The SATURDAY SIX looks at the latest happenings at WALT DISNEY WORLD and the UNIVERSAL ORLANDO RESORT

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This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the recent happenings at WALT DISNEY WORLD and the UNIVERSAL ORLANDO RESORT!  Florida is preparing itself for a pretty big 2019 and an absolutely HUGE decade following that, so this week we’re gonna give a quick look at some projects currently in the works along with other news and notes that should be on your radar. Let’s kickoff the countdown in a big way with…

# 6 – Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

To say Disney is putting all their eggs in one Galaxy’s Edge basket may be an understatement. For those who are immersed in theme park news, there have been reports from just about every major theme park website reporting soft crowds and even softer hotel bookings this year. Disney all but confirmed that things aren’t going well by only blocking out seasonal passholders for less than one week this summer and throwing an additional bone to annual passholders. Recently they listed out 19 NEW Things Coming To WDW in 2019 which includes a bunch of dance parties and things that already exist (SURPRISE, there’s an Epcot Food & Wine Festival next year!)

With the lack of major attractions showing up within two years at Animal Kingdom, Epcot, or Magic Kingdom, one can make a reasonable assumption that Disney believes strongly that the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at DHS is going to cure many of its current ills. From what we can see of Galaxy’s Edge, it certainly appears to be absolutely STUNNING. It’s the Star Wars land everyone always wanted. The sheer size of the area is almost impossible to take in unless seeing it in person as pictures do not do the land justice.

Let’s take a look around the land, shall we?

Aerial view of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.(photo by @bioreconstruct)

The following two pictures show an area of Galaxy’s Edge compared to what the scale model of the area shows in the Walt Disney Presents gallery. Have to honestly say that just seeing Star Wars related space ships in real life makes the 10 year old me cry in sheer joy.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Model of Galaxy’s Edge in the Walt Disney Presents gallery. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Here workers on putting some details on a section of wall, followed by a picture of the model in the Walt Disney Presents gallery showing how those details will look in the overall big picture.

Construction workers in Galaxy’s Edge. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Model inside Launch Bay.(photo by @bioreconstruct)

Here rock work is being applied to the latest spire to be added to the area.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Aerial view of the BATTLE ESCAPE attraction. With the combination of current technology, the Star Wars brand, and Imagineer Scott Trowbridge – the man behind Universal’s Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man – Battle Escape has all the potential to be the greatest theme park attraction ever made.

Battle Escape. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

The Millenium Falcon will be sitting in the open spot in the middle of this area.

Millenium Falcon attraction. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

The Black Spire Outpost will have a large themed area for food and merchandise.

Black Spire Outpost. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

The rock work is actually “petrified tree” theming.

Galaxy’s Edge. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Galaxy’s Edge as seen from Toy Story Land. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

 

# 5 – Coronado Springs

The new tower at the front of Coronado Springs is coming along nicely. It was just about one year ago where we had a family vacation at Coronado and they had recently started the project. As someone who absolutely loved both Coronado and Caribbean Beach, its going to be interesting to see how these gigantic hotels affect the “feel” of each resort. I get it, Coronado needed a way to get some better amenities for conventioneers who need to wine and dine their clients, but this is a huge change for a couple of “relaxing” resorts.

Coronado Springs tower. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Top of the tower. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Other side of the Coronado Springs tower. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

What I’m definitely looking forward to is the lounge that is being built right on the lake itself in front of the new Tower. We loved just grabbing a beverage and taking a leisurely stroll around the lake, and I think its going to be great to enjoy a meal while sitting above the water!

New lounge at Coronado Springs. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
The structure of the new lounge. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

There will be three different bridges to the lounge leading from different areas of Coronado Springs. Here is one of the bridges.

Bridge. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

This is the last of the three bridges to be built. As you can see it is still in the process of construction. Until recently a barge with a crane on it needed to maneuver in this area, but now it appears all the major work is done.

(photo by @bioreconstruct)

The Pepper Market, in my opinion pound for pound one of the best food courts at Walt Disney World, has recently been rebranded into EL MERCADO DE CORONADO for reasons unknown. The new name sounds like a Mexican luchador (professional wrestler,) so I’m all for it. This seemingly completes months of minor refurbishments to the area (there was also a complete overhaul to the nearby Rix Lounge, transforming it into Rix Sports Bar & Grill.)

