Looking Ahead: The Next Walt Disney World Decade

by Jeff Kober, contributing writer
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Over these past several weeks, I've chronicled the first, second, third and fourth decade that marks the history of the Walt Disney World Resort.

I thought that, in the wake of the 40th anniversary event, I would offer my personal projections as to what I think Walt Disney World will look like in 2021 when the resort turns 50. I have no special insight or insider information. Some of these ideas will seem logical; some of it will seem random; and some ideas are more of a wish. But all of them come from my experience of watching this amazing place transform over the last four decades.

In short, these are just my opinions.

So let's look at what I see happening in the next 10 years:

Magic Kingdom

Of course, the big addition at the Magic Kingdom will be the New Fantasyland expansion, which will include attractions based on Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and Dumbo. Additionally, a new meet-and-greet will become part of the former Snow White's Scary Adventures attraction. My guess is that there is some additional unannounced attraction (A-ticket or B-ticket in size) that will eventually come to Storybook Circus Land in the aftermath.

Once the princesses move out of Town Square Theater and into their new Fantasyland home, the space for them will be reimagined either for Tinker Bell or for new Disney and Pixar characters. Since new characters currently make their debut at Disney's Hollywood Studios, I believe that the former is more likely, moving the Tinker Bell elements into the Town Square Theater, and reverting the Adventureland Veranda back to a non-meet-and-greet area.

I think that the Jungle Cruise will be reimagined with some of the elements now found at Disneyland Park. It might include some elements of the "Next Generation Technology" project Tom Staggs mentioned at the February 2011 Investor's meeting. That said, many attractions, like the Tomorrowland Speedway and Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor will be refreshed as NextGen is introduced.

Shanghai Disneyland will introduce a new attraction that will be ultimately sent to Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom. Tron is a likely candidate, but it could be a film property we haven't been introduced to yet, like John Carter. I think that after Fantasyland this will be the next big attraction, and will be announced somewhere in the next ten years, but I don't think this will open to the public until after the 50th anniversary.

With the kinks finally worked out of Luigi's Flying Tires at Disney California Adventure, I could also easily see a flying saucer-style attraction placed into Tomorrowland.

I could see the final section of the Carousel of Progress being recreated in honor of the attraction's 50th anniversary debut at the New York World's Fair. That certainly is a great opportunity. It could also be tied to NextGen in some manner

A new parade will soon appear, created by the same people who made the Soundsational Parade at Disneyland. I believe that the next time we see a new parade will be for Walt Disney World's 50th anniversary, and that it could be a night-time parade. Wishes will also be re-imagined but will incorporate The Magic, The Memories, and You technology.

Epcot

Disney will find a new sponsor for the Universe of Energy. The dinosaurs will stay, but I don't think the ride vehicles will. I believe the sponsor will re-shape the attraction to focus on conservation and green issues.

The indoor portion of Test Track will be re-imagined, though it will keep its concept of being a test track and Disney will modify/improve the cars.

Journey Into Your Imagination will be reimagined again, this time using NextGen tools. My preference would be for the original show to go back in with an updated look. That will likely never happen, given that the track layout has been modified, and has never worked the way it should have in the first place. But I believe that a NextGen version could help improve it.

For that matter, NextGen will show up at The Living Seas, Innoventions, the conclusion of Spaceship Earth, the post shows for Mission: Space and Test Track, and throughout World Showcase.

One of Disney's Asian parks will build Soarin' and that with the addition of that attraction, a new film will be made that will be more international in its theme. That will result in either Soarin' changing out both of its theaters, or placing the new film through one airport gate, as it were, and the current film through another gate.

I don't believe any new World Showcase countries will be created. If there are any, I don't think they will have major attractions, as Disney does not like to open that portion of the park until after 11 a.m., and having a major ride/attraction would necessitate opening that country earlier to provide for demand.

Disney's Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure, and its Kimmunicator phones, will go away, but another rethemed interactive adventure is slated to be introduced.

Illuminations will be reimagined using technology currently found in Tokyo Disney Seas' new Fantasmic! With that, the old fountains will be retired. This, too, may be timed to Walt Disney World's 50th anniversary.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

The Sorcerer Mickey hat will come down.

