While we’ve already discussed several of the big developments to come out of this year’s D23 Expo (both expected and unexpected), one new announcement that kind of flew under the radar this year was the confirmation of the The Jungle Navigation Co. Skipper Canteen restaurant (called Skipper Canteen for short) for the Magic Kingdom.
Though guests might not initially be all that excited about a new restaurant, this new themed dining experience will be unlike anything else at the Magic Kingdom, and if it proves popular, could spur some big changes for Disney dining at Walt Disney World
1. A new kind of dining
With the exception of a few disappointing quick service locations, nearly every dining establishment at Walt Disney World is expertly themed. Beast’s Castle comes alive at Be Our Guest, the “good ol’ days” return at ‘50s Prime Time Café and the glamorous world of old Hollywood surrounds guests dining at the Hollywood Brown Derby.
However, even though all these dining experiences are amazing on their own, the Skipper Canteen will represent a different kind of restaurant experience for guests. For the first time ever, Cast Members working inside this dining location will all be “in character” as Jungle Cruise Skippers working at this new restaurant, cracking jokes with guests, bemoaning their “day jobs” and making sly references to the Jungle Cruise attraction. While Cast Members at every Disney dining location strive to make experiences as pleasant and memorable as possible, this "in character" experience will be a first for Disney Parks, but we already know it won't be the last. It was revealed this past week that Cast Members who will staff dining locations in the forthcoming Star Wars Land will also be in character as well. Though it might seem a little strange, the Skipper Canteen may be acting as a bit of a "dry run" for Star Wars Land, as Disney gathers data about how diners react in this type of environment.
But back to the Skipper Cantina (which is opening in just a few months, as opposed to Star Wars Land, which we might not see for another decade), this type of deep interaction at this new dining location sounds like it will be a lot of fun for both guests and Cast Members, and is definitely the most exciting component of this new dining experience, as it has never really been done before at a theme park. Though many look at Universal Orlando Resort's The Wizarding World of Harry Potter as the gold standard when it comes to "in-wold" guest interactions, the dining experiences in this area have always left quite a lot to be desired. However, Disney has the opportunity with the Skipper Cantina to really set the bar high for immersive, themed dining experiences, not only for the larger world of theme parks, but for themselves as well.
2. Making the Magic Kingdom a food destination
Though we're most excited about the potential for memorable experiences with the "Skippers" who will staff this new restaurant, we're also expecting Disney to continue to deliver great food in this new restaurant. Though we don't know a lot about the actual dishes that will be served at this new dining location, the fare has been described as "World Famous Jungle Cuisine", and will feature dishes inspired by the flavors of Africa, Asia and South America (which is quite a wide range, but when you consider the locales featured in the Jungle Cruise attraction, it does make sense).
Though there are certainly some delicious dining options available at the Magic Kingdom, this park isn't exactly well-known for being a haven for those with an adventurous palate. Both Disney's Animal Kingdom as well as Epcot have earned a reputation for having amazing cuisine (often with an International flair), but the forthcoming Skipper Cantina could put Magic Kingdom back on the food-lover's map that and pave the way for more interesting food choices in the future for this park