Change is constant at Walt Disney World, and for this fall's update on all of the big changes happening around the resort we take a look at the further erosion of Future World at Epcot, additional updates on Pandora: The World of Avatar, plus the expansion of characters into an area of the Magic Kingdom where they previously had not been seen
12. Rivers of Light still on the way to anchor nighttime experiences at Disney's Animal Kingdom
Though evening operations at Disney's Animal Kingdom began in spring 2016, the Rivers of Light nighttime spectacular experienced some unspecified technical difficulties and was delayed only a few weeks before it was set to debut. Filling its spot right now is the temporary Jungle Book: Alive with Magic show (which you can read more about here), but this temporary show has been confirmed to be closing in September, which will leave this park without a nighttime show for the fall. However, extensive testing has been going on both during and after park hours for Rivers of Light, so we're hopeful that this long-awaited show will debut soon.
11. New transportation in and out of the Magic Kingdom
Earlier in 2016, Disney filled permits with the South Florida Water Management District to redevelop World Drive. For those unfamiliar, World Drive is a major artery of Walt Disney World's transportation and is the road that brings guests past Disney's Hollywood Studios and the BoardWalk Resort, right up to the Magic Kingdom's Transportation and Ticket Center, before continuing past the Contemporary Resort and then tapering around far side of Fantasyland.
According to the recently filed permits, Walt Disney World will be adding a flyover ramp which will route traffic directly from World Drive so that guests heading for the resort-area hotels can bypass the Magic Kingdom parking plaza altogether. In the opposite direction, another newly-constructed flyover ramp will allow traffic heading from the Contemporary Resort side of World Drive to continue on World Drive beyond the Magic Kingdom parking plaza, directly en route to the BoardWalk Resort and Disney's Hollywood Studios.
In addition, Disney will be widening World Drive as well on both sides of the street, transforming the two-lane sections into three lanes and the three lane sections into four lanes. It has also been heavily rumored (though not explicitly confirmed by the recently-filed permits) that the parking toll booths at the front of the Magic Kingdom will also be replaced during this extensive roadwork.
10. The end of Innoventions and the erosion of Future World
It was only a year ago that we witnessed the demise of Innoventions West, as this former technology exhibit space was closed and then subsequently converted into character meet and greets. And even though some have criticized this move as one that is not consistent with the theme of Future World, it looks like we may be in for a repeat, as the East side of Innoventions looks like it will be closing as well in the near future. However, this won't happen all at once.
It has been confirmed that next month, on September 14th, both The Sum of All Thrills as well as Storm Struck will be closed permanently. Now as you may recall, that leaves only the recently-opened Colortopia exhibit still in operation inside Innoventions. And even though we expect this exhibit to stick around a little bit longer, inside sources suggest that Disney will not be renewing their contract with Colortopia sponsor Glidden, and will be closing this exhibit, (and subsequently the whole of Innoventions East), at some future date.
No announcements have been made about the future of Innoventions East after these closures, but with the character meet and greets doing so well on the other side of the park, we wouldn't be surprised if Disney decides to expand this concept, stuffing more characters into the other side of Innoventions. However, considering rumors suggest that the nearby Universe of Energy could be closing soon as well to reportedly make way for a Guardians of the Galaxy attraction, it's possible that this new space could tie into that development as well. Either way, hopefully we'll know something soon about what the future holds for Future World, and sadly, it doesn't seem to be all that futuristic.
9. 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.