This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a (1,500 foot) look at the Walt Disney World Resort! It’s time to join @bioreconstruct in the air as he takes one of his regular flights above the Florida theme parks. You may remember earlier this year when we saw Bio’s aerial views of the Disneyland Resort out in California, and photos from the high-in-the-sky blogger ‘copter gives us a unique view that we can’t get from the ground. So let’s check out what’s going on at Walt Disney World, starting with…
# 6 – The Resorts
I’m sure there must be someone out there who is excited for the upcoming Reflections: A Disney Lakeside Lodge, which is being built on the former home of River Country, directly next to our beloved Fort Wilderness. Aside from the first Disney hotel named similarly to a Drug and Alcohol Rehab facility, what stands out to me is that it will be home to a Princess & the Frog themed restaurant. In theory, you would think a restaurant based around a movie that takes place in New Orleans would be a better fit in – say – Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter, but what do I know.
Here we have a gorgeous shot of the Bay Lake hotel area. At the top right is the area for Reflections, and in the direct center is one of my absolute favorite Disney hotels, Wilderness Lodge.
Staying on Bay Lake resorts, here we have the Contemporary and Bay Lake Tower. I’ve stayed at just about every Disney hotel on property and Bay Lake Tower had by far the best pillows of any of them. In the background you can see Space Mountain along with construction of the upcoming Tron coaster, but we’ll get to that later in the article.
Not only does @bioreconstruct provide stunning photos from the air, he is also putting boots on the ground seemingly daily to get us up close and personal with everything going on at Disney. For me personally, Disney finally connecting the walkway from the Grand Floridian to Magic Kingdom is maybe better than getting a new attraction. There are so many times that I’d be leaving Magic Kingdom at night and see a packed monorail line (if it was even running). Then I would see a packed boat launch line. At this point, I would sell my soul just to take a leisurely walk back to the Grand Flo, Poly, or TTC. Dreams are about to come true, as the walkway from MK to the Grand Flo is being extended and a pedestrian bridge is being constructed to go over the water.
Now, having just said one of my biggest Disney Dreams is to get this walkway, it better not come at the expense of the Electrical Water Pageant. If it does, I’m gonna lose it.
Ok, back to aerials. Here we have Gran Destino Tower and the rest of Coronado Springs. Look for an upcoming SAT 6 on Coronado as the resort has a lot to offer, including spa services and one of Disney’s best pool areas.
Many TouringPlans readers have stayed at the All-Star Resorts during their WDW vacations. One year I had family staying at the All-Stars while I stayed at the nearby Coronado Springs. I would drive over to meet them each day and the area had me thinking I was in a Seinfeld episode on more than one occasion. Late at night there would be a huge line in the food court for pizza. Seriously, the queue had switchbacks, never seemed to move, and – SPOILER ALERT – the pizza is among the worst on Disney property (and imagine the ground that is covering).
Close up of All-Star Sports and the four story tall cups of Coke (with the now banned straws). We made a case a while back that the All-Star Resorts should be taken to the Disney Dump, but that’s only in their current form. You could easily modify these to become some of the more fun hotels at WDW. Instead of what we have for All-Star Movies now, what about a superhero theme (including Big Hero 6)?
Overhead view of Caribbean Beach, and the upcoming Riviera Resort.
Below is a service area used by Caribbean Beach, Art of Animation, and Pop Century.
Next up are the Swan and Dolphin Resorts. I think there are some people reading this who wouldn’t even consider staying at the Swan or Dolphin because they aren’t owned and operated by Disney, despite being literally steps away from the Yacht & Beach Club resorts. You can find a lot of great prices at the Swan and Dolphin, the hotels have some of the best restaurants in all of WDW, and the pool area is terrific.
On the left hand side of the photo you can see the construction area for the new boutique hotel being built in the area, called The Cove.
Here is a ground view on the current construction of The Cove.
Here we have concept art of what The Cove will look like when finished.
We’ll close out our look at hotels with overhead shots of one of the most intriguing hotel concepts Disney has ever done. Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is something completely new to the Disney hotel business, and will work similar to the Disney Cruise Line-model with “cabins” instead of standard hotel rooms and a “2 night, all-immersive adventure.” So, at least to start, this will not be a cool Star Wars hotel that you can use to rest in during your WDW park days. This appears to be an interactive cosplay adventure writ large.
Here’s a current look of the Starcruiser from the air.
As a Star Wars mega fan, there are parts of this hotel that I’ve always dreamed of. Being able to sleep in a hotel room where the “windows” are basically going to simulate being in deep space is awesome. Being part of a two day storyline? That I’m not so sure of, especially at a price point that all but promises to be from a galaxy, far, far away from my budget. I’m open to Galactic Starcruiser being a true game changer, but I also wouldn’t be completely shocked if a boutique hotel which people assumed would be booked solid for years quickly became the NBA Experience Resort in terms of guests. Again, with no firsthand knowledge, I would predict sooner or later we will get the normal single night stay opportunities to experience a cool hotel.
Road work in the area outside Galactic Starcruiser, for new roads being built for the hotel.
# 5 – ESPN Wide World Of Sports
Here’s a neat look at the entire ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.
# 4 – Animal Kingdom
Overhead view of the Animal Kingdom park, including the massive show building for the Pandora: World of Avatar rides on the left hand side of the photo. The clearing at the top is a long-time designated expansion area.
View of the Africa section of Animal Kingdom.
On the left hand side of this photo we have look at the current state of what will become the Club 33 location for Animal Kingdom.
