Disney World News & Rumors: Imagineering Fun, Reduced Resort & FastPass+ Availability
It’s time for another Walt Disney World news & rumor round-up, with a look at changes for the parks and beyond. This time, we have some virtual Imagineering fun, vanishing resort hotel and FastPass+ inventory, plus Disney+ info.
Let’s start with some newly-released “Disney Magic Moments,” which is a page Disney has set up to let fans experience the magic of Disney at home. Enjoy fun and interactive Disney, Pixar, Star Wars, Marvel, and National Geographic content for free with stories, videos, and activities to inspire imagination and discovery among kids, fans, and families alike.
A lot of this content is pretty good (the JAMMitors performance made us almost like we were rope-dropping Epcot!) and we aspire to using more of it at some point–especially the more ambitious recipes (that Blue Bayou Monte Cristo has my mouth watering!). Then there’s some Imagineering content, which has really that caught our eyes…
The highlight of this Disney Magic Moments at home content for theme park fans is going to be the “Journey into Imagineering Virtual Tour.” This three part series offers a rare inside look at the WDI spaces where innovation, science, and storytelling combine to bring popular attractions to life.
All three videos are well worth watching (part 1 and part 2), but the third installment–featuring the DISH (or Digital Immersive Showroom) is a highlight. The DISH is a tool that Imagineers use to pre-visualize Disney Parks experiences in a digital setting. This allows Imagineers to explore these spaces, enhancing and adjusting design, before physical construction begins.
If you haven’t already, be sure to also check out “Imagineering in a Box,” another virtual learning experience from Walt Disney Imagineering. This free online program created in partnership with the Khan Academy and Pixar offers a series of interactive lessons in theme park design and engineering.
“Imagineering in a Box” is designed to give a behind-the-scenes peek into Imagineering’s development process. It combines 32 videos of actual Imagineers, real-world case studies, and plenty of interactive activities to give viewers the opportunity to dream and design your own theme park experiences.
Speaking of things to watch, Disney has announced details of a brand new series called Prop Culture, which is coming to Disney+ on May 1, 2020. Above is a new trailer for the series, which looks to be somewhat along the lines of Imagineering Story, but instead scouring the Walt Disney Archives to uncover some of its greatest treasures and see how those props shaped their famous films.
Each episode of Prop Culture will include interviews with the craftspeople who created the items, actors who interacted with them, and archivists who preserve them. Along the way, viewers will see items from Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Mary Poppins, Tron, The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Muppet Movie, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, and Honey, I Shrunk The Kids.
Disney+ has achieved another milestone, with 50 million paid subscribers globally within five months after its United States launch. Obviously, none of this is not Walt Disney World news–but with the Disney+ streaming service being one of the company’s few bright spots right now while theme parks, theatrical film releases, and ESPN all struggle, it’s nice to hear.
In terms of first year subscriber numbers, Disney+ has smashed all expectations. Some of this comes as little surprise given the current ‘stay at home’ circumstances, but even before this Disney+ was continually beating investor and industry expectations. So that’s certainly a plus.
As good of news as this is, there are still questions about just how good the numbers really are. For one, Disney+ has offered aggressive discounting, justifiably targeting user acquisition and market share in the crowded streaming space. For another, retaining subscribers for the long-term will be key for Disney+ and that might be difficult.
We’ve already noticed a slow trickle of new top-tier content on Disney+ as compared to our other streaming services, a problem that could be exacerbated as many Hollywood productions have been shut down. This is probably insignificant for families that want to rewatch favorite films, but if Disney+ intends to be a streaming service with broad appeal, it needs to do more. (On a personal note, I’d settle for episodes of Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color and other theme park specials!)
Finally, the curious case of vanishing resort hotel and FastPass+ inventory. This is something we started hearing about from readers in the comments about a week ago. We initially brushed it off, but questions and complaints have been growing, so we thought we should do some digging.
