WDW Gondola project now official – meet the Disney Skyliner

Work has started preparing the construction sites for the new Disney Skyliner – a gondola transportation system that will connect EPCOT’s International Gateway to Disney’s Hollywood Studios along with Pop Century, Art of Animation, Caribbean Beach, and the still to come Riviera DVC resort. I guess you could throw in the EPCOT area resorts for good measure, although the advantage to those is already the walk-ability to the two theme parks. Things should start happening fast now that the project was officially unveiled at the Disney fan expo in Anaheim, CA.

“I’m proud to announce that we’re building a whole new transportation system,” Bob Chapek, Disney parks chair, said at D23 Expo. “The Disney Skyliner will soon give our guests a bird’s eye view of Walt Disney World. Many of these gondolas will feature your favorite Disney characters and what a better way to get around the resort than with your pals in the sky.”

The system consists of 3 separate lines that all converge at the Caribbean Beach Resort ‘hub’. Guests will be able to change cabins there and continue onto their destination.

Each cabin is capable of holding 8 adults, which means the potential capacity per hour is around 5,000 people, which should be more than sufficient for all but the extreme peak times. The cabins are not expected to have air conditioning (it will have air vents that provide passive cooling), but will have wifi (so you can make that dinner reservation, naturally).

I have to say I’m disappointed that Disney has gone with a smaller system that won’t allow for larger gondola cars and a third rope that allows for propulsion to the nearest station even in a power outage. But the system they have chosen is used in multiple locations already and is very safe, even in relatively high winds (but not severe weather).

The good news is that this model of gondola is large enough to handle wheelchairs, strollers, and even a small ECV. The system is designed to move slow enough to allow access even without stopping the system. Loading is typically at ground level with the cars rapidly lifting into the air after departing the station.

I’m excited to have Disney showcasing this mode of transportation at its resort once again. I think it will serve as a proof-of-concept model for millions of visiting guests who will wonder why this very affordable and safe mode of transportation is not being used in their community.

Our understanding is that while there are no plans to expand the currently planned network, if it is a success, there’s a good chance they’ll continue to add new destinations such as Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Coronado Springs resort.

As for when the Skyliner opens? No official date has been given yet, but expect it to be either late 2018 or early 2019. Gondola systems are relatively quick to built (6 to 10 months), but Disney goes the extra distance with theming at the stations, which will take a little longer. Definitely in time to welcome new crowds to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

Previously: Disney adds private car “Minnie-Vans” to its transportation fleet

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11 thoughts on “WDW Gondola project now official – meet the Disney Skyliner

  1. Todd

    Let’s hope the wheels are also turning trying to figure out a solution for the aging monorail which is well beyond the expected life expectancy. Disney scores very poorly on maintaining a positive monorail experience for guests.

  2. R

    NO AIR CONDITIONING? Are you joking? This is Florida.
    My parents recently were stuck on a monorail at Disney, soon as the air went off it got hot very fast. The heat index could get over 100 degrees during the summer. This is a horrible idea.

  3. Jeff

    John, where did you get the “no air conditioning” info.
    I don’t think that’s correct.
    I sure hope it’s not.

  4. Barbara

    Okay, I am a senior and older than many if not most of you…..many years ago…Disney had a “sky ride” that was the exact same thing as this. It went from one end of Magic Kingdom to another. It was taken down…I assume for a good reason such as multiple break-downs…easy of getting on and off a moving ride. So why this? and why now? The older version which only held about 4 people I think was also not air-conditioned…..it was open.

  5. Pingback: Disney's new Riviera Resort to join Disney Vacation Club options | The Disney Blog

  6. Gerard

    “air vents that provide passive cooling” IN FLORIDA ?!?! And WHEN there’s an inevitable extended stoppage or break-down, than what WDW? BEYOND irresponsible of Disney to consider such foolishness!

  7. Mike

    As someone who lives in Colorado and skis, I can say that this type of gondola system is common at our resorts here and it is much improved over something like the old skyways at Disneyland and Magic Kingdom. Modern gondolas, for one thing, move slowly through the station with the gondola floor flush with the station floor, making for quick and easy loading. They never stop, unless there is a loading problem, moving continuously which significantly increases throughout. Once they leave the station, they accelerate rapidly and travel at a much higher speed than the old systems. They are true transportation systems, rather than the novelties of yesteryear.

    That said, I am shocked that Disney is apparently not planning to air condition the cabins. While I don’t know of any existing gondola installations that are cooled (there is no need for ski purposes, obviously), there are a number of them that have heated cabins, which requires electric power to be distributed to the cabins. If electric heat can be provided, I see no reason air conditioning couldn’t be similarly installed. I can’t imagine being a passenger in the Florida heat and humidity without it.

    I like the concept, though. Great, relatively inexpensive and easy to build way to provide transportation over a wide area.

    1. Mike

      One thing I forgot to mention is that I am curious how they plan to bring the Epcot gondola line into the France/England corner of World Showcase without disrupting the theming.

  8. Jason

    @Mike: I agree with almost everything you said, except the part about how gondolas are heated in the winter. They don’t use electricity per se. The heat comes from propane, and each gondola has its own tank. There is also a rechargeable batter that powers a fan. There’s no practical way to provide consistent electricity to a gondola while its on the wire. You can’t electrify the cable for obvious reasons. Air conditioning requires a lot of constant power, far too much to make a rechargeable battery practical. There is simply no way to provide air conditioning. But to your earlier point, the gondolas move much faster than people who’ve never ridden a modern one expects. They’re nothing like the old “sky ride”. Even on the hottest days, vents and windows that can be opened will be just fine. And to those complaining about break downs, as any skier/rider will tell you, that’s an extremely rare event. Almost never happens. They’re as reliable as a modern elevator.

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