# 3 – Disney Hollywood Studios
Overhead view of DHS. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is on the left hand side of the photo. The giant blue building in the top right is the show building for Rock ‘n Roller Coaster.
This arrow is pointing to an excavator that is doing work to prepare for the upcoming restaurant in Toy Story Land (a restaurant that, along with a gift shop, should have opened with the land itself).
# 2 – EPCOT
Overhead view of EPCOT.
Overhead view of Spaceship Earth and the surrounding area of a soon-to-be-renamed Future World. It probably wont be long before the west side of Innoventions is demolished.
The arrows in this photo are pointing to all the various EPCOT construction projects going on in just this area of the park. Pretty amazing.
You can see the monorail on the left hand side of this photo as it passes what will eventually be the Moana: Journey of Water walk through attraction.
A ground level view of construction of what will become the Moana walkthrough. The Innoventions building in the background will also be demolished.
The big show building in the top center of this photo is for the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy themed coaster. The arrow is pointing to a recently constructed maintenance building that will support the attraction. Work is also being done on the former Wonders of Life Pavillion (gold dome building) which will be converted to the Play Pavillion.
Here is a look at the front facade of the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy attraction. This was the former home of Ellen’s Energy Adventure.
Ground level view of the sides of the GOTG building.
Overhead shot of the upcoming Space 220 restaurant. The left arrow is pointing to the restaurant while the arrow on the right is pointing to dumpsters being filled up with material from the Wonders of Life Pavilion.
Before we go to World Showcase, let’s get a ground level view of the current work going on at The Odyssey.
A new logo and some interesting details have been added to the outside of the building.
Here’s a better look at the new Odyssey logo.
Next we’re going to show you how fast things are changing down here at WDW. Earlier in the week Bio got these shots in World Showcase lagoon that would appear to be items that will used for the upcoming EPCOT Forever nighttime show that is replacing IllumiNations next week. On social media, several people who were staying at the nearby Yacht & Beach Club resorts posted pictures and video of the new show being tested in EPCOT late at night.
Here’s a ground level view showing the possible show elements on the bank of the lagoon.
Days later, everything was removed.
Here’s a picture of an area backstage at EPCOT which has several interesting things in it, including Friendship boats. The arrow at the bottom of the picture is pointing to jet skis, which will undoubtedly be the ones used to pull kites in the upcoming EPCOT Forever show. The upper left arrow is pointing to a stage structure which could be for the HarmonioUS nighttime show which will be replacing EPCOT Forever in 2020.
Overhead shot of the newly opened bag check and turnstiles area at EPCOT’s International Gateway. The security area has been greatly expanded, with the expectation that the nearby Disney Skyliner station will be bringing a lot of guests to that specific spot. To the left of the two green roofs you can see the path where guests exit the park.
Ground level picture of the newly opened bag check area.
The bag check area is at the top left of this photo, with the rest of the picture being an overhead look at the France Pavilion and the upcoming Ratatouille attraction. In the direct center are walls that have recently gone up for a new building in the area.
A side view of the France Pavilion and gigantic Ratatouille show building. In the center is a large banner with Remy the rat and “Opening 2020.” This is advertising to guests riding the Disney Skyliner.
A ground level view shows Disney Skyliner cabs in front of the France Pavilion, with the scrims and scaffolding for the upcoming Ratatouille attraction.
# 1 – Magic Kingdom
Overhead view of Magic Kingdom.
This shot shows Cinderella Castle and the hub. On the bottom left you can see part of a newly expanded walk way leading to the castle.
Here’s a really neat shot. The arrow is pointing to the area where Magic Kingdom’s nightly fireworks are launched from, and is a direct line from Cinderella Castle and Main Street USA. Its interesting to see just how far away the launch area is from Fantasyland.
Aerial view of Adventureland.
We have Storybook Circus at the bottom left of this photo, Space Mountain at the top right, and the upcoming Tron coaster in the top center.
Another view of the construction of the Tron coaster. On the left hand side of the building is the launch area that will send guests to the outdoor portion of the attraction. At the bottom center will be the load/unload area.
View from the side.
Here is a ground level view of the Tron coaster construction.
The arrows in this photo show where the Magic Kingdom railroad is going to pass by.
Speaking of Tomorrowland, this week a new structure went up with some signage.
At night the new entrance structure lights up.
Here’s a great shot with the Partners statue in the foreground.
Right outside the entrance to Magic Kingdom is the bus loop, and at the top center of this photo a shoreline that was recently redone.
Another example of some quick work being done is with the Ticket and Transportation Center’s parking lots. For those who have parked a car here, you surely remember what seemed to be a giant forest directly in the middle of the lot. These trees are being completely removed.
Here’s a closer look at the tree removal.
Okay, so here’s a ground level view showing what guests would see when driving in the parking lot.
Just a few days later? All gone.
HONORABLE MENTION – WDW’S Southeast Border
So there you have it: A 1,500 Foot View of Walt Disney World! 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).
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Special Thanks to The Elite Brandon Glover, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders of the world famous Disney Cruise Line Blog, my personal protege Hunter “Elvey” Underwood, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and Nick, hot shot Michael Carelli, and Hermione Granger’s tutor 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 2019 Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando has a special edition of the SATURDAY SIX in it?That’s right, ANOTHER NEW ONE EXCLUSIVE TO THIS EDITION!Finally, someone came up with an actual reason to read a book. ORDER this baby now!