Worldwide Disney Parks updates from Imagineering*
By Roger Dodger
Published: June 16, 2009 at 3:21 AM [Editor's note: It's a new name on the byline, but an old friend of TPI whom I trust, who is posting anonymously with permission for what should be obvious reasons. Anyway, have fun with this inside scoop, and remember, planning does not mean construction, so not everything these guys talk about gets built.] Update: See the comments for confirmation and details from Disney on the renovation of the Disneyland Hotel.
The Imgagineers gave an update today about Disney's worldwide park/resorts/etc plans. I'll try not to be too wordy, but just give an overview. It's all from memory since taking notes wasn't really encouraged.
1. STAR TOURS: As rumored, the rehab is about to start. And you know why? Because Tokyo Disney (Oriental Land Company) wanted their own version so they poured in some money. And George Lucas has been VERY involved. The new version sounds REALLY cool. Apparently, the original Star Tours was supposed to be updated every three years or so with a new film (ha!). So now, they're creating a new 3-D film (yes, everyone will have to wear 3-D glasses). The new film will be set in the time between Star Wars Films 3 and 4 (so, after Queen Amidala's death but before Luke finds Obi Wan and blows up the Death Star). But here's the cool part -- they're saying that the ride will now have hundreds of versions, so guests will never know what they're getting into....they're going to film about 25 openings, about 25 middles, and then 25 endings, so your ride will never be the same...this is one way to make sure it stays fresh for MUCH longer. I can't wait to see this.
2. WDW's Fantasy Land (in the Magic Kingdom) is getting a MAJOR expansion (yes, expansion). And where will that expansion go, you ask? In Mickey's Toon Town Fair, a place that was originally designed to be only a 3-year entry. Apparently, Imagineers are adding "The Enchanted Forest," a place, according to the head story exec, where Princesses seem to always run into (to much laughter). So, yes, it sounds like it will definitely be a heavy does of princesses, but with lots and lots of room for kids and whole families to have tons of fun. Looks like it will include musical shows, story times, birthday parties, lots of character meet-and-greats (of course). We'll see if it turns out to be as cool as their promising. And the area between the castle and the Carousel is being transformed into a castle courtyard, complete with brand new themeing and shrubbery. This is definitely going to be a big change.
3. As speculated, the LITTLE MERMAID dark ride is going into both Disneyland AND WDW. Yep, it's taking over the space once occupied by the Subs.
4. The next major Disney theme park will be on 2,000 acres in Shangai. Which surprises me, considering the poor attendance thus far at Hong Kong. But, of course, Hong Kong's park is pretty small. The Shanghai project looks to be pretty expansive, with lots of lakes, hotels, etc.
5. The Disneyland Hotel is getting a top-to-bottom rebuild. And the entire courtyard/recreation area is being torn down and rebuilt. Basically, Disney's almost rebuilding this hotel from scratch.
6. Disneyland Paris is getting a whole new TOYSTORY Play Place land, which looks like it's kind of like the "Honey I Shrunk the Kids" play area, but WAAAAAY more expansive and with actual attractions. We can probably expect to see some form of this in Florida soon, to replace the "Honey" play area.
7. Disney has purchased land in Washington D.C. to build a major resort/water park/themed area....basically, the head designer said that since Disney failed twice to build an American History-themed park, this was their attempt to "do it" right. The designs showed a very, very large historical-type resort hotel with an adjacent water part. They said, however, this plan was in the very early stages.
8. The POP CENTURY resort is back on track to be finished now, but the remaining hotels will be Animation Suites hotels, which are described as vacation suites for families on a budget -- and completely new concept for Disney. Waaay cool.
9. The Tree House Villas have all been replaced and are ready to be occupied by Disney Vacation Club members.
10. On the Cruise Ships, the areas for age-specific programming are being expanded, but the cool part is the new ANIMATOR'S PALETTE restaurants -- guests will actually draw cartoons when they sit down. These cartoons will be given to the "magic people." Then later, during the meal, those actual drawings will come to life and be animated on the walls next to each table. Very cool.
Also, the Turtle Talk with Crush is coming aboard the new Cruise Ships, and Crush will be swimming all around the Animator's Palette to interact with guests. Sounds cool.
11. Hong Kong Disney is getting site-specific attractions based on existing ones here in the states -- for example, instead of Haunted Mansion, they'll be getting the Mystical Manor, where a curse is released inside the house and all manner of supernatural things occur. That's all I can remember at this moment -- I'll post more as I remember.