Though we know that things will never be the same in the theme park world after the unprecedented closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, one big area where we're expecting to see a lot of change is with big projects. Because there are a lot of projects to keep track of (Walt Disney World alone has more than two dozen projects in the works!), we'll be updating this list weekly with all the major, confirmed delays, cancellations and cuts that have been confirmed (we'll stay away from rumors for now) by their respective parks.
Though conversations are still ongoing about a theme park reopening, it looks like more and more projects are being delayed or cancelled, especially at Disney parks
1. Cirque du Soleil: Drawn to Life (Disney Springs)
Park: Disney Springs
Original Opening Date: March 20, 2020
Status: Delayed, Possibly Cancelled
Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba at Disney Springs closed forever at the end of 2017, but just before it did, Disney confirmed that a new Cirque du Soleil production was being developed for this theater. But this time, this all-new show will have a uniquely Disney flair, and be unlike anything else either Disney or Cirque du Soleil have produced in the past. Based around some of Disney's most iconic films, this new show will “draw its inspiration from Disney's heritage of animation,” and will “celebrate Disney’s legacy of storytelling in Cirque du Soleil’s signature way, with a tribute to the one-of a kind craftsmanship that makes Disney so extraordinary.”
This new show was supposed to begin preview performances on March 20th, but the show was suspended and postponed indefinitely. And instead of retaining performers, Cirque du Soleil has laid off 95% of its workforce, and has said that it may pursue bankruptcy filing, according to Forbes, which seems to make the idea of re-hiring workers and putting this show back on, an unfortunately distant possibility.
And though Disney Springs has now reopened, there has been no news about the potential debut of this show.
2. The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash!
Park: Universal Studios Hollywood
Original Opening Date: March 27, 2020
Status: Delayed until park reopening
One of the first casualties of the theme park closures due to COVID-19 was The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash! at Universal Studios Hollywood, which is a dark ride that takes riders on a journey through New York City to reach a pet adoption event and, using facial recognition technology, actually transforms guests into stray puppies in search of their forever homes. This new attraction will blend live, dimensional and animated characters with hyper-realistic media and projection mapping to achieve this effect, all while guests are seated within ride vehicles that resemble cardboard boxes.
This exciting new ride was scheduled to soft open to annual passholders on March 13 (the day Universal Studios Hollywood closed!), and then was to officially open on March 27, 2020. However, the good news is that this attraction is completely finished, and though it may require some testing when Universal Studios Hollywood reopens, we'd imagine it will be able to welcome its first guests within the first week of this park's return to operation.
3. Fantasyland Expansion
Park: Tokyo Disneyland
Original Opening Date: April 15, 2020
Status: Delayed until park opening
Earlier this year the Oriental Land Company revealed that the Fantasyland expansion at Tokyo Disneyland expansion which will include new rides like The Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast and The Happy Ride with Baymax as well as the Minnie’s Style Studio meet-and-greet would open on April 15th, 2020. However, with Tokyo Disney Resort now closed though at least mid-May, the opening of this land has been officially delayed. Like many other projects on this list construction on this new land was basically complete before Tokyo closed earlier this year, with ride testing happening behind the scenes. And though the Oriental Land Company has not said much other than that they are reevaluating a new opening date for this upcoming land, we'd guess it will likely be ready to premiere either alongside the park's reopening or just a few days after.
4. Spaceship Earth reimagining
Original Refurbishment Start Date: May 26, 2020
Disney announced earlier this year that Spaceship Earth would close for refurbishment on May 26 2020 to begin its transformation into Spaceship Earth: Our Shared Story. And though this ambitious project was set to close this attraction for 18-24 months, insiders have said that this was one of the projects that Disney has cut early on, which means that it looks like Spaceship Earth will stay in its current form indefinitely following the park's reopening, whenever that may be.
5. Space 220
Original Opening Date: Spring 2020
Space 220, an ambitious new dining concept that will be part of the Mission: Space pavilion, was originally slated to open earlier this year, but an issue with broken glass delayed its opening to Spring 2020. And unfortunately Walt Disney World will not open at all this spring, meaning that this restaurant, which is basically ready to open, will of course miss its opening date.
However, even when the parks reopen, Space 220 may not be able to operate immediately, as Disney is currently considering a number of social distancing measures inside Walt Disney World, including making dining quick service and pick up only, which would not allow this new eatery to open.
Though construction on this new location is complete, it could be a year or more before guests are able to experience this out-of-this-world restaurant.
6. The Borne Stuntacular
Park: Universal Studios Florida
Original Opening Date: Spring 2020
Universal officially confirmed last year that new stunt show The Bourne Stuntacular will be debuting sometime this spring. This new live-action stunt show will feature chase scenes, fistfights, death-defying leaps and more with live performers, high-tech props, and a giant LED screen. And though construction on the theater for this show is complete and rehearsals had entered their final phases, this is one attraction that may not be able to reopen with Universal Studios Florida, as many theme parks may need to practice some amount of social distancing when they reopen, and debuting an attraction in an enclosed, theater space may not be possible, even if the threat of COVID-19 transmission has lessened somewhat.
7. Ice Breaker
Park: SeaWorld Orlando
Original Opening Date: Spring 2020
Status: Delayed until 2021
SeaWorld has been betting big on their new Ice Breaker roller coaster attraction which was supposed to open this spring, and will blast guests through four different launches, both backwards and forwards, culminating in a reverse launch into the steepest beyond vertical drop in Florida — a 93-foot tall spike with 100-degree angle.
And though this new record-breaking roller coaster has been fully built and its trains placed on the track, SeaWorld's recent financial woes may keep it from testing for awhile, which could delay the opening of this coaster for several weeks or months after this park returns to operation. During a recent earnings call, SeaWorld has said that it is likely that this attraction's opening will be delayed until next year, when the park can return to full operation.