The track from Snow White's Scary Adventures will likely show up back at the Studios and will provide a ride track for either a Ratatouille or Monsters Inc.-type attraction. My guess is the former, since Monsters Inc. already has a strong and unique presence in the Magic Kingdom.

The Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure will go away as I don't believe that the grass elements which were originally wind tunnel tested, will have a shelf life of more than 25 years. The space will be incorporated into an attraction or retail space that will be entered to from the Streets of America Backlot.

A large portion of the studio production area would being transformed into Toy Story Land that would be entered from the space between Toy Story Mania and the recently-closed Narnia exhibit. On the other end, I imagine the Studio Backlot Tour becomes a Cars-like attraction taking people into a Route 66 tour that includes Catastrophe Canyon, as well as something themed to the new Pixar film, Planes. I don't see Radiator Springs Racers coming, as that kind of half-billion type investment is not what is needed for Disney's Hollywood Studios.

MuppetVision 3D would be reimagined (at least in the pre-show) with NextGen. Other shows and attractions will get NextGen components, as well, such as Sounds Dangerous being completely revamped to some sort of movie-themed NextGen activity.

I'm impressed that Aerosmith has the shelf-life that it has, but it won't be the permanent theme of Rock 'n Roller Coaster.

On the Great Movie Ride, show scenes such as Tarzan, Casablanca, and—especially—Alien would be replaced by newer film genres that reach out to younger audiences. Again, another great place for NextGen to show up and perhaps re-explore the current vehicle hijack situation.

I believe a re-invented Fantasmic! will be part of the 50th anniversary, perhaps with a section themed to the lights of Tangled.

Disney's Animal Kingdom

Of course, the big expansion is the advent of Avatar in the form of Pandora. The question is, where? Either the Wildlife Express Train will need to be moved or modified, or Festival of the Lion King will need to be moved. I rather think it will be the latter as it is more accessible area to the guests to remove Camp Minnie-Mickey. Second, a new theater venue will allow them to do some changes/modifications/enhancements to the show. They also have an opportunity to change the Rainforest Cafe, which backs up into that area, into a Pandora-themed eatery. This would be huge for Rainforest, which really doesn't need two identically themed properties on the Walt Disney World Resort.

Disney could also take over Dinoland and put Avatar there. They could easily move the dinosaurs into a train-style panorama exhibit like you find at Disneyland Park. They could then re-theme Dinosaur! into a Pandora themed experience and could have a save-face excuse to remove the Chester and Hester's Dino-Rama exhibit. That would perhaps be a more affordable approach.

Other than adding the new interactive adventure tied to Russell in Up, as well as adding some NextGen refreshing to the attractions that are currently in the park, there will be relatively few changes to the line up of park attractions.

The park will create a new parade for the 50th. Because of the animals, but also because there is a lack of formal table-service restaurants, I don't think there will ever be a night-time spectacular.

Walt Disney World Resorts

Beyond the addition of Disney's Art of Animation Resort, the largest focus of the next 10 years will continue to be on Disney Vacation Club (DVC). Of course, work has begun on a DVC addition to Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. But I expect at least a few of the following four possibilities:

1. Disney will add a tower to Disney's Polynesian Resort in a similar cascading shape to the one originally designed for the resort. This will be added to the parking lot and will push parking for the resort further into the Magic Kingdom parking lot.

2. A DVC resort will be created connecting Disney's Wilderness Lodge and Disney's Fort Wilderness Campground. A drawing card to this resort will be a new water play area based on (and named for) Disney's River Country.

3. Disney will explore taking a portion of the Port Orleans Resort and creating a more moderately priced Disney Vacation Club package for those who might be more on a budget, and have not taken advantage of current DVC offerings.

4. The Walt Disney World Swan and Walt Disney World Dolphin fall back into Disney's hands where they turn the Swan into a DVC property and make the Dolphin the new center of operations for businesses and conferences.

Finally, I believe paid parking will be introduced to the resorts similar to what is currently found at the Disneyland Resort. It's already at the Swan and Dolphin. It is unfortunately inevitable at the remainder of the resorts.