I spent a ton of time today doing a lot of searches on DisneyWorld.com and the My Disney Experience app for the “sake of research” (let’s be real–it’s not like I had anything better to do, so this was actually a fun way of passing the afternoon). From that, I have some thoughts about the sometimes limited options for both…
Quite simply, hotel inventory seems to be glitchy. In my dozen-plus searches, I found some resorts go from absolutely nothing for any type of rooms to total availability if I waited a few hours or switched from desktop to mobile (or vice-versa).
Almost all of my searches were for single-night stays in late August and September, on travel dates that I view as least likely to be busy. There were no ascertainable trends, and resorts/room categories were inexplicably unavailable, then available. (For what it’s worth, some room categories were consistently sold out–but the vast majority were not.)
My advice to anyone having problems finding resort availability would be to try again later. I have a tough time believing that entire resorts are fully booked for the fall at this point. The better explanation is that Walt Disney World’s resort reservation system has always been glitchy, and that’s true even right now. That, or Disney is toying with resort inventory in real-time. Or both. (In other words: don’t freak out or overthink it.)
If you are very picky and the room category you must have actually is sold out, keep checking back. Cancellations are undoubtedly occurring right now at a higher level than normal, making it highly likely that whatever you’re after will become available at some point.
As for FastPass+ inventory, that’s a much more real issue. In my spot tests of availability, I found a number of attractions that were totally out of FastPass+ slots at and beyond the 60-day mark.
We’re not just talking headliners like Slinky Dog Dash, Avatar Flight of Passage, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, or Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. Two full months in advance, there was nothing for the entirety of the Magic Kingdom Mountain Range, Mission Space, Alien Swirling Saucers, Kali River Rapids, and a number of other attractions that never go this quickly. Inside 60 days, there’s often nothing at Disney’s Hollywood Studios aside from MuppetVision and Star Tours!
Keep in mind that the dates searched are for mid-June 2020, which would not otherwise see such inventory scarcity. (See our Summer Is Not Peak Season at Walt Disney World post.) Last year at this time, we had better luck inside a week than we’re having right now two months in advance.
In other words, this is not normal. Heck, it wouldn’t be normal for peak season!
Now, you could surmise from this that I was wrong with my predictions of lower crowds in “How Bad Will Crowds Be at Walt Disney World After Reopening?” That’s certainly a possibility, and I’ll be the first to admit if/when I’m wrong.
However, I think the jury is still out on that.
It’s much more likely that we’re seeing the first behind-the-scenes operational changes come into public view, some of which are discussed in our What Operational & Health Safety Changes Will Walt Disney World Make to Reopen?
If you don’t want to read all 2,000+ words of that, the pertinent possibilities here are virtual queues and/or reduced attraction capacity. Either or both are options that are on the table, and our money would be on Walt Disney World leadership starting to plan for the inevitable realities of operational changes upon reopening.
With that said, this doesn’t mean that Walt Disney World has already set any concrete plans into motion. It’s entirely possible that leaders have opted to reduce FastPass+ inventory to keep their options open as they determine next steps to take. (That’s what I’d put my money on here.) FastPass+ inventory dumps are actually really common, and those could occur later if/when Walt Disney World determines how its queues will work once the parks reopen. For now, we’d consider this an opaque look at behind the scenes logistical planning.
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!
What do you think of this Walt Disney World news & rumor round-up? Have you watched any of the Imagineering videos or other at-home Disney content? Happy to see Disney+ doing so well while the rest of Disney struggles? Thoughts on FastPass+ or resort room inventory? Think we’ll see virtual queues, reduced attraction capacity, or both when Walt Disney World reopens? Any questions? We love hearing from readers, so please share any other thoughts or questions you have in the comments below!
Was trying to get fast passes for mid to late June 67 days out at the back end of our trip that we don’t expect to be going on and they were mostly non existent for the big attractions, which is highly unusual this far out. Could get virtually nothing in Studios at 63 days, at 67 only Runaway train from the headliners. So it definitely looks like they are holding back. But I am still not really expecting the parks to be open by then.
As others have said, there’s no way the parks are opening in summer. They would create or at least significantly contribute to a second wave of the pandemic, and I doubt regular commercial flights will even be operating by summer. Fall at the earliest and even that is doubtful.
