Disney News & Rumors: Mickey Ride Details, Star Tours Changes, & Lasseter Allegations
It’s been a while since we’ve dropped in with an update on the latest news and rumors from Walt Disney World (and around the Disney ‘world), so we thought we’d drop in with a few stories. We’ve got new info about Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, updates to Star Tours, and some unfortunate news about John Lasseter.
First up, some new info about Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. When the new Mickey Mouse attraction was first announced this summer at the D23 Expo, few details were given aside from it pioneering “2.5D” (glasses-free 3D) and featuring a new singable attraction theme song. There was also the promise that it’d be a zany, out-of-control adventure with unpredictable twists and turns, dazzling visual effects, and mind-boggling transformations that happen during the scenes.
From the video presented at the D23 Expo, we could glean that the attraction was probably trackless and probably felt tonally like a modernized Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin. Well, that and a few other details have been confirmed via a scene-by-scene synopsis posted by WDWNT…
That synopsis reveals that much of the queue and pre-show will remain from Great Movie Ride (modified to fit the new attraction), with guests boarding Goofy’s train, driving alongside Mickey & Minnie in a tunnel and park, this is followed by a stampede scene, carnival, tornado, waterfall, dance studio, and factory before arriving in a park for a picnic.
Phew. That sounds a bit eclectic and frenetic, so hopefully Imagineering is able to pull it off in a way that flows and doesn’t feel disjointed. In fairness, if you described Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin (or any number of attractions) on paper only, it would feel similarly chaotic and nonsensical. The end result, however, is strong.
The most exciting part of this, for me, is that the attraction will feature 10+ Audio Animatronics figures. This is still far cry from the number in Great Movie Ride, but at least the attraction won’t be entirely screen-based. We’re still cautiously optimistic, and even though we’re not wild about the visual style of the new Mickey cartoons, hopefully this attraction can achieve a sense of timelessness.
On the topic of Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway (and per WDWNT again), Walt Disney Imagineering is set to hand off Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway to park operations in April 2019. This passing of the baton occurs with every attraction, and it’s the point at which Cast Member training begins, followed by previews and/or soft openings.
This would tend to support the attraction being the tentpole addition to Walt Disney World for Summer 2019, as no other major additions are currently slated to open then. As we’ve noted several times, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will struggle to meet a Late 2019 opening date (if it doesn’t end up drifting into 2020), so this will be a nice boost for Disney’s Hollywood Studios ahead of that.
We’d expect Walt Disney World to stick to its recent trend of doing Memorial Day grand openings with Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. As WDWNT notes, a May 1, 2019 grand opening is also possible to celebrate the anniversary of the park. That would require someone at Disney realizing that date is the park’s anniversary…and caring enough to do something to acknowledge it. (Partially joking there…but only partially.)
Sticking with Disney’s Hollywood Studios, changes to Star Tours have debuted. In a new scene, guests fly to Batuu, which is the newly-unveiled name of the planet featured in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. In essence, Star Tours is now offering space-tourists a preview of the new land.
This is a clever way of bridging the gap between Star Tours and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Many people have asked what will happen to Star Tours once Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens, and our expectation has long been that it would (eventually) be reskinned to feature a different intellectual property.
While we still expect that to occur eventually (no, Star Tours will not be physically moved to Star Wars land), this changes makes Star Tours thematically-consistent to co-exist with Galaxy’s Edge. That buys the attraction a few more years while other (more urgent) projects are completed, and doesn’t make Star Tours’ existence–outside of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge–quite so perplexing. It’s still not an ideal scenario, but it’s probably the best near-term solution.
Next, a story we’re disappointed to be reporting. In the latest of a seemingly-endless stream of sexual harassment allegations, John Lasseter announced he was taking a leave of absence from Pixar due to “missteps.” This came ahead of stories from the Hollywood Reporter and Variety detailing a pattern of misconduct over the last two decades.
Given the reticence of sources in those articles to speak publicly for fear of reprisal, it seems entirely possible that more women will feel emboldened by these stories, and come forward. If that does occur, expect Lasseter’s current 6-month sabbatical to become a resignation or termination.
The response to this from some Disney fans has been…discouraging, to say the least. Condemning someone’s abhorrent behavior should not be transactional. They shouldn’t get a pass because you like their creative output or agree with their political philosophy–or anything else.