El Mercado de Coronado. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
New name. Same food court for the most part. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Nachos at El Mercado del Coronado still one of the best values at WDW.
Some of the signage still says Pepper Market. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

 

# 4 – Disney Skyliner

If your life is obsessed with Disney social media channels like mine, then you spent way too much time reading about people complaining about whether or not the upcoming Disney Skyliner transportation system will have air conditioning. The bad news: it doesn’t appear like it will, which sounds disastrous. The good news: by all accounts it looks like guests won’t be on any section of the Skyliner for a long length of time. Based on an 11mph speed, which has been used by similar gondola systems, the longest stretch of distance would still be under 4 minutes of ride time. We’re also hearing these gondolas will travel even faster than that. Regardless, as we all know nothing bad ever happens to Disney transportation systems, so thankfully there is a less than zero chance that a guest will be stuck in a glass tube under the Florida sun in the middle of an August day where the temperature is approximately 105 degrees with 100% humidity.

Map of WDW gondola system with approximate ride times. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Gondola station outside DHS.

(photo by @bioreconstruct)

This is the Skyliner “turn station” as guests travel between Disney’s Caribbean Beach and Epcot (note Spaceship Earth in the far left background.)

(photo by @bioreconstruct)

Close-up of the “turn station.”

(photo by @bioreconstruct)
Section of Skyliner at Epcot’s International Gateway. As seen from the France Pavilion. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Disney’s Caribbean Beach is going to be the main “hub” of the entire Skyliner, so its station is much larger than the others.

(photo by @bioreconstruct)
Aerial look at the Caribbean Beach Skyliner station. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Aerial view of the Skyliner station in-between Pop Century and Art of Animation.

(photo by @bioreconstruct)

Art of Animation station.

(photo by @bioreconstruct)

Close-up of Art of Animation Skyliner station.

(photo by @bioreconstruct)

 

# 3 – Universal’s Surfside Inn & Suites

A lot of hotel owners on International Drive are stocking up on Pepto Bismol, as Universal is rapidly putting up its newest hotel, Surfside Inn & Suites. With price points starting at just $73 for standard rooms and $111 for family suites, nearby “cheapo depot” hotels are going to have to really raise their game to compete with Universal. Believe it or not, Surfside is actually closer to the UOR transportation hub than Cabana Bay.

Surfside Inn & Suites. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Surfside Inn & Suites.(photo by @bioreconstruct)

Surfside Inn is part of the ENDLESS SUMMER RESORT, with its sister hotel, Dockside Inn being built directly next door. In the picture below you can pretty much see the entire Universal Orlando Resort directly behind Surfide Inn, including the short bus ride to the transportation hub.

Surfside Inn on the left, the empty clearing on the right will be for Dockside Inn. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Painting of Surfside Inn began in earnest this week. The colorful swatch seen on the end of one building has been there awhile, but now large sections of the hotel are being painted as well.

(photo by @bioreconstruct)

 

# 2 – Universal Debuts Mobile Ordering

There’s no one better than Universal at surprising guests with things that probably should have been hyped up earlier, and they’ve gone and done it again with mobile ordering appearing on the UOR app out of nowhere. Mobile Ordering at Walt Disney World can be a lifesaver. Recently I was standing in line at Aloha Isle to get a pineapple upside down cake. The line wasn’t moving at all and of course it was a million degrees out. I broke down and decided to mobile order. Placed my order, was immediately informed by the app that my order was ready, and was picking up my dessert while THE LINE HADN’T MOVED.

As of right now, only The Burger Digs at Islands of Adventure offers mobile ordering, but Those In The Know say it will go to Captain America Diner next. The only negative of mobile ordering – and this applies to both Disney and Universal’s version – is that you can’t use any discount on your order. Normally that would drive me nuts, but the time saved from not standing in line makes me just say “serenity now” and move on.

Mobile Ordering at The Burger Digs. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Select the foods you want. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Don’t forget dessert! (photo by Michael Carelli)
Complete your order. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Pick up your order at a dedicated window. (photo by Seth Kubersky)
Vegan burger with gluten free bun at The Burger Digs. (photo by Michael Carelli)
The World Famous BROOKIE. (photo by Michael Carelli)

 

# 1 – Harry Potter Coaster at Islands of Adventure

As the story goes, when Universal announced the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade in 2007, it saw attendance drop because guests wanted to wait until the Potter section was open in 2010. Since being “burned,” Universal Orlando now rarely gives much detail on big projects in advance. Last year they had a brief announcement that Dragon Challenge was closing and would be replaced by a Potter themed “family coaster” and that was pretty much it. No name of the attraction. Not when it may open. Not a single detail about the actual ride. Keep in mind this attraction will almost assuredly be open before Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway at DHS.

