Incredible Disney Rumors for June 2020
June is coming to an end, and we’re only a couple of weeks away from the reopening of Walt Disney World’s theme parks.
As was the case last month, the latest rumors will be more about updates than upcoming projects since Disney has had to put the kibosh on the latter.
Here’s a bunch of tantalizing details to get you excited about your next Disney visit. Oh, and did I mention there’s a talking robot?
Another Spaceship Earth Update
Last month, I went into grim detail about how the pandemic has impacted Disney’s planning. I also discussed Spaceship Earth.
At the 2019 D23 Expo, Disney had announced a “reimagining” of EPCOT’s signature attraction.
Imagineers will evolve the current attraction into one that tracks humanity’s evolution, thanks to the importance of the way “light plays a central role in our shared human journey.”
Disney wants a more visually engaging story that includes technical wizardry. So, a showier version of Spaceship Earth is in the offing.
Well, we thought it was, but then Disney executives had to cut $900 million from the budget.
Simultaneously, EPCOT needed its anchor ride when the park reopened. Many people naturally concluded that Spaceship Earth’s refurbishment wouldn’t happen.
Well, Disney has thrown us all a bit of a curveball. The current plan calls for the delay of the Spaceship Earth modification.
Yes, the ride inside the giant golf ball will return when the park reopens.
However, Disney has NOT canceled the Spaceship Earth plussing. The Parks Blog has explicitly stated this fact.
All we know at the moment is that Spaceship Earth won’t close this summer as initially announced. However, its overhaul is still in the offing at a later date.
A Different Kind of Rumor
Some Disney rumors have nothing to do with rides, but they’re still kind of fun.
As children, we all watched science fiction shows set in the future. They predicted a better society brimming with impressive technologies.
In many of them, robots played an integral part in servicing humanity.
Now, anyone who has used a virtual assistant appreciates the irony of this dose of optimism.
I can’t even ask Alexa about the weather without my AI trying to tell me about the Ming Dynasty instead.
Still, Disney’s ready to plot a future with more robots…and not for the first time.
I’ve previously discussed that Disney had a deal in place for self-driving vehicles at Walt Disney World.
In this unusual setup, guests would have boarded vehicles that drove them directly to their destinations…kind of like Minnie Vans without cast members behind the wheel.
The deal collapsed because the technology company involved with the vehicles wound up in a civil war where a bunch of people sued one another.
Well, park officials are still in love with the idea of increased automation at Walt Disney World.
This time, the idea is to perfect the buffet concept. As you know, these meals have become a massive no-no during the pandemic.
Guests can’t stand in the same spots and grab the same ladles to scoop some soup.
Frankly, this practice was always terrible, but we decided as a society to overlook it.
So, Disney’s exploring other options like…
Okay, I’m joking a bit, but there’s truth to the premise. An Orlando restaurant called U & Me Revolving Hot Pot has hinted at the future of dining.
When you enter this building, a robot named Peanut will take you to your table.
The little dude’s hard to miss since he looks like an oversized bowling pin in a bellhop costume.
Peanut will talk to you if you like, but his “head” is also a flat surface. It will display the table information for where you will sit.
If someone gets in Peanut’s way, he doesn’t take that crap, either. The robot will grumpily shout: “Don’t block my way, please! I have to work!”
Once you sit down, a different robot will bring you plates, chopsticks, and menus.
Finally, you’ll notice a conveyor belt to your side. It gradually spins around with various food items like noodle bowls.
So, you can enjoy a full dining buffet experience without ever interacting with a human employee.
The Why of Robots
Peanut has become quite the rage on TikTok, but the premise holds greater appeal for Disney.
Right now, restaurants like Crystal Palace, Tusker House, and Boma suffer from the same problem.
Buffets create a lot of danger due to all the human interactions. So, an automated buffet like U & Me Revolving Hot Pot makes a lot of sense.
From Disney’s perspective, it eliminates these interactions while also adding a level of delight for kids.
The combination of the robot server and the conveyor belt of food will make dining feel like another part of the joyous Disney experience.
The rise of robotic servers stems from Coronavirus issues in Shanghai. Kennon Robotics developed these robots to deliver food to the infected.
Disney’s understandably intrigued by the idea, and some robotics companies even go a step further. Macco Robotics sells one that cleans and disinfects after a restaurant closes.
So, Disney has plenty of incentives to modernize its (former) buffet restaurants to make them feel more futuristic.
The lone downside to this plan is that we’ve seen with Future World and Tomorrowland that the future’s ever-changing.
Disney executives must make sure that the robots always seem fun and modern. Otherwise, we’ll have outdated robots serving dinner in a decade.
Still, this change feels inevitable since it’s smart and easy to theme. Imagine how children would react to a robotic Goofy! You’re already smiling, aren’t you?
What’s Happening with Disney Genie?
I sometimes say that Disney shocked me on something, but I’ll level with you. I often know things that will happen well in advance.
However, this situation is different. Most sources have remained in the dark about everything during the pandemic, as Disney has shortened its brain-trust.
Whether I’d heard something or not, I still would have felt total shock over what happened at Disney last week.
Park officials informed cast members that virtual queuing won’t return when the parks do.
FastPass is out, Boarding Groups are no more, and no replacement is allegedly in the offing.
I’m doubtful I would have felt more sandbagged if Mike Tyson had punched me in the head for five minutes. NOBODY saw that one coming.
So, I’ve asked around and done some digging about the status of Disney Genie.
You may remember that Disney revealed this virtual assistant during the 2019 D23 Expo.
According to Disney officials, Disney Genie is “a revolutionary new digital offering set to debut in late 2020.”
Well, that’s what Disney said in August of 2019, one full pandemic ago.
I’d previously suggested that the parks should reopen with Disney Genie available.
Based on conversations I’ve had, I fully expected this to happen, only…it’s not.
Nobody’s even sure why. Some Disney insiders have suggested that the company might implement a paid FastPass system akin to Disneyland’s MaxPass.
However, even that rumor meets a lot of resistance from other parties.
A Potential Plan for Disney Genie?
We know Disney has canceled all existing dining reservations and FastPasses, giving its computer systems an unprecedented opportunity for a hard reset.
We also have learned that FastPasses aren’t coming back anytime soon, if ever.
The new plan for Disney Genie will alter the way that people view park experiences.
Disney will add something akin to Wishes, personal requests guests make to improve their visits.
Do you like rides? Your Wish would involve more digital reservations.
Yes, I know that’s virtual queuing, but remember that we’re talking about long-term goals for Disney Genie.
Similarly, you could ask for special events like the fireworks dessert party or a personalized character greeting with the Disney figure you love the most.
In other words, Disney Genie would give more ways to ask the system for special treats, things that add a splash of magic to a park day.
Historically, you could get the same effect by asking a cast member. The app would merely codify your request in the computer system.
Imagineers could utilize this information to provide more happiness to all Disney Genie users.
Such changes would raise park visit survey results. And that’s always a driving force for change at Disney.
Since the parks won’t reopen with Disney Genie, it’s undeniably unready for public consumption.
However, Disney has a rare opportunity here. The park capacity limits will allow Imagineers to perform live testing.
So, Disney might not have virtual queuing at the start, but the parks could gradually implement some aspects over time.
I strongly suspect that’s the plan here. As such, we’ll have plenty of stories to track about quick, unannounced Wishes tests at the parks.
All of them will lead to the next generation of Disney park visits, ones where Disney Genie grants your Wishes.