Skyliner Gondola Update – May 2019

Walt Disney World has unwrapped 55 Skyliner gondola cabins with character and attraction graphic designs to make the test run between Caribbean Beach Resort and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We’ll share 50 photos of those gondola designs, plus a construction update & photo report on other Skyliner work around WDW.

If you’ve followed our months of Skyliner construction updates and commentary, you know that Walt Disney Imagineering began test operations on this line between the main station at Caribbean Beach Resort and Disney’s Hollywood Studios several months ago. For most of that time, the gondolas have been covered.

In the last month, a few have had their coverings removed so that workers could do some load and unload testing as the Skyliner cycled. Earlier this week, a couple of character gondolas were among the new uncovered Skyliner cabins to appear. Throughout the Disney Skyliner testing, there have been a few ‘whoa’ moments, yesterday was definitely one of them…

Before we get to that, there are a few other less-exciting Disney Skyliner gondola updates to report. First, in addition to the entire character fleet being uncovered on the Disney’s Hollywood Studios line, testing has begun on all lines.

Previously, the lines testing with regularity were Caribbean Beach to DHS and Art of Animation/Pop Century to Caribbean Beach. As of yesterday, Caribbean Beach to Disney’s Riviera Resort and Riviera to Epcot’s International Gateway are also testing.

In terms of operational readiness, this is the bigger news, it’s just not as exciting as seeing a bunch of vibrant character gondolas. Here’s a video of the scene at Epcot’s International Gateway:

As you can see, a lot of work is happening at International Gateway. We covered this in our last Epcot Construction Update & Photo Report. In case you missed that, most of these walls are for expanded bag check and turnstiles.

This all began immediately after the Easter rush and is being timed to occur during what’s normally the slowest time of the year for Epcot. Whether it’ll be done before the start of the 2019 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is anyone’s guess, but it’s hard to imagine that not being the goal.

Even aside from the infrastructure work outside the station, there’s still a lot to be done on the Epcot International Gateway Skyliner station itself. In the span of a day, we noticed some new trim detail and progress on the entry-way, but there’s still work to be done.

Same goes for the Skyliner station at Disney’s Riviera Resort. The other gondola stations are not totally finished (save for, perhaps, the Art of Animation/Pop Century one), but only have minor flourishes and detail work that could probably be wrapped up in a few days if necessary. By contrast, the Riviera and Epcot stations look like they need a month or so worth of work to be completed, at minimum.

There’s always the possibility that the Caribbean Beach to Riviera Resort to Epcot portions of the Skyliner transportation system open later than the rest. With an official grand opening date for Riviera Resort in December 2019, that’s certainly a possibility. One we doubt, however.

Riviera Resort’s Skyliner station will be utilized by guests on that side of Caribbean Beach, and opening the entire transportation system at once makes for a splashier debut, especially with portions of other projects around Walt Disney World delayed.

With an official Fall 2019 opening date, that’s plenty of time to get the remaining work on all stations done to meet that. We strongly suspect the entire project will be ready for a soft opening well before then, especially with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge now opening in late summer.

If we’re getting technical, fall doesn’t start until September 23, 2019. Even if the Skyliner weren’t to open until the very first day of fall, that’s still a lot of testing on a system that has already been testing for months.

As soon as we arrived at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it was a rainbow of color overhead. Seeing the Skyliner in motion has been cool, but up until now, the gondolas more or less looked like firm sacks of potatoes in flight.

Now, on the Caribbean Beach to Disney’s Hollywood Studios line, it’s all “real” gondolas–and ones featuring characters. Here’s a video to set the scene:

This was a pretty cool sight to behold, and one that will probably be short-lived. These 55 character gondolas are among roughly 300 cabins that will be used in operation, and the current testing at Disney’s Hollywood Studios was at least 75% characters. We assume this is so Walt Disney World can get cool promotional images and video (they’ve already released this) before more evenly distributing the character cabins among the entire fleet.

Suffice to say, if you want to see a real ‘characters in flight’ experience, you might want to get to Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the next few days. We have no clue how long this current character-heavy lineup of Disney Skyliner gondolas will be in rotation, but we suspect it won’t be long.

Here are ~50 photos:

That’s it for this update on the Walt Disney World Skyliner gondola transportation network. Testing continues on a daily basis between Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Caribbean Beach, as well as Pop Century/Art of Animation and Caribbean Beach…and now, it seems, Epcot and Disney’s Riviera Resort. If you want to see this yourself while visiting Walt Disney World, wait around outside Disney’s Hollywood Studios for a few minutes. If you’re skipping that park, simply look to the sky while on a bus and you’ll see something eventually!

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!


What do you think of the character gondolas? Cool designs, or gimmick that cheapens the naturally sleek and vibrant color schemes of the normal Skyliner cabins? What are your thoughts on the Skyliner? Does the video of the character cabins have you more excited to see and/or ride the finished Skyliner? Thoughts on construction progress? 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!

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