When Mickey Mouse made his debut in 1928 in the cartoon Steamboat Willie, it set the ball rolling for what today is the world’s most popular theme and entertainment parks.
It’s been non-stop expansion for nigh on 70 years and the fun factory that is Walt Disney World is still churning out ways of making Disney World a better experience.
Say goodbye to standing in a queue to gain entry through a turnstile and collecting a paper ticket. No longer will you have to wait till you have gained entry to decide which rides you want and which to reserve. And as for cash and credit cards, you can leave those behind.
A $1 billion makeover and the roll-out of My Disney Experience app comprising MyMagic+ and FastPass+ has made sure of that.
Using RFID (Radio-frequency identification) technology you can chose and reserve your experiences before you go, connect credit cards for cashless payment for say, lunch or souvenirs, and even open the door to your hotel room. And there’s even e-magic for those wearing the e-band – give Mickey or Minnie a hug, they will reply by saying your name. For tweens that’s a wow factor.
And while the seamless experience is being honed Disney keeps adding entertainment for the millions of holiday-makers with their fearless teens and tweens who make their way there. Die-hards already know about the white-knuckle twists, high velocity turns and the stomach-wrenching rides such as Magic Kingdom’s Space Mountain and Splash Mountain.
And last year Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland was doubled in size with new attractions. The daily Festival of Fantasy Parade was added bringing magical stories of New Fantasyland to Main Street, U.S.A. through fantastic and innovative parade floats, vibrant costumes and an original soundtrack.
Also, Frozen Entertainment was added. Royal Sisters Queen Elsa and Princess Anna, along with rugged mountain man Kristoff from “Frozen,” joined the Royal Historians of Arendelle for a hilarious and interactive retelling of the “Frozen” story in “For the First Time in Forever – a ‘Frozen’ Sing-Along Celebration.” The 30-minute show is played out several times a day at the Premiere Theater, and everyone can sing along to chart-topping songs.
This year a refurbishment of Disney’s Polynesia Villas & Bungalows is underway. In all, there are 20 bungalows on Seven Seas Lagoon and 360 deluxe studios. Childcare is on hand and the area will have new pool area, a new children’s water play area, and even more poolside decking and seating.
The Great Ceremonial House lobby area will be completely renovated with bright, open areas, plus the new Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, a highly themed lounge area with handcrafted tiki cocktails and Polynesian-themed “small plates.” Also with an enhanced Captain Cooke’s quick service restaurant, all-new Polynesian Pool Bar & Grill, and a Pineapple Lanai kiosk featuring the world-famous Dole Whip round out the new dining options. These will be ready in April, but you can start booking in February.
There’s still plenty to look forward to. Regulars will see the gradual transformation of Downtown Disney into Disney Springs, a waterfront area dedicated to shopping, eating, entertain and al fresco promenades and meandering springs. The Landing is the first phase and comprises restaurants such as STK, Morimoto Asia and The Boathouse. There will be more but they haven’t been announced yet.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom was the last of the Florida parks to open and at 500 acres it is the largest of all Disney parks. And now it is undergoing the largest expansion in the park’s history.
Anyone who has tried the Expedition Everest or the Kllimanjaro Safari and the drives across the “African plain” where giraffes, zebras and rhinos and even lions bask under the sun rays may feel it already offers more than they had expected.
Yet there are several projects on the go, but perhaps the most exciting is a new night-time spectacular. Rivers Of Light promises to be an innovative show that Disney say is unlike anything ever seen in Disney Parks, combining live music, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery. The show will magically come to life on the broad, natural stage of the Discovery River, between Discovery Island and Expedition Everest.
Perhaps the most magical thing about Disney is its imagineering. It’s a word that describes scenarios that seem real thanks to hidden technology and can sometimes interact realistically with visitors. Using this technology it is bringing to life the mythical world of Pandora (remember the film Avatar?) at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park.
The awe-inspiring land of floating mountains, bioluminescent rain forests and soaring Banshees will become real for Disney guests to see, hear and touch.