Plus…. Captain EO bids a fond farewell to Epcot, Several Star Wars newsbits at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and more!
We begin the December edition of the WDW Radio Newswire at Magic Kingdom Park. For this one, let’s follow the wooden footbridge into Adventureland, as new details have emerged on the forthcoming Jungle Navigation Co. LTD. Skipper Canteen. The new sit-down/table service restaurant will start taking reservations in January 2016, with limited walk-up dining beginning at the end of this month! The restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner, with menu items focusing on the exotic locales found in the nearby Jungle Cruise attraction. Expect dishes with an African, Asian, and South American flare, as well as classic North American dishes to satisfy all taste pallets. The Skipper Canteen will house over 200 diners at any given time, with seating split up between several brilliantly themed dining rooms. The main room will be known as the Mess Hall, and will hold the majority of the seating. Other smaller rooms will fork off from the Mess Hall, including a hidden dining area behind a bookcase! Story has it the room once served as a secret meeting space for the Society of Explorers and Adventurers! Other themed rooms will include the Schweitzer Family Dining Room, a clever ode to the Jungle Cruise dialogue about Schweitzer Falls and its namesake… Dr. Albert Falls! Look for more details on the rest of the dining area and menu to emerge in the coming weeks.
Time to head over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios now, as there’s a plethora of Star Wars-related newsbits to address. First up is the opening last week of the Star Wars Launch Bay. Occupying the area of the former Magic of Disney Animation building, Star Wars Launch Bay is your one-stop shop for all things Star Wars. Inside you’ll find the Launch Bay Theater, showing a brief film highlighting the creation of the famed franchise. Next up you’ll find two beautiful galleries full of costumes, artwork, replica props, models, and memorabilia. You’ll also find two character Meet & Greets inside! Give into the power of the Dark Side and stand side by side with the Sith Lord himself, Darth Vader! Or, choose to embrace the Light Side of the Force and meet with trusted ally Chewbacca at the Rebel Base. Other highlights inside the Launch Bay include a replica of the cantina from Episode IV, the Star Wars Game Center, and the themed gift shop Launch Bay Cargo.
The opening of the Star Wars Launch Bay was followed soon thereafter with the announcement that the Symphony in the Stars fireworks spectacular will be starting far sooner than previously announced. The Star Wars-themed fireworks show will now officially kickoff on Friday, December 18th. Originally slated to begin on Friday, January 8th, Symphony in the Stars will now light up the skies over DHS a full three weeks ahead of schedule.
For more news out of DHS, let’s head over to Star Tours: The Adventures Continue. A brand new sequence was just implemented into the attraction. Naturally, the sequence will be based off the upcoming film Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Finally, in our last bit of Star Wars news, the nearby Jedi Training Academy has just re-opened. Closed since October, the Training Academy now carries the tag line Trials of the Temple. The re-themed show follows a similar format as that of the previous incarnation, but the set and storyline have been updated. You’ll also find some new villains accompanying Darth Vader on his quest to squash the younglings, as Darth Maul is now part of the show, as well as one of the new Inquisitors from Star Wars Rebels: Seventh Sister. The age limit (4-12), show times, and sign-up process are still the same as that of the old Training Academy.
Time to venture over to Disney’s Animal Kingdom now, as it was recently announced Kali River Rapids will be seeing some downtime just after New Year’s. The attraction will close for refurbishment on Tuesday, January 5th, with a re-opening date set for Friday, February 12th. If plans stay on track, the attraction will be back in action in just over five weeks.
For more news out of DAK, let’s head to Discovery Island. A new gift shop has just opened this week: Riverside Depot. Located on the path near the Tree of Life, Riverside Depot specializes in character merchandise and DAK-related items. The majority of the merchandise can be found scattered throughout other areas of the park, but now many of the items are conveniently housed under one roof. Riverside Depot is an extension of the pre-existing gift shop Disney Outfitters, and the new addition adds nearly 5,000 square feet of additional floorspace to the shopping complex.
Time to board the Monorail and venture over to Epcot now. Our first bit of news takes us over to the glass pyramids of the Imagination pavilion. Earlier this month, Captain EO and his rag-tag crew of misfits bid farewell to the Magic Eye Theater once again, presumably for good this time. The final swan song for EO took place on Sunday, December 6th. Taking its place in the theater is the Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival. The film will be a whimsical, behind the scenes look at the creative minds behind today’s Disney and Pixar animated shorts, and will also include a look at three silly animated short films. The experience will be in 3-D, and will also implement some of the theater’s sensory elements into the mix.
Our final bit of news today takes us back through the breezeway and into Innoventions East. A new exhibit opened up last month: Colortopia. The exhibit, presented by Glidden, takes Guests through a journey into the magical world of color. Colortopia features three areas: The Power of Color Theater, The Color Lab, and Color Our World. The exhibit is full of interactive, hands-on experiences, including a “magic paintbrush” which can be used to add vibrant colors to ordinary white walls. Don’t worry, there’s no potential for mess here, as the brush features special fiber optic bristles. Kids (and big kids like me!) will love this interactive area, and I for one am very happy to see a new exhibit offering fun for the whole family at Innoventions East.
Well, that’s gonna do it for the December 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!
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.