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!
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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!
What makes you think these character gondolas will be moved? Based on previous video all of the DHS gondolas have numbers in the 200+ range. We haven’t see there 0-200 range and people have already spotted character gondolas under the wraps of the ones on the Epcot line.
Any time estimates / info available on what the gondola ride duration times (the actual ride time without line up wait time to get on) will be from resort hotels to the parks? For example how long it will take to ride a sky gondola from Pop Century resort to Hollywood Studios??
This is the only estimate I’ve seen so far. It was on the Disney Parks Mom’s Panel.
The estimated Skyliner travel times are as follows:
* Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort to Disney’s Pop Century Resort or Disney’s Art of Animation Resort: less than 6 minutes
* Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort to Disney’s Riviera Resort: about 5 minutes
* Disney’s Caribbean Beach to Disney’s Hollywood Studios: about 6 minutes
* Disney’s Riviera Resort to International Gateway at Epcot: about 9 minutes
* Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort to International Gateway at Epcot: about 15 minutes
Are the Skyliner Gondola’s Air Conditioned or have Air movement thru them since days of 80 degrees + plus humidity can be stifling?
I have randomly found a photo of me and my friend on the gondolas they must have had at sometime – the photo is from 1992 I must be about 9! Its so mad that I read this yesterday and found the photo today! It shows the Contemporary Resort and I think Space Mountain in the background!
Tom, you had previously discussed them not painting/doing something with the look of the poles, I believe when discussing their construction in Caribbean Beach Resort. Now, all of the color from the gondolas on the line just makes it glaring the dull gray of the poles glaring in those photos.
I posted this before seeing you posted Caribbean Beach update that mentions the eyesores of the Skyliner poles.
From an engineering perspective, this makes sense. Leaving them unpainted allows for easier inspection and makes damage to the metal and stress cracks visible before structural failure. Better to have them unpainted and safe rather than beautiful and hiding structural damage.
From everything I’ve read, the gondolas will supplement, not replace the current modes of transportation available. It’s an alternative option to hopefully help ease traffic issues.
I am truly hoping that the Gondolla system will greatly speed up travel around the parks they are connected to. Only wish they were connected to all the parks, also hoping the egress stations provide a seamless flow of traffic, it’s looking like this will be a great addition to WDW!
Great photos thanks 🙂 I really hope these are up and running by the time we arrive at CBR in late November……….
Tom…thank you for so much time spent getting these awesome pics! Really enjoyed them!
I think they look festive. Almost a ride within themselves. Not sure how I feel about riding one though! I say that but also secretly wish that we could try them when we stay at Caribbean Beach at the beginning of June!
My family is arriving sept 3 and had plans to arrive at HS and dinner reservation at 50s prime time. All of this was done before Star Wars was announced. We are worried at 2-3:00 we won’t be able to enter the park (straight from Disney express dropping us off at hotel). What would you do? Will we be able to enter at that time of day?
those with dining reservations are still let into the parks during the phased capacity closings. only if the park reaches phase 4 i believe, which is totally closed, do those with dining reservations not get it. you should be ok, especially that being midweek. have the front desk at the resort double check for you though before heading over.
Those are so great! Thank you for all the photos. I especially love Chewbacca with the porgs. We’re staying at Caribbean Beach Resort partly for the pool but mostly because I’m really hoping the Skyliner is running by August 23rd, our first day at HS.
These are SO cool looking! I like how they made it seem like the characters are riding inside the gondolas. I am super excited to try these out! Thanks for all the photos!!
Love them! The louvers might let in a good enough breeze that it won’t be any hotter than standing in line in the parks. And what a view!! I’m looking forward to them!
Why aren’t more than 1:6 going to have characters? It can’t be that expensive?!
I assume fewer characters is more about aesthetics than cost. (Plus, the ones without characters should offer better views.)
We were here this week when we came today and saw them testing it was amazing. Can’t wait for them to be functioning when we come back with my parent in November
Looks like a nice enclosed space to bake a potato.
are the others just going to be the colors but plain? i was under the impression they would all have characters on them. no big deal.
as for opening date… remember when GE was slated for “late fall 2019”? and now it’s opening late summer, a whole season early. i’d be shocked if these weren’t ready before the GE opening. they’re simple going to need them to be ready/
They. Are. So. Cool. (Said this very old person). I’m booked into Pop Century for Halloween and cannot wait to ride in one of these. Once. After that, it’s back on the road. But they are adorable.
Are you thinking the character wraps in general won’t be around long, or just that they will be more spaced out and mixed in with plain ones? Personally, I like them, especially the ones where a limb extends over the window’s edge. I would have no problem with every one of them having characters as I think they add visual interest and a bit of distraction/something to focus on while waiting to board or walking between destinations. I do worry about lightning and heat, but trust Disney has done a lot of research into avoiding frequent closures and/or strike possiblity… and heat stroke.
“Are you thinking the character wraps in general won’t be around long, or just that they will be more spaced out and mixed in with plain ones?”
More spaced out and mixed in.
Swaying Coffins of Death!…………Quoted from another popular blog.
Hadies like enviorment in the Relentless Florida Sun, Not to mention the Thunder Storm Capital of the World, can you duck a Lightning Strike?
I Can’t Wait !!!
I read that some guests were told the gondolas will not run during thunder storms, which makes sense, but begs the question whether there will still be busses running from CBR, Riviera, etc to HS and Epcot. There’s got to be transportation, and there are certain times of the year when Thunderstorms are the rule rather than the exception. It would be a pretty poor system that didn’t offer an alternative for when the gondolas are not running.
From everything I’ve read, the gondolas will supplement, not replace, the current modes of transportation available. It’s an alternative option to hopefully help ease traffic issues.
Luckily for you it’s not mandatory to ride in one.
Different Opinion is what drives Inovation!