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The 11 BIG Updates from Walt Disney World (And Beyond) This Week (January 11-17)

This week at Walt Disney World, a rash of closures are announced for Disney's Hollywood Studios, a new character experience is announced for the Star Wars Launch Bay, a new show debuts in Epcot's Canada pavilion, plus Disney moves to expand park security in a different way. 

Outside Walt Disney World, plans for transportation changes in advance of next year's Volcano Bay opening at Universal Orlando Resort surface, a new freebie is offered for guests at Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld kicks off its annual Wild Days special event and Busch Garden's newest roller coaster passes some key construction milestones.  

1. Massive closures coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios this spring

Image: Disney

Disney has confirmed that it is closing off the entirety of the Streets of America section of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, with the exception of MuppetVision 3-D and it’s immediate surrounding area (which is rumored to be turning into its own Muppets-themed area) in preparation for work to begin in earnest on Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land.  The following attractions and restaurants will all be closed by April 2:

  • The Earful tower
  • Lights, Motors Action: Extreme Stunt Show
  • Monsters Inc Character Experience
  • Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure
  • Studio Catering Company
  • Watto’s Grotto
  • Youse Guys Moychindice

You can read more about these closures here.

2. Kylo Ren meet and greet confirmed

Image: Disney/LucasFilm 

In a somewhat ironic character shuffle at Disney's Hollywood Studios,  Darth Vader will be replaced at the Star Wars Launch Bay by his (spoiler!) grandson Kylo Ren in February 2016. Although Darth Vader will no longer be appearing at the Star Wars Launch Bay, guests can still find the spirit of the original trilogy Sith Lord battling Padawans at the Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple show near Star Tours. Kylo Ren will also likely be replacing the Visa cardmember meet and greet. Chewbacca, at least for now, will remain where he is. 

3. New entertainment comes to the Canada pavilion

Epcot's Canada Pavilion welcomed a new entertainment act on Friday: 5 piece band TradNation. This band celebrates Quebec's rich heritage of music, performing traditional songs and step-dance in a 20 minute show, performed Wednesdays through Sundays on the Canada Pavilion's Mill Stage. This entertainment option is expected to be another "limited engagement" but no closing date has been set yet. 

4. Flights of Wonder refurbishment to begin next week

Flights of Wonder at Disney's Animal Kingdom will be closing for a nearly two month refurbishment beginning next week January 25th, and going through March 17. During this extended closure, a permanent roof structure will be added over the audience seating area, replacing the soft cloth ceiling that is currently in place. 

5. Disney to move security operations in-house

Disney is looking to make its recent security upgrades a permanent part of its normal park operations, and are now hiring more staff internally in an effort to make security operations an in-house affair. While the current contractors will continue being used for several weeks, Disney should be taking over operations full time sometime in the near future. 

6. Walt Disney Imagineering gets new president

Image: Disney

Disney Parks Chairman Bob Chapek announced this week that veteran Imagineer Bob Weis would be taking over as the new president of Walt Disney Imagineering. Weis had previously been helming the design of Shanghai Disneyland and prior to that oversaw the total reboot of Disney California Adventure (including Cars Land). 

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