Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post
and Frozen Snowground closes up shop,
Updates on AVATARLand and the Rvers of Light show, and more!
We begin 2015 and the January edition of the WDW Radio Newswire at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, where the removal of the Giant Sorcerer Hat is officially underway! Construction walls were in place around the hat’s perimeter by park opening on Wednesday, January 7th, as preparations began for demolition of the 122-foot icon. The removal process was still ongoing as of the writing of this article (Sat Jan 10th), so it may be several more days before de-construction is fully completed.
For more news out of DHS, let’s make our way over to the Streets of America and the recently-closed Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post and Frozen Snowground. The gift shop/play area closed on Monday, January 5th, with no plans currently in place for a future re-opening. Wandering Oaken’s was originally located inside Soundstage One as a part of the Studios’ Frozen Summer Fun Event, but when popular demand brought about an extension to the DHS Frozen festivities, the trading post moved over to the former home of the AFI Showcase Shop.
Time to park-hop over to Magic Kingdom Park now for some news on the refurbishment front. For this bit, we head deep into the heart of Adventureland, where the world-famous Jungle Cruise will be seeing some downtime this Spring. The closure is set to begin on Monday, April 13th, with a re-opening date scheduled for Saturday, May 9th. This will put the projected downtime for the attraction at just under four weeks.
For more news out of Magic Kingdom, let’s stay in Adventureland and head over to Island Supply. The apparel store closed up last October for a major overhaul. Well, the shop is back in action, as it re-opened last week as Island Supply by Sunglass Hut. As you can tell by the new name, the store has been completely revamped, with the focal point now bring strictly on shades. But just as they did with the in-park Starbucks locations, Disney has done a nice job blending the name brand store with the theming of the land. As opposed to just putting up a generic, cookie cutter Sunglass Hut in the middle of Adventureland, they kept the theming intact inside and out, and they even left the “Island Supply” moniker in the shop’s title. Island Supply by Sunglass Hut is now one of three Sunglass Hut locations found on property, joining the flagship store at Downtown Disney’s West Side and the newly opened location inside Typhoon Lagoon’s Singapore Sal’s.
Time to board the monorail and cruise over to Epcot now for some news out of Innoventions East and West, as two exhibits were permanently closed last week. Let’s start with Innoventions West, which saw THINK by IBM drift into the realm of extinction on Thursday, January 1st. Just five days later, Innoventions East lost the Test the Limits Lab, which was sponsored by Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. Both exhibits had reached the conclusion of their sponsorship run, and unfortunately neither company elected for renewal. THINK by IBM opened in January of 2013, giving the exhibit a respectable two-year run. The Test the Limits Laboratories had a much longer run, as it opened up back in 2003. There’s no official word yet as to a replacement for the exhibits, but the closures have freed up a ton of space inside the buildings. What does the future hold for these newly vacated areas of Innoventions East and West? Stay tuned!
Time to park-hop over to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park now, as there are several bits of news to address. First up is official word that Donald’s Safari Dinner is coming soon to the Tusker House Restaurant! As of Sunday, March 8th, Tusker House will feature a character buffet for all three meals, with reservations now available to book online or via telephone at (407) WDW-DINE. When the Donald Duck character meal moved from Restaurantosaurus to Tusker House back in 2007, breakfast was the only character meal offered, as lunch and dinner were non-character buffets. But additional Character Dining options for DAK were in high demand, and in December of 2011 Donald’s Safari Lunch made its debut. Now just a little over three years later, Donald’s Safari Dinner has emerged to complete the Character Dining trifecta at Tusker House.
Continuing in Africa, let’s venture over to the Pangani Forest Exploitation Trail. The trail returned to fully-functioning form late last month, as all areas are now accessible and operational. Several portions of the walking trail had been closed off since September, including the underwater viewing area and research station.
Time to make a quick stop by Discovery Island now, as there’s news to report on Flame Tree Barbecue. The popular quick-service spot recently closed down for a major overhaul of the outdoor dining area, one which will see roofing expansions and additional coverings added into a major portion of the ordering and seating area of the restaurant. Construction got underway just after the start of new year and is expected to last for about three months. A re-opening date has been penciled in for early April, so expect Flame Tree to be back in business shortly after Easter (April 5th).
While we’re here on Discovery Island, I’d like to take a minute to update the progress on the Rivers of Light show. The nighttime spectacle is set to debut in just about one year’s time, as all signs point to an opening date between late February and early March 2016. Construction walls have been in place in the area between Discovery Island, Dinoland USA, and Asia for about four months now, as the massive undertaking of the land clearing and earth removal along the banks of the Discovery River continues to move along. Things have been progressing nicely these last few weeks, as the seating/viewing areas are beginning to take shape along the riverbanks of the eastern section of the park. Once completed, the Rivers of Light show will offer up a nighttime environment unlike anything ever witnessed before at DAK. Water screens, projection graphics, illuminated barges, and floating lanterns will combine with a vibrant soundtrack of live music and entertainment to enthrall your senses. The end result is guaranteed to be an unforgettable experience of epic Disney proportions! I’ll be sure to keep you updated as construction progresses and the debut date for Rivers of Light nears.
While we’re on the subject of construction updates, let’s take a minute to look at the progress on AVATARLand. Things have been moving along at a rapid pace since our last Newswire update, as vertical construction is now underway! The giant skeletons of what will become the attractions, shops, and restaurants of AVATARLand are beginning to rise up, indicating things are still very much on schedule for an opening date in early 2017. Looking back, once vertical construction began on the Beauty & the Beast and Little Mermaid portions of the New Fantasyland project, it was only a little over two years time before the area opened. Compare this with the current state of AVATARLand, and you’d get an approximate opening date of March 2017! This date is by no means concrete, but it’s certainly a good indication of the timetable we’re looking at. If plans stay on track, we’re just a little over two years away from soaring on banshees over the canopied forests and wondrous terrain of Pandora!
For our final stop today, let’s venture over to Typhoon Lagoon Water Park. The park re-opened to Guests last week, as it had been closed since October 26th for its annual refurbishment. There’s no significant changes to the lagoon, other than the aforementioned addition of the Sunglass Hut to Singapore Sal’s gift shop. Much to everyone’s surprise, Shark Reef is still in full operation. During the closure, it was rumored we may be losing some or even all of Shark Reef. I for one am happy to see the snorkel/dive spot still open for business!
Well, that’s gonna do it for the January edition of the Newswire, but I’ll be back again next month with lots more news, notes, and happenings from Walt’s beloved Florida Project!
(Hat photo from the personal collection of Kendall Foreman. Avatar concept art copyright Disney.)
Don Myers covers news and recent events in Walt Disney World. He has been enamored with the World of Disney since his first trip to WDW in 1986. As they say, the rest is history! Don was also a contributing writer for Celebrations magazine, submitting over 30 articles and 7 cover stories for the publication.