All right, all right, all right.
Disney Parks Blog laid out the announcements from this year’s D23 Expo in California here, in case you’re unfamiliar with what’s official. None of the Studios’ announcements were particularly surprising since everyone was expecting Star Wars to arrive alongside some variety of Pixar Place expansion. In addition, the Studios will see a version of the Star Wars Launch Bay, most likely headed into the old Animation Building space. Disney is also bringing “Season of the Force” in “early 2016,” which will probably end up being a miniature version of Star Wars Weekends, complete with fireworks to a John Williams score on weekend nights. And Star Tours will be getting a new scene from Episode VII.
The bigger news is, of course, Star Wars Land itself: “Disney’s largest single-themed land expansions ever at 14-acres, [Star Wars Land will] transport guests to a never-before-seen planet, a remote trading port and one of the last stops before wild space where Star Wars characters and their stories come to life.” The official word on the new land is available here in case you’ve been hiding under the proverbial bantha.
Toy Story Land is a lot more straightforward. Its location behind the current Pixar Place and Toy Story Mania is obvious and its expected attractions are clearly laid out:
- Family-friendly roller coaster – Guests board Slinky Dog’s back for a thrilling toy-filled coaster adventure that’s ideal for the entire family.
- Alien saucers attraction – The famous little green aliens from the movie will take guests around for a spin in their very own flying saucers – but beware The Claw!
- Toy Story Mania! – This current guest-favorite attraction, which allows guests to take aim at 3D objects in into the Toy Story Midway Games Play Set, will expand with more midway track that takes you into the world under Andy’s bed where he’s built a carnival-style midway.
During the presentation, Disney brass compared it favorably in scope to California Adventure’s Cars Land, which is potentially a stretch since none of this looks to be Radiator-Springs-level stuff. But it’s also just a drawing, so I’m not sure how fair it is to make any grand generalizations about how badly it’s going to suck. In this theme park blogger’s opinion, it looks to be exactly what the Studios needs – a fun, enthralling land that’s going to take kids and their families a good chunk of time to experience. Honestly, it looks pretty cool to me.
But what Disney didn’t tell us is of course what everyone wants to know. Where is Star Wars Land going to go and what is it going to replace? There are two primary options – the first is the Echo Lake space, taking over the lake itself, Indiana Jones, and some backstage parking and cast services buildings. Other buildings in the area could be easily re-purposed.
With Star Tours in the vicinity, this seems to make the most sense.
Backlot becomes the Cantina.
A more elaborate Jedi Training moves into Sounds Dangerous.
Star Wars character dining.
Knock down Indiana Jones and add some backstage parking lot/cast services building space and you have room to build the rest of Star Wars Land.
From a crowd flow perspective, building your premier themed land right inside the entrance makes less sense. There is a ton of unused space in the old Backlot area and Streets of America ripe for an expansion.
Not to mention the dud that is Lights, Motors, Action? Snooze Stunt Show in the Oppressive Ovenlike Orlando heat.
It certainly seems like something more substantial should replace this walk-through area. There’s some chatter that some unannounced version of Cars Land is still incoming. It makes a lot of sense on one hand, but with Star Wars and Toy Story already opening, I don’t think people are going to need a third reason to visit the Studios.
It seems like the old home of the AFI Showcase would have been a good choice for the Launch Bay. It was already set up sort of like a museum exhibit with plenty of space for retail and more.
Disney hasn’t even removed the Watto’s Grotto signage from Star Wars Weekends in June.
Toy Story Land is assuredly headed back here behind Pixar Place. In front of us inside the bland exterior is where the third Toy Story Mania track is going in.
There’s a lot of space back there.
It’s possible that this entire corridor will be closed eventually with guests routed behind the show buildings into Toy Story Land.
One Man’s Dream’s imminent closure seems likely.
Disney has apparently shipped off Walt’s desk to California, leaving this map of Disneyland over the window.
Hopefully most of this stuff can be moved elsewhere. Take the opportunity to visit in the next month if you can.
The Magic of Disney Animation sign came down after hours on August 19th. You can sort of see the reflective vest of a construction worker beyond the sandwich board sign.
On the other hand, Disney Jr. Live on Stage and the character meet and greets in this area don’t seem to be going anywhere. The Art Gallery store back here is expected to close shortly.
So one wonders how much construction is possible back here assuming One Man’s Dream and Voyage of the Little Mermaid close for re-purposing or demolition.
It’s safe to assume most of what’s on Sunset Boulevard will survive – from the retail that lines both sides to Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. Fantasmic is unlikely to go anywhere, though I’d be surprised if Beauty and the Beast is still Live on Stage in the not-so-distant future.
Overall, in some ways the D23 Parks and Resorts presentation offered some clarity into the future of whatever Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be called in five or so years. On the other hand, a lot of questions remain unanswered. Is this it? Where will it go? And when will it open? You have to imagine Star Wars is 5+ years off and Disney isn’t exactly known for putting the pedal to the metal these days on other construction projects. So Toy Story is at a minimum years away as well.
