Lots of noteworthy things happened in the theme park world over the last five weeks, but none of them seemed more worthy of an entire header than any of the others. So instead, let’s just rattle some of these news items off!
- Late last month, Disney finally resolved their tumultuous negotiations with its Walt Disney World Cast Member union, giving workers their desired minimum wage of $18/hour, as well as numerous other benefits. This continues Disney’s unbroken streak of eventually doing the right thing after numerous unforced errors that end up portraying them as the bad guys anyway.
- Just yesterday, Disney announced a pair of special after-hours Pride Nites to be held at at Disneyland on the evenings of June 13 and 15th. While the unofficial and fan-organized Gay Days have been a long-standing tradition on both coasts,1 this will be Disney’s first official celebration of the LGBT+ community at their parks. I expect this move to upset absolutely nobody.
- In unrelated news, Florida governor Ron Desantis continues his petty war against the Walt Disney Company as the state officially took over control of the Reedy Creek Improvement District earlier in the month, an ongoing retaliation for that one time back in 2022 when a press release from Bob Chapek hurt the governor’s poor widdle feelings. Up until now, the existence of the RCID allowed Disney to have direct control over the infrastructure, civic services, and zoning of the land on which Walt Disney World sits. The district’s new governing board consists of five conservative Desantis appointees, all of whom hold extremely transparent anti-Disney agendas. Disney, for their part, seem unconcerned by this change — perhaps because the old board’s last order of business before disbanding was to pass a resolution stating that everything about the operation of the RCID will continue exactly as-is, irrevocably and in perpetuity.
- Disneyland’s new and improved Toontown officially reopened on March 19, adding much-needed greenery and interactivity to the previously all-concrete land. Toontown will never be my favorite area of the park, but it’s an indisputable upgrade, and I’m genuinely impressed by how analog it all is. Also, we finally got a walkaround Pete!
- Former Imagineer Bruce Vaughn returned to Disney last month to take over as Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney Imagineering. Vaughn’s previous tenure at WDI was one of the high points in the now-floundering institution’s history, and as a result, his return has many optimistic about a change for the better when it comes to the culture and governing philosophy of Imagineering.
- A half-hour version of Rogers: The Musical will begin performances at California Adventure’s Hyperion Theater in June.
- Per Bob Iger, an Avatar “experience” is on its way to the Disneyland Resort. Will this be basically nothing, or an entire land, akin to Animal Kingdom’s Pandora? As of press time, there is equal evidence to suggest both possibilities.
- Following in the footsteps of its East Coast sibling, Disneyland’s Splash Mountain will shut down for good on May 31st, beginning its transformation into Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.2 A recent press release offered welcome confirmation that this new iteration of the attraction will make use of new, bespoke audio-animatronics, rather than simply papering over the old show scenes with screens as many (read: I) had long feared. This overhaul is expected to last well into 2024, if not longer, though the rebranding of New Orleans Square’s French Market restaurant into Tiana’s Palace should be complete before the end of this year.
- In the one piece of Universal news that came across my desk: Poseidon’s Fury, a walkthrough attraction in the Lost Continent area of Universal’s Islands of Adventure — and indeed, the Lost Continent’s ONLY remaining attraction — will be permanently closing next month. This has led to rumors that Universal, inspired by their hugely successful Super Nintendo Lands, may retheme the area to one that recreates the Legend of Zelda’s Hyrule, just in time to tie in with the release of the series’ newest entry, Tears of the Kingdom. 3 What this news means for the status of the Lost Kingdom’s signature restaurant Mythos is unclear, though I for one hope it survives long enough for me to finally eat there.
Lastly, I want to give a shoutout to something that has nothing to do with Disney OR Universal for a change:
ElToroRyan’s YouTube series “Problematic Roller Coasters” is a reliably entertaining look into the myriad problems and solutions that come about as part of a roller coaster’s design, construction, and upkeep. His most recent episode is on Busch Gardens’ dearly departed Big Bad Wolf, the rare non-Disney coaster that I have fond memories of riding once upon a time. If you like amusement parks enough to be here, it’s well worth a look!
Feel free to use this space to discuss all things theme- or amusement park!
Optional Discussion Question: Do you collect any particular kind of theme park souvenir, in blind bags or otherwise?
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