests to stay on their best behavior when inside and perhaps limiting capacity on the island overall. Even on a capacity day, I did not run into any situations where social distancing was a problem with other guests. I encountered one family on my second trip through Injun Joe’s cave, but I was pretty much alone on all my other trips through the caves, which is an encouraging sign for those who prefer a bit of solitude when exploring the rocky depths.

Oh, and yes, Injun Joe’s cave remains the most quietly terrifying place in all of Walt Disney World—now with the added thrill of a mask to muffle your whimpers and screams.  

6. Mask shenanigans are still an issue on busy days

Big Thunder Mountain
Image: Jett Farrell-Vega

Speaking of masks, how did Magic Kingdom do as far as guests following the rules?

We recently explored some of the pandemic policies Walt Disney World guests still seem to be struggling with—for the most part, most of these have largely involved social distancing practices like following queue markers and spacing out on thoroughfares. On most of our trips to Disney parks throughout 2020, mask usage has actually been enforced and followed pretty well.

This trip did revise my opinion on that area somewhat.

Disney is still doing a great job doing what they can to make sure guests follow mask rules—you can’t walk far without running into a sign reminding guests to keep masks on or find a cast member reminding guests to follow the rules. However, this definitely proved a shakier situation on a max capacity day.

We definitely saw more people bending mask rules on this trip than we have seen previously. In most cases, this involved people removing masks to eat and drink while moving or in queues. We also saw a good amount of people skirting mask rules in other situations, such as while taking pictures, having conversations, or while resting in areas besides the relaxation stations when not eating. While we saw Disney cast members address situations they spotted directly, there were a lot of people. 35% seems right at the level where Disney can just barely keep an eye on things, but they are undoubtedly going to miss some cases with so many people.

If avoiding people who fudge mask rules is a high priority for you, I would advise not visiting Magic Kingdom on a holiday or max capacity day—this hasn’t really been a major issue on our previous visits to Walt Disney World parks, so its possible the lapses had to do with the crowded nature of the holiday weekend. We still feel that Disney is doing an excellent job overall keeping guests safe.

7. Some attractions are still closed for now

PeopleMover closed sign
Image: Jett Farrell-Vega

There are a few Magic Kingdom experiences that remain closed due to construction and the continuing effects of the pandemic. The Walt Disney World Railroad remains closed for the foreseeable future due to the TRON coaster construction. The Tomorrowland PeopleMover is also closed for refurbishment (until March 1st, in theory), as is the Hall of Presidents which is closed for its regular post-election update to add President Biden to the attraction cast. The Mad Tea Party is also getting ready for a refurbishment starting on February 22nd that will last until March 4th.

As has been the case since reopening, there continue to be no nightly fireworks or up-close character encounters for now. We did see several character cavalcades pass through the park in different lands, so these are still an option for character entertainment.

8. Park hopping is capped (particularly on busy days)

Epcot Spaceship Earth sphere
Image: Jett Farrell-Vega

As of the start of 2021, park hopping is back as an option for Annual Passholders and guests who purchase a park hopper ticket. Due to Walt Disney World’s current capacity limits, the way park hopping currently works is that guests must have a valid Disney Parks Pass reservation and start their day in that park. After 2:00 PM, guests with park hopper access can then hop to any of Disney’s other parks for the rest of the day…

So long as park hopping isn’t at capacity for that park…

While Disney has specified that park hopping spots are limited, this never really occurred to me until I attempted to park hop to Epcot later in the day (once I’d had enough of Magic Kingdom’s crowds). At the parking entry booths for Epcot, the cast member who scanned my pass let me know that he wasn’t certain if park hopping had reached capacity or not—he’d heard it had via the radio, but his app said there were still spots available. He let me through, and I made my way quickly to the gate, where I was fortunately let into the park.

If park hopping is a high priority for you, you may not want to wait too late to switch parks on a high-capacity day—even going to a park as comparatively quiet as Epcot (unlike Magic Kingdom, Epcot had reasonable queues most of the day—even a 20 minute wait for Frozen Ever After!). Disney is capping capacity to keep parks from getting overfull, so be aware that there may be cases where a park cannot allow any more park hoppers in for the day. It is currently unclear if this number changes depending on people with reservations leaving the park.

Enjoy this article? Keep reading to learn which pandemic policies are still confusing Disney guests… or learn some of the insane superpowers of the birds of Disney’s Animal Kingdom!

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