Disney's Water Parks

I don't see another water park in the future. That said, additional pools, slides and beach areas will be made to one or both of the current water parks to increase capacity.

Downtown Disney Area

At some point sooner than later, Pleasure Island will completely go away. It would seem that Hyperion Wharf will not continue on as we currently know it. But I do believe that the addition of stages/gathering places will likely be preserved. There is a need for more formal gathering places.

Cirque du Soleil would need to create a new show, possibly based on the Marvel characters. Either legal will work out a way for that to happen under the agreement it has with Universal Studios, or they will do a trade with a Vegas show and bring it here, with the Marvel show going there.

Several options will exist for DisneyQuest, both resulting in the end of DisneyQuest as we now know it. Those options include:

  1. Disney rebuilding it into a much bigger high-end, high-tech premium concept, but with a price range more comparable to Sea World's Discovery Cove.
  2. Disney partnering with someone like Landry's of Rainforest Cafe and T-Rex Cafe fame to redo DisneyQuest into a Dave & Buster's style restaurant, gaming and retail space.
  3. Disney partnering with Cirque du Soleil to build its first restaurant concept.

Development Around the Walt Disney World Resort

I still have questions about the development of the Four Seasons Resort. I think that Four Seasons is a smart addition to Walt Disney World, and could be very successful. I just question the location. I don't think that a resort of the caliber should be located there. After all, it's located between a campground and a warehouse district. If they were really smart they would re-negotiate for a location off of the Epcot monorail beam between that park and Transportation and Ticket Center.

Flamingo Crossings will be built, and other competitors will emerge in and around that area.

While new attractions and new resort offerings will create job growth, Disney will work hard to outsource the work so that the overall cast number will not increase.

Though it's currently halted, high-speed rail will eventually come to Florida with a stop at Walt Disney World. But I doubt that we will see that rail within this decade. If that high speed rail was to connect Tampa and Walt Disney World, I believe that Disney might consider moving its cruise line departure port to Tampa, rather than Cape Canaveral. That's not to say it will happen, but Disney will use it as a bargaining chip to get a better deal.

When the economy rebounds, Disney will announce a major mixed use development that would include office, retail, hotel, entertainment, and residential space. This will become the core of what is Disney's most valuable, undeveloped property, the triangle that borders U.S.192, I-4, and World Parkway. Think of something like downtown Celebration but on a much bigger scale, or something like the new City Creek in Salt Lake City, but, again on a bigger scale, Whether it is built in this decade or the next remains to be seen. But that property is far too important to not be developed at some point.

Summary

In short, I think many good things are ahead for the Walt Disney World Resort. It will probably never look like the Disney Decade with all its growth, but I believe that Disney will continue to make major investments in what is still a resort with much promise. And for the most part, I think those developments will be good for the local economy, and good for tourists visiting from around the world.

So what do you think? Are there predictions here you agree with? Are there some that you think will never happen? Am I missing a big opportunity? I've shared my opinions about what could happen. I'd love to hear your opinions.

As for whether or not it really happens, well, check in with me in 10 years.

Comments

  1. By craigdvc

    Very nice ideas. The one that stood out to me was adding Tangled to Fantasmic! I've never thought the Pocahontas portion fit with the rest of the show. Having a chase scene with the characters of Tangled could add something that the Pocahontas scene lacked.

  2. By DisneyGator

    The Hat is NOT coming down! I know you and a bunch of other folks hate it, but there's enough new blood that's come to the parks over the last decade who love it and would like to see it stay. I'm one of them. I don't feel my WDW trip is complete until I've seen The Hat. Besides, you can't make DHS authentic by just making the Mann Theatre re-appear; you'd also have to add a bunch of stinky bums taking naps on the sidewalks with bagged bottles in their hands. Only then would it really look like Hollywood.

    As far as taking out Chester-and-Hesters, I think that's a bad idea. Sure it seems cheesy to adults like us, but my kids love Triceretops Spin and "kid" rides like that. I can't imagine the last 3 trips with my kids without spinning around dinoland in a Dumbo-type ride.

