2017 — A Look Ahead

by Debra Martin Koma
AllEars® Editor

Feature Article

This article appeared in the January 3, 2017 Issue #902 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.

Deb Koma with Sorcerer Mickey2017. How did THAT happen?

Yes, here we are, at the start of a brand spanking new year, with lots of change on the horizon.

And I don't just mean change in the country or in the world in general, although there are undoubtedly HUGE changes afoot (as witnessed by the upcoming six-month closure of the Hall of Presidents to install a new audio-animatronic Commander-in-Chief). I mean change in our beloved Walt Disney World and other Disney Parks.

A few months ago, reader Vicki Price wrote to us, sharing the things that have vanished from Walt Disney World that she misses, including Alien Encounter, the Contemporary Steak House, Spectromagic, and the Kodak pre-shows before Honey I Shrunk the Audience.

Her comments sparked a slew of emails from readers sharing similar thoughts. Aaron Hagan
wrote how he misses the Epcot band Future Corps, and how he used to devote one day of his vacation to catch all their performances. William Hayes mourned the loss of the Osbourne Lights at Disney's Hollywood Studios, while Leann said she missed watching Cinderella Castle's "goodnight kiss," with the different jewel colors projected on the castle through the night. Joan Finder's family came up with a long list of things that were gone-but-not-forgotten in their household, ranging from the Doug Live Show to Mickey and Minnie's houses in Toontown, to the original Journey into Imagination with Dreamfinder and Figment to the Tapestry of Nations/Dreams parade, the World Showcase Players, Off Kilter, Push the Talking Trash Can, the Hunchback of Notre Dame show (me, too!), the poacher plotline of the Kilimanjaro Safari ride that featured Little Red, the Wonders of Life pavilion…

Whew, that was a lot of nostalgia!

But, as Vicki Price pointed out in her original message, Disney World has not just taken away — it has added and made many improvements: Magical Express, Wishes, the O Canada movie with Martin Short, the Christmas lights on Cinderella Castle, MagicBands and the new hub area around the Castle.

That's the sort of thing I like to focus on as this new year of 2017 begins — what's being added.

We all know about the grand plans that will eventually materialize, one of the biggest being Star Wars Land. It's going to happen, we know it, along with the new Toy Story Land. Like everyone else, I'm eager to see how those new lands turn out, but there's no opening date for them as yet. So instead I have to concentrate on what we know for sure. Here are the three definites that are coming down the pike that I am really looking forward to.

1. The Epcot International Festival of the Arts. This new six-week festival promises to "combine visual, culinary and performing arts from around the world," and I'm anxious to see if it meets that challenge. Even though the first weekend of this new festival is next Friday, January 13, we really don't have a lot of details yet as to what's in store. We know that there will be hands-on workshops that allow us to participate in drawing and creating visual art. We know that Broadway-caliber performers will be on stage at America Gardens Theatre, singing tunes from Disney's Broadway musicals. And we know that there will be food, glorious food, around World Showcase, threatening to turn Epcot into a year-round Food and Wine Festival. But I'm OK with that. I think that food in particular is a great way to share in the various cultures represented around World Showcase's pavilion. I also think that this new festival has so much potential if it's done well. I'm sure there will be some first-year hiccups, but I'm hopeful that this event can inject some much-needed life into the quiet winter months.

2. Pandora — The World of Avatar. I know many of you think that the film Avatar is not worthy of an entire theme park land. I myself have tried to watch Avatar three times and have fallen asleep with each attempt — I have never seen the end of the movie! (Perhaps that's because I've been watching it in our comfy downstairs "man cave," which tends to get a little too warm and cozy, but still… ) But everything I've seen of the work that's being done on this new land in Animal Kingdom is exciting. Those giant blue animatronic Na'vi the Disney Imagineers have been teasing us with? They look awesome. The floating islands that you can spy from certain spots around Animal Kingdom? Magical. Riding a banshee? Count me in. And I'm always ready for a new dining experience — the land's new restaurant, Satu'li Canteen, and Pongu Pongu, a drink location, sound like they'll be right up my alley. Imagineer Joe Rohde and his team keep saying "Summer 2017," and I have to believe them… and I'm more than ready to see what they have in store for us.

3. New Dining Options at Disney Springs. Disney Springs has grown by leaps and bounds over the last year, and the addition of such a rich variety of dining choices, from STK Orlando to Art Smith's Homecoming and Morimoto Asia, is sheer bliss for an aspiring foodie like me. The next year promises the addition of at least five more spots at which we can satiate our appetites: The Polite Pig, which will feature wood-fired smoked and grilled items; the renovated and re-themed Planet Hollywood Observatory, with a focus not only on movie stars but the stars in the sky, and a new Stargazer Lounge; Paddlefish, the new incarnation of Fulton's, which will offer fresh seafood, steaks and chops; The Edison, billed as an "Industrial Gothic"-style restaurant, bar and nighttime destination that will feature classic American food and live entertainment; and Wine Bar George, from Master Sommelier George Miliotes, which will be home to more than 100 wines available both by the bottle and the glass and a menu that features seasonal small plates. I am really looking forward to these new noshes and nibbles, and can already imagine myself situated on the rooftop lounge of Paddlefish, looking over all of Disney Springs on a sultry summer evening.

If you take a look at where we were five years ago and compare that to today, you'll see that yes, we may have lost some classic attractions and shows at Walt Disney World, but we have also gained some new favorites. In fact, I wrote about what was ahead for Walt Disney World in this newsletter five years ago. At that time, we were lamenting the loss of Snow White's Scary Adventures, but now we have the awesome Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in its place. I consider that a fair trade. We were crying over the loss of Toontown, but is anyone sorry now that the fabulous New Fantasyland stands in its place? I love the gorgeous Be Our Guest restaurant (to look at if not to dine in) and I think Storybook Circus is simply fun.

Also five years ago we were still grieving over the demise of Pleasure Island, and I'll admit that even I am not over the closures of the Adventurers Club and Comedy Warehouse. But now we have the beautiful, vibrant Disney Springs, which, as I said above, I love — mostly for the dining and entertainment, not really for the shopping experiences, as nice and upscale as they may be.

So I'm ready for 2017 and whatever it might bring me and "The Most Magical Place on Earth." I know that no matter what I'll find something to love and enjoy during what I hope will be my many, many visits in the coming year.

= = = = = = = = = = = = =
= = = = = = = = = = = = =

Epcot International Festival of the Arts

Pandora – The World of Avatar

Wine Bar George

Planet Hollywood Observatory

The Polite Pig



Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.