Plus…. Frozen Attraction at Epcot’s Norway pavilion gets an official name and approximate opening date, Flame Tree Barbecue is back in the mix, and more!
We begin the July edition of the WDW Radio Newswire with some breaking news out of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The ever-changing landscape of the park is about to be re-shaped once again, as Disney has just confirmed the permanent closure of The Magic of Disney Animation on Sunday, July 12th. Found in Animation Courtyard, The Magic of Disney Animation houses several interactive experiences, as well as a handful of Meet & Greets, including Minnie Mouse, The Incredibles, Hiro & Baymax, and Sorcerer Mickey. The building is also home to the Animation Academy, a hands-on experience allowing park goers the chance to learn how to draw a Disney character with guidance from an actual Disney animator. The Animation Academy will remain open until late August, as it will not be closing on July 12th with the rest of the building. As for the Meet & Greets, it appears as if the Big Hero 6 and The Incredibles Meet & Greets will be axed, and Mickey and Minnie will be relocated to other areas of the park. Minnie will now be in the former Sorcerer Hat location in front of The Great Movie Ride, and Mickey can be found in the area near Studio Catering Company. Star Wars Weekends fans will remember this location, as it plays host to the Darth Vader and Darth Maul Meet & Greets each year. Rumor has it this spot is only temporary, as a permanent Mickey Meet & Greet location is in the works near Disney Junior- Live on Stage.
So what does this mean for the rest of the Animation Courtyard/Mickey Avenue area? Let’s address this topic in the Rumor of the Month section! Word has it Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream will be the next attraction to get the hook. There’s been unconfirmed reports this may even happen on July 12th when the Magic of Disney Animation closes. But if not, expect to see a permanent OMD closure by the end of this summer. As for Voyage of the Little Mermaid, it’s location may prove to be its downfall. The show building is smack dab between the Magic of Disney Animation and Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream, two attractions on borrowed time. There have been no confirmed reports thus far as to a permanent closure coming for Mermaid, but with a re-theming of the Animation Courtyard/Mickey Avenue area on the horizon (Toy Story/Pixar Place expansion is the best bet), it would certainly make sense to have the space completely freed up. The only other attraction in Animation Courtyard is Disney Junior- Live on Stage. It’s located in the southern area of Animation Courtyard, away from the rest of the other buildings. I haven’t heard any rumblings about this one going anywhere anytime soon, and if there is indeed a permanent Mickey Meet & Greet spot coming soon to the Disney Junior area, expect this section to remain open for the foreseeable future.
Time to park-hop over to Epcot now, as there’s big news to report on the upcoming Frozen attraction currently under construction at the Norway pavilion. Last month, the Wall Street Journal ran an article on the Frozen attraction which revealed some pretty interesting details. First up is the attraction’s official name: Frozen Ever After. We also now have an approximate opening date for Frozen Ever After, as “Spring 2016” has been revealed as the timetable for completion. But exactly what will the attraction entail? How long will it be? These questions have been answered, too. The flume-style dark-ride attraction, about four minutes in length, will take Guests on a whimsical journey through Arendelle in the summertime. But you wouldn’t know it’s the summer season by looking at your surroundings, as the residents of Arendelle are in the midst of a grand Winter Festival celebration. All of the Frozen characters will be present and accounted for, including appearances by Olaf and Sven in the attraction’s opening scene. There’s also a balcony scene with Elsa singing “Let It Go”, and a cute fireworks finale scene featuring Anna, Elsa, Kristof, Sven, and Olaf gleefully waving goodbye. All in all, it sounds like a nice, family-friendly addition to the World Showcase landscape. And Maelstrom faithful can take some solace in the fact that the track layout and flume-style ride vehicle system will remain the same. There’s even a short scene in the middle of the attraction where Guests travel to Troll Valley to hear Grandpappy Troll tell the charming tale of how Anna and Kristof first met. There’s no troll’s chanting “Down the falls! Down the falls!”, but I’m still very much digging the whole Troll Valley inclusion. I’ll admit, I was adamantly against the change when it was first announced. But the more and more I hear about this new attraction, the more and more I’m liking it. You can check out the full WSJ article here.
