Wednesday, July 11, 2018

If I Were Disney CEO Part 13 - Walt Disney World Future Expansion

“Here in Florida, we have something special we never enjoyed at Disneyland…the blessing of size. There’s enough land here to hold all the ideas and plans we can possibly imagine.”
Walt Disney


As I've gone through the Walt Disney World portion of this series, my proposals have added:

  • 57 new or updated attractions across the property
  • 9 new hotels
  • 1 new shopping and dining district
  • Additional entertainment and nighttime spectaculars
  • Many other little touches.

For this post in the series, the goal was to look at future expansion of Walt Disney World.  And to me, with what has already been covered, that boils down to two additional offerings: a Broadway class theater and theme park number five.  While there is still a lot of undeveloped property, those seem to be the only things that have not been covered already.

I'll start with discussing the smaller and easier addition first, the Broadway class theater.  With Disney on Broadway and the touring productions, Disney Theatrical Productions has 19 productions that could be staged.  Orlando already has the Dr. Phillips Center for the Broadway Across America productions.  I can envision Disney wanting to keep theater patrons on property with a resident production or a tour stop.  Cirque du Soleil in some ways captures this audience, but I believe there is room for both.  I would, however, not build the Broadway class theater near Disney Springs.  Rather, I would find a place near Disney Hollywood Studios to tie into that entertainment park.  Perhaps as part of a Disney Metropolitan New York style hotel, dining, and shopping complex.  A mini-Times Square if you will, with one theater, dining, and shops.  I've updated a previous image with a couple of thoughts on possible locations.

Possible locations for the Disney Broadway Theater
The next expansion is probably one of the most talked about visions of the future.  Park number five.  To me, a fifth park is really not needed from a visitor perspective.  As Disney has found, given the shortness of American vacations, a fifth park would not lead to guests extending their stays, but cannibalizing their time at the other parks.  Accordingly, a fifth park should not even be considered until all of the previously proposed build out has occurred.  Then and only then, dreaming of a fifth park becomes fun.

I have very specific ideas about the overall theme of the park and how it relates to the rest of Walt Disney World.  In my opinion, Disney succeeds when it sticks to the four initial themes that Walt Disney himself outlaid for entertainment.  This goes for all realms that Disney is involved in, including theme parks, film, television, media, etc.  Adventure, Fantasy, Yesterday, and Tomorrow.  The four initial lands of Disneyland and the four themed offerings on the Disneyland television show.

In building out the theme parks of Walt Disney World, I envision then a Disneyland style park, flanked by specific explorations of each individual theme.  So the Magic Kingdom surrounded a park each for Adventure, Fantasy, Yesterday, and Tomorrow.  EPCOT covers Tomorrow and Animal Kingdom covers Adventure.  The question mark was always Disney Hollywood Studio and the side it came down on.  It at times represented both Yesterday and Fantasy.  It covered the history and exploration of Hollywood and film and it transported you to those Fantasy realms of film.  With the re-envisioning of Hollywood Studios, the park is clearly becoming the Fantasy park.  It's goal now is to transport you fully into the Fantasy worlds of film, from Andy's back yard, to Batuu in the Star Wars Universe, and to the Muppet theater.

That leaves Yesterday for park number five.

And the biggest question then is what Yesterday? It could seemingly cover world history, American history, or Florida history.  World history and culture is a bit covered by EPCOT, so I do not think it would be wise to overlap there.

Disney does have plans for an American history park, Disney's America.  Originally planned for Haymarket, Virginia, and even considered for an attempted Knott's Berry Farm acquisition, pieces of the Disney's America plans have been brought to life in Disney parks around the globe.  Soarin and the surrounding Victory Field area became Condor Flats at Disney California Adventure.  The Family Farm area became the Bountiful Valley Farm.  The Lewis and Clark River Expedition became the Grizzly River Rapids and the State Fair Coaster became California Screamin'.  This incorporation would make an exact implementation of Disney's America difficult.  Likewise, the sections already covered by Disney parks (and particularly those in Orlando) in other capacities like Main Street and its representation of turn of the century small town life, Liberty Square and the picture of colonial America, and Frontierland and its picture of the American west should not be duplicated.

I do think you could still build a Disney American Celebration park in Walt Disney World using the strongest of the remaining concepts in the original plans and bolstered with new designs.  From this, I would envision a park with the following sections:

  • Native America, 1600-1810: A recreation of a Native American village that would have reflected the tribes of Virginia and the surrounding area.  Guest would enjoy interactive experiences, exhibits, and arts and crafts.  I believe you could still have the whitewater raft ride traveling through this area as the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  With the right theming, it should be different enough from the Grizzly River Rapids and the Kali River Rapids to exist in the park.
  • Crossroads, 1800-1850: A pre-Civil War era village serving as the entry to Disney's American Celebration.  Guests would enter under an 1840s train trestle, featuring the antique steam trains circling the park.
  • Fort Shenandoah, 1850-1870: A Civil War fort for exploration would bring guests into a more turbulent time of American history; with an adjacent Freedom Bay, where water battles between the Monitor and the Merrimac would be staged as the thrilling nighttime spectacular.  I believe you could also have a theater here for the Gettysburg address version of Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.
  • Enterprise City, 1870-1930: Our big city at the turn of the century, with the Industrial Revolution roller coaster through a 19th century landscape with heavy industry and blast furnaces and the We the People show in a replica of the Ellis Island building.
  • State Fair, 1930-1945: An area based on 1930s Brooklyn with a live show about baseball in a recreation of Ebbett's Field and a true state fair midway with carousel, Ferris wheel, and wooden roller coaster.
  • Anyburg, USA, 1950-1960: A 1950s Main Street, complete with soda fountain, a diner, a five-and-dime, a record shop, a drag race ride and a bandstand for a sock hop.  This area could get a little meta as it could include appropriate Disney-ana from the time.  Televisions playing Disneyland in the store windows.
I believe that provides an exciting framework to build from, creating something that would be unique within the Disney park portfolio, allowing for a true exploration of history, and for the quality theme park attractions that Disney is known for.  Disney has always had a connection to Americana, so the fit would be appropriate.

