Before we get started today, I’d like to take a minute thank everyone for all the comments and feedback on the September edition of the Newswire. I personally read each and every comment, and I encourage everyone to continue leaving your opinions and feedback. With that said, I’ve decided to add a “Rumor of the Month” section to the Newswire! Each article I’ll pick one hot rumor to discuss, and I’ll be keeping track of which rumors become fact and which ones never come to fruition. So let’s get to it. Time to settle into the Halloween Season with the October edition of the WDW Radio Newswire….
We begin this eerie October edition of the Newswire with a bit of disheartening news, as last month brought about the permanent closure of the Studio Backlot Tour®. An opening day attraction for Disney’s Hollywood Studios® (then known as Disney-MGM Studios®), the Backlot Tour quietly drifted into the realm of extinction on Saturday, September 27th. The attraction’s closure was extremely abrupt, as word of its demise came down just seven days prior on Saturday, September 20th. A week later, the attraction was closed forever. I’m sad to see the Backlot Tour go, but years of changes had made the attraction a shell of its former self. Many key elements were lost over the years, including walking portions of the tour, residential street, and most recently the closure of the post-show AFI Film Institute Showcase. What was once a two-hour attraction had sadly been whittled away and reduced down to just 35 minutes by the end of its run.
But the news isn’t all bad, as the closure of the Backlot Tour frees up a ton of space for exciting new attractions, shops, and restaurants at Disney’s Hollywood Studios…
Which brings me to the Rumor of the Month!
The area taken up by the Backlot Tour has diminished over the years, but the attraction still covers a ton of real estate at DHS. So with all this space opened up, what exciting new projects await the future landscape of the Studios? Let’s start with Soundstage 1. The building sits between the Studio Backlot Tour and Toy Story Midway Mania®, and for years rumors have been circulating pertaining to a Monsters Inc.-themed roller coaster at Soundstage 1. Well, late last month several top Disney big wigs were at the Studios surveying the area. Just days after their visit, construction walls sprung up and Soundstage 1 is now officially a work zone! But what’s coming there? Will we finally be getting our long-awaited Monsters Inc. roller coaster? Rumors are actually pointing to the contrary, as the big speculation right now has Soundstage 1 being converted into an additional show building for Toy Story Midway Mania! There are currently two tracks housed inside Toy Story Mania, but a third track inside Soundstage 1 would drastically help alleviate the long wait times for the attraction, and could potentially allow completely separate buildings for standby Guests and those using FASTPASS+®. This seems to be the most likely scenario, as last week a “FASTPASS+ only” test run took place at Toy Story Midway Mania. A second show building, third track, and new games and elements will be nice additions. But I’m really hoping for some new attractions at the Studios! That’s where the space freed up by the Backlot Tour comes in. Rumors are running wild right now! Speculation of a potential Cars Land or Frozen Land are getting a lot of buzz right now. There’s even been rumblings of more Star Wars and/or Indiana Jones elements being implemented into the Studios! Cars Land makes the most sense to me, as the Backlot Tour area is located right next to Pixar Place®. The land is also big enough to bring in most, if not all, of the elements currently showcased in California’s version of Cars Land®. But a Frozen-themed Land could also be on the horizon for DHS, as Wandering Oaken’s Trading ® just settled into its permanent residence in the area that was once home to the Backlot Tour‘s post-show AFI Film Institute Showcase. So just days after the Backlot Tour’s closure you now have a Frozen-themed gift shop in the area. This could very well point to the coming of Frozen Land at the Studios. Personally, I would love to see additional Star Wars and Indy attractions. The Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye and a Star Wars cantina-style restaurant would be fantastic additions to DHS. But with Star Tours – The Adventures Continue® and Indiana Jones™ Epic Stunt Spectacular® located across the park in the Echo Lake® area, this scenario doesn’t really make as much sense geographically as a Frozen or Cars Land does. But what do you think? What exciting new attractions, shops, or restaurants do you want to see come to the Backlot Tour area and Soundstage 1? Please feel free to leave your comments and tell me what you think!
For more news out of DHS, let’s continue along the the Streets of America® to the new home of Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post. The Gift Shop previously had a makeshift residence over at Soundstage 1 during the Frozen Summer Fun event. But as I just mentioned in the Rumor of the Month paragraph, the trading post now has a permanent home in the area formerly occupied by the AFI Film Institute Showcase.
Time to park-hop over to Magic Kingdom® Park now for some more news on from the Gift Shop front. Across the street from Gracie Manor, Memento Mori® is now open! Located in the building previously occupied by the Yankee Trader® , the interior of the building has been completely transformed into a Haunted Mansion® -themed store. Guests now have a brand new, one-stop shop for all things related to the 999 happy haunts! From shirts, hats, pins, and hoodies to framed artwork, glasses, dishware, and collectables, you’ll find it all at Memento Mori. The store also offers an exciting new photo opportunity, as you can now have your “spirit image” captured in ghost form! For $20 (plus tax), your picture is taken and then printed onto holographic paper. So the image changes from “happy alive you” to “decaying corpse you” depending on which angle you’re looking at it! This is a fun and clever idea, and it makes for a truly one-of-a-kind souvenir to bring back from the parks. The opening of Memento Mori comes as a bit of a surprise, as the shop was originally expected to open up at the conclusion of the Haunted Mansion‘s December refurb (Dec. 1-19).
For more news out of Magic Kingdom® Park, let’s head to Cinderella Castle where preparations for the upcoming Holiday Season are well underway. The Castle Dream Lights® are now completely in place, and an announcement was recently made pertaining to a new Castle lighting show that will be making its debut for 2014. A Frozen Holiday Wish® will light up Cinderella Castle on Wednesday, November 5th, with the special nightly ceremony set to take place each evening throughout the duration of the Holiday Season. I think it will be exciting to see a new Holiday castle lighting show at MK, but I hope Cinderella’s Holiday Wish returns in 2015. I understand Disney wanting to ride the “hot hand” of Frozen right now…but after all it is Cinderella’s castle!
Before we hop out of the Magic Kingdom, let’s make a quick stop by Frontierland® . The annual refurb for Splash Mountain® was recently announced, as Brer Rabbit and the fellow inhabitants of Chik-A-Pin Hill will be on hiatus from Sunday, January 4th until Saturday, January 31st. This will put the total downtime for the attraction at four weeks.
For more news from the refurbishment front, let’s hop over to Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park. Kali River Rapids® will also be seeing some downtime just after New Year’s, as the attraction will be closed from Tuesday, January 20th, to Wednesday February 4th.
For our final bit of news, let’s take the Wildlife Express Train® out to Rafiki’s Planet Watch® . The Affection Section just closed down on Tuesday, October 7th, for a month-long refurb. The area is set to re-open to Guests on Tuesday, November 11th. The Conservation Station, Wildlife Express Train, and Habitat Habit!® are all scheduled to remain open and operational during the Affection Section refurb.
Well, that’s gonna do it for the October 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!
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.