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.
This month brings a big update for Pandora: The World of Avatar at Disney's Animal Kingdom, as new details emerge about the boat ride coming to this new area, plus the imminent completion of two projects at the Magic Kingdom. But first, we've got some news from Disney's Hollywood Studios that we've been anticipating for awhile
17. Star Wars Weekends out, Season of the Force in at Disney's Hollywood Studios
16. Star Wars comes to Disney's Hollywood Studios this December
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.
Though this new attraction has only been under construction for a few weeks, it is expected to open this December, just in time for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens to hit theaters. Inside the attractions guests will be able to check out props from the films, meet a variety of characters and even grab a Star Wars inspired treat from the snack bar.
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.
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.
Construction continues on this location, and with the Liberty Tree Tavern expected to re-open in a few weeks, we could possibly see this location welcome its first guests before the end of the year. And in an interesting development, reports have surfaced suggesting that this dining location may serve alcohol (in the same way Be Our Guest does), making it the second location at Magic Kingdom to do so.
14. Wilderness Lodge gets a massive facelift and expansion
With the completion of the expansion of the Polynesian Village Resort in 2015, Disney's Wilderness Lodge is the next hotel in line to get a major refurbishment. This two year long refurbishment has already kicked off, and when complete, will bring a new restaurant to the resort as well as a size upgrade for the Hidden Springs pool.
In addition to these changes to existing facilties, Disney's Wilderness Lodge will also be getting waterfront bungalows similar to what was constructed at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort. These bungalows are expected to be part of the DVC program and will probably command high point prices like the ones across Bay Lake.
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.