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Disney World makes land grab for additional resort development


A few weeks ago, we went over some of the possible scenarios for expansion at Disney’s Hollywood Studios along with completion of on-going and announced projects (Part 1 and Part 2 if you missed it). Yesterday, news dropped of a deal that will make it all possible.

What we didn’t mention in those posts was a rumored mega-land purchase by Disney that some fans were saying was a clear sign of a fifth gate being built. I didn’t want to breath life into any crazy rumors like that, so I ended up not posting that story. However, events have changed my mind.

As Walt Disney said about building in Florida, Disney has the blessing of space. 43 square miles is just a little larger than the city of San Francisco. But what you may not realize is that quite a bit of that area is dedicated to wetlands and conservation. Most of the resort that isn’t are already developed is zoned for conservation (see map below).
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Live Preview of Harry Potter Diagon Alley Expansion at Universal

Just released today is Universal Orlando Resort’s third preview trailer for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley area. The preview uses scenes from the movies to hint at what’s coming to Universal Studios Florida. More details of the expansion will be revealed… Read More »Live Preview of Harry Potter Diagon Alley Expansion at Universal

Construction Begins on Avatar-Land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom


Disney’s Animal Kingdom was originally envisioned as a full day park. Designers had included a large section of the park devoted to imaginary animals of the beastly kingdom. This land would have giant coasters, flying beasts, family friendly attractions, and really allow the Imagineers imaginations to go wild with the possibilities. Sadly, the budget for that area was cut and left to the dustbin of history.

But Disney has always known it would need to add to DAK eventually. If you look at the details for Avatarland, we are getting something close to the original idea for a land of fantasy creatures (just without the giant coaster, which ended up at Islands of Adventure when some Imagineers let go by Disney took their ideas to Universal). Just not the fantasy creatures you were expecting.

What’s clear is that DAK needs to expand its offerings into the night and that Pandora: The Worlds of Avatar (or whatever the name is these days) can be a big part of that. Just look at that concept art above. The potential of bio-luminescence is amazing. I don’t think Imagineers would release that art if they didn’t know they could pull it off. I urge fans who still have questions about Disney’s decision to partner with James Cameron and his Avatar movies to give Disney’s team a chance to add something amazing to DAK.

You really don’t have a choice anyway, as Friday’s groundbreaking ceremony for the expansion makes it all as official as it gets in the world of Disney anyway.Read More »Construction Begins on Avatar-Land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Dr. John’s 2014 Prescriptions for Walt Disney World


Normally at this time of year, I write a retrospective piece looking back at the year in Disney, but for personal reasons, I’ve decided now is the time to look forward, not back. Instead of recollections, I’m writing prescriptions.These are the things I believe will help Walt Disney World continue to compete for the hearts and wallets of their fans while fending off challenges from other entertainment options both near (Universal Orlando) and far (changing TV viewing habits at home, for instance)

I’ll try and limit myself to one or two recommendations each and something that can at least get started in 2014. I don’t intend each prescription to solve every woe, but it will at least make a significant difference in one or two major problem areas.

Magic Kingdom
The oldest theme park in Central Florida is showing its age more and more and suffers from serious stagnation in both attractions and entertainment (translation: a serious capacity issue). There is something they can do quickly to make a dent. As part of an overall project to update Tomorrowland, I prescribe for the park an indoor air-conditioned high-capacity theater capable of hosting shows similar to the Hyperion Theater at California Adventure. With multiple shows a day, this adds a lot of capacity, gives guests a place to cool off in the heat and humidity, and allows for a showcase for Disney’s latest animated musicals (Rapunzel Stage show anyone?). This is also something that could be accomplished quickly and with minimal in park disruption by setting the theater outside the berm. Additional revenue can be raised by hosting events in the space, something the Magic Kingdom is currently lacking.

This park has the highest capacity of all four parks. It has two wonderful festivals and an enjoyable Christmas overlay. These are wonderful for what they do to attract guests. However, the mission and vision of EPCOT has been ignored for too long, and many areas of the park are in serious need of rejuvenation. Let’s tackle the two sections of the park separately.Read More »Dr. John’s 2014 Prescriptions for Walt Disney World

Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley Trailer and Teaser Poster

Universal Studios just released a teaser poster for it’s upcoming expansion of Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley themed area. Last week Universal Orland Resort uploaded two trailers for the first Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansion. The first is a not so subtle jab at Disney’s… Read More »Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley Trailer and Teaser Poster

Envisioning a new Disney’s Hollywood Studios


There have been a number of different rumors about the changes coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios should the company decide to spend a few bucks fixing it up. The photo above and descriptions below are a compilation of what a few sources have told me plus a dose of what seems most likely just based on my experience with Disney World’s expansion history.

First, why would Disney be willing to spend a princely sum on Disney’s Hollywood Studios. They’ve just spent a half-billion dollars on expanding Fantasyland, somewhere north of two billion on the next-gen technology that’s bringing us Fastpass+ and MyMagic+, and have committed to building Avatarland, which might approach a billion dollars before all is said and done there as well (I’m including relocating Festival of the Lion King in that total).

There are a number of things lining up that point to DHS getting some TLC soon.

  • First Avatar-land has been delayed, so that bucket of money is potentially available to be shifted to DHS.
  • There is a growing awareness amongst Disney World managers that next-gen won’t be an attendance driver for the parks and resorts.
  • DHS has had problems keeping guests in the park after mid-afternoon. With Universal Orlando adding even more attractions, Disney is worried about losing one day of the Disney vacation to Universal.
  • Lastly, since the Lucasfilm addition, Disney has made clear that they’ll be looking to the parks to help capitalize on the new Star Wars properties. The Star Wars Weekends have been huge successes, particularly when it comes to selling merchandise, and Disney wants to attract that crowd all year long.

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