You can simultaneously appreciate Lasseter’s past creative work at Pixar, and what he’s done to turn around Walt Disney Animation while acknowledging that Pixar and Disney should move forward without him. Accepting that what he has done is egregious and expecting he be held accountable for his actions is not a betrayal of your fandom. It does not somehow invalidate the movies he’s helped create that you cherish.
It truly pained us to read Lasseter’s statement and hear the allegations against him, but we in no way feel obliged to offer a blind defense of him. To the contrary, we hope Disney handles this appropriately, and undertakes an independent review of Pixar to ensure whatever ‘culture’ that has enabled this does not persist.
Rather than ending the update on that downer, we’ll end it on a positive note…at least for us personally. If you’ve been following us on social media, you might know we’re currently in Japan. Last week, we had the chance to cross something off our travel bucket list: watching the tide rise at Itsukushima Shrine.
Epcot fans should recognize that floating torii behind us: it’s the real-world inspiration for the floating torii in World Showcase’s Japan pavilion. Earlier in the day when that photo was taken, we were standing directly under that torii (during low tide). Later that evening, the spot where we were standing was submerged by another foot of water.
We’ve since headed to Kyoto where I’ve been running around non-stop photographing the fall colors (they are blazing) of the Japanese maple trees. You can see some of the autumn foliage shots of Japan I’ve taken here. We’ve also been posting a semi-live trip report of our adventures in Japan.
Need Disney trip planning tips and comprehensive advice? Make sure to read Disney Parks Vacation Planning Guides, where you can find comprehensive guides to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and beyond! For Disney updates, discount information, a free download of our Money-Saving Tips for Walt Disney World eBook, and much more, sign up for our free monthly newsletter!
What do you think of these news & rumors? Does the description of Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway make you more or less excited about that attraction? What about the inclusion of AAs? Thoughts about Star Tours and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge co-existing? Reaction to the Lasseter news? Any questions about any of the other news? We love hearing from readers, so please share any other thoughts or questions you have in the comments!
On the harassment thing, when I hear this about powerful people, I have two trains of thought: Did this really happen or is someone saying this because they hope to get some type of gain by accusing someone> (Financial or otherwise)/ If it really happened, I hoper it is taken care of swiftly and does not drag on. Regarding Disney in general. I see too many hotels and a tendency towards mediocrity at the Parks. When I was a kid, I went to the New York World’s Fair twice. Disney and many other Corporations really shined. This is what Disney should be. It was Amazing. Things no one had ever seen before. Now it seems what goes into the parks is a quick fix to boost attendance. What is happening to Epcot is Criminal. The Mary Poppins thing hardly belongs there, and Frozen needs to be moved to Magic Kingdom. Why aren’t the Imagineers given more freedom? A new Park is warranted, as the Parks are overcrowded as it is.
I really appreciate your comments about John Lasseter. My 10-year old daughter desperately wants to work for Disney (current plan is to be an Imagineer) and the news lately has been so discouraging to me. I don’t want my daughter to believe that she has to compromise who she is and what she stands for in order to get ahead. I think that’s something most people have to wrestle with at some point and it’s hard enough coming from within yourself. I certainly don’t want someone in a position of professional authority to pressure her into anything. Indeed, Lasseter’s creative legacy is something to be proud of and I’m a fan of the fruits of that legacy but I would be incredibly disheartened if Disney didn’t handle this appropriately.