There is some informed speculation about what the upcoming coaster will be, and the rumors seem to be all but “confirmed” as construction goes on. Before checking out the construction pictures, I recommend watching this video made by Alicia Stella, who has put together information from some solid sources to give us an idea of what may be coming.

 

First of all, if the final attraction is even half as cool as that video makes it sound, we are in for a magical treat in 2019!  Imagine a coaster which looks to combine some of my favorite features of Busch Garden’s Cheetah Hunt coaster, the “going backwards” part that is so awesome in Expedition Everest and Revenge of the Mummy, and also happens to have dark ride scenes, audio animatronics, AND A SUDDEN DROP FEATURE. I’m not sure we are worthy of such a ride!

Aerial view of the new Potter Coaster construction with Hogsmeade in the background. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

If you zoom in, you’ll see some great details in this show building.

(photo by @bioreconstruct)
Nighttime lights for around the clock construction. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

An aerial look at the portion of the coaster in which the ride will actually drop the coaster straight down!

(photo by @bioreconstruct)

This area is rumored to be Hagrid’s Hut and looks more and more like it every day.

(photo by @bioreconstruct)
Shot of the hut-looking structure taken from the ground. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

 

BREAKING: Universal released concept art for the new coaster.

 

HONORABLE MENTION –  Universal Expansion

Speaking of Universal rumors, everyone is waiting for the big announcement of their third official theme park. They have quietly been obtaining back a good amount of land they had sold under previous management, and have been getting a large site ready for what appears to be another resort. The photo below is a spot of land that is actually larger than the current Universal Orlando Resort! The arrows refer to entrances from Destination Parkway and Universal Blvd. Here is where we will probably see a large Nintendo presence, which could reignite Central Florida in much the same way the original Wizarding World did. What else will the new park bring? Jurassic World? How to Train Your Dragon? Kung Fu Panda? A Wizarding World area themed to Fantastic Beasts? A Fast & Furious attraction THAT IS ACTUALLY FAST (sorry, venting there.) Now that Galaxy’s Edge is nearing completion, this is the Next Big Thing for all us theme park fans to salivate over.

(photo by @bioreconstruct)

 

DOUBLE SECRET HONORABLE MENTION – Brigitte’s Garden

There are so many details at Walt Disney World that even a seasoned theme park veteran can be surprised by something that has always been in plain sight. Brigitte’s Garden is located at DHS and is in honor of Brigitte Hartley. An animator who worked on several high profile projects including Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, The Rescuers Down Under, and The Prince and the Pauper, Brigitte passed away from cancer at an early age. Max Howard, at the time head of Disney’s animation department, had a garden built and dedicated it in her honor. While the Disney’s Florida animation studio at DHS is long gone, the animation building itself along with Brigitte’s Garden still stands.

Arrow marking Brigitte’s Garden at DHS. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

 

TRIPLE THREAT HONORABLE MENTION – New WDW Refillable Cup

In recent years, Disney hasn’t updated their resort refillable mugs with any regularity. At one time each resort had its own cup, but like many things at WDW they all switched to become one generic theme. Thankfully several years ago a wonderful new design came out which referenced a whole bunch of resorts. We’ve had those same cups at WDW for well over three years now, while during the same time period Universal’s Cabana Bay has come out with four different versions for their guests (including one themed to Halloween and another to Christmas.) This year Disney released a Halloween themed refillable cup for its resort guests, and it is fantastic! A hot seller – in fact unavailable in many places almost immediately – the cup features Goofy, Mickey, Minnie and Donald dressed up in Halloween outfits.

(photo by @viewsandqueues)
(photo by @viewsandqueues)

 

FIRST EVER FOUR HORSEMEN HONORABLE MENTION – Mickey Oreos

While not park related, the new Mickey Mouse Oreos are all over the place down here in Florida. There are three different cookie designs, and somehow the “birthday cake” creme inside is even sweeter than the normal Oreo creme. There was a brief time when Disney didn’t want to celebrate Mickey Mouse’s “age” as they wanted to him to appear as “timeless” instead of “old,” but a 90th birthday celebration means we’re about to see a whole bunch of food and merchandise themed to everybody’s favorite mouse!