We’ll see what the future holds.
It’s otherwise the afternoon of Wednesday August 19th, which was quick service menu update day this year when every theme park quick service menu receives an update:
This year’s was much more of a non-event than previous years with few major changes at the Studios at least. The fact that Fairfax Fare has substituted sides of corn for coleslaw is about as exciting as it’s going to get.
Disney Dining Plan users will be happy to know that their more expensive snack credit options have stuck, like Hollywood Scoops’ $6.19 sundae.
And Oasis Canteen’s $8+ funnel cake:
Right outside Indiana Jones.
A potentially nice addition to the lineup is Herbie’s Chili-Cheese Nachos, now a snack credit:
This is on the left as you approach Lights, Motors, Mom Can We Please Go Back to Harry Potter World!
All the drinks at Starbucks are still snack credits, regardless of size:
Prices on most other quick service entrees and beverages didn’t go up:
Everything here at Studio Catering Co. is the exact same price.
Rosie’s All-American Cafe, part of Sunset Ranch Market on Sunset Boulevard, switched out its Black Bean Burger for a Fried Green Tomato Sandwich with Jalapeno Ranch, Pepper Jack, and Arugula on Ciabata Bread. That’s very unique.
ABC Commissary dropped the Couscous and Arugula Salad, which is a shame because I thought it was very good and very different from what else is available.
The Asian Salad is still available.
Seasonal “Gourmet” cupcakes are up 40 cents. With tax, they’d run you a nickel shy of six bucks each.
There’s still some goofiness in what’s included as a snack credit.
Here you’ve got the $5.49 “Seasonal Crispy” included as a snack credit, while the $5.49 “Large Cookies” are not included. While at the same time the more significant Carrot Cake Cookie is $4 and included. So you might be thinking, “Josh are you dumb obviously large cookies aren’t included that makes sense. Really r u dumb.”
But!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! dear reader, here at the Confectionery at Magic Kingdom, “large cookies” are included as snack credits while the “seasonal crispy” is not! It’s almost like someone puts up pictures of snacks and throws darts at them to decide what’s going to be included at each park.
Let’s see…The Boba Fett Stein looks to be a semi-permanent addition to Backlot Express.
The After Burner drink also looks to be a permanent addition. It’s more of a November drink for me.
There’s Boba. More and more places are getting frozen slushies too. Backlot did not previously offer them.
Otherwise nothing to see.
Joffrey’s stands still aren’t participating in the Dining Plan, save for the Double Espresso, which seems kind of strange.
Same beer on draft at Studio Catering High Octane Refreshments.
Nothing interesting in bottles.
The pretzel/churro stand outside Great Movie Ride is bundling the churro with chocolate sauce and the Mickey pretzel with cheese sauce for a single snack credit, just like Pretzel Garden Okay? on Streets of America.
Zipz is the wine of choice these days and Odwalla lemonade is everywhere.
Touring-wise, it’s going to be a while until things get better here. Nobody wants to wait more than two hours for Toy Story Mania.
Or 45+ minutes for Great Movie Ride.
This is how wait times are panning out here in the late summer at each of the attractions that move. By 10:45am you’re waiting a minimum of 40 minutes in standby. It’s strange seeing Movie Ride waits longer than Tower of Terror, but that’s the current normal.
Frozen Summer Fun has a couple more weeks left. The Olaf show here at the stage is popular in the heart of the afternoon, but still easy to take in.
The Royal Welcome parade remains easy to see here with the busts.
Halloween merchandise is out in force. I’ll have a separate post detailing it.
Do I take the 18th Street Station to Star Wars Land? Does the Hogwarts Express stop here?
Osborne Lights are going up throughout Streets of America. I’m not sure if you can tell.
You should be able to tell.
Youse Guys Moychindice is all Marvel.
This kiosk opens later in the afternoon and will put your face on a Star Wars character.
Considering Disney is building another flex theater near Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, one would imagine that its previous iteration here at the Premier Theater would be toast in the near future. But we’ll see.
You can’t really see it here, but the theater is being built behind the wall.
One wonders if Muppet Vision and Pizza Planet will survive.
This is one of the more ridiculous things I’ve seen.
It’s a pajama pouch. Whatever that means.
Minnie is still meeting in front of The Great Movie Ride. Remember that Sorcerer Mickey moved to the old Backlot Tour queue.
Frozen’s version of the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique had plenty of same-day reservations available across from Sci-Fi Dine-In.
The Frozen Sing-Along still plays in Hyperion Theater, the old home of American Idol Experience.
That’s what’s going on at the Studios I guess. Which is basically the same thing that was going on at the Studios during the week before the D23 presentation. And the week before that. And it’s what’s going to be going on next week. And next year. And the year after that. And the year after that. And the year after that. And the year after that. And then maybe….