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The 15 BIG Changes That Are Coming to Walt Disney World (June 2015 Edition)

Though Walt Disney World may have been accused of standing still in the face of growing competition from Universal Orlando Resort, in reality nothing could be further from the truth as there are some big changes coming to the resort over the next few years.

Disney has chosen to invest its money in a different way than Universal, which has focused on building major new attractions (such as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley) and more hotels (like the under-construction Lowe’s Sapphire Falls). But the company is spending money on Walt Disney World - a lot of it. Over the coming years, the results of this spending should start to become more visible to guests.

There are many changes coming to Walt Disney World, but some will have a bigger impact than others. Here's a look at 15 of the biggest updates that are in store for Walt Disney World as of June 2015.

15. A new Jungle Crusie restaurant comes to the Magic Kingdom

Back in February, permits were filed to convert the Liberty Tree Tavern restaurant kitchen into a facility that would support not one but two restaurants. Many hoped that this was a signal indicating the return of the classic Magic Kingdom opening day restaurant, Adventureland Veranda (which had been turned into a Fairies meet and greet in recent years). 

However, new information has surfaced that indicates that this former restaurant space is being converted into a brand new restaurant experience themed around the nearby Jungle Cruise attraction. Reportedly named "Skipper's Cantina", this highly-themed new dining establishment will be "run" by Jungle Crusie skippers who are picking up extra shifts. 

Though this location has not been formally announced by Walt Disney World, we are expecting to hear details about this new dining experience soon as the refurbishment of the Liberty Tree Taven kitchen is expected to wrap up in the next few months, with work on the actual restaurant interior ongoing. 

14. Wilderness Lodge gets a massive facelift and expansion

With the completion of the expansion of the Polynesian Village Resort in 2015, it looks like Disney's Wilderness Lodge is the next hotel to get a major refurbishmentLast month several permits were filed that show several DVC-only bungalows being added  to the hotel's beach area (similar to what we've already seen at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort) as well as new restaurants and a big pool refurbishment in the works.

Although permits for all these changes have been filed, we are still waiting on a formal announcement detailing all these changes officially. 

13. The last days of Disney's Hollywood Studios

Last February, the remnants of the Sorcerer's Hat at Disney's Hollywood Studios came down. However, we learned recently that in addition to the removal of the former park icon, this park will be getting a whole new identity soon. Though we don't know what the new name of this park will be or when it will take effect, the days of "Disney's Hollywood Studios" are numbered as Disney continues to iron out details of this park's total reboot. 

12. Star Wars Land is finally on the way

Star Wars Land has long been rumored for Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but it seems as though Disney is finally ready to move forward with the project. On a recent earnings report call with investors, Disney CEO Bob Iger confirmed that Disney is "developing designs for a far greater Star Wars presence in the parks," and added that, “When we grow Star Wars' presence, which we will do significantly, you will see better bets being made that will pay off for us than were made in the past."  Iger stopped short of saying exactly what form this new expansion would take, but he did say that an announcement would be made in 2015 (likely at the D23 expo next month).

Plans for Star Wars Land were of course first teased at the D23 Expo back in 2013. At the time, it was believed that Disney was planning to include an indoor, more-fully-fleshed-out, audio-animatronic-equipped Jedi Training Academy, a Mos Eisley Cantina-themed restaurant, and possibly a larger, E-Ticket attraction to be added in a second phase.

However, there have been a number of delays, caused by a renewed focus on creating an experience that incorporates upcoming Star Wars movies as well as a desire to compete with nearby Diagon Alley.

Because of this, work on Star Wars Land will likely not begin until late 2015 (or perhaps early 2016) and guests probably won't be traveling to a galaxy far away until 2018 or 2019. Still, an announcement has been confirmed to be coming sometime in 2015, and hopefully we'll know more concrete information very soon.