For more news out of Epcot, let’s make our way into Future World and venture over to Innoventions. On Monday, June 29th, the D-Zone opened up in the corridor behind the Character Spot. The D-Zone is designed to be a relaxation area, as it basically functions as a spot to rest your feet, grab a snack, or re-charge your mobile devices and cameras. The area is enclosed and air-conditioned, there is a kiosk set up offering packaged snack items and soft drinks, as well as both alcoholic and non-alcoholic frozen beverages. You’ll also find a sizable area full of tables, chairs, and benches, as well as an ample amount of outlets to re-charge your electronics (or Alec Tronic if you can find him). The area offers up some great views out into Future World, and it comes as a welcome addition to the Innoventions landscape.
Our last bit of Epcot news takes us over to the giant glass pyramids of the Imagination pavilion, as it was recently confirmed Captain EO will once again be making a return to the Magic Eye Theater! MJ, Hooter, Fuzzball, and the rest of the rag-tag band will be back in action on Sunday, July 19th. The show had been on hiatus since mid-April, as the theater showed extended previews of Tomorrowland (April 18th-May 29th) and Inside Out (May 30th-July 18th). There’s no word yet on how long of a run Captain EO will get this time around, but I’d expect the show to remain in place at least through the end of the 2015 calendar year.
Time to board the Monorail and shoot over to Magic Kingdom Park now, as there’s some news to report on the refurbishment front. The Walt Disney World Railroad will be seeing some downtime later this year, as it was just announced the attraction will be closed from Monday, October 12th to Saturday, November 21st. If plans stay on track, this will put the total closure time for WDW Railroad at just under six weeks.
Time to park-hop over to Disney’s Animal Kingdom now for a pair of dining newsbits. First up is last week’s return of Flame Tree Barbecue. The restaurant’s re-opening date had been pushed back several times during the near six-month closure, but on Tuesday, June 30th, Flame Tree re-emerged onto the DAK dining scene. The seating areas, ordering areas, and majority of the walkways have all been covered from the elements. There are still a few walkways that remain open to the inclement weather for now, but they are expected to be covered over the course of the next couple months. But don’t worry, the remaining walkway covering work will NOT affect the day-to-day operations of the restaurant. With that said, let’s get to the menu! All the Flame Tree Barbecue favorites we knew and loved before the refurb are back, including chicken, ribs, turkey legs, pulled pork sandwich, and of course, all the fixins. There’s even a couple of new menu items to try out, like the Watermelon Salad and the Jamaican Jerk Chicken Salad. Flame Tree Barbecue opens daily at 11am, and operates until about an hour prior to park closing.
The re-opening of Flame Tree Barbecue means the nearby Gardens Kiosk is now free to serve up their own dishes once again. The kiosk had been offering up various Flame Tree menu items while the restaurant was closed for refurb. But the Flame Tree re-opening last week brought about a completely revamped menu for the Gardens Kiosk. You’ll find items like the Trek Power Salad, which includes quinoa, beets, edamame, and citrus. There’s also the Farmer’s Salad, consisting of blueberries, goat cheese, and candied pecans. There’s also some unique beverage options to whet your palette, like chilled green tea infused with orange blossom honey, cucumber-mint pomegranate lemonade, and raspberry lemonade sweetened with stevia. The Gardens Kiosk is located on Discovery Island between Flame Tree Barbecue and The Adventurer’s Outpost.
For our final bit of news today, let’s venture out of the parks and head over the Downtown Disney/Disney Springs area. It appears that Disney Quest will be the latest casualty of the Disney Springs transformation project, as it was recently confirmed the Disney Quest complex will be closed and converted into a new indoor NBA Experience. Hands-on activities and exhibits, as well as games with interactive elements will completely immerse you in the on-court world of an NBA superstar. In addition, a mega-sized NBA retail store and NBA-themed sit down restaurant will also be housed inside the multi-floored complex. As for the timetable, the transition is expected to take place in 2016, but thus far there’s been no official word from Disney as to an opening date for the NBA Experience, nor has there been an official announcement pertaining to the final day of operation for Disney Quest.
Well, that’s gonna do it for the July edition of the WDW Radio Newswire, but I’ll be back again next month with lots more news, notes, and happenings from Walt’s beloved Florida Project!
(Animation photo from the personal collection of Kendall Foreman. Other images ©Disney.)
Don Myers has covered news and recent events in Walt Disney World for the WDW Radio Blog since 2011. 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 from 2009 to 2012.