Hello, and welcome to Dateline Disney World! This week, we’ll be visiting both Animal Kingdom, where Avatar Land has finally broken ground and Epcot, where the new Spice Road restaurant has opened. There’s a lot to see, let’s take a look.

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Welcome to Animal Kingdom!!

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At the entrance, the Let the Memories Begin banner has also been removed here, a good sign.

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No more Festival of Lion King on the times guides.

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Festival of the Lion King also not on the tip board.

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FP+ kiosks are now in the park since AK no longer offers legacy FP.

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I made some FP+ reservations this week as well. It was quite easy to get times for the three major AK attractions.

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I only ended up using one of them, but when I left at 2pm, I was able to get a 2:15 Soarin’ FP, which was pretty amazing.

 

Construction in Dinoland.

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Legacy FP signs boarded up.

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I don’t know when this truck arrived, but I think it’s for a dance party.

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Legacy FP gone at Everest, now a FP+ kiosk.

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Walls are now up all around the old Dawa Bar area, making it pretty tough to see construction of the new Lion King theater.

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Camp Minnie Mickey is also gone now, and I think it will be quite hard to report on Avatar construction, as these walls will make that pretty tough.

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Nothing like spelling issues!

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No more Festival of the Lion King sign near Pizzafari.

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Refurb at one of the gift shops.

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Time for Epcot!!

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Welcome to Epcot!!

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Pretty flowers near SSE.

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Not very crowded in the parks this week.

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This new mug in MouseGear is pretty cool.

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The gospel stage from the holidays is now down.

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It is tour group season here at WDW.

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I tried the Cronut in World Showcase. It was filling and quite delicious.

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The other big news story this week is the opening of the Spice Road Table restaurant in Morocco.

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My biggest complaint here is the way it looks from the waterfront. I think the colors clash with the rest of the pavilion.

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From inside the pavilion though, it is pretty nice looking, rather elegant.

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Check-in area.

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Bar inside.

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Waterfront indoor seating.

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The gift shop area sells a lot of the same merchandise as in the rest of the pavilion.

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And the little mini-bar that used to be on the other side has a permanent location here on the corner. It’s much nicer looking than what it used to be.

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All in all, an interesting change. I’m not a huge fan of altering too much of the waterfront area of World Showcase, but from inside the pavilion here, it works.

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Some planters closing off this area near France.

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Time to head out!

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That does it for this week’s column. How do you feel about the progress at Animal Kingdom? Thoughts on Spice Road Table? Let us know in the comments!!

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  • FerretAfros

    Thanks for the Spice Road photos! I saw that the walls had come down as I was running past in the marathon on Sunday, but didn’t have time to stop and check it out. Do you know if this means that the new/temporary gift shop near the Tangerine Cafe entrance/patio will return as a dining area?

  • Country Bear

    Thanks for the update Cory. Epcot certainly looks beautiful with the colorful flower gardens.

    Is Spice Road a table service restaurant? Did you get a chance to look at the menu and pricing? Just wondering if this was part of a plan by Disney to relieve some of the demand on Epcot table service restaurants (with dining plan anyway)? Is it comparable to the restaurant inside the pavilion itself?

    Looks like Animal Kingdom will be a little lighter on attractions for the next 6 – 8 months. Terrible concept having to close anything in this park as it stands today. They really can’t afford to have anything shut down due to how few attractions the park currently offers. Oh well, in just 3-ish years there will be 2 new attractions I belieive, (sorry, believe) to add to the mix. I thought it was interesting that Tom Staggs admitted that this was not a full day park at the Avatarland ground breaking. It will be fascinating to see how many attractions actually open in Avatarland once it’s completed. All of the information leaked to this point indicates two (plus a nightime entertainment of some sort). Wouldn’t it be great if there were more than that on opening day? It’s always nice to dream.

    Thanks again Cory.

  • ChrisNJ

    not a fan of the look of Spice Road. What is going on in corner bar’s upper area? Looks like very cheap detailing which isn’t at all in sync with the rest of the pavilion. Also agree with Cory that it doesn’t look so good from the water (based on the photos). Interior looks great though.

    Thanks for the photos of both parks. Always love seeing Animal Kingdom’s lush walkways.

  • jcruise86

    Will the Avatar land and attractions be opened by the summer
    . . . of 2018?

    • solarnole

      First they have to finish longest construction time on a kid roller coaster in history.

      If it takes Disney 4 years to build that my guess is that Avatar will be done in 10 or 15 years. Hopefully they add a DVC to pandora then that will be built in less then a year.