  3. By davidgra

    Just curious -- this article seems firmly rooted in Fantasyland, but are any of these ideas (aside from those already announced) anything more than wishful thinking? I'm curious as to what is rooted in Disney's actual long-term planning, and what is just pure speculation.

  4. By Jeff Kober

    Just my opinions--based on my own time with Disney, and my years observing Disney. Best, Jeff

  5. By Jeff Kober

    Let me also say something about the Hat. I don't have a problem with the Hat. I like the theater behind it, though it was always smaller in scale in being able to see from the end of Hollywood Boulevard. The hat is certainly more iconic. I simply am approaching the hat coming down based on what I think the shelf-life is. I don't think it was designed to last decades. And Epcot's arm came down for probably much of the same reason. Furthermore, imagineers have hinted at it coming down. Therefore, I think it's a matter of time.

  6. By craigdvc

    I do not like the hat. The park was designed for the guest to see all the way down Hollywood Boulevard to The Great Movie Ride. The hat, along with the ears and Mickey's hand is not representative of Hollywood. It's product placement. Ugly product placement. It's like when your trying to look at a website and a video-ad pops up-annoying.

    DisneyGator, you do realize that it's an idealized Hollywood right?

  7. By seke13

    Quote Originally Posted by MousePlanet AutoPoster View Post
    Looking Ahead: The Next Walt Disney World Decade by Jeff Kober

    Jeff Kober offers his personal insights as to what the Walt Disney World Resort will look like in 2021.

    Read it here!


    Great Article and very interesting. What will happen during the 5th decade (2011-2020)?

    Of course after 40 years old, 4 themes parks, 2 waters parks, 28 hotels, Dowtown Disney, ESPN Wide of Sports, WALT DISNEY WORLD is full and can't grow up more. It's impossible to live one more time the crasy of the 2th decade (EPCOT, MGM STUDIOS, PLEASURE ISLAND, TYPHOON LAGOON) and the 3th "Disney" decade (ANIMAL KINGDOM, BLIZZARD BEACH, CRUISES SHIPS, CELEBRATION, WEST SIDE).

    However I think you will live a better decade than the 4th what it was very too calm and more inestable (9/11, Irak War, Crisis in 2008, etc...). Moreover the competition is harder with the 2 parks UNIVERSAL and the new land WIZZARD OF HARRY POTTER, Water Park AQUATICA in SEA WORLD, All the attractions for turists in International Drive, etc...

    You will have this time in Disney 2 Major Expansions and more... that is mean it will be a great decade for us and to proove to all them it is still number 1 in the World.
    I think too the problem to them is

    - How will they do to the disparition of DISNEY MOVIES (the last The Princess and the Frog and Tangled were not a big succes) ?
    - And how to integrate really the PIXAR MOVIES what they dominate the Box-Office and will continue in the future (2 PIXAR's MOVIES per year after 2014) in the Disney Parks (because the MONSTER INC LAUGH, LIVING SEAS, NEMO THE MUSICAL are minors attractions and suck)?

    MAGIC KINGDOM

    The oldest park and the most visited in the world will receive a major expansion "The New Fantasyland". For me it is a very good idea. First because Toon Fairs sucks and I like its land is dedicated to the old Disney's Fairy Tales of the last century (Snow White, Dumbo, Beauty & the Beast, Ariel). It is the theme of Magic Kingdom & can´t receive Pixar's attractions.
    Only I'm disapointed it was not open for the 40th anniversary in 2011.
    After you're right it is very possible to see new attractions o refreshinging o re-imagining attractions from other country (Paris, Shangaï, Tockyo, California)

    EPCOT

    Like you I don't think to see a new country in the World Showcase o a major Expansion. Disney will do small changes o refreshing attrations during this new decade.
    However I saw a documentary in a french TV about Jerome Bocuse (the owner of Les Chefs de France). They told he firmed for 20 news years with Disney and he will do a lot of changes. After Italy and Mexico in the 4th decade, French Pavillon will the first to transform during the 5th decade : big expansion of the french bakery, renovation of Le Bistrot de Paris, Terrasse upside for Les Chefs de France, destruction of the Carts of Crêpes and Wine in order to put a big one (like La Cantina).

