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.
Last month was a big one for Walt Disney World, as it saw the confirmation of several huge projects, including Toy Story Land and Star Wars Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Plus, more information was revealed about Pandora: The World of Avatar and the nighttime version of Kilimanjaro Safaris finally has a name...
16. Star Wars comes to Disney's Hollywood Studios early
Though we know that Star Wars Land is coming to Disney's Hollywood Studios (more on that in a little bit), Disney wants to get this property in the parks as soon as possible. One way it is doing this is by quickly overlaying the Magic of Disney Animation building with a Star Wars theme and creating a walkthrough attraction.
Looking out towards 2016, Disney's Hollywood Studios will play host to an all-new "Season of the Force" event, that will feature a weekend fireworks display...
15. The Jungle Navigation Co. Skipper Canteen 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, and now it has finally been confirmed that a new Jungle Cruise-themed restaurant is coming to the Magic Kingdom. Officially named The Jungle Navigation Co. Skipper Canteen, this new location will be taking over the space occupied by the former Adventureland Veranda restaurant and will be welcoming its first guests later this year.
Interestingly, this new dining location will tie into the Society of Explorers and Adventurers, which has been absent from Walt Disney World since the closure of the Adventurer's Club in 2009. Alberta Falls, the proprietor of this new location, is the daughter of the late founder Albert Falls, who is a member of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers. In an unprecedented move, it was confirmed that some narrative changes will be coming to the Magic Kingdom's Jungle Cruise ride to support the story and theme of this new restaurant.
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 in line to get a major refurbishment. In July, Disney finally confirmed this development by sending out letters to guests with reservations at this hotel with information about what changes to expect both in the long-term as well as during their stay.
Among the highlights from guest letter is confirmation that this refurbishment will kick off later this year and it set to be complete by 2017. It was also revealed that the Hidden Springs leisure pool is being upgraded into a full size pool complete with a larger deck as well as a hot tub area.
However, permits filed back in May show that there are even more changes coming to this resort, including DVC bungalows on the water, similar to what has been constructed at Disney's Polynesian Resort.
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, one thing is for sure: the days of "Disney's Hollywood Studios" are numbered.
In preparation for this new identity, many of the park's attractions have been shuttered in the past 18 months, including The American Idol Experience, The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow, The Studio Backlot Tour, The Magic of Disney Animation, and most recently it was confirmed that the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights would not be returning after this year. Though we don't have official confirmation yet, attractions Voyage of the Little Mermaid and One Man's Dream are also expected to close in the very near future as this park gets ready for its total reboot. Props have already started disappearing from One Man's Dream in preparation for its removal, although no firm closing date has been announced yet.
Though this year's D23 expo came and went without confirmation of a new name, we are still expecting to hear news about a massive rebranding of this park, sometime in the near future.
12. Star Wars Land will break ground in 2016
Though it was rumored for several years, it was finally confirmed in August that Star Wars Land was indeed coming to Disney's Hollywood Studios. And in possibly even better news, ground will be broken on this new land in 2016.
We still don't know much about placement, but the recent announcement that the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights would be pulled after 2015 lends validity to the theory that the Streets of America (and possibly Echo Lake) will be part of the construction.
As for what will actually be contained in this brand new land, we know that there will be two rides: one simulating a flight aboard the Millenium Falcon and another based on the new trilogy that puts guests in the middle of a battle with The First Order. You can read more about these new attractions here.
In addition to the two new rides, there will also be a new intergalactic cantina restaurant, and plenty of opportunities to interact with "in character" cast members (similar to the experiences guests have with in character team members over at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter).
While we know that work will begin sometime next year, predictions are all over the place when it comes to when we might actually be able to visit a galaxy far, far away, with many saying it will likely be 2020 at least before this new land is actually built.