We may still be in the grip of a worldwide pandemic which has seen Florida theme parks shut for an unprecedented amount of time. They are all open once again with limited visitors and budgetary constraints. Now that park operators have a clearer picture of the economic downturn we are facing they have been forced to reallocate ever tighter budgets into projects that matter. Investment in new attractions may not be as grandiose as first mentioned but it is still happening. Here is a quick rundown of new attractions coming Florida’s theme parks in 2021 and beyond.
New 2021 Attractions: Disney Parks And Resorts
There is always something going on at Disney World. Some concepts may not make it past the idea stage, there are many attractions that are far enough along to justify completion. The biggest loser, once again, looks to be EPCOT. The reimagining of EPCOT was announced to great fanfare just over a years ago. A lot has happened in the intervening 12 months. COVID seems to have permanently put a halt to some of the ambitions plans. Here is a rundown of the changes park by park.
Work is already back underway on TRON Lightcycle Power Run. The track and show building were both largely in place before the March shut down. Work is now progressing on erecting the canopy and landscaping ahead of a projected summer to late 2021 opening. To control spiralling construction costs headcount has likely been reduced. This new mega attraction looks set for a revised 2022 debut.
There is no word on the planned re-theme of Splash Mountain from the controversial ‘Song of the South’ movie to ‘The Princess And The Frog’. The attraction continues to operate in its current guise for the time being.
Lilo & Stich’s Great Escape has finally been confirmed as closed for good. This follows many months as just a meet and greet area. There are no plans currently for the show building.
Poor EPCOT always seems to bear the brunt of park cuts, largely due to bad timing. Initially, ambitious plans for its 40th anniversary appear to be now slightly watered down. Along with disappointing cancellations, there is still lots of good news on the horizon for EPCOT.
EPCOT’s New Attractions: The Good News
The recently announced interactive Play! Pavilion has been confirmed by Disney as a priority. Workmen have been seen recently replacing panels on the roof. Work has officially started on turning the former ‘Wonders Of Life’ pavilion into Play!
Guardians Of The Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind was already well underway pre-shutdown. This much-anticipated family coaster has been confirmed to be back on with a minor delay. Landscaping at the front of the former ‘Ellen’s Energy Adventure’ Pavilion has progressed in the past couple of weeks. This ambitious project, the largest indoor roller coaster in the world when it opens, has likely been delayed to 2022.
The massive Ratatouille extension of the France Pavilion is complete but the opening has once again been delayed. Look for the debut now in 2021 from an original summer 2020 opening. Work on extending the exterior of the France Pavilion to accommodate the new attraction has also nearly been completed.
Space 220, a brand new table service restaurant that promises a view unlike any other is delayed. Initially pushed back to summer 2020 from Spring after an issue with some glass, construction has finished and landscaping has now been completed. Even the sign for the restaurant is now in place but we wouldn’t expect to see it open until 2021 at the earliest.
Harmonious, EPCOT’s new signature fireworks finale currently has no official opening date. Due to open in Spring 2020 this firework show has a lot to live up to replacing the beloved ‘Illuminations: Reflection Of Earth’. Infrastructure for the new show was being installed ahead of the shutdown. Work started back up again in July. This is a positive step but fireworks are currently banned in the state of Florida. Don’t expect this new night-time spectacle to bow until 2021 at the absolute earliest now.
EPCOT Attractions Disappointment
The Cherry Tree Lane overlay and expansion of the UK Pavilion was still only in early development stages. The expansion would have also added a ‘Mary Poppins Returns‘ attraction. The plans have been completely removed from ‘The EPCOT Experience’, a promotional space showcasing the changes coming to EPCOT over the next several years. Sadly it looks like Cherry Tree Lane is likely cancelled along with the Mary Poppins attraction.
A permanent Festival Centre was to be a striking 3 storey pavilion standing proud with elevated views over the World Showcase Lagoon. The bottom level was a plaza, the roof had an amazing looking park setting, perfect to see out the day with ‘Harmonious’. The middle level was to house an expo space that could be adapted as and when required. This exciting addition to Future World was the most talked about feature of the EPCOT transformation project. Sadly, Disney has confirmed on their blog that they are now “taking a different approach to this project”. Translation; expect it to be considerably downsized or cancelled outright. At least until the crowds return allowing Disney to justify the small fortune it will cost to build this structure.
The 18-24 month Spaceship Earth overhaul and retheme has also been postponed with the attraction remaining open in its current guise for the foreseeable future.
As with most businesses during this period, we are further evaluating long-term project plans. The decision was made to postpone development of the “Mary Poppins”-inspired attraction and Spaceship Earth at this time.Disney Spokesperson
Hollywood Studios has been the recipient of 2 new lands and a new attraction over the last few years. Over $1 BILLION has been poured into this park in the last few years. That investment has paid off with visitors flocking in their thousands before the forced closure in March.One criticism of Toy Story Land is a lack of food and beverage options. The Roundup Rodeo BBQ was t fix this small issue. The large restaurant’s building is complete but theming and fitting out has only just begun. This could be a project that is put on the back burner until crowds return in a year or more.