11. A new theater for Disney's Hollywood Studios

In a linked developments have been filed for a brand new theater at Disney's Hollywood Studios to be constructed on Sunset Boulevard, next to the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Though we don't know what this new "flex space" theater will be used for, odds are that the construction of this new space is related to the imminent destruction of the Premiere Theater near the Streets of America and the possible destruction of the Superstar TV Theater (now known as the Hyperion Theater) around Echo Lake as a possible casualty as plans for Star Wars Land become final. 

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There are 22 comments.

Not one of these "improvements" is appealing in the least. They are nothing but a pack of thieves and Walt is rolling in his grave.

If you don't know enough about Walt to know that he was cremated, and thus it would be impossible for him to "roll" in his grave, perhaps you shouldn't speak for him, huh?
I honestly think he would be quite pleased with a number of these improvements, even the ones that aren't true.

Walt was frozen btw



I agree. I am not planning to go to Disney World anytime soon. Iger is ruining it.

I can't wait for some of these changes. I don't know how I feel about the new Pandora Land, but I will have to wait anf see.

Don't block the beautiful views at the Wilderness Lodge Resort. Why not a Radiator Springs and Cars area for WDW in DHS?

Cars Land would definitely be a boost for kids coming to DHS. Like to see a new dinner show too

i'm excited about some of the changes. I'm 65 years old and I love change. I loved avatar. If you don't like it don't go. It will leave more room for those who enjoy all that is Disney.

Well said

I like you, Jerry! :)

Walt would have loved every single change and would have been pushing to have things changed before now. He was ALL about the next thing they could do.

Iger is doing some interesting things, but his stewardship is also ruining a great deal of what used to be special about Disney, in that it genuinely was a pretty decent and customer-orientated company that tried to maximize value for the average American. In recent years the price hikes have put the parks well beyond the reach of many, the automated manner in which visitors are cycled through and dealt with is become increasingly dehumanized and programmed to manipulating their stay for maximum dollar potential, and the staff are increasingly losing their famed charm and easy friendliness that Walt prided his parks on. I say this as someone who has lived in Orlando for 16 years and has taken my family to the parks literally hundreds of times over that time via our annual passes - my kids have practically grown up there. In years gone by you'd be lucky if you came across just one cast member who was anything less than cordial, whereas Universal staff have always prided themselves through the years for how rude they can be, their catch phrase being 'we're NOT Disney employees" - of late it seems some Disney staff are now trying to play catchup with their Universal counterparts, and it's become quite noticeable over the last few years. The new FP system is ridiculous and geared towards making people stay in the park longer or later, whereas in the past, if you knew what you were doing, you could work the system very effectively and be out of the any of the park soon after lunch. The only benefit of the new system is being able to get online days in advance to book the FP's, but even then Disney tries to play tricks with people to squeeze out their day. On and on it goes. I applaud all the investment and the new rides being brought in, but there's a great deal of cynicism creeping into the system, and I don't think Walt would be 100% behind a lot of what is going on. His whole philosophy was based on wanting to create the kind of place where the average American family could go along and enjoy themselves, based on his own experiences taking his grand kids out and about. These days it's all about monetizing EVERYTHING and cutting out every little loophole that allowed the visitor to get some little tidbit of enjoyment for nothing. We've seen a host of little things that we used to enjoy disappear, though as locals we still know one or two things that work for us - just little things that visitors (even a lot of locals) generally don't know.

Eeeehh...I dunnow, considering the fact that Disney's attendance goes up every year, I'd still say the average American family is still able to enjoy the parks. It's the extra deals they try to throw in that really tries to appeal to the rich. The best way I can explain it is that it's basically saying, "we'll give you that special toy you always wanted, but give us your whole bank account and we'll give it to you in a nice big box sprinkled with glitter and wrapped up in a nice pretty bow!" And I don't quite think I agree with either Disney or Universal having bad staff. Whenever I go to either of those parks, there's always a couple of employees that go above and beyond to make sure I have a good day.