    HOLLYWOOD'S STUDIOS

    I don't very like this park. It's too small and it's not easy to circulate. I hope to see a major expansion (a new land) in 2019 for the 30th anniversary of the park o in 2021 for the 50th anniversary of WDW.
    I suggest to do like Parc Walt Disney Studios Paris, that's mean to dedicate more this parc to the PIXAR's Movies and put new attractions and rides from Ratatouille, The Increibles, Toy Story, etc... Moreover to quit the old attractions (Honey I Shrunk The Audience, The Muppets) will be a great idea.

    ANIMAL KINGDOM

    I knew after New Fantasyland, Disney will put a new land in this park (3 places disponible to construction)... but I was very surprised they decided to put a Land from AVATAR and not Australia. Ok it was the biggest succes of all the time in the world. But for me Disney would have to wait 2015 in order to see if AVATAR 2 & 3 will be a success. Only after they will confirmed the new land or not.
    However It's still great new to learn the arrival of a new land. It is the proof we will live a new mini-Disney Decade.
    I can't imagine a nightlife-time for the animals, the park will close at the same time.

    DISNEY WATER PARKS

    I can't believe to see a 3rd park but with the competition of Wet'n Wild and the new Aquatica, Disney have to expand this 2 parks because they are too small.

    DOWTOWN DISNEY

    I hope to see the real Pleasure Island one day. Ok I'm a dreamer but it was so awesome. What else? I think too to see major changements during this decade especially in West Side.

    AND THE OTHER PARKS?

    I can't imagine a 3rd park UNIVERSAL but they can't do nothing this decade. Maybe a new land or a big refresh/re-imagine for the 1st park UNIVERSAL STUDIOS who need that. The Big Question is the Rights for MARVEL Characters. Can they conserve it for 2011-2020? Disney can refuse to renove it to Universal?
    International Drive will continue to grow up and Sea World have its water park now.

  8. By CGRob

    Perhaps the Imagineers could take the Carrousel of Progress back to its original presentation at the World's Fair. That would remove some of awkwardness of trying to make the dialog fit the not-quite-right decade. It would be interesting to see the 1964 version of "progress". This would be a fun opportunity at nostaglia and fit the theme of Tomorrowland's change of the future that never was.

  9. By WDWLocal

    I disagree with Jeff Kober's predictions for the Town Square Theater.

    I think that Tink and the Fairies are going to remain in the Adventureland Verandah for the forseeable future--the fairies don't fit the theming of Main Street anyway.

    One rumor I heard of what might become of the Theater's current princess room once they move to their new Fantasyland homes is that it will become the "theater" part of the theater (to counter the "theater offices" where Mickey & Minnie already appear, thus continuing the story of the location), holding meet-and-greets with other characters from the Mickey & Friends franchise (Donald, Daisy, Goofy, Pluto, Chip & Dale, Clarabelle Cow, Horace Horsecollar, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, etc.). That would make more sense than anything else for that location. Plus, those particular characters are already alluded to inside the Theater anyway, such as in its queue area posters (ie: Oswald the Disappearing Rabbit, etc.).

  10. By WDWLocal

    Another prediction I'd like to share:

    I also think that WDW will add more Christmas season offerings before its 50th, including bringing back popular offerings that were cutback, such as the Country Bear Xmas Special, Lights of Winter, etc., or at least updated versions of them.

    I also predict that WDW will also finally add their own versions of Haunted Mansion Holiday and It's a Small World Holiday to their Xmas line-ups as well.

    With things like the Fantasyland expansion coming into being and potentially drawing huge crowds, the extra space and added attractions can lead to incentives to not only do more refurbishments, but possibly bring in more seasonal overlays as well. They can help balance out the newly-attracted crowds in the parks.