      • gboiler1

        Technically I don’t believe the Mine Train has been under construction for 4 years as they built out New Fantasyland in stages.

      • CaptainAction

        Ok gboiler,
        This is year 3 minimum for the Dwarf Mound.
        The plastic light up plants, mess hall restuarant, soaring with Avatar will take around 7-10 years except for the restaurant and stores. The restaurant and stores will open in 14 weeks.
        Rides take 3-10 years because they don’t add revenue in eyes of current WDW execs.

      • BradyNBradleysMom

        It seems so strange to me when I see grown adults on these boards grumbling about the Dwarves’ ride being “a kid coaster”. I can’t always tell from the screen names, but it looks like it’s almost always men who are grumbling like this. I can’t imagine my husband or father or my brothers-in-law grumbling that a ride based on the Seven Dwarves was “a kid coaster”. The men in my life would laugh at other guys going on about “a kid coaster”.

        And that pejorative for the ride is not even accurate. Goofy’s Barnstormer “a kid coaster”, for sure. I see the Dwarves mine as an equivalent to Big Thunder Mountain, but a little toned down. Which makes sense for me, since younger kids have Goofy’s Barnstormer…and then you get a little older and it’s the Dwarves train and then slightly older than that and it’s Big Thunder and then Space Mountain after that. I think this Dwarves ride is a nice stepping stone that was missing.

      • CaptainAction

        If Everest took 3 years, one might say, “Well, that is a BIG mountain?!?”.

        When it takes 3 YEARS (and that is the point) to build Dwarf Mound, that is inexcusable for any ride but especially a kiddie coaster, like Dwarf Mound.

        ALL of Disneyland was built in the 50’s in around 18 months.

  • SueinSac

    Great column – thanks! I’m so sad Festival of the Lion King will be closed the next time I’m there.

    So…where in World Showcase are the cronuts?

  • gboiler1

    I do like the fact that construction walls are mostly to the side and out of the way, however, getting construction pic updates will be much more sparse.

  • wishyouwell

    I want to ask how you manage to get FP+ for soarin’ (in Epcot) after used one FP+ in Animal Kingdom. Is there a trick to it? I though FP+ limit to one park per day?!?

  • martinjbell1986

    Great update as usual. I may be one of the few that are actually optimistic about Avatar and the Mine coaster ride. Animal Kingdom actually having a nightlife past 5pm will be amazing.

    • CaptainAction

      Yep, you are optimistic.

    • I’m very optimistic about Avatar. Although I wish they had gone with another theme, I think what they have planned to build will wow folks!

  • FarFromHome

    Does anyone know when the Animal Kingdom Night show is supposed to open?

    • jcruise86

      ^ ^ When one of Universal Orlando’s parks starts attracting even more guests while DAK’s attendance remains flat.

      • CaptainAction

        On the nose jcruise86.

      • FarFromHome

        I was hoping for a “Summer 2014” 🙁

  • Orlando71

    Great update– i think all the complaining is hilarious. Everybody is complaining that Disney is doing nothing, and then Disney announces new lands, and people still complain. I guess people love bashing Disney. I also think its funny when people compare a company whose total assets is 165 billion to Disney’s 75, and they wonder why Universal is suddenly pumping out new lands. That’s great and awesome for Universal but I don’t know why Disney has to open new attractions/ lands of relatively equal cost in the same time period. I’d rather new stuff open sooner but if in the long run it will be better, i’d rather it wait. I wonder how different Disney parks would be if Comcast had bought Disney in 2004……

    • danielz6

      I doubt Oriental Land Company has nearly the assets that WDC has, yet they managed to build the best theme park in the World, and arguably the best theme park resort also.

  • thebear

    CaptainAction sounds like a jilted lover. If your new girl (Universal) is so great, why are you even reading these updates on WDW? Why not just wait the multiple years (as you point out with amazing regularity) and check it all out when it’s done? Whining is when you complain about something to someone who can’t do anything about it.

  • thebear

    The plastic light up plants, mess hall restuarant, soaring with Avatar will take around 7-10 years except for the restaurant and stores. The restaurant and stores will open in 14 weeks.
    That’s not even a coherent thought.

    • CaptainAction

      Need to practice your reading comprehension, bear.

      WDW will take 3 years to build the kiddie coaster, Dwarf Mound, but the stores and restaurants (these are called revenue centers, which means they make money for WDW) opened in about a year.

