This week’s news & rumor update covers the Virgin Trains high speed rail to Walt Disney World, the potential delay of Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, a DuckTales attraction potentially coming to Epcot, plus kites & jetskis being featured in the Epcot Forever fireworks.
We’ll start with the thing most of you probably care about least: the Virgin Trains (formerly Brightline) high speed rail. This project is slated to run from South to Central Florida, and Virgin has stated its intention to build stations at Walt Disney World and Orlando International Airport, a project the company plans to compete within a 3-year timeframe.
Via Orlando Sentinel, Virgin Trains indicated the company signed signed a letter of intent with Disney late last year, and that they’ve had an excellent relationship with Walt Disney World, which is a big supporter of the project. Also last year, Virgin secured rights to issue $1.75 billion in tax-free bonds, which is sufficient to start construction from the current run of Virgin Trains between Miami to West Palm Beach, which began operations last year.
Virgin is also pursuing a link to Tampa, with construction possibly starting while the tracks from West Palm Beach to Orlando are still under construction, according to company officials. The company is now seeking another $950 million in bonds, which it states would be instrumental in completing construction for the Orlando link.
Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, has said that Virgin Atlantic airline delivers more passengers to Orlando from Europe than any other airline, and that Orlando is “very important” to Virgin. He has stated that Virgin Trains could move passengers from Virgin cruises in South Florida to Walt Disney World.
As for our thoughts on the potential for high speed rail connecting Walt Disney World to South Florida, we’ll believe it when we see it. We are incredibly bullish on high speed rail, and its potential for transforming the way Americans think about public transportation. We are also realists. This has been proposed countless times in the past, and never come to fruition.
The Virgin project has considerably more enthusiasm, and Branson is clearly someone who executes on his visions. It’s a project about which I want to be excited, but I’ll stick with ‘cautiously optimistic.’ The United States’ record with high speed rail projects is far from good, and the sad reality is that most people simply don’t care.
There’s also the issue of where Walt Disney World actually stands on the project. While advertised as a perk, Disney’s Magical Express exists to create a captive audience, and that’s not something Disney wants to lose. Presumably, in order for Disney to wholeheartedly support the project, it’s going to have to bring more cruise and day-guests from South Florida than it will cause people to do ‘split-trips’ between Walt Disney World and other destinations along the rail.
If/when it becomes operational, it seems unlikely that Virgin Trains will replace Disney’s Magical Express. Even assuming the station is located down by the All Star Resorts and is connected by buses to the parks and hotels, train frequency and having to transfer will make it less efficient than Magical Express (and that’s saying something!), at least at first. Nevertheless, we’re optimistic about the long-term implications of Virgin Trains, and how it could facilitate travel throughout Florida.
Speaking of trains, BlogMickey has shared a rumor making the rounds that Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway will miss its projected Fall 2019 opening date, and be delayed to “Early 2020.” No explanation is offered for the delay, but they note that Walt Disney World has been reticent to post much about the highly-anticipated attraction, and it isn’t even mentioned in the recent Disney’s Hollywood Studios 30th Anniversary post. (In fairness, neither is Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.)
We have no reason to doubt this rumor…but we also have no additional insight or substantiate it. We haven’t heard the slightest thing about Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway this calendar year, at least not about the Walt Disney World version of the attraction.
Now that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge has an opening date, one of the more common questions we’ve been receiving is when will Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway debut. Our assumption has been that the Fall 2019 date is inaccurate, but we assumed the attraction would debut before then, not after.
For months, there have been credible rumors that Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway would be cloned in Disneyland’s Toontown as well as Disneyland Paris. If Disney is already this confident in the attraction, it stood to reason that executives have had a chance to experience a semi-finished version, and not just via ‘the Dish’ at Walt Disney Imagineering. It now sounds like our assumption was off-base. Irrespective of whether it makes the Fall 2019 opening or not, you can probably rule out a ‘Summer 2019’ opening at this point.
Next, we’ve got interesting new details about forthcoming Walt Disney World nighttime spectaculars via industry veteran Brady MacDonald. In an interview with Coble, managing producer of Epcot Forever, many new details were revealed.
Epcot Forever will feature “special effects-enabled kites capable of airborne choreography.” This is a first for an Epcot nighttime entertainment show (but not a first for Epcot generally–Skyleidoscope, anyone?). The illuminated kites will be controlled by two-man teams aboard eight Jet Skis, with a driver and kite performer aboard each. The movement of the Jet Skis will create the wind required to keep the kites aloft.
Epcot Forever will include classic EPCOT Center attraction music, with fan favorites such as “One Little Spark” from Journey into Imagination, “Magic Journeys,” and much more. Per Coble, “the pyro is the star,” and the goal is to “make sure the music we’re creating will complement the payoff that our guests will be seeing.”
No surprise about the music, as we already expected that to be the case. In fact, we suspected that this show would be dripping with nostalgia, with music carrying the weight of the show and potentially masking technical limitations due to construction in World Showcase Lagoon.
What is a bit of a surprise is the jet skis and the kites. Separately, we’ve been hearing that most pyro will be launched from behind World Showcase, which is being done because work on the lagoon will necessitate it. From that, we surmised that “other stuff” also wouldn’t be happening on World Showcase Lagoon, either. We also expected Walt Disney World to budget only however much it costs to mix a soundtrack from existing music together for Epcot Forever.
That Epcot Forever will be a more substantive show is great news, and we love the idea of jet skis and kites. Tokyo DisneySea regularly uses these to great effect for its daytime harbor shows and while the concept might sound hokey, they’re mesmerizing. Illuminated kites at night could be even better. Who knows, maybe Epcot Forever will be so popular that the interim show will become the permanent one? (We don’t expect that, but we can dream…)
Finally, there’s a rumor that Phineas & Ferb: Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure at Epcot is going to be replaced with an interactive game featuring characters from the DuckTales reboot on Disney XD. This would conclude a 7-year run for the Agent P game, which has had a run over twice as long as the Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure that it replaced.
In the DuckTales attraction, guests would encounter Huey, Dewey, and Louie, Webby, and Scrooge McDuck throughout Epcot. As with the latest iteration of Agent P, the DuckTales game would be playable throughout World Showcase, and guests would be able to use their own phones via the Play Disney Parks app.
My reaction to this is mixed. On the one hand, I think both versions of the World Showcase adventures are highly underrated attractions, and provide a viable solution to guest complaints that there’s nothing for kids in World Showcase. The Agent P version has been long overdue for a replacement, and I absolutely love all things Disney Afternoon, including DuckTales. Walt Disney World investing a bit on infrastructure to give this game renewed appeal sounds great to me.
So why the ‘mixed’ reaction? If this DuckTales attraction does come to fruition, that means it’ll have a similarly lengthy run, effectively blocking the inevitable, long overdue reboot of Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers from getting its own World Showcase adventure. On second thought, scratch that. Rescue Rangers deserves its own themed land with multiple attractions.
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What do you think of these rumors? Surprised by a delay on Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, or that Epcot Forever will be more than just pyro and an emotional soundtrack? Think this high speed rail will actually end up connecting to Walt Disney World? Interested in a DuckTales World Showcase adventure? Any questions we can 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!