Though we already know that this year’s Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights will be the final installment of this popular Christmas tradition, the clock is ticking on several other annual events at Walt Disney World. While the demise of these four events has yet to be 100% confirmed by the parks, recent activities around the resort seem to indicate that these formerly popular events are (probably) never returning to the resort, which is quite a shame, especially considering the long-running history of the first endangered event...
1. Star Wars Weekends at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
After last year’s Star Wars Weekends event, fans were assured that a 2016 edition of this event was in the planning, with Disney even setting up an official website (which still exists!).
However, since this event was initially confirmed earlier this year, there has been a flurry of news that could throw this Star Wars Weekends' continued existence into serious doubt. Not only was the new Star Wars Launch Bay attraction confirmed (which will re-use much of the props and characters formerly found at Star Wars Weekends) but the previously event-only Watto’s Grotto shop has re-opened permanently as well.
Perhaps most disheartening of all for fans of this event is the newly announced Season of the Force event, which will take place this January and include a special weekends-only fireworks display. Though Disney’s Hollywood studios certainly could play host to two annual Star Wars events, doubling up like this doesn’t seem likely.
Interestingly, WDWNT has added flame to this fire, publishing a recent rumor that not only sees the removal of Star Wars Weekends, but also all “Mickey and Friends” Star Wars characters from the park. If this is true, then Jedi Mickey, Leia Minnie, Darth Goofy the Chip and Dale Ewoks and all the other Disney “dress up” characters are gone for good from the parks, which would definitely be a hard loss for some fans.
Though there has been no confirmation from Disney about either of these developments, we expect to know by January (when Season of the Force is slated to kick off) whether Star Wars Weekends has been permanently discontinued, or whether it will indeed return in 2016.
2. Festival of the Masters at Disney Springs
Back in 2014, Disney announced that it was canceling its annual Festival of the Masters event, which had previously run for more than 30 years at Downtown Disney. However, Disney gave fans hope by saying that the event would return after some of the construction around the Marketplace eased. Though construction walls continue to line much of Disney Springs, fans were hopeful that this event would return to the Marketplace in 2015. However, summer 2015 came and went with no announcement.
Though we’d love for this event to return in 2016, after a two year absence, its seeming less and less likely that this annual art festival will ever return to Disney Springs. While its 30+ year run puts it ahead of the Epcot Food & Wine Festival as the longest-running special event at Walt Disney World, it looks like this annual celebration of local artists probably won’t be turning the page at Disney Springs any time soon.
3. Villains Unleashed at Disney's Hollywood Studios
The idea of a villains-only event at Disney’s Hollywood Studios has been kicking around for several years, especially since villains meet and greets have become increasingly popular at Mickey’s Not-so-Scary Halloween Party over at the Magic Kingdom. Back in 2013, Disney finally launched a villains-only event, inviting guests to “Unleash the Villains” during that year’s Limited Time Magic promotion for one night only.
However, 2013’s event was an unmitigated disaster. Since the event was not hard-ticketed, guests swelled early in the afternoon, closing the park down by the early evening and causing massive traffic jams all around the resort as guests tried to get into the park to experience the event
Disney tried again in 2014 with this event, but unfortunately, even though Villains Unleashed last year was hard-ticketed, it was also oversold, and many guests ended up with refunds or vouchers for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party to make up for long lines and poor character meet and greet availability.
While the popularity of this event has been undeniable (and we’re sure Disney’s Hollywood Studios would love to see guest levels this high again), the poor guest reception of this event has all but eradicated any chance of this event’s return. However, villains fans don’t need to worry too much, as a rumored villains show may be on its way to Disney’s Hollywood Studios permanently…
4. Harambe Nights at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Back in 2014, Disney’s Animal Kingdom played host to a limited time event that saw guests staying in the park after hours, enjoying a massive buffet and checking out some exclusive entertainment options that revolved around The Lion King (which also celebrated a milestone anniversary in 2014). Though this event proved to be quite popular (even selling out on multiple nights), it ended up being little more than a test to gage responses to nighttime activities at this park, and did not return in 2015.
While it is certainly feasible that Harambe Nights could return to Disney's Animal Kingdom in future years as an evenings-only hard ticketed event, with the launch of Rivers of Light only a year away, we’re guessing that Disney will want to pack as many guests into this park after hours as possible, negating the need for a hard-ticketed event. Though Harambe Nights was a fun experiment, it unfortunately looks like this event won’t be coming back to Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Though special events at Walt Disney World come and go all the time, the (potential) loss of these particular events is especially painful, as they represented some of the best the resort has ever put out. Will you miss any of these events, or are you excited for new experiences to come to the resort?