Everything You Need to Know About the Disney Skyliner
Picking the most exciting project in progress at Walt Disney World is a brutal exercise. Everyone has a favorite, although I suspect that the people’s choice is a certain themed land from a galaxy far, far away. Personally, I’m all about efficiency and practicality. I have confidence that everything at Walt Disney World is capable of entertaining me. I just have to get there first, and that’s where today’s update comes into play. Let’s discuss everything that we know about the Disney Skyliner, potentially the greatest Disney innovation since the monorail.
History of the Disney Gondola
Mickey Travelers of a certain age remember a time when the sky was filled gondolas. During the 1970s, both Disneyland and Magic Kingdom had a specialized form of transportation. These cable cars in the air connected Fantasyland to Tomorrowland. Functionally, they’re multi-person ski lifts in an enclosed space called a gondola.
Disney named the gondola attraction the Skyway, and its history is fascinating. Walt Disney actually purchased the entire gondola lift system from a Swiss company that had no further use of it. He literally bought every piece of an existing transportation system. By 1959, it was an integral part of a Disneyland visit, one which cost travelers 35 cents per one-way ride, the equivalent of $3 today.
The Skyway served twin purposes. Tired travelers could get off their feet for a while by riding the gondola to a different part of the park. They would also witness the park from a rare perspective, one 60 feet in the air. Since the Skyway moved at the glacial pace of four miles per hour, it was a slow, entertaining ride through the heart of the Happiest Place on Earth.
Over time, Disney duplicated the Skyway at Tokyo Disneyland and Magic Kingdom. Meanwhile, the Disneyland version fell into disrepair and was eventually shuttered during the early 1990s. In 1999, the final version of the attraction closed at Magic Kingdom, removing gondolas from the sky permanently. Or so we thought.
New and Improved
Fast forward to D-23 in the summer of 2017. After months of rumors involving patents that Disney had filed, the company confirmed that gondolas were back in a big way. They intended to build a new kind of transportation system to eliminate the traffic problems that crop up in the thriving Orlando metropolitan area. Rather than build new roads or change existing highways, Disney turned to the skies for a solution.
That solution is the Disney Skyliner, an updated version of the old Skyway attraction. The difference is that this isn’t a park ride, at least not in the conventional sense. It will connect multiple Disney resorts to two of Disney’s theme parks, Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The impacted resorts are Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, Disney’s Pop Century Resort, and the upcoming Disney Riviera Resort, which should open to the public in 2019.
Your mind should be racing as you process this information. One day soon, you’ll have the ability to skip the buses and boats at Walt Disney World. For guests at the Value Resorts in particular, that’s blessed news. Waiting for a bus there is sometimes a trying experience. That situation will fundamentally change when the Disney Skyliner debuts. These four resorts will become among the most desirable at Walt Disney World due to their logistics. The people staying here will head over to the Disney Skyliner terminal and board a gondola.
This vehicle will transport guests to one of five hubs. The Value Resorts are one stop, Caribbean Beach is another, Hollywood Studios is the third one, Riviera Resort is the fourth, and Epcot is the final one. We still don’t know the ordering of the paths, but Disney has published pictures that indicate the various stops.
Disney hasn’t indicated whether a rider must switch gondolas at each stop a la the monorail to Epcot, but we know it happens at one of the hubs for sure. This factor will determine how long you’ll need to get from, say, Art of Animation to Epcot. This path is the longest one according to the images.
Presuming no unnecessary stops and a direct path, a resort guest should arrive at their destination in minutes, a vastly superior transportation experience. Plus, the Skyliner won’t have traffic congestion issues since Disney controls those skies. They will have a steady throughput and more reliable scheduling than the boats and buses.
What’s the Latest?
During its 12 Days of Christmas celebration, Disney provided a ton of new information about the Disney Skyliner. We now know the look and style of some of the various hubs. At Epcot, the gondola tram system will pay tribute to the nations of the World Showcase. Its style is decidedly international and inclusive. This makes sense given the location of the hub at the International Gateway between the France and England Pavilions.
Disney describes the aesthetic as “covered with metal and glass canopies, hand-painted murals and ornamental steel structures that harken back to the early 18th century Art Nouveau style.” Riders on the Epcot portion of the Skyliner will also bask in a rare view of World Showcase Lagoon from the skies above. Other than the convenience, the views are the best aspect of the ride.
The other huge reveal is that Caribbean Beach Resort is the main terminal for the Disney Skyliner. It’s also the known transfer station, presumably due to its location as the midpoint of the various stops.
Disney’s constructing an entire station and entertainment area here. The Parks Blog describes it as “inspired by the open air village marketplaces of the Caribbean.” They add that it will “showcase the nearby resort’s architectural detailing and color schemes.” They’re even adding a Caribbean-themed Table Service restaurant as a highlight of the new facility!
The styling of the hub at Hollywood Studios is important for a couple of reasons. First, it’s thematic in its Classic Hollywood touches. And that’s a strong hint that if/when Hollywood Studios changes its name, it will still have a basis in cinema. At a minimum, it will keep the colors and style.
Finally, Disney promises that the Pop Century/Art of Animation shared hub will have an unprecedented view. From inside the gondola, you will see Hourglass Lake in a way that’s never been possible before. Disney claims that “Cabins will even slow down along Buena Vista Drive for guests to witness the mechanical and aerial components that make the magic of Disney Skyliner possible!”
As for the gondolas, the exteriors will feature beloved Disney characters including Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, and the Hitchhiking Ghosts. This was previously confirmed, but Disney has now provided some pictures of the bright colors that will decorate the individual gondola trams. Unlike the original Skyway, these vehicles will transport several guests at once, making them tremendously efficient.
Moving forward, the Disney Skyliner should solve one of the biggest problems at Walt Disney World: logistics. It’s a forward-thinking type of transportation that will pay particular dividends when Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens at Hollywood Studios. With these gondolas, Disney’s already proactively addressed the expected traffic influx. And they’ve done it with something stylish and fun! The Disney Skyliner will change Disney transportation forever the instant that it debuts.
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