There’s currently a social media conference at Walt Disney World, which has meant concept art, videos, and press releases with additional info about the Star Wars Hotel, Galaxy’s Edge, Toy Story Land, and more. In this post, we’ll do a quick round-up of the news, plus our commentary.
We’ll start with one other thing first, and make a stop at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. As we shared last week in our Toy Story Land Opening Date & Speculation post, Toy Story Land will debut on June 30, 2018. If you haven’t read that, beyond the date, we offer some speculation as to why and the prospect of soft openings earlier in June.
After that post, Walt Disney World quietly revised its operational calendars to reflect daily openings for Disney’s Hollywood Studios at 8 a.m., with morning Extra Magic Hours starting at 7 a.m. every day in July…and likely beyond. During the month of July, Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be open nightly until 10 p.m., with Extra Magic Hours until midnight every Friday.
It’s unclear whether there will be other, special extended operating hours for Walt Disney World resort hotel guests a la Pandora – World of Avatar last summer. We are anticipating Toy Story Land pulling in huge crowds this summer (and beyond) for Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and the low number of operating attractions will exacerbate the problem, making it feel even more crowded than it is.
Today, Disney shared this video of the Toy Story Lands at Walt Disney World and Shanghai Disneyland:
Keep in mind that this behind-the-scenes video shows the progress that’s being made on Toy Story Lands at both Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Shanghai Disneyland. (So don’t be confused and think Florida is suddenly getting 5 attractions.)
On an attraction level, the two lands are totally different. Florida is getting two new attractions: Alien Saucer Spin and Slinky Dog Dash. Shanghai Disneyland’s Toy Story Land will feature three attractions: Rex’s Racer, Slinky Dog Spin, and Woody’s Round-Up, and will open April 26, 2018.
Next, the hype train continues to power forward on Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, as large scale props and features of the land that have been fabricated off-site are being delivered to both Florida and California. Above is a peak at an X-wing Starfighter. At the top of the post is the Millennium Falcon.
With the rockwork taking shape and some of the buildings in recognizable form, plus these props being delivered, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is really starting to feel “real.” Hard to believe we’re only a year and a half away from the land opening. We’re fairly casual Star Wars fans, and even we can barely contain our enthusiasm. I can’t imagine being someone who has dreamed of stepping foot into the world of Star Wars since they were a kid. Truly exciting stuff.
Today, Disney released new visuals (animated concept art, I guess?) of the resort:
Disney has stressed that every window at the Star Wars Starship Resort will have a view of space, which is an interesting concept. Presumably, this will mean a ton of screens (unless Disney is planning on enlisting Elon Musk to catapult the hotel into space every few days).
That’s interesting because screens are powered by computers, which aren’t always reliable. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen the blue screen of death on Toy Story Mania. Not really a big deal there since we know we’re playing a video game, but in a truly immersive, suspending disbelief setting, it might be more jarring. Hopefully Disney has a better back-up plan for the Star Wars Hotel.
I’m also curious as to whether Imagineering will be testing the psychological impacts of extended exposure to an environment like this. It’s obviously not the same as no windows, but fake windows aren’t the same as real ones. Will there be an area in the hotel that does offer actual daylight and glimpses into the real world, or will people have to walk out the front entrance for that?
Disney has also indicated that the Star Wars Starship Resort will “be seamlessly connected” to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which will offer guests a complete Star Wars experience. This “seamlessly connected” verbiage has been used before, and suggests to us that it won’t be physically connected to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Because, if it were physically connected, that’s what they’d write, rather than using marketing speak to obfuscate how the resort and land will actually connect. We mention this because there was some speculation that the Star Wars Hotel would be built adjacent to Disney’s Hollywood Studios with a private entrance into the land. I’d hazard a guess that it’ll be built somewhere less accessible to the general public (with no access for non-guests), with the the seamless connection being private transportation.
Moving along to Animal Kingdom, the new show “UP! A Great Bird Adventure,” featuring Russell and Dug from Pixar’s Up will premier on April 22, 2018! Debuting in time for Animal Kingdom’s 20th Anniversary, this new show features Senior Wilderness Explorer Russell and Dug the Dog as they discover species of birds from around the world.
We’re still cautiously optimistic about this show. We loved Flights of Wonder, but it’s plot was getting a bit long in the tooth, and if this simply swaps out the clueless tour guide schtick for Russell and Dug, that’s a win-win. It’ll have more appeal to families, and give those characters a logical presence in Animal Kingdom. If it’s more akin to “Smile and Wave with Russell & Dug: A Character Experience…Plus Some Birds” we won’t be so keen on it.
Given the high quality and thematic thoughtfulness of almost everything that comes to Animal Kingdom, we’re willing to give this show the benefit of the doubt for now.
Over at Disney California Adventure, Lamplight Lounge will be “renovated from an old warehouse factory” (is that a factory that makes warehouses?) with “steel structural elements as well as concrete and brick walls…exposed and repaired to tell the story of its past.”
In other words, this is yet another Disney restaurant in the repurposed hipster style. For those who visit Disney Springs, this is getting really old. I realize that’s not most people, but locals should also be pretty familiar with this style. It’s the same as Anaheim Packing District and much of Old Towne Orange.
Beyond that, it’s just thematically lazy. Disney’s Imagineers are incredibly creative, and to have them continually rehash styles prominent in hipster coffee shops and gastro pubs around the United States seems like a waste of their time and talents.
We’ve been harsh on Pixar Pier, so I will end this section on a positive note: what we’ve seen of the concept art and the scope of the work being done thus far suggests a higher level of effort, detail, and Victorian artifice around Pixar Pier than we expected.
While we still think it’s a mistake to cram so many disparate properties into this area with a contrived attempt at a unifying theme, the atmosphere and design of Pixar Pier could very well end up as a nice plussing of Paradise Pier. It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t keep Paradise Pier and have place-making like this added to enhance the area (a la Grizzly Peak Airfield, which was an across-the-board win), but it’s not all bad. We try to be objective even with our critical assessments, and don’t want to get carried away with blind negativity towards Pixar Pier.
What do you think of these projects? Are you excited for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge or the Starship Resort? Cautiously optimistic about Pixar Pier, or skeptical of the overhaul? Other thoughts? Any questions? We love hearing from readers, so please share any other thoughts or questions you have in the comments below!