It’s the end of a pretty decent year for Walt Disney World. There was a lot of good and a little bad. But rather than list off all the things in each column, I urge you to go read FoxxFur’s Passport to Dreams 2015 year end review. She covers the bases pretty well over there… we’ll wait here until you come back.
I was inspired by the end of the the article to come up with my own wish list of what I’d like to see Walt Disney World do differently in 2016. It’s pretty near in the future, so the list won’t include any big construction, like new rides, but pretty much anything else is fair game.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
With Avatar-land opening in 2017, we still have “Rivers of Light” to look forward to in 2016. It’s going to be an amazing addition. It’s unclear if they still plan to do the additional entertainment on Discovery Island that they mentioned in earlier releases. Lately, they haven’t said much about that. But there will be some digital projection on the Tree of Life as part of Rivers of Light, so Discovery Island will have some additional entertainment for the night.
My wishes for the park for 2016 are:
- Have enough showings of “Rivers of Light” that anyone who wants to see the show in its first 6 months or so can do so. Definitely try and incorporate some sort of Fastpass pre-assigned seating, but don’t give away all the best seats to those who can make fastpass ressies 60 days out. Save a good portion for week-of and day-of reservations.
- Start thinking about guest exit strategies for “Rivers of Light” now. The advantage that Fantasmic has is that there is a back passage that takes guests right to the main entrance without having to deal with massive crowds. Guests for the second show can then enter the viewing space with little problem. The seating around Discover River doesn’t have a place like this yet. With already narrow pathways that will seem even smaller at night, a good plan is required.
- The park is so beautiful after night. Spend a little time to make sure that all the pathways are beautifully illuminated. But please don’t sell all that glow crap guests can buy at parks like Magic Kingdom and the Studios. The park deserves better than that.
- Consider some multi-use of the theater spaces, especially Festival of The Lion King. Disney experimented with a Lion King themed concert followed by dinner outside the new theater. That was an interesting idea, but there are other theaters that can also have evening uses. This will help give crowds somewhere to go while they’re waiting for “Rivers of Light”
This is a park still in search of a new purpose. The new Frozen attraction will be a huge draw for the first year or so. It’s definitely going to put a little extra stress on the World Showcase, having a strategy for that is going to be important
My wishes for EPCOT in 2016 are:
- The name EPCOT used to stand for something. It’s time to layer the story of the community of tomorrow back into the mix. Start adding a “Disney Research” outpost with real world demos from the teams and projects Disney is sponsoring itself.
- EPCOT has never really had a good transportation system. There’s definitely an opportunity there. They could start to address it with a few demonstrations of self-driving cars. Disney already has a relationship with General Motors, so that’s a natural, but a partnership with Google or Apple also seems like a possibility.
- 2016 will have the most days ever devoted to one festival or another. Unfortunately, the space they’re using as the Festival center is just not really well suited to the job. I’d like to see a combination of the old Innoventions West Space and some outside pavilions that can accommodate more guests for the VIP talks. Not only would this be more centrally located, it could be custom built for the purpose.
- As much as I enjoy the leisurely pace of the Friendship Boats between EPCOT and the Studios, I’d love to see an express version that only goes between the two parks. Right now its actually faster to walk between the two parks than to take the boats. An express option would solve that. Use the existing Friendship Boats or bring in a slightly smaller option that can move a bit faster.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
The Studios is a park on the verge of a major realignment. Alas, construction hasn’t really advanced on either Star Wars land or Toy Story land. But there are the new Star Wars experiences at the park to enjoy. Still the park is going to need some really help in 2016 to stay relevant.
My wish list for the studios in 2016:
- First, I know that Star Wars Weekends has been canceled for 2016. Not only will the construction make holding an event like that difficult, but Lucasfilm has become more guarded of the brand now that billions of box office dollars are in the balance. That said, Disney and Lucasfilm, should continue to bring in actors and experts from the Star Wars TV, Movie, Video Game, and Comic Book Universe. They could set up a panel discussion and autograph session inside the Indiana Jones pavilion or theatre of the stars after the normal day’s shows are over. Do this in May and first two weeks of June. Maybe even through in some new concept art for the Star Wars Land expansion.
- I think this winter holiday season has shown that the park needs to build out its infrastructure to handle guests. More parking needs to go up now (probably 2-3 times what documents filed with the county show they plan to add) to handle the crowds the park is attracting.
- Use the park to preview the new Star Wars movies. Add more props from Rogue One and early behind the scenes footage from the set to start building excitement with guests. There’s a good opportunity to build early buzz and capitalize on the success of “The Force Awakens.”
The Magic Kingdom
The Magic Kingdom never really saw the lift it expected from New Fantasyland, but it has slowly been adding improvements, particularly with the new hub design. I’ve heard some pretty wild rumors about what might be coming soon. But in the meantime, here are a few changes I wish they’d make.
My 2016 wishes for Magic Kingdom:
- Like FoxxFur, I wish they’d figure out a way to reopen the Diamond Horseshoe with live entertainment. It’s a gem of a space and would help add some life to Frontierland.
- Bring back benches and plant trees to provide shade. The Magic Kingdom has tragically eliminate many of the places to just sit, rest, and watch the world go by. This is especially true in the hub and town square both previously great places to people watch, now devoid of both shade and benches.
- It seems minor, but there really are a lot of light poles in the new plaza / hub and they make it very difficult to get a good shot of Cinderella Castle from anything but straight on. Figure out how to hide them during the day or move them back from the edge of the sidewalk.
Finally, we’ll look at a few wishes for Disney Springs.
Not only was there a name change in 2015, the long abandoned Pleasure Island space has been mostly transformed into a cohesive theme of “The Landing.” There are still new locations to open up in The Landing and nothing yet from Town Center (the first whole new section of the shopping and dining district). DisneyQuest will be closing in 2016, which means there will be a large hole in the Westside soon.
Here are my wishes for Disney Springs in 2016:
- This may be asking too much, but how about some affordable dining. When Pollo Capero closed, Disney Springs lost one of its few affordable dining locations. It doesn’t have to be fancy, a fast food chicken or hamburger stand would be fine. But I feel like I have to take out a loan to eat at any of the dining locations outside of Earl of Sandwich.
- The crowds at Disney Springs continue to be huge, having some street entertainment at night is definitely nice. However, a few of the locations end up blocking traffic. I did notice that this has been fixed in at least one location, it would be nice to see it happening at the other too.
- With Morimoto Asia’s Forbidden Lounge offering dining until 2:00AM now, it might be a good idea to publish hours for transportation to and from Disney Springs a little more prominently and to provide some alternate transportation for those guests who do stay that late.
So much was changed in 2015 that 2016, even with a big addition at DAK, may seem like a bit of a let down. It’s definitely going to be a ‘bridge’ year while we wait for Avatarland and, even later, Toy Story Land and Star Wars Land.
What is on your wish list for Walt Disney World?