Ten Big Changes Coming to Disney

Credit: Disney

There have been plenty of changes taking place at Walt Disney World in the past few years. Lands have closed, new rides have been built, and attractions have quietly (and not so quietly) shut down to make room for something else. While many of these changes are taking place at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the other parks have construction walls up as well. There are even changes taking place at Downtown Disney and at the resorts. Here are ten big changes that are coming to Walt Disney World. The first three are still in the rumor stage, but there are strong indicators that back up those rumors.


10) The Updating of Soarin’

Soarin’ is one of the most popular rides at Epcot. It is also pretty much a duplicate of Soarin’ Over California, which is found at Disneyland Resort. All of the scenes in Soarin’ take place in California, and the ride ends at Sleeping Beauty Castle. The rumor here is that a new film is being made for Soarin’ which will have more international scenes. The new scenes will include landmarks from across the planet, and Walt Disney World will finally be featured as well. The rumor also states that the ride will be updated with additional seating, which will cut down on wait times. Supposedly the new version will be unveiled sometime in 2016.

9) Toy Story Play Land

Another rumor with a lot of merit is that there will soon be a Toy Story Play Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It will be built in the area that was once occupied by Studio Backlot Tour. There are already Toy Story Play Lands in both Paris and Hong Kong, and the Florida version will most likely be similar. It might contain rides such as Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop, RC Racer, and Slinky Dog Zigzag Spin. While this is still in the rumor stage, there is certainly enough space near the popular Toy Story Midway Mania for a small new land.

8) Star Wars Land

The third rumor is the one that has millions of fans speculating. Tentatively called Star Wars Land, there is a lot of speculation on what might be included. There should be at least one E-ticket attraction, a new restaurant, and other surprises. Reportedly plans for a Star Wars Land have been in the works for years, but then Disney realized that they needed to step up the game with the popularity of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort. Disney CEO Bob Iger has confirmed that there are plans for “developing designs for a far greater Star Wars presence in the parks,” but has stopped short of announcing a Star Wars Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. There is another rumor that there will be a similar land at Disneyland Resort in California.

7) The Expansion of Africa

The other park that has a lot going on these days is Disney’s Animal Kingdom. In November, 2014, it was announced that the Africa section of the park is going to double in size. There will be a new marketplace that will include several shops and a quick service restaurant. There will also be a new path between Africa and Asia, which will make it easier to get around the park. The expansion is expected to be finished before the end of 2015.

6) A New Magic Kingdom Central Hub

The Central Hub at the Magic Kingdom makes it easy to get from one land to another. The problem is that it can get quite congested, especially on busy days. A second loop of the hub is currently in the works. With two loops, foot traffic will move more easily. There will also be new gardens and areas for preferred viewing for the parades and fireworks. Both Casey’s Corner and The Plaza Restaurant will have their seating areas expanded when the work is complete. The work is projected to be finished sometime in the next few months.

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5) Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

Disney Polynesian Resort has been undergoing plenty of changes of its own. The name has been changed back to Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. The lobby has been redone and given a new look. Disney is not stopping there. When the work is done there will be a new upgrade for the Nanea Volcano Pool, which will include a children’s play area. Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto will feature Tiki-themed drinks and Polynesian small plates. There are other surprises in store as well. The work on Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort is expected to be finished by the end of the year.

4) Rivers of Light

Another change that is coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a new nighttime show. The park has often been called a half-day park, and Rivers of Light is expected to help change that perception. The show will feature live music, floating lanterns, water screens, and more. River of Light is expected to open in 2016.

3) Disney Springs

Downtown Disney is a popular place to hang out, shop, and eat. The problem is that it doesn’t have a “Disney feel” to it. That is currently changing, because Downtown Disney is becoming Disney Springs. The new shopping and entertainment district will have twice as many shops and restaurants. Some of the new eateries will be high end, including STK Orlando, The BOATHOUSE, and Morimoto Asia. There will be two new parking garages (one of them is already open) to help alleviate parking problems. Disney Springs will have four areas instead of three, and there will be more of a theme throughout the district.

2) Frozen Ride and More

One of the more controversial changes that is coming to Walt Disney World is the addition of Frozen to World Showcase’s Norway Pavilion. In October, 2015, Epcot’s Maelstrom closed forever, and a ride based on the popular movie is going to take its place. According to a permit that has been filed by Disney, there will also be a meet and greet area and possibly more. The work is expected to be finished in 2016.

1) Avatar Land

Another huge change that is under construction is taking place at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Camp Minnie-Mickey closed in early 2014, and ground broke on Avatar Land a few days later. The new land is going to be based on the popular James Cameron movie, and is expected to open in 2017. The land, also known as Pandora, will feature an indoor boat ride and an attraction that will use 3D and IMAX to allow guests to feel like they are riding a banshee. There will also be a quick service restaurant and more. Avatar Land might just be what Disney’s Animal Kingdom needs to make it a full day park.

About PaulaK

I grew up in Western Massachusetts. When I was nine my family went to Disneyland and I was hooked. I grew up, attended New England College in Henniker, NH and eventually moved to Virginia. I worked as a disc jockey, married and became a full time mom when our daughter was born. Fast forward several years. In 2010 we moved to Central Florida and my Disney obsession grew. I now work as a freelance writer and spend my spare time in the parks. Under the name Paula Brown I penned the novels Dream Wanderers and The Coffee Cruiser. I also am a co-author of Dining at Walt Disney World: The Definitive Guide. I'm obsessed with Star Wars, so this is a good time to live in Central Florida. I've been a vegetarian for well over a decade, a choice that my daughter eventually made as well. While my husband still hasn't joined us fully he has given up most meats except for seafood. I was relieved to find that vegetarian dining is not difficult at Walt Disney World.