For those folks who haven’t visited Walt Disney World in a while, you’d be surprised at how things have changed over the past few years. Actually, stunned might be a better word.
All four theme parks have subtracted beloved attractions, replacing them with exciting new adventures, most of which became instant classics worthy of hours-long wait times.
Entire new lands have popped up in the parks, with the most recent being Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, both in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Even outside the parks, the transportation system has been upgraded. Roadways leading to and from the parks have been updated, turning once bucolic two-lane roads into superhighways, complete with overpasses and elaborate on- and off-ramps.
And there’s a new gondola system, the Disney Skyliner, which enables guests to go from Epcot to Hollywood Studios, with stops at several nearby resorts.
Changes are in Advance of WDW’s 50th Anniversary
All of the changes come in advance of WDW’s 50th anniversary in 2021.
The Magic Kingdom started the parade of re-imagined lands and attractions with the introduction of New Fantasyland, where Enchanted Tales with Belle and Journey of the Little Mermaid took up shop in 2012, followed a few months later by the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train coaster.
During the construction, Dumbo the Flying Elephant was moved to a new location in Fantasyland and actually doubled in size, with the addition of a second twirling ride apparatus.
The area in front of Cinderella Castle also received a makeover, with more space added for guests to enjoy the nightly fireworks and castle projection shows.
Looking ahead, a new TRON-themed lightcycle attraction is taking shape near Space Mountain in the Magic Kingdom.
Makeover in Disney’s Animal Kingdom was Next Up
Once New Fantasyland was up and running, attention switched to the incredible makeover in Animal Kingdom. Pandora: The World of Avatar opened to rave reviews in 2017.
The new land, which took the place of the less-than-exciting Camp Minnie Mickey, features Na’vi River Journey, Flight of Passage, and a landscape that has guests convinced they are walking through the lush foliage and under the floating mountains of Pandora.
The park also placed an added emphasis on night-time entertainment, with a nightly projection show on the Tree of Life, a Kilimanjaro Safari ride in the dark, and a water spectacular called Rivers of Light.
New Lands Added to Hollywood Studios
In 2018, Hollywood Studios saw the opening of Toy Story Land, with the Slinky Dog Dash coaster and Alien Swirling Saucers joining the existing Toy Story Midway Mania attraction.
Late last year, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, with two out-of-this-world attractions – Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and Rise of the Resistance – opened to resounding applause from Star Wars fans and non-fans alike.
To make room for the Star Wars and Toy Story lands, the Backstage Studio Tour, New York Street, and the Lights! Motors! Action! attractions were razed.
To complete the Hollywood Studios’ makeover, the much-anticipated Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway will open on March 4, supplanting The Great Movie Ride.
Finally, Epcot is in the midst of its own massive overhaul. In the months ahead, a Ratatouille-themed attraction will take up shop in the France pavilion and a Marvel-themed coaster, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, will replace the former Universe of Energy pavilion.
With all that in mind, we figured it might be fun to take a look back to the way things used to be a few decades ago in Walt Disney World.
Here are a few photos we found recently tucked away in an old shoe box:
Did any of this help take you on a trip down memory lane? Let us know in the comments!