There are plenty of new rides, shows and restaurants due to open at Walt Disney World by 2017. Here is October’s update on the latest confirmed and rumored additions to the resort.
Walt Disney World has been accused of lagging behind Universal Orlando when it comes to spending on new additions in recent years. However, there are now a number of major projects underway at the resort, most of which are due to be completed by 2017.
The two biggest areas of focus are Disney's Animal Kingdom and the area formerly known as Downtown Disney. Animal Kingdom will see its opening hours extended, as well as the addition of the Pandora - The World of Avatar expansion. Downtown Disney, meanwhile, will undergo a complete transformation to become Disney Springs, in an effort to make it more competitive with Universal's CityWalk.
Some elements of these projects have been confirmed, and indeed some are due to open imminently. Others, however, remain simply rumors - and Disney itself has probably not fully decided on the final line-up of shops and restaurants.
Let's take a look at 18 new rides, shops and restaurants that are either confirmed or rumored to be on their to Walt Disney World by 2017.
18. STK Restaurant
Opening in: TBA
Back in April, Scott Joseph reported that STK was close to sealing a deal with Disney to add one of its restaurants to the Disney Springs line-up. We've heard nothing since, but we haven't heard the rumored scotched either.
STK is a modern steakhouse chain with locations in New York, Las Vegas and Miami. It has also expanded abroad, opening a restaurant in London. The chain describes its highly-stylized restaurants as "artfullly blending two concepts into one - the modern steakhouse and a chic lounge. The restaurant’s signature DNA includes plaster cast horns, curvilinear black platform seats and a palette of black gloss and cream. A large central lounge area is furnished with creamy leather banquettes and textured crocodile tiles, and is surrounded by an elevated dining room for more formal dining."
17. Pixar Playland
Opening in: TBA
Now that the Studio Backlot Tour has been closed at Disney's Hollywood Studios, rumors have been flying about what might replace it. Though both Cars Land and a Monsters Inc roller coaster have been touted as potential replacements, by far the strongest rumor about what will become of this new space is a Pixar-themed playland aimed at young children (similar to what can already be found at Walt Disney Studios, Paris as well as Hong Kong Disneyland).
This new area would feature several themed play structures with characters from the Toy Story films as well as rethemed flat rides. No announcement has been made yet regarding this project's existence, but it's possible that we could hear something before 2014 is over.
16. Frozen-themed boat ride
Opening in: Early 2016
Maelstrom, in Epcot's Norway Pavilion, saw its last voyage on October 5, 2014, and construction on this new Frozen-themed attraction has already begun in the space formerly occupied by the boat road. A black scrim currently covers the area where the boats used to peek out over the falls, and a video has surfaced online that shows the Maelstrom boats being carried away on a truck.
Though we don’t know what form this new ride will take exactly, Tom Staggs, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts seem to indicate that the ride will follow the plotline of the film and feature several musical moments (expecting to be humming the tune of "Let it Go" for the rest of the day after riding).
15. Memento Mori
Status: Now open!
Opening in: October 2014
Although the Haunted Mansion is one of Disney’s most iconic attractions, the ride at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom has never had its own merchandise location. Although pop up carts and kiosks have greeted riders at the attraction’s exit over the years with a variety of Haunted Mansion-themed goods, a dedicated merchandise shop has never existed, until now!
Memento Mori went into soft openings earlier this month and then officially made its debut on Monday, October 6th. To get a peak inside this new store, check out our merchandise round up here.
14. Morimoto Restaurant
Another rumored, but not confirmed, addition to Disney Springs is a Morimoto location. This would be based on the existing Morimoto restaurants (which include locations in Napa Valley and Waikiki), founded by Masahuru Morimoto - best known as the Iron Chef on the Japanese TV cooking show of the same name and its follow-up, Iron Chef America.
Naturally, you can expect Japanese cuisine including a sushi bar, noodles, soups and hot and cold dishes. We'll have to wait and see if the ink dries on a contract between Morimoto and Disney, but this would add some diversity to Disney Springs' restaurant line-up.
13. Avatar "flying ride"
Opening in: 2017
The headline ride in Pandora - The World of Avatar will be a major, "E-Ticket" attraction that will offer a simulated experience of flying over Pandora on a banshee creature. It has been compared to Soarin' at Epcot, but it is likely that the Avatar ride will actually be considerably more technologically advanced - supporting enhanced, more realistic movements and 3-D video on a wrap-around screen.
The plans show four separate theaters, spread across four floors. The show itself will be projected onto an enormous, IMAX-style curved screen, just as it is in the Simpsons Ride at Universal Studios Florida. Riders will board vehicles that rise to one of three show levels in front of the screen, also in a similar style to the Universal attraction.
While some construction on the land that will house this new attraction has begun, no work has been done on the actual show building as of yet.
12. Trader Sam's Grog Grotto
Opening in: 2015
Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar opened several years ago at the Disneyland Hotel, and is inspired by the Jungle Cruise and Enchanted Tiki Room attractions. It also incorporates elements of the Adventurer's Club, one of the most popular nightclubs in Walt Disney World's now-defunct Pleasure Island area. It has proven to be very popular, serving up tropically-themed appetizers, desserts and cocktails.
Little surprise, then, that Disney fans are salivating at the prospect of a version of the bar coming to the revamped Disney's Polynesian Village Resort. Trader Sam's Grog Grotto will feature a themed lounge area, and will serve up handcrafted tiki cocktails in souvenir mugs alongside Polynesian-style small plates. Construction at the Polynesian Village Resort is ongoing.
11. Rivers of Light
Opening in: TBC
Disney is investing hundreds of millions of dollars to expand the offerings at Disney's Animal Kingdom, which has often been accused of being a "half-day park". The resort's fourth theme park has always closed earlier than the resort's other parks, partly because of the need to protect its animal residents from excessive noise. However, Disney is now working to install a new night-time show, and will begin opening the park until late.
The show will be hosted around and above the Discovery River and will feature live music, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery. Rumored to be named "Rivers of Light", it is also expected to include the illumination of the iconic Tree of Life. That will involve replacing all 100,000+ artificial leaves on the tree with new ones that light up.
Although no opening date has been specified, barges containing props and equipment for the show have already been spied on the river. The Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom has also been completely walled off, as well as several area around the park as construction continues on show structures and props.
10. Patina Group Restaurant
Opening in: 2015 (TBC)
The Patina Restaurant Group, which operates the Via Napoli, Tutto Italia and Tutto Gusto restaurants at Epcot's Italy Pavilion, is expected to open a yet-to-be-named Italian restaurant as part of Disney Springs. It appears that it will be located in the space that was formerly occupied by Pleasure Island's 8Trax and Mannequin's clubs. A work permit filed with Orange County suggests that it will consist of "two floors, a new dining area and cast and guest restrooms". There have been no recent updates about this project, but rumors continue to swirl about this potential new dining location.