It’s been a while since our last Walt Disney World news & rumors round-up, so we’re back with the latest on transportation (both bus and Skyliner), new dining, Test Track’s 2020 closure, and tales of mystery and (journey into) imagination–including both Figment’s new “ride” and a true WDW crime caper!
We’ll start with Epcot, which is going to see another attraction go down in early 2020 with the refurbishment of Test Track. Test Track will be closed starting January 13, 2020 through February 26, 2020. This refurbishment is anticipated to be routine maintenance, and will include all components of the Test Track building (meaning the post-show exhibits and gift shop will also close).
While Walt Disney World has not indicated as such, we believe this is likely being done prior to Spaceship Earth going down for its big overhaul. Disney has already announced and teased this, indicating a new “story light” would be added to the attraction. Several months prior to that, we shared our 2-Year Spaceship Earth Reimagining Rumors post.
This is simply speculation on our part, but it seems highly unlikely that Walt Disney World would close Test Track and Spaceship Earth simultaneously, especially with Innoventions now gone and so much other work already occurring in Future World. More likely, Disney wants to get all routine maintenance in Future World done ahead of Spaceship Earth closing.
It would be pragmatic for Walt Disney World to want nothing else to go down unexpectedly while that prominent attraction is also down for a prolonged period. It also wouldn’t be surprising if the construction walls around Test Track are expanded to encompass the adjacent walkways, so whatever necessary reconfiguration work can also be accomplished. We’d expect more Epcot refurbishment announcements in the near future.
Continuing to the big food news: Portillo’s is opening in Lake Buena Vista, Florida! It’ll be located at the Palm Parkway and Daryl Carter Blvd interaction near Walt Disney World (specifically, Disney Springs). The pun-filled announcement from Portillo’s is filled with references to Walt Disney World, among other things.
The only disappointing aspect of this Portillo’s news is that the famous Chicago-style hot dog restaurant won’t be coming directly to Disney Springs, as was rumored earlier this year. However, it should be under 10 minutes from Disney Springs, and almost within walking distance of the Disney Character Warehouse Outlet–you can always send a “hot dog runner” to grab some of those while you’re waiting in Florida’s longest line at the outlet.
The convenient location near Disney Springs and the popular WDW outlet will make it an easy Uber or Lyft option. Then again, who knows? Maybe Portillo’s will be so popular that Walt Disney World will expand bus service to include a stop at Portillo’s on the way to Typhoon Lagoon?! (Not really.)
As anyone from the Midwest will undoubtedly tell you, this is pretty big news. Portillo’s is sort of like the In-N-Out Burger of Chicago (except serving different foods…and not nearly that delicious!), with a fervent fanbase that’ll no doubt take issue with me calling it inferior to In-N-Out Burger.
Hailing from the Midwest, we already have extensive experience with Portillo’s. (Let’s call it “early field research.”) In fact, the photos here are from the flagship River North location in Chicago, which I’d recommend visiting if you’re ever in town. The decor is fun and eclectic, and the food is fantastic and inexpensive.
There was much jubilation when the first Portillo’s opened near us. Many hours that could’ve been wasted studying were instead spent waiting in line and dining at Portillo’s. This greatly improved our quality of life, reduced stress, and (almost certainly) increased our life expectancy. In other words, we’re deeply indebted to Portillo’s.
Thanks to all of the aforementioned research, I can tell you right now that the perfect Portillo’s order is a Hot Dog (Chicago-style, of course), Big Beef Sandwich, and Chocolate Cake Shake.
I truly cannot wait for this. It’s been way too long since I’ve enjoyed one of those glorious Chicago dogs. The upcoming restaurant may technically be off-site, but it’s “close enough” and you better believe we’ll have a review of Portillo’s on the blog once it opens. (Spoiler alert: it’s delicious!)
Next, the latest in the great attraction heist, which is something of an ongoing Walt Disney World crime saga that will surely form the basis for True Detective Season 5, starring Christopher Walken and Kevin James.
Orlando Sentinel is reporting that $20,000 worth of pieces were stolen from Walt Disney World, which they uncovered in a law enforcement report. Per that, a Cast Member doing inventory noticed a set of sails used on Peter Pan’s Flight ride vehicles had disappeared from storage shed behind Test Track in Epcot.
