As we continue on with our Walt Disney World construction updates, we take a look at progress on the Skyliner gondola stations at Hollywood Studios, Epcot, Caribbean Beach, and Riviera Resort. The Disney Skyliner will connect these parks to these resort hotels, plus Pop Century and Art of Animation. In addition to the construction photos, we’ll have some commentary about the latest Skyliner rumors.
While we will discuss some rumors about the Skyliner in this post, only very basic details have been released thus far by Disney, and the bulk of those are in our Skyliner Announced for Walt Disney World post from the D23 Expo. For our thoughts on the impact to sightlines around Walt Disney World, see our Summer Skyliner Construction Update.
Many Walt Disney World fans seem puzzled by how these gondolas will (or not) work, and if you’d like background about our experiences with other real-world gondola systems (including ones by the same manufacturer as the Skyliner), start reading about one-third of the way through our original Disney Skyliner Rumor post. Obviously, the rumor portion of that post is way outdated, but the background about gondolas remains accurate.
Let’s start with the latest rumor about the Disney Skyliner, which is that the gondolas will not have air-conditioning. This caused a minor degree of outrage, as we already know the gondolas will be enclosed. There’s thus the potential for the interiors to be hot, especially in the heart of summers in Florida. Some took that a step further, proclaiming that these would be deadly heat boxes, torturous slow-cookers, and other less hyperbolic assessments.
Perhaps I’m being blinded by my enthusiasm for the Skyliner, but I think it’s premature to sound the doom and gloom drums here. The gondolas will be ventilated and move at a speed of around 11 mph, which alone would provide decent air circulation.
Then there are the other unknown variables. How will the exterior be glazed to reduce heat absorption? Will there be powered fans or an active air circulation system inside? What other measures will be taken to ensure guest comfort?
Personally, I’m not concerned about the lack of air-conditioning. I don’t think we’ve ever used a gondola or cable car with air-conditioning, which is obviously not an issue in mountain regions like Switzerland. In places like Hong Kong and Japan, it’s a different story.
The 20+ minute Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car in Hong Kong only has air ventilation, and Hong Kong’s summer humidity makes Florida feel like a breezy winter day. If Hong Kong doesn’t have issues with a significantly longer ride in subtropical climate, I don’t think gondolas in Central Florida will be an issue.
It seems to me that some Walt Disney World fans made up their minds long ago that the Skyliner is “bad” and now they’re going to latch onto any information they can to validate their positions. At least the sightline ‘controversy’ is grounded in logical premises (even if I disagree with it).
This latest controversy treats gondolas as some huge unknown, a scenario of Disney reinventing the wheel. The reality is that transportation systems just like this already exist around the world, including places like Venezuela, Singapore, Colombia, Greece, and so on. The real-world implementation of gondolas has occurred in places far more “challenging” than Walt Disney World; they are very much a known quantity.
To assume the Disney Skyliner will be a failure because of lightning, heat, ventilation, load times, or some other random potential operating issue requires willfully ignoring the countless instances of these transportation systems operating without issue around the world. They might be uncommon in the United States outside of ski resorts (at least for now–urban planners are catching up), but the world is a big place and gondolas just like these exist all over it.
Anyway, on with the Disney Skyliner station construction photos…
First up is the Epcot station at the International Gateway. From my perspective, the exterior design of this station is the biggest concern about the project, as it’s a stark contrast to the Parisian architecture surrounding it at International Gateway.
This is true both in person and in concept art, so at this point, I wouldn’t expect a change. Hopefully the station is sufficiently isolated from International Gateway’s buildings with foliage, at least.
Next, Disney’s Hollywood Studios:
This is the station we see most, as it’s plainly visible from the main entrance to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
In addition to work progressing nicely on the station, the line of support pillars is also visible on the long walk from the temporary bus drop-off:
These pillars are all over the place in the Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios area. It’s really something to see as you ride around in a bus or car–they really dot the landscape.
It’s going to be such a shame when they all have to be ripped up after the Skyliner is a colossal failure because no one thought to air condition it.
Next, we walk over to the parking lot of Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, where the turn is nearing completion.
As a reminder, here’s what that looks like on the route map:
This turn is basically what preserves sightlines in World Showcase. If the Epcot to Riviera line connected as the crow flies, there would be gondolas floating over Morocco and Japan.
Whether they are visible behind France still remains to be seen, and at least in part depends upon the design of the France pavilion expansion.
Above is the Riviera Resort station.
We’ve noticed that there’s some confusion about whether this will be accessible for Caribbean Beach guests, as “rumors” suggest Walt Disney World wants to isolate the Riviera Resort, making it difficult to access from Caribbean Beach.
There are air quotes around rumor for a reason; it’s highly unlikely that Disney will force guests in Aruba or Martinique to wanting to visit Epcot to walk all the way to the Caribbean Beach station and then transfer at Riviera.
Finally, the massive station at Caribbean Beach. This will be the largest of the gondola stations, and handle the most traffic.
The design here looks promising. I especially like the tower rising to the left, which will have a cupola mirroring other architecture around Caribbean Beach.
That’s it for this update on the Walt Disney World Skyliner gondola transportation network. We still don’t have any guesses as to when this will officially debut. We think the earliest official grand opening date would be Memorial Day 2019, but it’s also possible that Disney could be aiming for a late fall debut to coincide with the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. It’ll also be interesting to see how the Skyliner is treated in terms of marketing; it’s not an actual ride so it’s unlikely to receive a lot of fanfare in the mainstream press, but we’d expect a fair amount of coverage on the Disney Parks Blog and other outlets aimed at Disney enthusiasts.
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What are your thoughts on the Skyliner? Have you already sworn it off for some reason or another? Do you agree or disagree with our perspective? 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!