Earlier this month we reported that Rafiki's Planet Watch was going seasonal as part of Walt Disney World's sweeping budget cuts. And then we were shocked when just a few days later it was revealed that this attraction would actually be closing forever after next month. However, in the past few days Disney has seemingly walked back this decision, and some Cast Members have said they have been told that the plan is once again to open this attraction back up next spring.
Obviously this has stirred up quite a bit of confusion, so naturally, Disney has released the following official statement regarding the future of this attraction:
Starting October 21, Rafiki’s Planet Watch and Wildlife Express will not be available to Guests. We anticipate reopening Rafiki’s Planet Watch and Wildlife Express for Guests in Spring 2019, with more details to come. In the meantime, we will be taking a closer look at the offering to determine what would be most meaningful to our Guests as well as what fits best within the overall park experience.
Though this sounds like good news for fans of this attraction, there's actually quite a bit to unpack here, as Disney doesn't definitively say they will reopen Rafiki's Planet Watch, simply saying they "anticipate" a reopening next year (which of course, is easy to walk back).
In addition, it sounds like, even though Disney could indeed reopen Refiki's Planet Watch next spring, at least some of the experiences will be cut as part of Disney's ongoing cost-cutting measures, as Disney says they will be determining which parts of the attraction are "most meaningful" and "fit best with the overall park experience". Right now, Rafiki's Planet Watch is already operating in a limited state, as the character experiences were removed last month, and its hard to imagine stripping much more from this area, as the petting zoo is already built in, as well as the indoor animal exhibits and the veterinary observation area.
And of course, there's always the future to consider, as even if this attraction does open back up next spring, it could still be on its way out. As we've discussed previously, when an attraction goes seasonal it often means a full closure is on the way, and this situation is not unlike the one we saw several years ago when Disney couldn't seem to decide whether or not it was going to close Captain EO at Epcot. But of course, this attraction did eventually close forever, and even though Disney might bring back Rafiki's Planet watch next year, it seems like only a matter of time before this attraction also closes for good, even if it survives in the short term past its seasonal closure this fall.