Upon further investigation, the Cast Member discovered that a Space Mountain shell and seats had also gone missing. Walt Disney World contacted the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and filed a report, but has declined to provide further comment. It’s a mystery how the grand theft and burglary occurred, given that the items were in padlocked storage surrounded by a fence.
While writing this, I’m now realizing we never covered the first 37 installments in this true life crime saga. How we glossed over the whole Where’s Buzzy and #FindBuzzy pandemonium is truly beyond me. It has been one of the most interesting and bizarre Walt Disney World stories of the year, so I sincerely apologize for that. I can’t even begin to recap it all here, but there are no shortage of articles about it you can find via Google. (Be prepared to lose a few hours if you decide to head down that rabbit hole.)
To be clear, there is no evidence that this is in any way related to the Buzzy caper or that same bandit. If my years in the criminal justice system (mostly spent watching Law & Order) have taught me anything, it’s that coverage of one crime can inspire copycats. From this, I’ve also learned that there’s apparently a thriving and lucrative black market for rare Walt Disney World attraction props and items.
“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”
That’s how I feel when it comes to Figment and Walt Disney World. Earlier this week in our Epcot Forever Review: You Can’t Go Home Again, I wrote that I had a momentary lapse of reason when reading Journey into Imagination rumors prior to the D23 Expo, becoming foolishly optimistic and excited only to be let down.
Then I saw photos of the Figment’s sweet new ride, and I once again got pretty excited. Yeah, I know it’s “just a bus,” but it’s a pretty fly set of wheels. Naturally, the cool new Figment bus led to a ton of speculation on social media. What could this mean?!?
Wanting to see this in person, Sarah agreed that we could spend all day hanging out at the Disney Springs bus stops, as one does. We’ve had pretty poor luck with the other character buses, so I was all ready to camp out for the long haul.
Then, we were filling up at the Speedway station yesterday, and the Figment bus serendipitously pulled up right along side us in the bus refueling area. I think I got the most excited anyone has ever been at a gas station (at least, while not engaged in lewd and lascivious acts).
This new Figment bus has led to a lot of speculation, all of which could be filed under “wishful thinking” rather than bona fide rumors. I won’t repeat any of that wishful thinking or speculation here as I don’t want you to unnecessarily get your hopes up.
All I will say is that if you like this Figment bus (or really anything, for that matter), you should voice that to Walt Disney World. Whether it be by emailing Walt Disney World directly or sharing your elation on social media, forums, blog post comments, etc.
Expressing approval and proactively stating what you like is infinitely more effective than signing a petition or complaining after the die has been cast.
Since we covered the new NextGen Sensational Six Buses at Walt Disney World, a variety of other character buses have rolled out. These don’t follow the same visual style of the Sensational Six buses, and are more like gigantic ‘mural art’ buses.
This new style includes Maleficent, Guardians of the Galaxy, Pandora – World of Avatar, Dumbo, Frozen, Moana, Monsters Inc, and the Lion King.
In other breaking bus news, free WiFi was just added to the fleet at Walt Disney World. The WiFi network here is different from in-park or resort WiFi, and as such, it won’t automatically connect when you’re in range.
To connect, look for the “Disney Transport Guest” network when you’re at the bus stops or aboard a bus. It doesn’t appear the entire fleet has been upgraded, but you’ll see a little sticker near the door of the (unwrapped) buses that now have WiFi. Between this and the USB chargers aboard some of the new vehicles, Disney buses are now the “perfect” workstations during your Walt Disney World vacation!
Sticking on the topic of buses but transitioning to the Skyliner…we really have nothing new to report here following last weekend’s collision/accident/incident/unplanned maintenance/whatever you’re inclined to call it and evacuation. ‘Resort Skyliner’ buses are operating as alternative transportation among the Skyliner destinations, and signs are up around the Skyliner and Crescent Lake Resorts indicating that it’s not operating.
Walt Disney World still hasn’t released any new information about when the Skyliner will be operational again–or anything else, for that matter. Aside from a short statement downplaying what happened and indicating that there’s a “team diligently looking into the cause of the malfunction,” it’s been pretty much radio silence from Disney. We’ll keep you posted if and when we hear more about when the Skyliner will return, or if Walt Disney World releases additional info about it.
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