MickeyBlog Rumors for February 2020
The Walt Disney Company rumor mill is always buzzing. The company’s backup plans have backup plans. Still, this moment in history is unique for Disney. Bob Chapek has just become the CEO, and Coronavirus could potentially disrupt some upcoming projects.
How much have these events altered the course of Disney’s future? It’s still too soon to say, but we do have some tantalizing rumors to pass along this month.
The Pixar Connection?
Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios won’t turn two years until this summer. Despite its youth, park officials are toying with the notion of increasing Pixar’s presence at this theme park.
Reports suggest that Disney could connect some land behind Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith to the area near Toy Story Land. I probably already have your attention here, since you know that Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy, a Pixar attraction, opened beside the roller coaster.
So, I could make the argument that Disney has already teased this expansion. I don’t think that’s what happened, as I view this as a coincidence. However, the pieces are already in place for a sweeping park update.
The Animation Courtyard currently hosts a Little Mermaid show and some other live performances. Disney could easily switch an appropriate number of presentations to Pixar themes while upgrading the area. Then, they could add new attractions in the surrounding space.
Obviously, the most exciting possibility is Radiator Springs Racers. For a while now, rumors have persisted that Disney might re-theme Test Track, which we’ll discuss in the next section. A viable alternative exists, though.
Hollywood Studios could add the beloved thrill attraction from Disney California Adventure (DCA). It could anchor a new Pixar Pier-esque themed land in Orlando, one that resides near Toy Story Land.
If park officials went all-in on Pixar, they’d do something similar to DCA. The second Disney gate in Anaheim is moving toward a half-Pixar/half-Marvel overall theme.
Hollywood Studios would switch out Star Wars for Marvel but keep Pixar. Frankly, this idea would sell well, and that matters the most to Disney. It would also delight guests, which is essential.
About Test Track…
Let’s presume for a moment that Disney doesn’t build a Radiator Springs Racers-style attraction at Hollywood Studios. After all, park planners have a good reason why they wouldn’t.
Right now, guests can take a boat or the Disney Skyliner from there to EPCOT. At World Discovery, Test Track has thrilled guests for many years now. And it employs the same underlying technology as Radiator Springs Racers.
Wikipedia describes both attractions as slot car dark rides. Along with Journey to the Center of the Earth at Tokyo DisneySea, these two rides immerse guests in a series of scenes, each of which tells a story. However, unlike most dark rides, the ride experience involves an adrenaline rush at the end.
Would Disney want Radiator Springs Racers at a park that’s 10 minutes away from EPCOT? I say absolutely not, and rumormongers agree with me. Instead, the belief is that EPCOT officials might re-theme Test Track.
GM’s Tenuous Sponsorship Status
Now, this idea would happen down the line a bit, but I have to go back in time to explain the details. Back in January of 2012, General Motors agreed to sponsor Test Track. When it happened, a lot of people expressed surprise since GM’s finances weren’t that great.
In reality, the agreement functioned more like an extension, as GM had just completed a 10-year contract at World of Motion, the pavilion that now hosts Test Track. Presuming that Disney and GM signed another 10-year deal, it would end in or around January of 2022.
GM’s currently transitioning to electric cars and just announced a $2.3 billion plan to build a battery plant. Soon afterward, the company revealed a solid fiscal year with $1.6 billion in net income. So, their financials are better now, but the company works in a disrupted industry.
GM executives may not like the value that their EPCOT provides. Similarly, Disney may want to switch sponsors. It’s not that the parties have had a falling out as allegedly happened with Siemens. Instead, Disney is weighing options regarding potential replacements.
A New Sponsor Means a New Ride? Maybe.
The hot rumor is that the company covets a more significant sponsorship partner for the next version of EPCOT. That move wouldn’t make any sense for GM. So, Disney’s at least somewhat shopping around right now.
Should Disney fail to find a new sponsor, they could go to Plan B. That’s potentially a re-theming of Test Track into Radiator Springs Racers. Clearly, EPCOT will embrace intellectual properties (IPs) even more in its next phase. So, a Pixar attraction logically fits better than the generic (but excellent) Test Track.
If Disney does land a new sponsor, that business would have input into the attraction, though. You may recall that GM originally joined Disney with World of Motion. It was the company’s goal to combat Ford, which had joined Disney at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Those two parties produced the crowd-pleasing Ford Magic Skyway.
GM poached the relationship as Disney’s car dealer of choice. Since then, GM has dictated a change from World of Motion to Test Track in 1999. Later, the 2012 modernization of Test Track also came at GM’s request. So, they’ve strongly influenced the nature of this EPCOT attraction for decades now.
Presumably, Disney would give a new sponsor similar power. As such, we might know what’s next at Test Track until GM either extends the sponsorship or announces that it’s bowing out. The ride’s probably maintaining the status quo for the body of two years. Still, Disney’s already planning for the future so that they don’t get caught off-guard.
Even if Disney does introduce a Cars overlay, I think it wouldn’t match Radiator Springs Racers anyway. One version is a single track while the other is multi-track, just like Space Mountain at Disneyland/Magic Kingdom. So, a duplicate would come with some technical challenges.
The Test Track stuff is little more than cloud talk right now. It’s a Blue Sky conversation only and will remain that way for at least a year. However, the Pixar Pier situation is more intriguing.
Guests often complain about the walking lanes in and around Toy Story Land. Should Imagineers repurpose area around Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Animation Courtyard, they could simultaneously reduce traffic bottlenecks. That aspect merits prioritization.
So, a Pixar-themed land could double as the Hollywood Studios equivalent of Project Stardust. Disney would spend resources on adding attractions, of course, but the hidden strength of this update is improved guest satisfaction. Larger walking paths are extremely important, and a legitimate weakness at this park right now.