not every witness is reliable especially with body matters. Bob, he posts thousands of pictures a year posing with people. do you really think with all those eyes upon him he could be a sicko constantly giving in to compulsive urges literally on a stage surrounded by cameras and eyes? or is he a magician who knows the exact moment to squeeze? sure he might be guilty but i would need something more than a single tale to believe it. We know that people are extremely sensitive and often uncomfortable about their body image and he is a physical performer who warmly receives and gives love to his fans. he hugs. he puts his arms around you. might not a graze be misinterpreted? might someone be absolutely bonkers among the multitudes who have seen his act and been willing to sit near him for a photo at their own urging? yes. i would say half the folk at disney are half nuts. you gotta be,. but i would give him the benefit of the doubt over the hearsay of a someone I’ve never met. now, he might confess or be forced to plead and fold up shop, his name and reputation now sullied. it is already irrevocable. tragic even. he might be innocent. he might be a predator. folks speculate that if this is what we see in the light of the day, or claim to see or feel, then imagine what he is doing secretly. eh? i look at the intense giving of himself as a magical performer. was he in a powerful situation in the same way a Harvey Weinstein was? how so? in that you could talk to him and have a photo? no career at stake but his. witnesses are notoriously unreliable. hell, you can argue with your wife and go into the next room and disagree about what was just said. that’s the rule. so how does it work? we read an accusation and decide if the writer is balanced and seems honest. if he or she mentions martians then we throw out their account. we are inclined to receive information with some degree of predetermination. our personal perception isn’t science. now if a photo shows him squeezing her ass and she didn’t request such familiarity then he’s banished. but this isn’t harassment. did George Bush pinch tush? probably. although again, i am thinking of the witch trials. mass hysteria exists. the germans induced one big lie into the collective mind of the entire country once upon a time. so hate me if i ask for hard evidence, pun intended. if my daughter looked disturbed and told me bob touched her i would march up and grab him by the collar. my wife would probably giggle but she’s a genius. Tom, i am a bit disappointed in your judgement here. i must be missing something. it’s unlike you to do the obvious. do some research. you’re a photographer and lawyer. look again at his Facebook where there are many thousands of photos and his hands are usually in the air. so were none of those ladies pinch-able? or was there something special about the accuser that made him deviate from the constant pattern of hands held high? was she so tempting that he just gave in? is there anything remotely suspicious about the multitude of photographic evidence we DO have which show him without a trace of seedy behavior, a leer, anything hut a wide wild goofy smile. but go ahead, crucify your prophets and clowns,.
humorously meant to write ‘but’ not hut,.. i would speculate that since she was poised on that wobbly piano -a photo of the alleged evening appears on Micechat- he might simply have been preventing her from tumbling off
“The most exciting part of this, for me, is that the attraction will feature 10+ Audio Animatronics figures. This is still far cry from the number in Great Movie Ride, but at least the attraction won’t be entirely screen-based. We’re still cautiously optimistic, and even though we’re not wild about the visual style of the new Mickey cartoons, hopefully this attraction can achieve a sense of timelessness”
I gave a fist pump when I heard about the 10+ AA figures because similar to you, I do not like the newer visual styles of the new Mickey cartoons but I always like AAs on attractions as opposed to screen-based.
J.L.’s actions do not change my general positive opinion of Pixar because similar to Jennie’s thoughts, I viewed Pixar as a team as opposed to being attached to J.L. Pixar is bigger than JL. My view comes from watching all the special features on various Pixar movie dvds plus Science Museum in Boston had a nice Pixar exhibit where you see all the creative work put into production by the vast number of employees.
Thank you for acknowledging the disturbing news about John Lasseter. Like many people, I am struggling with my opinions about each of the high-profile men who have recently been accused of acts that fall on the spectrum from inappropriate to horrifying. It’s especially difficult when these men created work I admired at some point.
But … PIXAR. This one really stings. Granted, I always had wished that more of their films passed the Bechdel Test (hello, Toy Story!) but I overlooked that because the ideas and feelings behind the stories meshed so perfectly with my own. (Can I even explain the guilt I felt as a kid because I thought it was possible my toys felt lonely when I wasn’t playing with them?) I figured the male geniuses behind Pixar were just working from the usual male-genius, self-centered perspective, writing stories they identified with.
Then came Inside Out. A Pixar movie about a real girl who isn’t a princess. And it’s damn near perfect. Imaginary friends, memory storage, “preschool land” – HOW did they read my mind? And how could someone perceptive enough to spearhead a story like this turn out to be so invasive and cruel to women, time after time? (And dismissive of their talents, according to the comments from Rashida Jones.)
Where does this leave me? Do we go see Coco this weekend? Who is next? This is not over.
It seemed like Brave was the start of the turning point…until they fired the original director. Still, a tide change seemed to be reflected in Inside Out, so that seemed like progress.
(Forget the next two films: the Good Dinosaur was an anomaly since it was made and re-made before Inside Out, and Cars 3 is what it is.)
That brings us to Coco, which by all accounts is Pixar’s first time really featuring underrepresented artists and perspectives. I think seeing Coco does not in any way ‘sanction’ Lasseter’s behavior. If anything, the people who stand to gain/lose the most from Coco’s success or failure are voices with far less power than him.