      So, WDW will open the Avatar stores and restaurant, called the Avatar Mess Hall, in 14 weeks but the rides which will be more complex than Dwarf Mound kiddie coaster, will take 7-10 years.

      See bear, rides don’t generate revenue, in the eyes of the current WDW execs but restaurants and stores and photo ops do.

      My comments are ment to wake up you WDW enablers so that WDW will have to quit coasting and taking guests for granted. We need new execs at WDW.

      Here endeth the lesson.

      • WookieCookie

        The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train broke ground in September 2012. We’re now in January 2014. If we apply an ancient concept called mathematics, that puts physical construction at 16 months or just under 1.5 years. With opening date set later this spring, it’s mathematically impossible for 1.5 to equal 3.

        Basic arithmetic aside, WDW does need a shakeup in management though, and give Hollywood Studios a much-needed California Adventure makeover .

      • Bartattack

        Well, Universal maybe fast at building new rides… but it took ‘m about 11 years to open a new ride at Island of adventures.

        And I find it funny to read complains about WDW opening a restaurant or a store, but when Universal opens a whole Spingfield themed ‘land’ with nothing but stores and fast food restaurants, it’s the best thing ever.

        I think Universal is doing a great job of catching up (and we all benefit from it with the new rides) but they still have their work cut out for them. With all the recent rides and Diagon Alley they will have ‘updated’ the studios part… but then they need to go back and look at Island of adventure because only Harry Potter won’t be enough for the future. This park really needs some extra attention to counter-balance the studios at this point.

      • CaptainAction

        Bartattack.
        Nobody cares if Universal opens Springfield restaurants and stores with one new ride you missed. Why? Because Universal is building all the rides and lands too.
        If they just built stores and restaurants, like WDW, then you would have a point.
        Jurassic Park is getting a makeover and a new coaster along with the Hogwarts depot area.
        Ball is back to WDW’s court again.

  • danielz6

    Does anyone know if they will finally fix the Yeti when Avatar opens? I have never been to AK because I refuse to pay full price for a park when it’s signature eticket attraction isn’t even working properly.

  • ChrisNJ

    The comments about Avatar’s light up plants make me laugh. Why doesn’t Disney just buy Universal’s ET ride and switch out the ETs?

    FYI I am hopeful the entire expansion will be beautiful. Not a huge fan of the movie though.

  • Fukai

    They can’t fix the Yeti. It’s the most ineptly designed attraction in the history of a Disney park. The central figure is encased in the cave and can’t be removed to be fixed. So they seem to have just completely given up on the rest of the special effects so all you have is a crap Six Flags style coaster with some Disney theming, but none of the real plussing that would make it the game changer it was supposed to be.

    Bleh.

    Instead they’re spending a ton of money on Pandora–and what if the effects in those rides don’t work either? Are they just going to ignore those?

    What a bunch of boobs.

  • Tielo

    Great update, Epcot really needed a restaurant. Yes a ride would have been nice but a restaurant is much better just because it is!
    I actually have been to Morocco and I can tell you this restaurant look exactly, up until the finest details, like nothing I have seen there.

    AK is looking better and better by the day. I love how the Mickey meet and greet is transplanted at the end of the most useless train ride in Disney history. At least now you have something to look forward to.
    I’m actually glad Disney isn’t fixing all the problems the park has. Otherwise Avatar would look strange in comparison.

    I read about the new night time safari. Disney isn’t going to shine lights in those poor animals eyes, no, every guest get a rifle with a night camera sight on it. The animals are tagged with RFID chips and you can shoot them (not for real of course). At the end you swipe your own RFID handcuffs against a terminal and it shows your score in “rugs” and “aphrodisiacs”.

    I’m sure Avatar is going to look amazing. The artwork showed the miniature arches on top of the show building and we know how amazing Disney is making those these days. Sure all the rockwork is going to take a long time but I’m sure the interactive queues (unlike the rides) will look amazing.
    Still not sure how they going to present the tall and skinny smurfs with reproductive parts in their hair but I’m sure they’ll look amazing and I’m surely I will get a makeover in de ni’vetie na’vetie boutique and walk around proudly painted blue with a cloth around my junk.

  • CaptainAction

    Funny stuff Tielo! I was starting to wonder where you were.

    Good to see you back.

  • DISNEYWHEELS

    The pink stucco for the spice restaurant in Morocco jumps out into the water almost. They need to blend it in more with the rest of the Pavilion. I think the Imaginenears thinking that the pink stucco will tone down over time with the Florida weather.