Mickey Oreos.
Mickey Oreos.
Mickey Oreos.

So there you have it: The SATURDAY SIX Looks At What’s Going On At WDW and Universal! See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles, or, for your listening pleasure, check out the E-Ticket Report podcast. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).

If you enjoyed this article, you will surely like the following:

The Best SOUVENIR CUPS at Walt Disney World

6 Events That Won’t Be On Any Theme Park Calendar

Are Disney’s Hotels Going To The Dogs? A Review.

Special Thanks to our spirit animal Brandon Glover, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, best selling author of The Unofficial Guide to Universal Seth Kubersky, Mr. ‘Ohana Tim Grassey, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and Nick, hot shot Michael Carelli, and blogger to the stars Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. The SAT SIX is inspired each week by goofballs Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde and you Potterheads will  enjoy Meg’s other blog work over at the Central Florida Slug Club.

FINAL PLUG! Did you know The 2018 Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando has a special edition of the SATURDAY SIX in it? Finally, someone came up with an actual reason to read a book. ORDER this baby now!

Just about one year when I was on Fox News!

7 thoughts on “The SATURDAY SIX looks at the latest happenings at WALT DISNEY WORLD and the UNIVERSAL ORLANDO RESORT

  • September 29, 2018 at 10:24 am
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    Great post as always! BTW, if Len Testa and Jim Hill’s sources are correct, the Skyliner will have onboard airconditioning (can I get an amen?) and move at a blistering 16 mph (is that really blistering?). They talk about it on their 2 Sep 18 podcast (Episode 177) and mention that someone reached out to them with a ton of information (“the info dump you dream about”) about the Skyliner.

    Reply
  • September 29, 2018 at 5:48 pm
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    I just have to ask why you like Coronado Springs or its food court? We have stayed there twice this year and had the same opinion after our most recent stay as the first. The resort is just downright ugly with little to no theming. The distances to everything are huge even when you are supposedly close you have to go past the conference center so that is far and the other two areas are not even really walkable. The food court is terrible. IF anything the food has gotten worse. IT is more expensive than other places with the same food. Less food for more money. It was not nearly as tasty as the food at Pop and didn’t compare to any other meal. The service was terrible. The breakfast sandwiches were pre made in the am with no idea of how long ago. I truly regret choosing that hotel. It will never happen again. I loved Caribean Beach on the other hand.

    Reply
    • September 30, 2018 at 10:50 am
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      I totally agree with you regarding Coronado! We stayed only once, but never again. I just don’t get the love for it. Carribean Beach is great, though.

      Reply
      • September 30, 2018 at 11:38 am
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        I personally loved the different room sections of Coronado, and how different some of the sections can be from each other. The Dig Site pool area is in the top three of all pools at WDW in my book, and – for me – the food court is exceptional along with the nearby offerings at Rix and the Maya Grill.

        Reply
    • September 30, 2018 at 11:42 am
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      It’s getting dated now, but here is the SATURDAY SIX I did on Coronado and why I enjoy the resort: https://blog.touringplans.com/2016/09/24/s6_coronadosprings/
      I agree that some areas can be far away from others, but we enjoy the tranquil walks and compare it to why we like strolling around Caribbean Beach (which also has guests areas far away from places you want to go to.) I think your complaint is a valid one, and I bet the bridges that will get people across the huge lake will help in that regards. I’m shocked to hear someone say the food is terrible when there are so many different options outside of hamburgers and chicken fingers, but that’s definitely a personal choice. It may rank higher in my book because it has a Mexican food section that other Value and Moderates really don’t have. I also like that there are also terrific options just steps away at Rix and Maya Grill.

      Reply
      • September 30, 2018 at 4:19 pm
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        My wife an I stayed at the Coronado one week after Christmas several years ago, when they were the only Disney resort with free WiFi (because of the business travelers I guess). We loved it! Queen beds at a Moderate, great southwest feel, and excellent food for a Disney resort. Yes our room was far away from the front so we got a lot of walking in along with checking out the amenities.

        Reply
  • October 1, 2018 at 12:39 pm
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    Any details on an opening date(more specific than summer 2019)??? They honestly kept this well hidden from the public because I had no idea until today. Maybe now I can convince my husband to go again!!!

    Reply

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