I think they could be open but they would be dramatically different with social distancing. I’ve seen some interesting ideas here on how they could do it and I bet the people in charge are also coming up with those same thoughts. Does anyone know how many people the parks need to let in to make money? Fall might seem more logical because it’s further out but that also is the season that most viruses generally return.
Thanks. I didn’t say that to make you feel badly for me, just to say I get the emotional disappointment of cancelling a long awaited trip. This has been planned for just over a year. Whenever you’ve invested the kind of time and planning that goes into a big trip it’s hard to let it go if it’s still at a stage where someone else hasn’t made the decision fir you.
I hope you get your trip, whether it’s this year or next.
Just hit our 60 day window today for fast passes for a mid-June trip. There was zero availability of Tier 1’s on our first 2-3 days of the trip, but ok availability of other things. For the last days of our trip, there were Tier 1 rides available, but the earliest Smuggler’s run I could get was about 6:00pm for the 6th day of our trip when scheduling at 7:00am on the day of availability . I highly doubt there were that many people with 10+ day trips that were able to schedule before me. Based on past experience with scheduling Fastpasses for our Disney trips, there is definitely low availability. Just my opinion though.
Wanted to chime in here with my experience – we’ve got a trip planned Sept 8-14, and our dining reservation window opened up just a couple of weeks before everything shut down. We had no problem getting (most) of the reservations we wanted. But if I check back now, there is zero availability for anything in Disney Springs on the Saturday of our trip. If I refresh constantly, sometimes a few times pop up – but it’s very sporadic.
I just booked my 60 day fast passes for mid June and there was a fine amount of selections. Now just hoping it’s open by then…
I’m trying to book dining for October, this is my 6 months out and it’s showing no availbility anywhere. That has to be wrong…right?
I booked for September (which is usually much slower than October from what I understand) and only found a single royal table, a single plaza, and nothing for be our guest in our four-day window. I check often but haven’t seen anything.
Parks won’t open until Fall, if even 2020.
I have had to do fast passes 4 days within the last week, and it’s been bad. The first trip I did was for a June 8 arrival, and the lack of options was mind-blowing. And when you could find the attraction you wanted, the times were usually late. Immediately I assumed Disney was cutting back on the fast pass allotments in some effort to control crowds. It will be interesting to see how this all turns out.
I guess I lucked out. 3 people for June 11-16 trip (FP reservations for 13, 14 and 15th). Got All FPs for the mid morning except FOP and Smugglers Run, which I got for 4:10 and 4:20 on their respective days. Then all 3 Mountains for Villians. Maybe it’s bc there are just three of us?
Maybe so. These were for families of 5 and one family of 4. I mean some days of the Trip were decent, but the first day was pretty horrendous across the board. I have only been able to find FOP if the AK day is later in the trip. But for one of my June 8 trips even MK was awful- Peter Pan at like 7pm, no mine train etc. oh well. We will be lucky if they even open up by then. But I’m keeping my fingers crossed!!
While it’s not time to plan our Fastpasses yet for an early October trip, we could start making dining reservations . We can’t take our trip when the free dining is offered (so disappointed on that ). I went in the first day of availability and had trouble making dining reservations – so many places were sold out in October ! I could not believe that by 8am on the actual day it became open it would already be full. Hoping if I check back this may change but maybe it’s related to one of these aforementioned topics .
Unfortunately fall is always hard when it comes to dining. The reservation window opens at 5am (my time zone) and it is often hard to find some of the more popular options even 180 days out the minute the booking window opens. But keep checking, as people do change plans, especially closer to travel time!
Wonder if maybe they will only allow Disney Resort guests into the parks at first? This way if they don’t release all rooms for booking, they can better control and anticipate the number of potential park guests per day. We are booked in November for our anniversary, but are prepared to change if we need to. I feel for those first-timers who have been waiting forever to go and haven’t been able to.
