From the moment it was announced, Disney Springs was always meant to be different. More than just a simple shopping complex, but less than a theme park, this reinvented destination at the Walt Disney World resort has set itself apart from its predecessors in some key ways that have helped Disney Springs really forge its new identity. One of the most important updates has been in the realm of theming, with Disney creating a natural look for Disney Springs that helped bring the 19th century “story” of this fictional destination to life through everything from the interactive old-school water pump to the classic Florida architecture of the Town Center.
However, even though Disney Springs certainly looks amazing, this shopping district's theme is not inherently “Disney”, is an issue many believed was the problem with the original concept of Downtown Disney. However, Disney seemingly had a plan that was set in motion last year for how to inject a little bit of character, quite literally, into this shopping district. But things didn't exactly go well, and now we could be facing a total expulsion of characters from Disney Springs. So how did we get here? The story actually began last fall..
Princesses come to Disney Springs...and then are evicted
On October 1, 2016, Disney Springs introduced the Princess Royal Reception, which was a new experience that allowed guests to meet, take photos with, and even get an autograph from, a single princess in a special closed-off area of the World of Disney (where the Bibbidi Boppidy Boutique used to be). This experience was the first of its kind at Disney Springs, and drew a modest amount of guests to the World of Disney who wanted to have the rare opportunity to meet a Disney character outside of a Disney theme park.
However, it looked like increased guests coming to this shop did not result in increased sales at World of Disney (which was likely the goal of this offering), and Disney quickly retired this character experience just a month after it opened on November 1, 2016. And unfortunately, this experince wasn't the only character cut made at Disney Springs....
The Characters in Flight balloon gets a redesign (and removes the characters)
Though it is not technically even operated by Disney, one of the most iconic symbols of this shopping district is Characters in Flight, which has always served as a beacon for Disney Springs (and formerly Downtown Disney), with characters like Tinkerbell, Dumbo and Peter Pan beckoning guests from afar. However, just in the past few days, after a brief refurbishment, the Characters in Flight balloon at Disney Springs debuted a new look that was designed to fit more in line with the overall Disney Springs style. And interestingly, it looks like that style is one that is actually devoid of Disney characters!
This was certainly a startling development (especially considering the name of this attraction), and seemed to confirm that Disney Springs was indeed shifting away from characters. However, another move would come just a few days later that would seemingly reverse this trend...