This Walt Disney World news & rumor update is all about the Epcot area. From the new Crescent Lake hotel to a mega E-Ticket Jungle Book attraction and India pavilion to a concerning update on the Mary Poppins attraction in United Kingdom, we cover the latest buzz and share our thoughts on the veracity of each story.
We’ll start with the most boring: the Swan and Dolphin Resort is getting a third tower, built on their current property, and adjacent to Disney’s Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf Course. This new tower will be built on Swan & Dolphin’s existing tennis courts, which closed at the beginning of this month to make way for the expansion. The new hotel will be 14 stories tall, have 349 guest rooms, and open in 2020. It’ll also have a rooftop terrace, restaurant & lounge, and 21,000 square feet of meeting space.
While Walt Disney World has yet to officially announce any details about the new hotel, developer Tishman and MetLife released a joint press release providing more information and concept art. Moreover, the special event space adjacent to the mini-golf course also closed last week (that space will become new parking for the mini-golf course, which will lose its current parking lot to the hotel), so this is a done deal.
I never thought I would be in a position of contending that something blemishes the thematic character of the Swan & Dolphin Resorts, but here we are. This new resort, apparently, is themed to a suburban office park and the association with MetLife is ironic, because it looks like the kind of place where insurance adjusters would work.
Not that I’m the biggest fan of Michael Graves. To the contrary, I think allowing the Swan & Dolphin to look the way they do was one of Eisner’s biggest blunders at Walt Disney World (see DisneyWar for more on that). Nevertheless, at least Swan & Dolphin have distinct personality and character, and are provocative designs that would be fascinating outside of Walt Disney World.
This new hotel looks like the place dreams go to die, where white collar drones push papers and a sea of middle-managers cook up new and exciting bureaucracy. It could easily be the setting of Office Space 2. All of this is hyperbolic, of course, and plenty of hotels around the country look just as boring and uninspired on the outside. It’s still disheartening to see this at Walt Disney World.
The plus side is that even at 14 stories, this hotel won’t be visible from within Epcot. Even from around Crescent Lake, it’s likely that the Swan & Dolphin’s existing towers will at least partially obscure it from guest view. In actuality, this isn’t any more problematic than the Disney Springs area resorts, but it’s nonetheless disappointing that Tishman and co. are building the blandest hotel possible next to their most outlandish ones. The juxtaposition of styles will be fairly jarring.
Now, the juicy rumors for Epcot. WDWNT is reporting that Imagineering is developing an India pavilion for World Showcase that would be anchored by a lavish E-Ticket attraction based upon the live-action Jungle Book film. While details are sparse beyond that ride, it’s safe to assume the pavilion would also feature retail, dining, and architecture from India. Personally, I’m thrilled at the potential for the Taj Mahal–one that is not entirely CGI–to find its way into Epcot.
Part of the rumor is that the Jungle Book attraction would utilize the same ride system as Shanghai Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure. This ride system for an underwater-controlled boat was patented by Disney several years ago, but has yet to resurface in other attractions aside from Shanghai.
It’s already clear the underwater-controlled boat is going to be the chic ride system for future rumors and fan daydreaming (move over trackless LPS!). Previously, it was rumored to be used for Na’vi River Journey in Pandora and it’s also strongly suspected to be what the upcoming Peter Pan ride will utilize in Tokyo DisneySea’s “FantaSea” expansion.
All of this is for good reason: Shanghai’s Pirates is exceptional, and a large part of its success is predicated upon this dynamic ride system. Moreover, it’s easy to envision the Jungle Book being brought to life via a similar mix of ginormous screens and life-like Audio Animatronics. It’s not just the ride system that fits–it’s the overarching style and staging of the ride. I’m not a creative (but I play one on the internet) and even I can see how this movie would be a great fit for the tech.
Beyond the logic of the movie, ride system, and staging working well together, it makes perfect sense that this would be a blue sky pitch. The Jungle Book was a box office sensation with a sequel planned and one goal of Epcot’s re-imagining is to increase the number of attractions in World Showcase. From that perspective, it’s entirely conceivable that this is a concept that’s on the table for Epcot.
Where the wheels start to fall off is once you come to the real world of finite budgets. We’ve heard multiple accounts that the Guardians of the Galaxy attraction has an astronomical budget (varying reports have put it around or above $300 million) and the Ratatouille dark ride will be another $200 million (give or take), which is still less than that attraction cost in France.
Meanwhile, reports have put Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure’s cost at $450 million. Granted, some of that is likely R&D that wouldn’t have to be replicated. However, construction tends to cost more stateside, and this attraction would entail building an entire World Showcase pavilion. Let’s put the total cost at a very conservative $300 million, which could be too low by around $100 million.
Rumors point to Epcot’s overhaul having an allocated budget of over $1 billion, but those same rumors also suggest that a lot is going to happen beyond what has been announced thus far. From the Central Spine redesign to two new countries in World Showcase to overlays of existing attractions to new restaurants…and so on. As such, it’s hard to imagine that Disney would be willing to allocate ~$800 million of that to just 3 attractions.
This is actually a big reason why the next rumor from WDWNT is more plausible: a Mary Poppins spinner, a la Dumbo, is being developed for the United Kingdom pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase.
It’s not the first, or even second, time we’ve reported on the rumors swirling about a new attraction coming to the United Kingdom. For the past year, there have been an array of concepts, ranging from Brave to the Loch Ness Monster to Mary Poppins.
In our last update on this rumor just last month, we shared that it appeared Mary Poppins had won out, and a dark ride based upon the film was the most viable candidate for World Showcase. We also offered something of the same caveat as above, that a lot of competing concepts were floating around for Epcot, and they can’t all possibly come to fruition.
We have not heard anything first hand about the status of this potential Mary Poppins attraction, and we have no reason to believe that it’s any closer to becoming a reality now than it was in August. However, a cheap spinner is much more likely not just from a budgetary perspective, but also because it would allow the lucrative World Showplace to remain.
Of course–and this should go without saying–but a spinner is more cringeworthy. Many people, myself included, have come to terms with the reality that characters have come to World Showcase and more are on the way. Frozen Ever After was simply the vanguard of this, and it’s introduction of a fictional country to World Showcase likely made a lot of people numb to future rumors of character additions.
Personally, that’s the case for me. I’m a realist, and I now evaluate new proposals less on the basis of whether they enhance the rich cultural offerings of World Showcase, and more about whether the characters are sensible in context. Under this lower threshold, Ratatouille, Mary Poppins, and Coco all pass muster.
Even as I recognized Disney characters in World Showcase would become the “new normal” never did I imagine that this would occur via amusement park rides. (How naive of me!) Dumbo gets a pass because it’s iconic, but the other spinners are like tumors on their respective lands (except TriceraTop spin, because you can’t have a tumor on a tumor), and the notion of something so tacky being added to the beautiful tapestry of World Showcase makes me cringe extra hard.
In other words, the Mary Poppins spinner rumor is entirely credible. It’s low budget, a terrible fit for World Showcase, and features a hot intellectual property. It’s just our luck that this is what Disney will green light out of all the great concepts floating around for Epcot. I certainly hope it doesn’t find it’s way into the park, but I’ve learned to expect the worst when it comes to Epcot and integrity.
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What do you think of these rumors? Would you like to see India built in World Showcase, or is its presence in Animal Kingdom sufficient? Does the idea of an E-Ticket Jungle Book ride appeal to you? What about the Mary Poppins spinner? Thoughts on the third Swan & Dolphin tower? 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!