Same here Kyle, we’re scheduled for June 3rd. Doesn’t look real promising but a girl can dream right!? Maybe they’ll do a soft opening with just hotel reservations that were booked by a certain date only to start. Just to keep crowds as low as possible. Still dreaming I guess!
Unrelated but hoping someone may know the answer or at least have an educated guess – we were at WDW last month when the parks shut down (staying off property). We still have several days left on our pass that we did not get to use. Disney has extended the expiration date through December but the likelihood of us returning to FL before the end of the year is zero. We are however, wondering if these days can be transferred to a Disneyland pass instead? Anyone have any thoughts on this?
Disney usually is pretty accommodating. Write a nice letter to Bob Iger or Bob Chapek ( they probably will never see your letter, but it will get kicked “upstairs”.). Explain your situation and see what happens. I would bet you get a satisfactory response.
Any thoughts regarding Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach? Will they open the pools? Surely the chlorine will kill any lurking germs! LOL!
Just wondered how pools will open this summer? Beaches will be the same……lots of people sharing the same water within close proximity.
Does anyone know the covid relationship with water?
In past vacations I have bought annual passes for the water parks and not even visited the regular parks, especially if we were coming back more than once in a year. I personally like the water parks better and if you have kids they are great when there are no lines! In the future I’d be more willing to visit the water parks than the regular parks weather permitting. I doubt the virus would survive in pool water but there are a lot of unknowns at this point.
Chlorine kills it, but the problem lies in people bunched up close together in lines. Or, say someone in front of you sneezes on the lazy river. You float right though their mist. My guess is, if they open at all this summer, they will have very limited capacity to prevent groups of people from clumping up.
Disney is probably keeping some availability open so that guests will continue to check and recheck for rooms. It keeps them interested and engaged rather than showing as completely booked for the foreseeable future. Less bookings mean less cancellations in the short term. Once Disney gets the go ahead to open everything, they will open up availability and watch the booking frenzy begin.
Is one predicting that once a date for reopening the parks is confirmed, FastPass+ booking capabilities will be “normalized” ? I have a mid-July trip to Disney World booked. I’m teetering on my decision to postpone my trip…concerned that even if the park is opened, my experiences may not be completely Magical. We visit Disney Parks every other year, so I’d hate to have a less than perfect trip.
Honestly, I personally think that experiences will be ‘less than perfect’ for the rest of the year. I have a solo trip planned for November for which I am still unsure if it will even be possible. If I needed a ‘perfect’ trip I probably wouldn’t count on it on this calendar year.
I’m not meaning that to come off snarky, though I know in print it could sound that way. Just that if you go often enough that you don’t want to waste the money on a ‘less than perfect trip’ and you’re scheduled for mid-July I would be preparing myself to cancel. Don’t cancel yet, see how it pans out, but I’d probably push it a year, and then go every other year again from there. Realistically I don’t see July being anywhere near back to normal.
On the other hand, I’m travelling from the UK. Who knows if those from out of the country will be allowed to travel so if you take out the foreign visitors (especially in July) you might end up not having a huge issue, as the measures they take may balance out against the lack of foreign guests or far away guests if it’s mostly locals who can still go.
I hope that convoluted point made some sense.
Plan for the best, but be prepared to cancel. I hope whichever way it goes (this year or postponed) you have a wonderful time 🙂
Makes perfect sense!
In my gut I feel I should postpone…just dealing with emotions now
Sadly I know the feeling emotionally coming to terms with the cancellation/postponement.. In my case it wasn’t about Disney. I was supposed to be going back ‘home’ to Canada this Friday to spend time with my 75/80yo parents, my dad’s been struggling this year. And to also spend time with friends in the States who we haven’t seen for several years. While I knew in my heart in early March it would need to be cancelled, I still waited till the government said no travel to officially let it go. That was tough.
I’m hoping that my Nov trip to WDW will still go ahead, but in this case I’d probably rather go to real ‘home’ if we’re allowed to travel again by then And hope I have parents to go home to 🙁
so sorry Wendy. I know that many are suffering real losses here. My best to you and your family.