A recent story published by D23 discussed "Every Upcoming Disney Movie, TV Show, Disney Parks Attraction, and More We Can't Wait to See in 2021." Noticeably absent was any mention of TRON Lightcycle Power Run or Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. Now, perhaps these will both still open in 2021 - but I am speculating this will not be the case ...and that perhaps the opening of both is still quite a ways off.
Before I go further, I do want to state that this is not what I *want* to happen, but putting myself in the shoes of Disney executives, this may be what they are thinking. Also, even without these two attractions, I do believe there are plenty of new things to make a trip to Walt Disney World in 2021 exciting - especially if you stayed away in 2020.
So why might the opening of these under-construction attractions be delayed?
With many of the Disney parks being closed for parts of 2020 - and some are still closed - combined with the current reduced capacity seen in the parks that are open, The Walt Disney Company needs to start generating income from the parks before they will invest money into new major capital expenditures for them. This is a way of saying not to expect them to start on any major new projects for quite some time.
Given this, what is already in progress will get done, but they will want to spread out the openings of these as much as they can. If they are going to delay openings, then they will want to spread out the construction across as many fiscal quarters as they can so they can split up the cost.
In short, if these are the last new major attractions to come for quite a while, why open them all at once and then go a long period with nothing new opening?
Currently, the parks that are open are still being limited to a reduced capacity level. It appears the parks are filling fairly well, often approaching that limit, so, for the near term, Disney doesn't really need anything to attract significantly more people to their parks.
But the capacity limits will be increased (or removed all together) at some point. At that point, does Disney need big and shiny new draws? Maybe not:
- There already is pent up demand as people that have been holding off on trips will come just to come.
- By the point "normal" crowd levels are allowed, it may well be close to Halloween and the holiday season and also the official Walt Disney World 50th anniversary date - people will come for those things anyway.
- People that skipped 2020 likely have some new things to see that are already open - for example, many haven't seen Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway and some haven't yet ridden Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. In some ways, there is already enough "new stuff."
Spreading crowds across the parks:
When crowds do come back, which of the four theme parks will need the most help attracting people in the longer term?
Magic Kingdom: The Magic Kingdom is the Magic Kingdom, and especially with the additions and updates coming for the 50th anniversary (even if it is somewhat muted compared to original plans), people will come.
Disney's Hollywood Studios: The most recent major additions to Walt Disney World, Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge and Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway, have both been located in Disney's Hollywood Studios. It is also the smallest of the theme parks and is often the first to reach capacity. This is the park that least needs a new draw.
Disney's Animal Kingdom: The next most recent addition was made to Disney's Animal Kingdom in the form of Pandora: The World of Avatar. While I could argue the park could still use more attractions, nothing has broken ground, so not much can be done at this point.
EPCOT: Which leaves us with EPCOT, which is the park clearly in the most need of a new attraction to encourage people to come. So they should open up Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind as soon as possible, right? Not so fast. Yes they need new draws, but some are closer to opening or are more critical to the flow of the park. Remy's Ratatouille Adventure is nearing completion and while perhaps not as exciting as Cosmic Rewind amongst the majority of Disney fans, it (and the new area that it is part of) will attract guests. Plus Space 220 is close to completion and indications are that the new nighttime spectacular, Harmonius, will open in 2021. All these, plus the new entrance fountain and whatever gets done with the World Celebration area, will be more than enough to get people to want to come to the park. No need to open up something else on top of that just yet.
There are a number of big Disney anniversaries coming up: the first is the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World on October 1, 2021, then EPCOT's 40th is on October 1, 2022, and then the 100th of The Walt Disney Company on October 16, 2023.
If you notice, all of those dates are in October. Rather than celebrate only on those specific dates, Disney can opt to celebrate for a year starting on that date. Meaning, celebrate Walt Disney World's 50th from October 1st, 2021 to September 30th, 2022 - and Disney can take the position that not everything needs to be ready for day 1 of the celebration, but instead debut throughout the year. Therefore, something like TRON Lightcycle Power Run could open up in early 2022 and still be part of the 50th celebration.
Taking all of the above into consideration, a potential timeline for new additions at Walt Disney World could look like:
2021: Get things "back to normal" and see what that looks like, Remy's Ratatouille Adventure and Space 220 open at some point in the first half of the year, Harmonius starts in the second half, and the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser opens to help bring in additional money. Overall, plenty of "new stuff" - especially for people that skipped 2020.
2022: TRON Lightcycle Power Run is the big thing, as part of the WDW's 50th year-long celebration, and it opens in the first half of the year.
2023: The major addition is Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind which opens in the first six months of 2023 as part of EPCOT's 40th year-long celebration. Potential for other additions to that park, such as the Play Pavilion, to also open.
2024: This will cover most of the year-long celebration for the 100th anniversary of the founding of The Walt Disney Company. As a part of this, we will see the Princess and the Frog retheme for Splash Mountain come to the Magic Kingdom.
2025: The Spaceship Earth update is one project that was put on hold that I believe still needs to happen at some point. While not a new attraction or land, this is a pretty significant update for a marquee attraction at EPCOT.
2026: Hopefully by now there has been sufficient and consistent positive cash flow coming from the theme parks that Disney can start new capital investment projects, and now would be the time to see something in Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Again, this isn't what I want to see. I really think at least TRON Lightcycle Power Run should be completed in time for the 50th anniversary on October 1st, 2021. The thought of that attraction sitting there but not open, including, potentially, the Walt Disney World Railroad not operating during the start of the event, saddens me.
From Disney's point of view, though? Spreading out the openings of these major additions might make the most sense ...at least fiscal sense.
When do you think these attractions will actually open?