Disney Rumors for February 2023
With Splash Mountain closed, we look forward to what might come next. Let’s talk about Frontierland in this month’s Disney Rumors.
Quick! How many attractions can you name at Frontierland?
Don’t worry. This isn’t Jeopardy, and I’m not grading you on your answers. Currently, your response would depend on how you define an attraction anyway.
Does Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade count? How about the Walt Disney World Railroad? I mean, it does include a station in Frontierland!
You could argue as many as five attractions. That list would include:
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Country Bear Jamboree
- Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade
- Tom Sawyer Island
- Walt Disney World Railroad
Two of those come with asterisks, while a third, Tom Sawyer Island, is…an island. It’s a glorified playground, albeit an incredible one, rather than an attraction.
In reality, Frontierland includes one ride (not counting the railroad) and one show-based attraction.
I could argue that Disney just shut down one-third of the attractions at Frontierland. Now, it consists of one ride, one show, and one…island.
You can see where I’m going with this. At best, Frontierland has entered a transitional stage.
What if Disney plans more than that, though? I mean, what do we know is coming next?
The answer is Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, the successor to Splash Mountain. It’ll use the same ride building and many of the same tracks.
Presumably, Disney won’t change the splashdown element at the end, either.
The framing of Cinderella Castle as guests ride down the mountain isn’t something anybody should alter. It’d be disrespectful to theme park history.
What do we know about Tiana’s Bayou Adventure? Disney has already established a specific setting of 1927.
Folks, there wasn’t a wild west remaining in 1927. The frontier era ended around 1890.
Yes, Disney has announced a Frontierland ride that exists outside the Frontierland era. Doesn’t that make you suspicious?
What Lies Beyond Big Thunder Mountain?
Sure, on its own, a 1927 setting wouldn’t mean much. However, once we factor in the dearth of other Frontierland rides, we start to wonder…
When you evaluate the map of Magic Kingdom, you can’t help but notice the space to the north and south of what we used to call Splash Mountain.
In fact, the southern portion resides on one of the spokes of the main Magic Kingdom walking path.
At the moment, Golden Oak Outpost represents the only thing Disney would need to close to create a themed land based on Tiana or New Orleans.
In that scenario, Disney could even keep Frontierland as primarily consisting of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Country Bear Jamboree.
Oddly, I think Disney fans would rise up more for Country Bear Jamboree since it’s an attraction Walt Disney touched.
Meanwhile, Disney could feasibly add other attractions for a new attraction along the walkway to the upcoming Tiana wet ride.
What style would that take? Frankly, most of this article relies on conjecture and speculation rather than hard news. But another Disney Princess ride makes sense.
Disney Parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro suggested that Coco, Encanto, and Disney Villains could lie beyond Big Thunder Mountain.
Let’s turn that notion on its head a bit by saying that Disney went south instead. Wouldn’t the Encanto house, Casita, look perfect here?
Imagine if Disney reinvented this part of Magic Kingdom over the next three years or so.
The magical Madrigal House would fit tidily to the side of the spoke between what we currently call Frontierland and Adventureland.
There’s legitimately a nice fit here if Disney wants to explore it. However, the company may hold even greater ambitions…
A Fifth Park?!
Disney recently hedged its bets on the impending dissolution of Reedy Creek Improvement District.
One day soon, Disney will likely need to answer to a board, one the company doesn’t choose on its own.
When that happens, Disney will face bureaucracy and the inevitable governmental pushback that often leads to slush funds.
So, Disney went ahead and gave itself permission to build a fifth theme park while it still could.
I don’t want you to get too excited just yet. The plans last through 2032. In fact, this was an extension of an existing plan through 2020.
Disney had allowed the land use paperwork to expire during the pandemic. Now, the company has provided itself with a decade of leeway.
In other words, this project likely isn’t in Disney’s immediate plans. It’s more of a “we’ll get to it when we have more money” thing.
If Disney hadn’t faced the Reedy Creek nonsense, I’m dubious whether they would have filed the extension.
However, the calculus changes at least a bit when Disney no longer fully governs its fiefdom.
As a precautionary measure, Disney has given itself some contractual guarantees in case its relationship with Florida’s government remains frosty.
Unlike the Frontierland speculation, this news is factual and has already occurred.
Disney will hold a second meeting during the first quarter of 2023 to advance the project a bit more.
You should expect that paperwork to be more of a formality than a big reveal. Still, the point is that Disney has set the table for something huge. Something like…
Villains Park? Villains Park!!!
Disney knows that its chief local competitor, Universal Studios, is currently constructing Epic Universe. That new theme park should open in 2025.
As soon as Epic Universe opens its gate, it becomes the first major Central Florida theme park of the 21st century.
For a time, Universal Studios will hold bragging rights and an operational advantage over Disney.
The latter scenario stems from Universal’s building a modern theme park, one that’s immersed in technology.
Since we haven’t had anything like that in Orlando since 1998/1999, it’s a gigantic competitive advantage.
Realistically, the internet wasn’t even big yet in the late 90s, much less social media and digital tech.
Both Universal and Disney have pieced together digital infrastructure on the fly at their existing parks. Epic Universe will have that from the ground up.
Disney likely wants to wait and see what Universal does before the Mouse reveals its hole cards.
In poker and business, you always want to see what your opponent does first.
I would expect Disney to finalize its park plans once Imagineers have seen what Epic Universe has to offer.
In other words, I’d put the timeline on a new Disney park in the range of 2029-2030.
Yes, I know that sounds like an eternity, but remember how long you waited for Pandora – The World of Avatar! That was totally worth the eight-year process, right?!
Even better, I honestly believe D’Amaro when he says Disney will create a Disney Villains Park. It’s what most people want.