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 spring we take a look at the ongoing evolution of MyMagic+ around the parks, the proliferation of characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios and Epcot, plus we have new information about Rivers of Light, Star Wars Land, and more!
14. Character experiences expand at Walt Disney World
As you might have noticed, there is a lot of work going on currently at Walt Disney World. With attractions closing all over the place, and guests waiting patiently for new experiences to debut in 2017 and beyond, Disney has cleverly implemented a stop-gap measure at two of its parks that will bring more character experiences to the resort.
Over at Epcot, Innoventions West has been completely transformed into an expansion of the nearby Character Spot, with Baymax currently meeting guests in this space, and Inside Out's Joy and Sadness set to join him in April.
However, it is Disney's Hollywood Studios that is getting the most new character experiences. Though Mickey has been homeless for the last year, both Mickey and Minnie will begin meeting guests at a permanent meet and greet that will will take place inside the unused area of the Hyperion theater that formerly housed the audition rooms for the American Idol Experience.“Mickey and Minnie Starring in Red Carpet Dreams” will open this summer and feature Mickey in his iconic sorcerer's outfit and Minnie in a new "starlet" outfit.
However, more immediately, a new Celebrity Spotlight character attraction is coming to the Echo Lake area of the park, which will feature rotating characters, starting with Olaf in just a few weeks. Though we don't know how long Olaf will be sticking around, it seems likely that Disney will likely use this space to test new character experiences or bring back old friends.
13. A new show for the Magic Kingdom
Earlier this year, it was announced that Dream Along With Mickey would be leaving the Magic Kingdom forever on April 2, 2016, and would be replaced this summer with Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire. This show will feature a completely new cast of characters from Disney’s more recent animated hits including Tangled, Princess and the Frog, and of course Frozen. This show will include several musical numbers, and should run about 20 minutes long (similar to Dream Along With Mickey).
12. Star Wars Land will break ground this year
Though it was rumored for several years, it was finally confirmed in August 2015 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 sometime this year.
The goal for this land is to fully immerse guests in the world of Star Wars, with authentic food, scenery and of course attractions that look like they would fit right in next to an X-Wing.
The first of two planned rides for this new area is a still-unnamed Millennium Falcon simulator that will allow guests to the Millennium Falcon themselves, turning, banking and even firing weapons in this ambitious new experience.
Though the Millennium Falcon attraction will be cutting edge, the First Order ride will be more of a classic dark ride that will use a motion base ride vehicle to move riders through scenes with screens (similar to what guests currently experience at The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man at Islands of Adventure).
In addition to the two new rides, there will also be a new intergalactic cantina restaurant, a high-end "dinner club" 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 this 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.
11. Star Wars enhancements come to Disney's Hollywood Studios early
Though it's going to be quite a while before Star Wars Land opens, Disney's Hollywood Studios is wasting no time getting Star Wars into this park. Though the Launch Bay walk through attraction opened last year, the park has announced that this park is getting even more Star Wars attractions later this year.
Beginning April 4th, the Center Stage area (which is in front of the Great Movie Ride) will play host to a new live show entitled Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away. This show will play out iconic moments from the Star Wars series, not just from Episode VII, but from previous Star Wars films as well. Confirmed characters that will appear in this production include Kylo Ren, Darth Vader, Darth Maul, and Chewbacca In addition to this new show, April 4th will also see the debut of a fun new daily experience where guests can watch a platoon of Stromtroopers led by Captain Phasma march across the park several times per day.
However, the biggest new Star Wars attraction will be a new nightly spectacular coming this summer. Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular will be the most technical nighttime spectacular to ever be performed at Walt Disney World, and will combine fireworks, pyrotechnics, special effects and high-definition video projections to create a truly immersive experience for Star Wars fans to enjoy. We’ve got more details on all of the new Star Wars attractions coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios here.