Construction Impact at Disney World?

Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway – Taking down another ride in a park that’s already short on rides is a bold move. While many are criticizing it, I’m going the other direction and applauding it. Closing Great Movie Ride at the end of the slow summer just in time for the busy fall season takes some audacity.

I’ve been hard on Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the past. I took issue with Disney’s closing of numerous attractions well before any construction began, and then taking a lackadaisical approach even as construction began. This does not strike me as akin to closing the Backlot Tour or Animation Building and just letting them sit for a while. Nor do I think it moves the needle.

If you’re a first-timer who already decided a full day in Disney’s Hollywood Studios is right for you (not necessarily a bad decision, given all the shows), that’s still true. If you’re getting a Park Hopper to hit a few things, you can still do that. If you are skipping the park until construction is done, that still makes sense. Of all things, this is not the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Its back already either was broken…or it’s one strong back!

If anything, this just gets Disney’s Hollywood Studios into a position to relaunch and be a spiffy new park sooner rather than later. (Heck, as a lifelong Disney fan who is playing the long game, I’d just as soon they close a couple of shows and redo those while they’re at it!)

Instead of being upset by this move, I’m encouraged by it. This demonstrates to me that, unlike in the past, Walt Disney World is willing to get aggressive with construction, rather than spreading projects out over as many fiscal years as possible. Originally, I would’ve guessed that Great Movie Ride would close around when Toy Story Land opened to prevent a big drop in attendance.

Now, I’m guessing Great Movie Ride is closing earlier because there’s a sense of urgency to get this attraction and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge (the entirety of which almost certainly will not be opening at Walt Disney World in 2019) done at around the same time, for a big relaunch of the park.

The obvious impact here is…obvious. It’s the loss of the second-highest capacity attraction in a park already short on rides. The overall impact this has on Disney’s Hollywood Studios is less apparent. Will more people take our advice and either skip Disney’s Hollywood Studios or only Park Hop there for a few hours? Or, will attendance remain flat?

My guess? Things more or less even out, and wait times across the park remain flat for the next 6 months or so…until Toy Story Land opens and causes a spike across the board, because the added capacity there is not enough to absorb the added demand. (Construction itself should present minimal issues with Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway–the project should be self-contained within Grauman’s Chinese Theater.)

TRON Lightcycle Power Run –  Contrary to earlier rumors, the Tron Lightcycle Power Run roller coaster will be an expansion to Magic Kingdom, sitting on a plot of land next to Space Mountain. However, this does not mean that it won’t impact existing attractions.

For one, the Walt Disney World Railroad will have some amount of downtime during construction. Whether it’s down for an extended period, or just while landscaping, a walkway, etc. are built around it remains to be seen. I would anticipate a lengthy downtime.

The optimist in me wants to believe this would allow Disney a chance to freshen up the railroad, a la what occurred during Disneyland’s recent 18 month downtime for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge re-routing. (Wouldn’t it be great to see the Universe of Energy dinosaurs relocated to a Primeval World scene in Magic Kingdom?!)

The pessimist in me wonders whether Orlando management will use the Tron construction as an excuse for an extended downtime on the railroad–a chance to realize some opex savings, particularly during less busy times of the year, when the railroad is not “needed.” I could also see Tomorrowland Speedway experience some downtime, too.

My guess here is that construction doesn’t begin for a while, with this debuting for Walt Disney World/Magic Kingdom’s 50th Anniversary in 2021.

By and large, I don’t see many of these projects impacting the guest experience all that much. Given some of the concerns that readers have expressed after hearing all of the recent news, I’m hoping this eases some minds. The Epcot Central Spine Project is the one significant exception, and even that is more about crowd flow than anything else. Two things that are not mentioned here are hotels (we’ll cover that in a later post) and refurbishments.

As things presently stand, the Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary celebration is slated to include a lot of refurbished and “plussed” existing attractions. For this, you can expect an inordinate number of refurbishments in the 18 months or so leading up to the celebration. What will be impacted is presently unknown, but you can expect many of the classics to experience downtime in 2019 and 2020. We’ll have more on that as information becomes available.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

Your Thoughts

What is your take on the slate of upcoming construction projects at Walt Disney World? Will you postpone an upcoming visit to avoid construction? What, if anything, that has been announced do you think is most likely to get canceled? Are you planning on being at Walt Disney World in 2021 for the 50th Anniversary when all of this is done? Hearing your feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!

20 Responses to “Construction Impact at Disney World?”
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