Disney Rumors for September 2020
In this month’s rumors, we’ll talk about a hot rumor that may have already cooled off. Also, we’ll discuss a term that nobody wants to hear about construction.
The latest batch of Disney rumors comes with a strange mix of optimism and pessimism.
The Wakanda Dilemma
Sometimes, an old rumor becomes hot again, and that’s what has happened this month.
Once again, Disney officials are weighing the possibility of building an entire expansion around the fictional city of Wakanda.
You should remember this place as the home of Black Panther and his family. I previously mentioned the possibility of a Wakanda themed land at least once.
For a while now, rumors have percolated that Disney wants to construct this futuristic, high-tech city hidden in the heart of Africa.
The most logical place to host Wakanda is Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It already has Harambe Village, a themed land based on Africa.
That’s the version of the rumor I had heard the most, although even it comes with a savage caveat.
When Universal Orlando Resort initially advertised its Marvel themed land, some of the artwork featured Black Panther.
Presumably, Universal wouldn’t do that unless it believed it owned the licensing rights for the character.
Since those rights exist in perpetuity, Universal should still have them. So, any Walt Disney World version of Wakanda must clear a legal hurdle.
Presumably, Disney would cut Universal a check in exchange for regaining rights to the character it owns.
If not, the second-most logical place for Wakanda is at Disney California Adventure, where Avengers Campus nears completion.
However, that’s not the rumor, either.
Wakanda…at the World Showcase?
Frankly, I don’t believe this rumor, but it’s the juiciest thing out there right now.
Some insiders, possibly because of a podcast comment, believe Disney will introduce Wakanda as the next pavilion at the World Showcase.
Yes, EPCOT would host the first fictional country in its cultural melting pot at the back of the park.
The idea here is that Black Panther stunned everyone with its blockbuster success. Disney wants the film to have a strong presence at the parks.
Adding Wakanda at the World Showcase sends a message that the franchise isn’t a one-hit-wonder.
Instead, Disney envisions more than a flash in the pan. So, Imagineers are weighing the possibilities for a Wakanda pavilion.
In a way, the idea isn’t crazy, as it would mirror the Xandar pavilion at the front of the park.
Yes, the Guardians of the Galaxy roller coaster building will be an entire pavilion with the theme of an alien planet.
Disney could have Marvel intellectual properties anchoring both halves of EPCOT, which would unquestionably drive traffic.
Also, any implementation of Wakanda would highlight the city’s visual splendor, an eye-catching change from the current World Showcase landmarks.
Still, I worry that Disney would face pushback from the very real countries already in the World Showcase if it added a fictional one.
More importantly, these rumors arose only days after the untimely death of Chadwick Boseman, the actor who portrays Black Panther.
As such, we don’t know how much of this Disney had planned before the tragedy. The sudden change might cancel any previous plans.
On the other hand, Disney may want to press forward with a Wakanda pavilion now as a lasting tribute to a terrific actor and even better man.
That’s the aspect that prevents me from dismissing this rumor entirely.
Let’s Talk Engineering Terms
Do you work for a large corporation? If so, you understand that some terms like reorganizing and restructuring are never good.
The same premise applies to theme parks and, well, any type of construction project.
The dirtiest words are “value engineering,” and they make project managers cringe with fear.
Value engineering theoretically means “providing the necessary functions in a project at the lowest cost.”
In the real world, this premise indicates that budget cuts drive all construction processes. The boss’s boss won’t sign off on any project changes unless they’re the cheapest plans possible.
In other words, value engineering is synonymous with cost-cutting. You see where I’m going with this, right?
The prevailing belief among Disney insiders is that most planned projects have undergone value engineering processes.
Yes, I’m talking slashed budgets.
Obviously, we’d known this was coming when Disney’s Chief Financial Officer indicated that the company had cut $900 million in capital expenditures from the budget.
Disney has since reduced that number, meaning that it’s loosened up the purse strings a bit.
Still, some of the park enhancements we’d all anxiously anticipated may look entirely different now. In truth, some may never happen.
The explanation as to why is that they’re experiencing value engineering.
A Few Examples
Disney itself reveals one of the weirdest ways to know when a project has changed.
Park officials will instruct website managers to rephrase or remove content from the site.
When this happens, a project is either dead or on life support.
Well, that’s what happened to the festival pavilion at EPCOT. You may recall that Disney revealed some grand plans at D-23.
One of them would have been a three-level festival pavilion that anchored World Celebration. This place would have become the home base for all park festivals.
Alas, Disney has eradicated most signs of its existence. In fact, Disney had created some posters that included images of the pavilion.
The company has chosen not to release them, as they’d immediately qualify as collector’s items.
EPCOT may yet construct something in this space. Still, it’d be – wait for it – value-engineered rather than the ambitious project we’d expected.
Other projects are flat out dead, and I’m afraid that the Mary Poppins ride is one of them, at least in its current incarnation.
Another strange rumor coming from EPCOT is that the Moana water feature may not arrive as announced.
Instead, Disney may change it in favor of something less expensive and, thereby, less impressive.
The harsh reality is that many of these attractions must sing for their supper, so to speak.
They must demonstrate immediate, significant appeal. Otherwise, they won’t ever get constructed.
Even something as innocuous as the upcoming Woody-themed barbecue joint at Toy Story Land may face budget cuts.
The good news here is that headliner projects like Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser and Tron Lightcycle Power Run have survived the cut.
These highly anticipated additions apparently didn’t suffer budget reductions, at least not extensive ones.
So, the capital expenditure reductions come from lower-tier projects, not the ones that Disney believes will sell tickets.
Overall, the current Disney buzz isn’t as worrisome as many had feared a few months ago…but it’s still not great.