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Blue Sky Rumors from the Florida Project

Haunted Mansion, Walt Disney WorldFrom around the web come rumors and portents of upcoming attractions for Walt Disney World in Florida. We remind you that these are only rumors; nothing is certain until opening day. Think about that the next time you’re visiting the Equatorial Africa pavilion at EPCOT…

Magic Kingdom

The big rumor lately is the rumbling about a potential E-ticket for WDW’s 40th anniversary in 2011. No one knows yet what this is (quixotic fans palpatate about Fire Mountain and Bald Mountain), or where it might fit in the park.

More specific, though, are rumors about a Little Mermaid ride coming to the park. No one knows if this is the E-ticket in question, but both Blue Sky Disney and Jim Hill Media report that WDI is eager to revisit this film for a major dark ride in Fantasyland

Mermaid ArtDisney obsessives might recall that a Mermaid dark ride was originally designed by Tony Baxter’s team for a second wave of Disneyland Paris attractions in the early 1990’s. Following that park’s desperate and hungry early years, those plans (along with a Beauty and the Beast show) were shelved. The attraction was also promised for Disneyland and Walt Disney World for 1993 as part of the “Disney Decade” (thanks Eisner). The ride most recently resurfaced on Mermaid‘s DVD release as a CGI ride-through recreation with commentary by Baxter.

More recently, the Mermaid ride was announced as part of Disney California Adventure’s billion-dollar revival. If it’s brought to Florida, odds are that it will in some way differ from the California version. New management at WDI isn’t quite as keen to do the cookie-cutter clone thing like the previous regime, and so we probably won’t see this attraction in Florida for 5-6 more years.

Jim Hill also repeats the recent rumors concerning a new merchandise location at the exit of the Haunted Mansion. According to him, the exit for the attraction will be routed through the current Yankee Trader shop. This location will be tripled in size to allow for the new traffic, but this will most likely not occur for 4-5 more years as the recent $30 Million rehab budget was needed entirely for updating the attraction itself.

In Adventureland, Screamscape has been reporting on a series of rumors concerning a pirate-themed restaurant called “Tortuga” to be built in the former location of the Adventureland Veranda (closed since 1994! Thirteen years!). The most recent buzz has the retheming put on hold as the park’s funds have been diverted to updating the kitchens of a number of the park’s existing restaurants. I’m just amazed that this prime location can sit completely empty for more than a decade. Where have you gone, Kikkoman?

Screamscape also has heard rumors that the TTA will go down for rehab along with Space Mountain next year, and will have some minor updates.

EPCOT Center

Things are quiet at EPCOT now, although rumors are floating around about 2011. The current gossip is that each of the four parks will receive an E-Ticket for WDW’s 40th anniversary, although we don’t know what EPCOT would get. Suggestions have included the enlarged Canadian Rockies that WDI allegedly wants to build with a raft ride in World Showcase; this addition to the Canadian showcase would serve to block the large Soarin’ barn from intruding into Showcase sightlines. Obviously WDI is going to have to come up with something to fill the now-empty Wonders of Life pavilion, and rumors have circulated since John Lasseter came to Imagineering that a complete re-do of the Imagination pavilion was in the cards. But these are all the stuff of complete rumor, and nothing is remotely solid on this yet.

The only thing we do know is that Spaceship Earth’s re-opening has been pushed back until February 18th. Details on the scope of the ride’s overhaul remain sketchy.

Disney-MGM Studios

Yeah Disney, I ain’t calling it “Disney’s Hollywood Studios” until you make me.

Toy Story ManiaHaving not received any updates of note in recent years, D-MGM is coming due for an overhaul. As I wrote about previously, and reported by the Orlando Sentinel the park is being renamed “Disney’s Hollywood Studios” in January and WDI is allegedly working on a slate of improvements to the park to unify its theme and ‘plus’ the park a la their announced rebuilding of California Adventure. While no details of these rumored improvements have surfaced, the park’s new wave of attraction begins when Toy Story Mania! opens next year (along with other much less interesting things). Blue Sky Disney reports that if these changes do go through, 2008 will be a transition year for the park while 2009 will be a “kicker” with improvements to both decor and attractions.

From the land of less exciting things, Screamscape has been reporting on plans to fill the empty ABC Theater (formerly SuperStar Television) with a new interactive show based on American Idol. As building permits have been filed showing that work is in fact being done on the facility itself, Screamscape and LaughingPlace have reported that Disney is in talks to actually license the American Idol name for the show. We’ll have news on this eventually, I’m sure, which will be heralded by the audible gnashing of my teeth.

Animal Kingdom

Much like EPCOT, Animal Kingdom is coming off of a building spree (Everest, Nemo) and it’s “Phase II” is now complete. While there’s obviously a lot to do to make this a legitimate and complete theme park, it looks like Disney is going to try and capitalize on the newfound popularity of the park due to Expedition Everest and parlay that into longer operating hours. DAK has traditionally operated very short days, usually closing at or before nightfall. Every hour that the park stays open later means lots of cash for Disney, so now that they actually have rides (well, a few) and a restaurant (Yak and Yeti – now open!) at DAK they’re going to try and keep it open later.

Jim Hill Media has reported that an after-dark parade called “Rivers of Light” is in development. Contrary to its aquatic name, the parade is a traditional land-based affair with character-laden boat floats (not flote boats) circling around the Tree of Life and Discovery Island (not *that* Discovery Island).

As to any real new attractions for the park, if the cycle of attendance and later hours and filthy lucre continue, then we might see Phase III coming down the pike sometime soon – maybe they’ll realize if they finally build “Beastly Kingdom” then we’ll shut up and leave them alone…

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