For what it’s worth, we saw Coco today. During the credits, I was doing a quick count in my head and counted over 800 people working on/associating with this movie. I’d guess the vast majority of those are decent human beings who put years of work and dedication into the movie. Probably far more than an executive producer.
Tom, can you elaborate on the River Roost reference you made in connection with Lasseter (we are going to POR soon, and I wouldn’t want to take my kids to the Yeehaw Bob show if doing so would be in any way an endorsement of Lasseter’s behavior)?
I think this is a very thoughtful article, and thank you for your willingness to weigh in on a subject some people will doubtless view as “controversial” even though I think we are in agreement that there is no grey area when it comes to treating coworkers as respected professionals. Courtesy is one of the Four Keys that are fundamental to what makes the Disney experience great, and I hope Disney makes a real effort to ensure that applies even at its highest ranks.
Here’s more on that: https://www.facebook.com/mscribnermaclean/posts/10213865130357581?pnref=story
Thank you for replying – I would have felt sick if I had taken my children to see the River Roost show and found out about this after the fact. That poor woman – I can’t imagine what is must feel like to go to a place like Disney that is supposed to make everyone feel happy and safe and left with memories like that. I hope they have a full investigation.
How is that photo taken so that it looks like you’re photo shopped in? Very strange….
I don’t see anything strange. It’s a great photo. Looks like they used a flash.
It certainly does not. *sigh* Just say what you mean – you don’t believe it’s a genuine travel photo. Passive aggressive slights are mean. If you mistrust the integrity of the blog, then please go elsewhere so the rest of us can enjoy the Brickers and their insights in relative peace.
“You can simultaneously appreciate Lasseter’s past creative work at Pixar, and what he’s done to turn around Walt Disney Animation while acknowledging that Pixar and Disney should move forward without him. Accepting that what he has done is egregious and expecting he be held accountable for his actions is not a betrayal of your fandom. It does not somehow invalidate the movies he’s helped create that you cherish.”
Unfortunately, this is a statement that I have to disagree with. I know that it is possible to divorce the art from the artist, and I am quite successful with it as long as the artist has been dead for a couple hundred years before I became aware of the art. It’s sometimes difficult to tell what the truth is, but in the face of convincing allegations about actors or musicians I am often unable to enjoy their work in the same way that I previously had, and I suspect that I am far from alone in this.
Pixar’s work will survive for me because I have always viewed it as a team and not as being attached specifically to Lasseter. Others may feel differently. While I definitely agree that no fandom is worth denying reality and — in particular — contributing to the environment of denial and hush-up that has left harassed women without a real voice here for so long, I also think it’s realistic to acknowledge that for some, holding Lasseter accountable for his actions *is* equivalent to lessening or losing their enjoyment of a Pixar’s oeuvre.
I’ve avoided the description of Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway (even skipping that section of your review), so I’m neither more or less excited! I’ll wait to be surprised in 1.5-2 years.
I’ve wondered about Star Tours & Galaxy’s Edge. The falcon ride is described as a simulator, so having 2 Star Wars simulators seems superfluous. That said, keeping the overall ride count in the park higher is a good thing (and I do enjoy Star Tours). Perhaps a re-skinning might be the best thing (and hopefully not that expensive).
The Lasseter news is very sad (along with the news of so, so many others in recent times). It somewhat discourages you about the whole human race.
“It somewhat discourages you about the whole human race.”
I think it speaks to the corruptive influence of power, and is forcing us to confront behavior we collectively have been ignoring for too long. It seems like there’s a concerted effort to make this into a “Hollywood” or “Washington” issue, but I’d hazard a guess that if you scrutinized power dynamics in organizations big and small, you’d find a number of stories like what are emerging.
Unfortunate but true. I don’t know many women – across a number of very diverse fields – that haven’t had to deal with a form of harassment during their career.
I’m so saddened by this and like Tom I hope Disney takes the right course of action here. After hearing about the guest reported harassment by a well loved performer at WDW I sincerely hope that they review policies across the companies to ensure that all instances are investigated properly.
“After hearing about the guest reported harassment by a well loved performer at WDW…”
We were also saddened by that. For what it’s worth, we removed all of our recommendations on the blog (and there were many) to go see his show, and there’s a reason River Roost was conspicuously absent from our recent bars & lounges list.