12 August 2013

With Mind and Heart

There wasn’t a theme park presentation at the D23 Expo this year, but the showplace dedicated to the parks and resorts, given the name of Journey Into Imagineering, did have a couple of hints as to what may await park-goers in the near future. Hints of Star Wars in the form of Orange Harvest, which may or may not actually be slated for Disneyland, and the presence of the Dreamfinder, all point to a bright future. The real question is, however, is there a clock running that we should be considering when looking at upcoming attractions for Walt Disney World?

The Magic Kingdom, and the Vacation Kingdom as a whole, is going to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary in eight years. That may seem like a long time away, but consider that New Fantasyland has not yet reached its ultimate completion, and the announcement for its construction was four years ago at the 2009 D23 Expo. 2011 saw the announcement of Avatarland, and while there has been progressed made for attractions already within Disney’s Animal Kingdom, construction of the actual land has yet to begin in earnest. All of this is to say that if Walt Disney World wants to have put its best foot forward in each of its four parks, it needs to start planning now.

Time and presentability really are the keys. In 2021 none of the parks should be under massive renovations. Sure there is likely to be some refurbishment walls up to take care of routine maintenance here and there, but overall the parks should be in top form and shining examples of what high quality theme park entertainment should look like.

I have already talked about how I’d like to see a pause in major Magic Kingdom construction recently. Just to reiterate though, the park will be in great shape once New Fantasyland is complete, so that by the time the fiftieth anniversary rolls around it should just need a bit of spit and polish.

Epcot could use some major rethinking to some of the pavilions in Future World, a la the recent redesign of Test Track. I’m looking at you Universe of Energy and Imagination. Perhaps the appearance of Dreamfinder this weekend, paired with the words of both Tony Baxter and Bob Iger, means that EPCOT Center’s two original characters are on the verge of being reunited permanently. I’m not holding my breath, but it would be a breath of fresh air for the park. World Showcase could also use an infusion of fresh ideas or a new pavilion or two, and I’m talking about more than just crowding the promenade with new restaurants. Epcot, more than any other park in Walt Disney World, feels like it has lost its direction to me. A brighter tomorrow for Epcot means a brighter tomorrow for all of us, but the park needs a clear vision in order to create that brighter day for itself.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios could do with some major overhauling of the backlot, animation courtyard, Stage 1 areas, but more on that in a bit. With no active filming or animation creation taking place inside the park, many of the park’s areas feel stale and in need of new life. I don’t mind the park shifting away from the active studio element to a celebration of all things Hollywood, but it needs to make sure it is a celebration, or at the very least a respect for what has come before, and not just allowing the park to become a shell of what Hollywood represents. Rumors of lands revolving around Star Wars or Cars persist, and I have a definite opinion of which one I’d like to see come to Florida, but something has to be created in some way, shape, or form there.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom continues to try and find ways to shirk the image that it is only a half day park, much to my adamant belief the park is not a half day park. Avatarland is supposed to add several new experiences to the park’s line-up, but I am not so sold on the land. The sequels to Avatar have yet to begin production, and I am not sure about the original’s longevity in today’s theme park environments. Asia is in good shape, as are DinoLand and Africa, the park just needs one more solid land, particularly another continent to explore, and it will be in great shape.

There is a lot of good that can be built into the future Walt Disney World, but it takes time to plan and to get it right. The parks and resorts should be in prime condition ahead of the Vacation Kingdom’s fiftieth anniversary, but the time to begin such projects is going to start running short. The sooner ground can be broken on any project, the better Walt Disney World will look when it needs to be at its best!

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