  11. By Mike71

    I enjoyed your article. I am an avid fan of Disney and would like to share my thoughts on the next 10 years. However some of mine is more a "wish list" point of view than actual prediction.
    >
    > I'm optimistic that at some point in this next decade we will see either an announcement or the actual beginnings to the long awaited 5th Theme Park. I think competition is a great thing and Universal upped the stakes with Harry Potter. I think a market Disney doesn't do as well with is kids/young adults from age 13 - early 20's. Children love Disney but at some point Disney loses its "coolness" factor. Once you go on to have kids or even just through maturity you appreciate it again. Not so much even the "cool" factor but the "thrill" factor. I'm seeing it slowly with my 11 year old. She still loves Disney but its lost some of the edge it once had.
    >
    > We live in Cleveland Ohio not to far from Cedar Point and its known for thrill rides. My 11 year old loves the thrills.
    >
    > I think Disney ought to do a 5th park to target that market. Not sure if they could pull something off with their rights to Marvel but that would be an option.
    >
    > I'd like to see what Disney could do with "themed" thrill rides.
    >
    > As far as the existing parks I'll start with EPCOT. I think its time they updated the movies in the theme lands. I'd also like to see them add something to some of the underdeveloped lands. As much as I love EPCOT I see Morocco, Italy, England and Japan as glorified shopping areas with a restaurant. Germany is close although I think their Biergarten Restaurant saves it. I think each country should have either a ride and/or a movie.
    >
    > As far as new land I could see Russia or Brazil as top contenders.
    >
    > With Magic Kingdom the area I could see getting attention is Tomorrow Land. I agree with the revamping of Carrousel of Progress. I could see them doing something different with the Stitch and Monster Laugh Floor Areas.
    >
    > It seems Animal Kingdom is pretty set with the Avatar Expansion.
    >
    > Before they made the Avatar deal I had heard rumors they were trying for some deals like that. I was personally hoping for Middle Earth. But I think Pandora could work.
    >
    > With HS the one area I of opportunity I think they could really cash in on is to expand their arrangement with Lucas Films and expand the area with Star Tours into a themed area. This one is more a personal wish list.
    >
    > Regarding Resorts this one is a wish list but I'd like to see them build another resort around MK. I'd like to see the Venetian themed idea re-visited.
    >
    > Also I'd like to see either a connection with AKL to AK or another themed park that would be allow you to walk from the resort to AK. Possibly an Australian or Asian theme would be nice.
    >
    > Another wish list idea but I'd love to see a hotel near HS themed to the Twilight Zone TOT.
    >
    > Would also love to see them connect the mono rails to all parks. At a min it wouldn't seem to be to hard to connect HS.
    >
    > More on the practical side as a father of two young daughters I'd like to them raise the age of being a kid past 9 up to either 12 or 16. My 11 year old is at that point where she is too old to order of kid's menus but too young for full course adult meals. Its one of the reasons we stayed off site for the first time ever last year and didn't do the dining plan.
    >
    > Well just "dreaming".....

  12. By seke13

    I don´t think DISNEY will put a 5th park for the next decade 2011-2020 because it´s too much expensive for them, moreover they are not place to build and WDW is so huge (4 themes park, 2 water parks, ESPN Wide World of Sports, Dowtown Disney, 28 Hotels Resorts, etc...) so it's not necesary.

    WDW will be so busy with the 2 major expansions (New Fantasyland in MAGIC KINGDOM for 2012 and AVATAR LAND for 2016).
    I'm agree that Tomorrowland need a big refreshment for the next years.

    For EPCOT, Futurworld needs too a big refreshment and new attrations. But I think they can't arrive before the 7th decade. For the 6th maybe we can see big changes in some countries in the World Showcase. France first with the new bakery and carts. Change the old movies will be a great idea (in fact it´s a emergency to change the old visions they have). But impossible to see a new Country for the next years.

    After I think for the next decade, WDW will do 2 things :

    - Put a major(s) attration(s) from PIXAR's movie (o later a land), why not in DISNEY'S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS? Because the old attractions from Monster Inc, Nemo are minors and sucks however the PIXAR's MOVIE are better and best-sellers than DISNEY'S Movies for 15 years now.
    - DON'T renove the rights of MARVEL to Universal Studios in order to put attrations from this movies later.

    I forget to talk a new park... in other country : a 3rd park in DISNEYLAND PARIS (2017 for the 25 years?), a 2nd in Hong-Kong and Shangaï, new land in CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE

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