The last few days have seen a veritable furor of filing for Walt Disney World construction permits and notices of commencement. In this post, we’ll comb through these documents submitted by Imagineering to the Orange County, Florida Comptroller and offer some commentary.
For starters, you might recall our recent update that All Construction Has Stopped at Walt Disney World during the closure and current stay at home order in Florida. This is not inconsistent with that. Most of these permits are valid for one year, meaning they have an expiration date in April 2021.
In theory, the continued filing of work permits is some fun and exciting news that present a potential source of optimism about the future status of projects at Walt Disney World. With that said, the emphasis there is definitely on the in theory preface.
In the last several days, permits have been filed for a range of projects. First, Imagineering filed a few permits for Guardians of the Galaxy – Cosmic Rewind to fabricate and install pieces, add lighting controls, and install graphics, entrance, and set structures.
The most interesting of these is for the fabrication and installation of set pieces being done by Icarus Exhibits Inc, which is a company that specializes in custom creative environments in theme parks. This same company is working on Tron Lightcycle Run and did a lot of work in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Earlier this week, we posted a comprehensive Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind Overview that covered everything you need to know about the upcoming Epcot blockbuster attraction. Most notably, we speculated about an opening date and potential delays, contending that this is one of the Walt Disney World projects least likely to be cancelled or delayed and most likely to be fast-tracked.
While construction continues on one attraction, demolition commences on another! (In this case, destruction does call for exclamation.)
Two permits were filed for interior demolition of Stitch’s Great Escape. There have long been rumors of a Wreck-It Ralph ride replacement in this Tomorrowland space. While it’s possible this is for that, it’s equally likely that this is simply to clear space for storage, an expanded meet & greet, or something else that’s unexciting.
There have also been a couple of permits for “general construction” of the pedestrian swing bridge that will connect Grand Floridian and the Magic Kingdom.
We’re optimistic this infrastructure project will push forward and finish sometime this year. Most of the work is already done and it should ease the burden on the monorail.
Finally, there were a half-dozen permits filed for Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge. This is the next Disney Vacation Club resort, which is being built adjacent to Fort Wilderness on the former site of the River Country water park.
On a side note, we “recently” camped at Fort Wilderness (it was less than a month ago but now feels like several years ago). An intended construction update got lost in the shuffle, but at that point work was continuing to progress and had further encroached upon the Settlement.
About the only significant difference since our last Fort Wilderness & Reflections Lakeside Lodge Construction Update is that a new playground since opened in the middle of the Settlement, and more visible progress has been made on the new Tri-Circle-D Ranch building.
While progress has undoubtedly been made, I didn’t notice any ascertainable difference on the Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge site.
Anyway, these permits for Reflections cover a range of resort components, ranging from the ho-hum (security kiosk, bus stop, boat docks, and pool restrooms) to the potentially titillating and mysterious…but probably also humdrum (six different “outdoor structures“).
The most interesting of the permits is for a table service restaurant, which is presumably the inexplicably located Princess and the Frog waterfront dining announced at last year’s D23 Expo. (We’re still perplexed as to why this isn’t being added to Port Orleans French Quarter with any one of Disney’s many nature-centric IPs being instead added to Reflections, but what do we know.)
All of these permits list Balfour Beatty Construction LLC as the general contractor. They have helmed numerous projects at Walt Disney World, including Pandora – World of Avatar and Gran Destino Tower. As previously noted, design firm Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo is the lead designer for the $350 million resort.
(Credit where credit is due: danlb_2000 on WDWMagic is the main source for permit posts in the Walt Disney World fan community. I wish I had the patience and diligence to regularly scour the Official Records Index of the Orange County Comptroller…but I don’t.)
Now for our commentary. To put it succinctly: don’t hold your breath. This wouldn’t be the first, second, or even tenth time forward momentum continued on ultimately doomed Disney projects.
Several of these permits were executed by Imagineering representatives late this week, which is a good sign. However, that’s not necessarily a conclusive sign that all of these projects are going forward. Walt Disney World is a complex operation, with layers of bureaucracy and a lot of “one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing.”
It’s entirely possible that someone within Imagineering is plugging along, going through the motions of filing permits after said documents make their way to that person’s desk. This could be happening without regard to the project’s actual status–with decisions to indefinitely postpone occurring at a higher level.
It’s also possible Disney is in a holding pattern on actual construction, but still hasn’t–and won’t–make a determination of what’s getting axed or postponed until the full extent of the economic damage is known. There’s a final scenario in which Disney has already quickly evaluated its slate of projects, hit pause on some, notified all relevant stakeholders, and these projects remain fully-funded and are proceeding as normal.
Ultimately, these new permits are interesting and give us change of pace in terms of Walt Disney World topics to discuss (well, at least to some degree–hard to ignore the elephant in the room completely). Speculating about Walt Disney World’s future is fun and a welcome reprieve–even if it’s for projects that don’t particularly excite me.
However, these permits do not change our perspective on what’s likely to be built, postponed, and cancelled outright at Walt Disney World. Even with a half-dozen permits for Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge, that remains the project we view as most likely to be postponed indefinitely or shelved permanently (for all of the reasons we outlined here).
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What do you think of these construction permits? Excited about the potential for a Stitch’s Great Escape replacement, or think that’s probably for something back of house? Optimistic about the installation of show scenes in Guardians of the Galaxy – Cosmic Rewind? Thoughts on Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge? Do you think these permits suggest all of these projects are “safe” from being outright cancelled or postponed indefinitely? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!