The 10 BIG Updates From Walt Disney World This Week
This week at Walt Disney World, Pandora – The World of Avatar opens, Disney’s Hollywood Studios gets a handful of new attractions for summer, plus Disney Springs announces a new event and the Grand Floridian brings back a free dessert party for the summer.
Programming note: Though we normally devote some time to Orlando-area parks outside Lake Buena Vista, there has been so much going on at Walt Disney World over the past seven days that we decided to forgo the “beyond” this week. You’ll hear about all the news from Universal Orlando Resort, Busch Gardens Tampa and SeaWorld Orlando in next week’s update!
1. Pandora – The World of Avatar now open
Nearly six years after it was first announced, Pandora – The World of Avatar finally officially opened at Disney’s Animal Kingdom on Saturday, May 27, 2017. Predictably, opening day in this new land was quite busy, with lines to get into this new land forming at the park gate around 5:00 AM. Once the park opened for the day, lines grew, stretching all the way to the Oasis by the mid-morning. Guests also were turned away from this new land intermittently as it filled quickly to capacity.
Those who were able to get inside this land also faced multi-hour waits, with Avatar – Flight of Passage hitting five hours at one point and the Na’vi River Journey getting close to four hours. Lines to get into food and merchandise locations were also quite long as well.
Though opening day was very busy (and wait times will likely remain elevated through the summer), Disney’s Animal Kingdom is offering nightly Extra Magic Hours to try and help disperse crowds and keep things manageable inside this much-anticipated new land.
2. Disney’s Hollywood Studios debuts surprise new show
This week guests at Disney’s Hollywood Studios got a surprise on Friday, May 26th, when a brand new show named Disney Movie Magic debuted with no advance notice whatsoever. This new nighttime spectacular is another projection show, similar to Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular, just without the fireworks. However, this new show doesn’t actually replace the nightly celebration of all things Star Wars, as it actually begins 30 minutes before that show, functioning almost like Once Upon a Time at the Magic Kingdom, warming guests up for the main evening show.
This new show has a 10- minute running time, and as you might expect given the name, showcases memorable moments from classic movies. The new show is almost like the finale scene of the Great Movie Ride, but with longer clips and a much stronger focus on Disney movies. You can read more about this new show (including its Marvel connection, and why Disney is perhaps keeping it secret) here.
3. Temporary Cars 3 meet and greet coming this summer
Fans of Pixar’s Cars films will be happy to hear that new character Cruz Ramirez from the upcoming Cars 3 movie will be appearing for meet-and-greets at Disney’s Hollywood Studios beginning sometime later this summer (presumably around the time this film comes out).
No date or location has been announced for this new experience, but we can’t help but feel like this new addition seems almost like a bit of a throwback, as Disney’s Hollywood Studios used to be home to a Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater character experience before the Streets of America were closed off and demolished.
4. The Music of Pixar LIVE! A Symphony of Characters now performing nightly
In another development from Disney’s Hollywood Studios, The Music of Pixar LIVE! A Symphony of Characters also debuted this week. This limited-time concert event showcases memorable music from classic Pixar Animation Studios films, including Up, Cars, Toy Story, and Finding Nemo. However, this won’t just be your run of the mill show, as Disney actually has a live orchestra performing the music, instead of a backing track (like what is used for every other show at Disney parks) and also incorporates actual Pixar characters into the performance, including Woody, Jessie, Mike, Sully, the Incredibles and more. This show is expected to play nightly throughout the summer.
5. Toy Story Land opening date to be announced this summer
Looking towards the future of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, earlier this week Bob Chapek, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts took some time out to talk about Toy Story Land, which was announced back in 2015, but hasn’t really been discussed since then. According to Chapek, work on this new land is progressing quickly and the firm release date for Toy Story Land will actually be announced at this year’s D23 Expo in just a few weeks.
6. The Festival of Fantasy moves to 2:00 PM this summer
The 3:00 parade has become such an institution at the Magic Kingdom that Disney has even created a line of merchandise themed around the classic tourist question “When is the 3 ‘o clock parade?” However, guests may actually need to ask this question soon, as Disney has confirmed that beginning in August, the daily Festival of Fantasy parade will be moving to 2:00 PM. It is not known whether this will be a permanent change, or something that Disney will test later this year while crowds are still high.
7. Disney Springs to host Springs Street Eats Food Truck Rally next week
Disney Springs has announced that next week on June 2nd and 3rd, it will host a new Springs Street Eats special event, which will feature eight food trucks, including Disney operated trucks and local favorites. Here’s the lineup:
- Fantasy Fare – Treat your senses to fan favorites found at Disney theme parks around the world – like the famous Hand-dipped Corn Dog!
- World Showcase of Flavors – Try signature sandwiches inspired by the cuisine featured at the Global Marketplaces during the annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.
- Caketeer – Offers high quality gourmet cupcake and custom cake products throughout the Downtown Orlando and Central Florida area, made using the finest culinary-grade ingredients.
- Philly’s Best Cheesesteaks – The best cheesesteaks in or out of Philly are on the prowl on the streets of Florida! Philly’s Best Cheesesteaks are serving up hot and fresh cheesesteak sandwiches just for you! Real Philly Cheesesteaks, you just can’t get any better than that!
- 900 Degreez Pizza – This converted container food truck features a bespoke imported Italian wood-fired oven that can cook a pizza in an unbelievable 90 seconds. The food truck façade features an all-glass panel that allows customers to view the chefs at work.
- Magic 4 UR Palate – Maintaining a high standard and quality to creativity, our dishes are appealing to the eye and at the same time arouse the taste buds, leading you to crave more.
- The London Fish and Chippy – Homemade beer batter is the perfect dip for preparing specialty haddock fish and chips. Bringing seafood lovers a vast selection of fresh fried seafood you will enjoy.
- Tikiz Shaved Ice – Bringing sweets to the streets, Tikiz Shaved Ice is the ice cream truck of the future! Offering Ice Cream as well as refreshing Hawaiian Shaved Ice where Guests can dispense their own custom shaved ice syrup creations.
You’ll find these food trucks on the West Side of Disney Springs, near Cirque de Soleil on June 2 from 4pm to 11pm, and June 3 from noon until 11pm.
8. Dates confirmed for annual Blizzard Beach refurbishment
Though summer just got underway, Disney has confirmed the dates for this year’s annual refurbishment of Disney’s Blizzard Beach water park. This year’s closure will begin on October 30 2017, and last through January 6 2018, which is a pretty typical length for this annual refurbishment.
9. Restaurantosaurus to offer breakfast for the next two weeks
In order to help relieve some of the pressure on dining establishments at Disney’s Animal Kingdom during the first few weeks of the summer, it has been announced that Restaurantasaurus will offer quick-service breakfast options from park opening until 10:00 AM from Saturday, May 27, through Saturday, June 10. The menu will feature Mickey waffle platters, breakfast cereals with milk, yogurt parfaits, fruit cups, and more.
10. Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort brings back free fireworks dessert party
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa has announced that it will be bringing back its Gone Mad Party on Wednesdays in June to help guests celebrate the all new Happily Ever After fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom. As you might expect, this weekly event is themed to Alice in Wonderland and takes place at the Grand Floridian hotel from 8:30PM – 10:30PM on the outdoor patio behind the Gasparilla Grill. In addition to getting a unique view for the Happily Ever After fireworks spectacular, guests at this event can also purchase special Alice in Wonderland-themed treats and drinks all while enjoying some fun music before the Happily Ever After audio is piped in during the show.
This new drop-in event is completely free, and you do not need a theme park ticket or be a hotel guest in order to watch the Magic Kingdom’s nightly spectacular from this location.