Can't wait to experience the new Pandora Land, Frozen, and Star Wars. Love the FP system on-line. Great news for all!

Walt would approve of the changes. Mr. Disney has been quoted as saying that the parks should not remain the same, they should change to keep up with technology. Let us not forget that the castle in Disneyland is Sleeping Beauty Castle (to tie in to the movie set to debut closest to Disneyland's opening). I had the opportunity to tryout the pre-ordering of lunch at Be Our Guest. Aside from having to wait in line to process our payment (we were using dining plan credits), I think it was an upgrade (if only Disney would allow you to use your dining credits to "pre-pay" the meal, it would be great).

None of us can truly know what Walt's opinion on these changes would be. What I can say with some degree of confidence is, he certainly would have tried to 'plus' some of these changes with something extraordinary in order to balance the effectiveness of their purpose with a Wow factor above and beyond what I'm seeing in some (not all) of these changes. While I hate that Maelstrom is gone, the new Frozen ride will certainly be an upgrade. We don't know what Walt's opinion on that would be because EPCOT was not what he wanted it to be in the first place. I do wish that Disney would take some of these millions and millions (if not billions) of dollars they are spending on renovation and turn their attention to creating the true EPCOT that Walt wanted. Seeing Tomorrowland made that even more of a hot topic for me. Disney is the company, if there is one, that could actually do it.

Glad for all the changes for Disney ,put with changes comes increase in prices to cover those changes ,they have out-priced themselves as the average family is finding it difficult to go to Disney land as a family of 4 was over $460 US basis admission then the treats and lunch & supper ,everything is far to pricey there and had more fun at the Hotspot do not care if Walt was buried or cremated he was a great man ,

Most of the changes look great to me except for Toy Story Playland. It's description reminds me of Dino-Rama at Animal Kingdom, which features a few small, carnival style attractions tied together with a unified theme. I don't go to WDW to experience outdoor carnival rides. Immersive experiences should be the focus. There are more than enough cheap carnival ride clones at WDW already. I really hope they implement something better than that Playland in the huge space that used to be the Backstage Studio Tour. That park badly needs significant upgrades almost everywhere.

None of these changes are too great for all the money they are spending which will be passed onto us. Star Wars permanently???? Avatar??? Let's invest in the true Disney type expansions with the classics . The prices have skyrocketed over the last few years . We used to go every year for 20 years but have not been able to afford it for the last 5 years. There is no place as wonderful as Disney but I wish they would keep it a family friendly park based around Disney not new companies they squire!

Well-it looks like Hollywood Studios is going to become " Pixarwood Studios". I'm now referring people to Universal Studios Florida and Sea World instead of Disney World. Disney World USED to be unique and exciting,until Iger took over. Now it's just about Pixar,Star Wars, Pixar, Frozen,Pixar, thrill rides,and Pixar Pixar Pixar Pixar Pixar Pixar Pixar. Next thing you know,Pixar will take over Magic Kingdom,Animal Kingdom and EPCOT. We'll see things like " Up: The Ride"..."Wall-E's Mission Space", "Incredibles: The Ride", "Lightning McQueen's Test Track", "Dug & Russell's Small World", "Flik's Bug-amanjaro Safaris", Remy Rat's France area,etc.

I don't understand all this stuff that was not originally Disney, like Avatar. Why don't they have some kind of attractions with some of their lesser appreciated, but still great movies, like TREASURE PLANET OR JOHN CARTER. Or maybe some of their other movies, like 101 DALMATIONS, LADY AND THE TRAMP, THE ARISTOCATS or TARZAN? This is what I don't get, that some of the classic Disney movies are not even represented at the parks. My daughters had a great idea for the House of Mouse cartoon. They said that Disney World should have a restaurant themed like the cartoon. But, they keep coming up with stuff that does not even pertain the actual Disney movies or cartoons. I love Disney World, but there are some attractions that I don't even bother with.


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