I also believe Disney could create a fun Florida history park, an idea I recently stumbled onto.  I think you could replicate much of Disney California Adventure in Florida, replacing each section for an appropriate Florida based version.  With that in mind, I would envision a Disney Florida Adventure park with the following:

  • Reedy Key Boulevard (Buena Vista Street) - Our Florida "Main Street" inspired by the colors of Key West and Duval Street.  The mix of Bahamian and Spanish influences with the pastel and vibrant colors, would make a great welcoming entry for the park.  I would culminate the street at a recreation of the original St. Augustine Lighthouse.  The goal was to find a historic Florida landmark that is no longer existing.  A tie to Florida's past that still looks inviting. The lighthouse tower itself could be an attraction to climb to the top for views of the park, with a signature restaurant in the main building.

  • Big Cypress National Park (Grizzly Peak National Park) - this section would be dedicated to the Everglades and the swamps of Florida.  The centerpiece would be a clone of Roaring Rapids from Shanghai, including the encounter with a long thought extinct super-gator.  The main difference would be the vegetation, replacing the mountain with the swamp and cypress trees.  This section would also include Kermit's Swamp Days and an indoor "airboat" tour ride.
  • Art Deco Row (Painted Ladies) - The small San Francisco section of painted ladies would be complemented by a Miami Ocean Drive building section. Likewise the Palace of Fine arts Rotunda and accompanying building for the Little Mermaid would be replaced by the Plymouth Hotel Building from Miami Beach.

  • Buena Beach Boardwalk (Paradise/Pixar Pier) - this section would be inspired by the classic pleasure piers on Florida's coasts, particularly the Daytona Boardwalk/Main Street Pier.  This section would have a classic-style roller coaster, carousel, Ferris wheel, as well as other flat and midway rides.  One important component would be a recreation of the Daytona Beach Bandshell for impromptu performances.

  • Orange Bird Grove (Pacific Wharf) - Here the industrial Pacific Wharf dining area will be replaced by an orange grove, shop, and diner.  Paying tribute to the many roadside attractions that popped up in Florida's history. A home for the Orange Bird, with Citrus Swirl stand, American diner restaurant, Florida Citrus Commission sponsored walk through, and tchotchke shop.  I would even have a Fountain of Youth "roadside attraction" here in this area.
  • Carsland (Carsland) - Carsland would be replicated with a land focused on Cars 3 and the Florida racing elements identified within. Same basic layout, with a street leading to a signature attraction at the end.  Minor attractions on one side of the street, shopping and dining on the other.  The signature attraction here would be a racing simulator in the Rust-eze Racing Center.  Think Cars meets the Flights of Passage ride in Pandora.  Complemented by a Miss Fritters Thunder Hollow Derby (bumper cars or a mini-figure 8 spinning coaster) and an Autopia like driving attraction which could cover the beach and woods driving scenes in Cars 3, the attractions should represent a great deal of fun.  Add in the Cotter Pin Bar & Grill and this could be a very fun addition.  Guests could be racing from Carsland coast to coast.

(c) Disney

  • Dumbo's Circus (a bug's land) - In place of the "kiddie" land a bug's land, I would add the other Disney animated feature that is set in Florida: Dumbo.  For Dumbo's circus, I would add much of the current Storybook Circus, as well as a Casey Jr. Circus train ride and the Dumbo Circus show proposed in the Magic Kingdom post.  Moving this area to this park could free up space in Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom for another expansion area from the Disney Renaissance like Hercules or Mulan.
  • Port Exploration (Hollywoodland) - Hollywoodland is replaced by an area themed to Cape Canaveral.  This would provide an opportunity to have a both Space Center themed attractions and port and cruise themed attractions.  It would be fascinating to split the land with Space Center taking up the Hollywood Backlot area and the Port taking up the other half, complete with a docked S.S. Columbia, like in Tokyo Disney Sea.

I think that creates a very interesting park.  Familiar, but different.  And it has a greater flexibility for Disney's current push to utilize intellectual properties in the park.  I'm partial to the Disney American Celebration park, but would be pleased with a Disney Florida Adventure park.

And since I did it for all the others, the mascot of Disney American Celebration would be Sam the Eagle from America Sings.  The mascot for Disney Florida Adventure would be the Orange Bird.


That closes out the Walt Disney World Resort.  Thank you for continuing to read.  As the series continues, Disneyland Paris.

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