Disney World News & Rumors: Pirates League Closing, More Star Wars Changes, Preview & More

We’re back with another round of news & rumors from Walt Disney World, with a look at what’s coming, going, and being improved at Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom, and beyond. Naturally, that includes another update to Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance ride protocol. We also have a couple of other tidbits that relate to  Disneyland and Disney Cruise Line.

Let’s start in Disney’s Hollywood Studios with the announcement that a sneak peek of the new Disney-Pixar film Onward will begin playing in the Walt Disney Presents theater on February 7, 2020. On that same date, the preview will also debut in the Tomorrowland Theater at Disneyland. Guests aboard Disney Cruise Line can also catch this preview during select sailings in February and early March.

During our Disney Cruise Line sailing last month, there was already an extended trailer playing constantly on in-room televisions. Perhaps the incessant playing of that colored our perspective, but we’re skeptical. It just feels like a DreamWorks animated film. Hopefully that doesn’t turn out to be an accurate assessment, as we’re really excited about the slate of original material this year from Disney. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time a Pixar trailer didn’t accurately reflect the actual movie…

Next up, Walt Disney World has announced that the Pirates League will close on July 27, 2020. This seaside hideaway is in Magic Kingdom adjacent to Pirates of the Caribbean, and offers guests of all ages a “swashbuckling pirate transformation” that can include a hairstyle, facial makeup, and other special treasures & accessories. Guests may also choose a head-to-toe mermaid makeover.

For those who are unfamiliar with it, the Pirates League originally offered as, essentially, a counterpart to Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. It opened at a time when Walt Disney World was big on the pirate/princess dichotomy. It opened 11 years ago, after the Pirate & Princess Party summertime hard ticket event was abandoned.

We have no firsthand experience with the Pirates League, but reader feedback about it was generally positive, and the location appeared at least reasonably popular. Prices were generally more reasonable than Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, with a wider range of options and a fun show component, as well. It’s unclear what is motivating the Pirates League closure, or if Walt Disney World has different plans for this location.

Continuing in Magic Kingdom where the Splash Mountain refurbishment is ongoing.

This annual project started earlier this month and is scheduled to conclude on February 27, reopening the following day. This is pretty typical of Splash Mountain refurbishments, which often seem like they’re more about not operating the attraction during the coldest time of the year than refreshing it.

This year seems to be a different story. During our day in Magic Kingdom, we noticed scaffolding around the first lift hill, where roof-work is being done. Elsewhere, there’s rock-work being replaced, repainting, and a flurry of activity from construction workers–and that was just what we could see!

Hopefully, a lot is happening inside the show scenes of Splash Mountain, too. Our last time on the attraction, things were looking a bit rough, with visible grime and several non-moving effects. Even so, Splash Mountain is an exceptional attraction, but when it’s looking good and everything is firing on all cylinders, this is one of Walt Disney World’s absolute best rides.

Work also continues on the aesthetic refresh of Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom. This has been ongoing for the last year-plus, with the main changes thus far being the removal of the Tomorrowland ’94 ornamentation, some new (more colorful) paint, and the new entrance archway.

We described some of these changes and the problems with the land’s identity crisis in our The Trouble with Tomorrowland post last year, so we won’t rehash that here.

In addition to more new paint and signage, the ongoing work right now is the removal of fins along the PeopleMover track (each of the scrims in the photo above is covering a fin).

We’re cautiously optimistic about this work. The ’94 look definitely needed a refresh, but we hope this isn’t simply a bland look with clean lines. Some new visual details and focal points would be ideal–hopefully those are yet to come.

The new M&M’s Store is coming to Disney Springs at Walt Disney World, and we have new concept art and details to share. The M&M’s Store will replace the current location at Florida Mall, and will be located on the West Side of Disney Springs in the former location of Curl, across from the House of Blues.

The M&M’s Store will be an immersive experience for lovers of the M&M’s brand, filled with color and fun. It will contain walls of colorful chocolate M&M’s candies, and thousands of pieces of merchandise–like exclusive shirts, oven mitts, cooking utensils, and more. This is one of several additions coming to the West Side of Disney Springs this year and in 2021.

An M&M’s probably isn’t the most exciting news to you (or maybe it is?!), but I think it’s at least somewhat fascinating. One goal of Disney Springs is to target big-spending international visitors, many of whom also make trips to local malls and fill suitcases on thousands of dollars of merchandise in the process.

This is one reason why there are so many quintessentially American brands at Disney Springs, and others that appeal to international tourists. (I’m personally surprised that Disney Springs never got an Apple Store.) I’m not entirely sure if M&M’s qualifies, but it seems like a good fit, regardless.

Finally, what would a Walt Disney World update be without something from Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance?! About half of our new posts seem to be about this blockbuster new attraction, primarily because things keep changing so regularly.

The latest update is that guests will now be given a return window of either one or two hours via the My Disney Experience app when notified that it’s their turn to board Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. No explanation has been given as to when it’ll be one hour or when it’ll be two hours.

We heard from readers over the weekend with evening return times that they only had one hour, and we personally experienced the one hour window at Disneyland last week with a low-numbered boarding group that was called almost immediately when the attraction began operating. (See screenshot below.)

A return window of one hour at the beginning and end of the day would make the most sense, and would help with crowd control and more predictable lines/wait times for the attraction. Personally, we hope this doesn’t spread to the middle of the day, as that would make Park Hopping to Epcot more difficult.

As always, Cast Members will work with you if you have a conflicting ADR or FastPass+ reservation. It’s also unclear if the shortened return window is even being enforced. (Currently, if the attraction breaks down, unofficial policy is that guests can return at any time.)

Additionally, Walt Disney World has been surveying guests to see if they prefer the virtual queue/boarding pass system, FastPass+ and a standby line, or only a standby line for the attraction. While there have been guest complaints about the virtual queue, there are complaints about literally everything Disney does–even closing Stitch’s Great Escape generated complaints.

We hope Walt Disney World sticks with the current system, and that surveyed guests realize the alternative is worse. Does anyone really want to spend 4+ hours in a standby line, enduring a breakdown (or two) in the process after failing to get a FastPass? (Those will mostly be scooped up before the 60 day mark by guests with week-plus on-site hotel reservations and those staying Club Level who pay extra for the longer FastPass+ window.)

That wraps up this Walt Disney World update. As always, consult our Ride Guide & FAQ for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance for ROTR101. A few days ago, we once again updated that with new info and more answers to questions readers that were frequently being asked by readers in the comments. It should cover pretty much everything you need to know about the popular new attraction.

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 do you think of this Walt Disney World news & rumor round-up? Hopeful that the Splash Mountain refurbishment will result in the attraction looking great–and every effect working? Optimistic that the Tomorrowland overhaul will give the land a bold and fresh visual identity, or concerned it’ll look overly bland? Thoughts on the M&M’s Store? What about the latest changes to Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance? Any questions? We love hearing from readers, so please share any other thoughts or questions you have in the comments below!


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