We’re back with another news & rumor round-up! This focuses heavily on Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, including some things to come…and others that probably will not. This includes a delay of the highly anticipated TRON Lightcycle Run E-Ticket, which could have ramifications for a range of other projects previously scheduled to debut by October 1, 2021.
Before we get to that, let’s start with some fun news! For the first time ever, a specialty Walt Disney World license plate is available for purchase in honor of the 50th Anniversary. Proceeds of the license plate will go to Make-A-Wish, which has been a Disney partner since 1980, with more than 140,000 Disney-inspired wishes granted since then, including ~8,000 per year at Walt Disney World.
The design of this specialty Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary license plate will be revealed at a later date, but interested car owners can purchase a pre-sale voucher now for $25 plus applicable state administration fees by appointment at local County Tax Collector’s offices and license plate agencies. Online pre-sale will be available soon…
In some unsurprising news, the Tomorrowland PeopleMover refurbishment has been extended into 2021. The refurbishment calendar now lists the TTA PeopleMover as being closed through January 2, 2021. It’s worth noting that this is simply as far as the calendar goes for the attraction at this point, so rather than that being a definitive end date, it’s a closed “at least until” date.
The good news is that Disney has filed construction permits for the attraction, meaning some sort of movement is likely to start on the project. For months–even before the parks closed–the PeopleMover has just sat there, as Disney reportedly awaited parts to replace the attraction’s motors on the length of the track. There have been numerous delays on that, reportedly due to supply chain issues.
Nevertheless, we’re now nervous that the PeopleMover “refurbishment” is more a cost-savings closure than anything else. It’s entirely possible the attraction won’t come back until mid-2021 or later, especially given the other Tomorrowland project delays discussed below.
Bouncing to attractions that are operational, two new attractions–Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and Jungle Cruise–are likely to get the virtual queue treatment a la Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance per WDWMagic. This would not be a huge surprise, especially as other Disney parks post-reopening have been offering a “Standby Pass” for months now.
This would work differently than Disney’s Standby Pass, and would also (thankfully) be different from the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance boarding passes. With that attraction, the virtual queue is a necessity due to the attraction’s unreliability, downtime, and frequent breakdowns. (Everyone clamoring for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance to get a standby line doesn’t realize just how frustrating–and time-consuming/wasting that would be, as the virtual queue conceals a lot of the ride’s persistent problems.)
A lot of people understandably hate the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance virtual queue because of the aforementioned issues, but those are due to the ride’s problems and not the virtual queue system. Messaging and terminology matters a lot when it comes to biases and preconceived notions, so for the remainder of this, think of virtual queue as “dynamic same-day FastPass+” instead of the Rise of the Resistance train wreck.
Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run is a candidate for the virtual queue treatment for a couple of reasons. First, because the line is getting longer on busy days and there’s nowhere for it to go without clogging up crowd-flow in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. There have already been a few days when it has had to stretch backstage, which is bad show. That’s still pretty rare, though.
Equally as significant, in our view, is that Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run could be something of a “consolation prize” for those who cannot score a boarding pass for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance (which is now the majority of guests visiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios each day).
This would be an entirely psychological reward, as Smugglers Run doesn’t have the same woes nor does it have that level of demand. On any given day, it’s entirely conceivable that every guest in Disney’s Hollywood Studios who wants one could obtain a Smugglers Run virtual queue slot.
Such an approach is hardly unprecedented. Walt Disney World previously offered an array of “consolation” FastPass+ selections for years. It’s actually an effective strategy in terms of guest satisfaction…albeit probably not for anyone reading a planning blog like this one who understands the scarcity and qualitative differences between a Rise of the Resistance and Smugglers Run boarding pass.
At Magic Kingdom, adding a virtual queue for Jungle Cruise also makes sense. It has become one of the longest lines in the park due to its unique mix of low hourly capacity and the physical distancing protocol that even further limit its hourly throughput.
We’ve said this before, but we don’t think Jungle Cruise is worth doing right now. The experience falls flat–through no fault of the skippers, they’re just up against too many impediments right now.
It’s likely that the virtual queues at Walt Disney World won’t stop there. This should be a relief for some readers who are anxious for FastPass+ to return. As we’ve noted elsewhere, FastPass+ has been suspended because it reduces the overall capacity of the parks by allowing guests to be in two places at once, in essence.
The flip side is that only using standby queues makes for lines that are physically quite long. This is further exacerbated right now by the physical distancing protocol that spaces out the queues. That becomes its own issue when there’s literally nowhere for the line to go or it starts impeding guest flow. As Walt Disney World approaches the busy Christmas season, this is likely to become a pronounced issue at a number of attractions.
