The last day for operations at The Magic of Disney Animation at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is at hand. There has been a lot of speculation about how this fits into the future of a re-imagined theme park. I’ve not yet heard any concrete plans, but I’ve been able to piece a few things together that might surprise you.
After CEO Bob Iger and the Disney board of directors were seen touring Disney’s Hollywood Studios and other parks, rumors started flying fast about a big budget $3.2 Billion change that was approved for DHS. We’ve since learned that a chunk of that is reserved for further improvements at Magic Kingdom and EPCOT, but it’s still a considerable chunk of money to spend on fixing a park.
As to the exact details, everyone’s inside sources are playing it cool until announcements are made at D23 Expo. We’ll probably learn a big more of the plans that Disney has for Star Wars in its parks. We may also learn more about the master plan for DHS.
The only other news I have is that with Avatar being pushed back at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, there’s a window to get the Pixar kid friendly play-land attractions built quickly. However, that also means the Star Wars land at DHS may also get pushed back so Disney isn’t opening two major expansions in the same year.
With the first new Star Wars movie in 10 years coming out this December, Disney still wants to do something in the parks. From what I’m hearing, that’s why they closed the Magic of Disney Animation rather unexpectedly. It, and the offices that used to house Disney Animators, will quickly be converted into a preview center for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. There will behind-the-scenes details, movie props, and a meet and greet opportunity with some of the new characters from the film. Think like what they did for Maleficent, Guardians of the Galaxy and Cinderella, but taken up a few notches.
Update: It’s likely the building will also include a preview center for the major changes coming to DHS as well. I hadn’t heard that, but now that another site is running that rumor, it makes sense.
Finally, another small detail the seems to validate big plans for DHS. Disney recently filed some construction permits that would allow them to test the solidity of the ground beneath a potential re-alignment of the main road in to the parking lot. If this test works out, the main entrance would be shifted to Victory way. This change would close the 2nd entrance off Buena Vista, leaving it exclusively for buses, and would give them room to expand the area behind Star Tours where the main entrance road is now. It’s the alignment I expected, but the new entrance would be very close to Osceola Parkway, which would help get traffic to reroute from the I-4 much faster.
With Anaheim approving a $1.1 Billion expansion at Disneyland and this, still officially rumored, big spend at Walt Disney World, we fans are in for five years of speculation, construction walls, and change. Brace yourself. Pixar and Star Wars is coming. Are you ready?