Saturday, March 23, 2024

Walt Disney World News Round Up - March 2024

 

Picture courtesy of Disney Parks Blog

There have been a few pieces of Disney parks news that has dropped in the last week or so.  Every time I saw something pop up, I considered writing a blog post about it, but I didn't know if it was in itself worthy enough of a whole post.  But now that we have a few things that have been collected, I figured I'd write a quick post that encompasses all of them, along with some of my commentary that you've come to love.  So let's get started:


CommuniCore Hall Open Date & Encanto Live Show:

Epcot has been undergoing its most recent transformation for what feels like forever.  Most everything has been completed and has already opened.  The one exception to that was the completion of CommuniCore Hall, which is going to be used as the "home to the iconic Epcot festivals and other celebrations" (Disney's words).  This is simply a building (and similar to what was there before) but it will represent the final stage of the Epcot overhaul.


Construction on this building had been going on for a while, but in recent months, progress had slowed to a crawl.  If you compare timed photos from CommuniCore Hall and Tiana's Bayou Adventure in Magic Kingdom, you can tell where the company's priority has been (and probably with good reason, if we're being honest).  


But CommuniCore Hall will finally officially open on June 10. And to celebrate, a brand new live show will take place on the CommuniCore Plaza stage. This show features Encanto, and will be a sing-a-long show that runs for a limited time through September 6.  There had recently been a casting call for an Encanto show so this isn't a real surprise if you had been paying attention.  But the call hadn't mentioned which park would host it, and while Magic Kingdom probably seemed like the more natural fit, opening up this new area in Epcot with popular characters is a good way to call attention to the fact that there is a stage here too, and Disney will make use of it.  


I suspect there will be plenty of similar shows as Epcot moves from one festival to another.  And this is a good idea.  While the opening of a new building might not move the needle, having beloved characters on stage is a good way to tie the new Epcot together and make this a central meeting point for the park.  It took them long enough, but we can finally say that Epcot is officially fully open for business starting in June.


Epcot Becoming to Debut on National Geographic:

Speaking of the Epcot transformation, National Geographic (a Disney owned company) announced that a new documentary is coming on April 29.  The official word is:

 

Premieres April 29 at 10/9c on National Geographic!

EPCOT BECOMING showcases the reimagining of EPCOT for a new generation.  Watch as Walt Disney World Resort teams rise to the challenge of bringing the constantly evolving park into the future, from creating an innovative new coaster to exploring the wonder of water and culminating with the debut of the next legacy in nighttime spectaculars: “Luminous The Symphony of Us.”

 BlogMickey clarified that this is premiering ONLY on Nat Geo, and no streaming date on Disney+ was officially announced (yet).


Nat Geo has been the home of a bunch of Disney documentaries over the years, most notably the Magic of Animal Kingdom (narrated by Josh Gad).  Whatever your feelings are on the current version of Epcot, this is a big win in my opinion.  I LOVE Disney documentaries, and any content about the parks is a welcome addition.  Disney obviously wants people to know about all the Epcot changes, so I expect this will be like a large commercial for the park.  But high quality professional video is always welcome and I can't wait to dig into this (and in this case, we will have just returned from the parks, so it will be a good way to keep it with us for a little longer).

Image Courtesy of Disney Parks Blog


New Drone Show at Disney Springs

Also in that Disney Parks Blog above came the announcement of a new nighttime show at Disney Springs, Disney Dreams That Soar.  This will take place nightly from May 24 through September 2 and involves choreographed drones along with a musical score and quotes from Disney movies.  


This is interesting for a couple of reasons.  For one, this is the first domestic nighttime show that uses drones.  I say "domestic" because Disneyland Paris recently debuted a nighttime show that featured drones on their castle stage.  Drone shows have become more common lately, and Disney has seemingly embraced this new trend.


My concern about drones in this capacity is that the next step will be to have drone choreographed ads take up space in an empty sky.  Think Times Square, but without the need for the actual buildings.  Who needs billboard space when the sky is your canvas?  Maybe I'm being too cynical here.  But I do like the idea of a drone show in a vacuum.  The technology is there, and if it ends up being used for more commercial purposes, that doesn't mean that it is inherently bad.  With Disney's Imagineers in tow, I suspect that this show (and others in the future) will be really well done and a good complement (or replacement) for fireworks and projections.


The most interesting thing from a Disney perspective here is that this show is taking place at Disney Springs and not in one of the parks.  Perhaps Disney doesn't think it's "good" enough yet, or they just saw underutilized capacity that might get people to hang around Disney Springs for some more shopping and eating so that they can watch the show.  But to my knowledge, this is the first "attraction" of this kind at Disney Springs, at least since Pleasure Island was still a thing.  If this works the way they want, I would expect something similar at the parks in the future.


New Construction Permit at Animal Kingdom

Finally, we come to the most interesting piece of news (in my opinion) and that is some progress on the Animal Kingdom overhaul.  You may remember that this has been teased multiple times, most recently at last year's D23 where it was all but confirmed that Dinoland would be turned into Tropical Americas, likely featuring Encanto and Indiana Jones.  This had been teased as a "blue sky" concept going back to the previous year, but it seemed like something was imminent.


Fast forward to now, and you'll find that nothing of substance has happened on this project since.  Disney is planning to invest $60 billion into the parks division, at least half of which will go to new lands and other capital projects.  Animal Kingdom is in dire need of a facelift, and it stood to reason that the first "official" announcement in terms of major parks projects would be this very thing.


As of now, nothing has been officially announced, but if you were skeptical that anything at all was going to happen, that's where this recent news comes in.  Disney has filed a permit with the South Florida Water Management District, which doesn't sound all that interesting on the surface.  But if you take a look at the scope of the project (seen at Disney Tourist Blog here), it's not hard to connect the dots to some ACTUAL progress.


This is basically going to be a trailer park outside of Animal Kingdom with temporary offices and 363 parking spaces.  In other words, this is not a minor project, but a rather large one.  The area for this trailer park will be right along the back of Animal Kingdom, abutting Dinoland.  It doesn't take that much detective work to speculate that this is the beginning of this major project, and that it is coming in the near future.


That's exciting news!  We've been waiting for Disney to finally pay off their promise of investment in the parks division and it looks like things are moving ahead, even though no official announcement has been made by the company in terms of scope, when Dinoland will be taken down or even confirmation of what is going into that space.  D23 is still six months away, and it appears that this project will already be underway before then, so either Disney is going to confirm this at D23 or make a separate announcement some time between now and then. As Disney Tourist Blog points out in that linked article, the next Disney shareholders meeting is April 3, which would be a great time for a major announcement.  Stay tuned here as more information becomes available.







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