Disney Rumors for November 2021
Destination D23 has come and gone, with Disney revealing its plans at the parks for the next year or two.
Executives kept most of the focus on what’s returning and news that Disney had previously confirmed.
We also learned a great deal just by what wasn’t said. So, we’ve got plenty of ground to cover in the latest Disney Rumors for November of 2021.
The Hard Truths of the Pandemic
This month’s rumors are more about what didn’t happen and why. If Disney didn’t announce something at Destination D23, you can safely rule it out for a while.
Since we didn’t get many massive news drops, Disney parks will remain in a holding pattern for now. That’s not all bad, though.
The company had previously announced E-ticket attractions like Tron Lightcycle Power Run and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind.
Those projects remain on track for debuting over the next year or so. In fact, Disney confirmed a summer start for the Guardians roller coaster.
Other Disney parks also have major developments underway. For example, Mickey’s Toontown at Disneyland will renovate in time for a new ride in 2023.
When Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway opens, the surrounding themed land will look substantially different and more modern.
International parks are getting new themed lands as well. We’re talking about another Avengers Campus at Disneyland Paris.
A Frozen themed land is underway at Hong Kong Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea alike. Disneyland Paris will get this new section, too.
So, the cupboard’s far from bare. Still, a headline takeaway from November’s Disney news is that capital expenditures are way down.
CEO Bob Chapek and CFO Christine McCarthy confirmed that the parks spent nearly $550 million less in fiscal 2021 than 2020.
Much of that difference stems from the fact that all the 2021 fiscal year suffered under the burden of Coronavirus.
With the parks closed and a pandemic in play, Disney didn’t work on some previously intended projects.
Part of the decision stemmed from health concerns for the workers involved. The other overriding factor was poor liquidity.
That’s what happens when a company suddenly loses $10 billion in expected revenue in a single fiscal year. Something’s gotta give.
So, What’s on Hold or Possibly Dead?
If you love EPCOT the way that I do, this update will bum you out.
For starters, Disney made no additional comments about the previously promised three-level Festival pavilion at World Celebration.
EPCOT would have used this place as a hub, a kind of gathering place for park guests.
During a previous D23, Disney showed gorgeous artist renderings of this pavilion.
Since the pandemic, cast members have described it differently. It’s no longer a multi-level architectural wonder at EPCOT.
Instead, Disney press releases call this place a “Festival area,” which is a polite way of saying the budget got cut.
We should no longer expect a visually dazzling pavilion akin to the Imagination! pavilion or Spaceship Earth, at least not in the short term.
Similarly, Disney made no mention of the PLAY! pavilion. Seemingly everyone involved believes that this project is still happening, just not soon.
You can see from this photo that Disney has done some work on the foundation…but not much:
Current work in the Play Pavilion area. pic.twitter.com/BphPjjbKbx
— bioreconstruct (@bioreconstruct) September 25, 2021
The third hit involves a planned attraction, the Mary Poppins ride. Unfortunately, at this point, I can’t find anyone who believes this project remains in the plans. “She’s dead, Jim.”
Finally, Spaceship Earth’s re-theming to a story-driven light that connects all the scenes is on hold.
Disney seems totally committed to doing this one, just not yet. Nothing’s gonna happen until after the 50th-anniversary celebration ends in March of 2023.
After that, Disney’s decision will depend on the company’s financial status at the time. And that’s just the cuts at one park!
Thankfully, none of the other places took the hit the way that EPCOT did. Still, we’re getting a new counter-service restaurant here rather than pavilions. That’s…not ideal.
About the Resorts…
Disney has faced more competition from outside competitors in recent years.
To wit, the Four Seasons Resort Orlando has earned acclaim as the most luxurious of all Walt Disney World resorts.
Park officials take that personally, as Disney’s Grand Floridian and Spa held that title for about 30 years. And that’s the problem.
Disney hasn’t added many luxury resorts during the 2000s, even as competitors have recently targeted that niche.
In a recent Disney Headlines article, I mentioned that other hoteliers believe that guests will pay more to stay close to Walt Disney World.
Disney’s only recent attempt to cultivate this market is the marvelous Disney’s Riviera Resort.
The company had announced one other project, Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge.
Then, earlier this year, Disney suddenly announced that it would convert an entire building of the Grand Floridian into Disney Vacation Club inventory.
Why is that important? DVC members had expected new inventory at Reflections in 2022, the previously announced opening year.
During D23, Disney provided updates on a new DVC Tower resort at Disneyland Hotel and the Grand Floridian project.
Nobody said anything about Reflections, which was telling. This project appears either dead or comatose.
However, we did get a bit of interesting news from Disney. The images of the DVC Tower showed something fascinating.
Tinkerbell appeared on the side of the building in one shot. This resort will apparently employ digital technology to change part of its appearance!
This one little Imagineering trick could hint at the future of Disney hotels. They could work like the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror’s exterior.
During the holidays, Disney projects images on the façade to make it look prettier.
Apparently, the Disneyland Tower expansion will do that daily. How exciting!
Why MagicBands Have Survived
Perhaps the biggest bombshell of the event involved the future of MagicBands. Disney had previously saved these wearables from extinction.
Now, we’ve learned that Disneyland will join Walt Disney World in adding the MagicBand system. That naturally begs the question: Why?
Smartphones can do anything that MagicBands can do…and better. Now that MagicMobile has enabled payments via room charges, MagicBands add nothing.
Well, park officials disagree. They paid lip service to the fact that the new MagicBand+ will light up in tandem with nighttime presentations.
Yes, that’s a cool feature, but is it enough to justify the continued existence of MagicBands? Honestly, probably not.
Your phone could do that as well if Disney wrote an app for it. So, what’s the deal?
Outside analysis perceived MagicBands as moneymaking devices. The only problem is similar to an old Big Pharma joke.
When a company manufactures a pill, the second costs ten cents, but the first one costs tens of millions of dollars.
With MagicBands, Disney has faced the same dilemma. These devices don’t cost much to produce, but the company spent more than $1 billion creating them.
Even worse, profit margins remained small since Disney gave many of them away for free.
As you know, that policy recently changed. So, Disney is now selling MagicBands for $20-$35 but paying only pennies for their manufacturing.
Given that knowledge, Disney would be crazy to kill the program, right?
This particular decision isn’t about improving the park experience for guests. Instead, it’s about selling a cheap item with a massive profit margin.