In the past, the benefit of FastPass was that it decreased the length of lines and redistributed crowds because FastPass guests were waiting somewhere else. Standby lines self-regulated by virtue of posted wait times. (Meaning that fewer guests jump into line when a posted wait time is 90 minutes as compared to 30 minutes.)
Virtual queues allow Walt Disney World to find the sweet spot between the higher capacity of all-standby and the shorter physical lines of FastPass, while attempting to minimize the downsides of both. There’s also the benefit of virtual queues being more dynamic, meaning that Walt Disney World can scale up or down their use as dictated by current crowd conditions–both in the queues and throughout the parks. At least, in theory.
Finally, two rumors that we view as highly credible suggest significant delays on the construction of the TRON Lightcycle Run roller coaster being built in Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom. Progress has been brisk on this in the last couple of months, with its signature illuminated canopy being being built around the outdoor section of coaster track. However, movement on the Grid could come to a grinding halt very soon.
Both reports indicate that work on finishing the canopy and completing the enclosure of the gravity building will continue out of necessity due to Florida’s weather. Once that’s finished, everything else about the project is on hold–from the canopy’s lighting to literally everything inside the show building. From there, the two rumors diverge slightly…
WDWNT is reporting that the field team working on the attraction has been laid off and that Walt Disney World is waiting until December for additional cash flow and revenue to come in, funding the completion of the project. This would make TRON Lightcycle Run’s chances of opening by the start of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary on October 1, 2021 highly unlikely.
Mostly consistent with this, a vendor involved with sending products to the construction site has posted on the WDWMagic forums that construction will cease in December 2020 and work will be suspended, aside from canopy construction. Future work is dependent upon Disney’s economic recovery, but would likely begin no earlier than the start of the next fiscal year in October 2021. In that scenario, TRON Lightcycle Run would open in Spring/Summer 2022.
It’s worth noting that TRON Lightcycle Run is a clone of a roller coaster at Shanghai Disneyland. It was announced over 3 years ago and now likely won’t open for 2 more years. In terms of complexity and theme, it’s akin to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. (Not stated in this rumor, but it’s our assumption that the Walt Disney World Railroad won’t return until 2022 in this scenario.) Meanwhile, Universal Orlando just announced the Jurassic World VelociCoaster a few weeks ago, which will open in Summer 2021.
This is incredibly disappointing, but shouldn’t come as a huge surprise given that TRON Lightcycle Run was not mentioned when the Walt Disney Company’s CFO Christine McCarthy specifically addressed the project priorities for the U.S. Disney Parks & Resorts. As a quick reminder, she indicated that Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway in Toontown at Disneyland, and Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Resort at Walt Disney World were the main priorities.
Our assumption at the time was that things like Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, Space 220 Restaurant, Play Pavilion, and TRON Lightcycle Run were not mentioned simply because they’re so far along that it’s a given they’ll be completed, albeit perhaps with brief delays. That now appears not to be the case.
While we’re still fairly confident Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and Space 220 Restaurant will open at some point in 2021, this development does call the timing of both into question. With TRON Lightcycle Run now being highly unlikely for October 2021 and the same almost certainly being true for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, what does that leave for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary?
One option is entertainment. There have been recent, semi-credible rumblings of Paint the Night being imported from Disneyland Resort for a limited run. Harmonious could also debut at EPCOT sometime in late 2021. The most plausible scenario is that Walt Disney World will simply hit pause on all upcoming openings, delaying the aforementioned EPCOT additions until October 2021 for the start of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary.
With regard to Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and Space 220 Restaurant, this should not be construed as a rumor–it’s merely conjecture. Our previous belief was that both would debut around Spring or Summer 2021. That still might happen, especially if park capacity is restored to full levels and physical distancing requirements removed by then. (Conversely, we don’t expect anything big to open while capacity/physical distancing limitations are in effect.)
Ultimately, not great for the prospects of new additions at Walt Disney World. We’ve been cautioning since the spring that pretty much any project–both announced and unannounced–that had yet to break ground and make significant progress was in jeopardy of being cancelled or shelved indefinitely. That’s still almost certainly true, especially with the once grandiose plans for EPCOT and resort development.
Our expectation was that the one saving grace preventing another “lost decade” at Walt Disney World was the simple fact that so many construction projects were already pretty far along. That’s still true, but it now appears that Walt Disney World will stretch the timelines of additions that were once schedule to debut this year and in 2021 throughout the next few years. Here’s hoping we still at least get an actual celebration for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. Cupcakes and limited edition merchandise aren’t going to cut it.
Thoughts on how delays could impact Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary? Are you nervous that it’s not going to be much of a celebration? Are you excited about the prospect of more virtual queues, or do the crowds that would accompany those concern you? Do you anticipate Walt Disney World will further ‘fine tune’ park capacity as appropriate? Will you be visiting Walt Disney World in late 2020? Do you agree or disagree with our advice and commentary? 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!