Fantasmic is Hollywood Studio’s nighttime spectacular. There is enough seating for nearly 10,000 people per show. Florida law currently prevents Disney from putting on any fireworks shows. While the show remains in hibernation Disney has, sensibly, drained the staging area. We will be unlikely to see a return of Fantasmic, or any other fireworks show to any theme park in 2020. Depending on the infection rate of COVID this could last well into 2021 as well.
Animal Kingdom has seen a cull of 2 of its attractions. Primeval Whirl, a standard spinning wild mouse style rollercoaster has reached the end of life status. This follows manufacturer Reverchon’s 2008 bankruptcy. Fabricating replacement parts for the ageing attraction is now too costly to keep it operating. No new replacement has been announced.
In more surprising news, Animal Kingdom’s nighttime spectacular, Rivers Of Light has been permanently retired. The show only debuted in 2017 and received a substantial update last year. Guest satisfaction for this show was muted at best. Whether COVID accelerated the show’s final bow is unknown.
With no nighttime offerings to speak of, Animal Kingdom has also reverted back to it’s original closing time of 5 pm. This is a real shame because the lighting at the park is spectacular when the sun goes down. Hopefully, opening times will be extended once crowds return but that could be well over a year away.
Disney Water Parks
Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach are yet to reopen following the March shutdown. Disney recently confirmed that 1 of the water parks will be opening in March 2021 but haven’t specified which one. Management clearly expects there will not be enough demand even into next summer to go to the expense of reopening 2 water parks.
Disney World Resort
The impressive-looking brand new Cirque du Soleil Show, ‘Drawn To Life’, was in final rehearsals ahead of a 20th March debut. Lockdown shut not only the show in Orlando but all 44 worldwide Cirque productions. Overnight Cirque du Soleil’s business model was redundant and with no income, Cirque du Soleil filed for bankruptcy in June. The current state of the show is unknown. Until we know more about the state of Cirque du Soleil don’t expect to see a new show of any kind opening in Disney Springs.
Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge was announced as a deluxe level property themed around Walt’s love of nature. Ground clearing for the new property looked almost complete when the pandemic hit. Sadly it looks as though this gorgeous looking accommodation has been scrapped. Some equipment that was onsite has been moved and construction contracts have not been renewed. As sad as this is it makes perfect sense for Disney who already has numerous hotels shuttered because their capacity is outstripping the demand. This will likely be the case for the next few years. Nothing ever dies at Disney though, the resort may get rekindled, or some concepts for this resort may get added into another property but don’t expect to see that any time soon.
New 2021 Attractions: Universal Orlando Resort
Construction for the recently confirmed ‘Velocicoaster‘ at Islands Of Adventure has been going on for over a year but we only got our first official tease of this monstrous-looking coaster last week. The 70mph coaster will hold the title of Florida’s fastest launch coaster when it debuts sometime next summer.
With crowds reportedly restricted to just 25% of normal capacity Universal shuttered 6 attractions over both parks from early August. There is still no word on when these attractions will return to a normal or even restricted operating schedule. The affected attractions are:
- Fast & Furious: Supercharged (USF)
- Kang & Kodo’s Twirl ‘n’ Hurl (USF)
- A Day In The Park With Barney (USF)
- Fear Factor Live (USF)
- Poseidon’ Fury (IOA)
- Storm Force Accelatron (IOA)
Epic Universe Disappointment
It’s not so good news for Universal’s huge investment in a third highly anticipated gate 5 minutes down the road. The ‘Epic Universe’ construction site could be looking quite barren for a while to come. The project is officially on hold from an original projected 2023 opening. It’s not an outright cancellation yet though you shouldn’t expect to see this new park for at least another 5 or 6 years if at all.
Now we are coming into the cooler months Volcano Bay has seen a cut in hours and days, dropping down to a 5 day a week schedule from the usual 7. From November the park will be closed for an extended period initially of 4 months. Universal says the popular water park will receive maintenance but this is a clear sign that budgets are being reigned in over the quieter winter months.
New 2021 Attractions: Seaworld Adventure Parks
Just before shut down Seaworld’s next big coaster for 2020, ‘Ice Breaker’, was just about to move into its testing phase. Construction is complete aside from some landscaping. Seaworld is haemorrhaging money and entire sections are being closed for large parts of the day in an effort to control costs. The decision has been taken to open the new Ice Breaker coaster in 2021 although no new date has been officially set as yet. The park will also be dropping down to a 5 day schedule from 7 staring at the end of October.
Over at Seaworld’s sister park, Bush Gardens’ fear-inducing Iron Gwazi has been delayed despite numerous test runs before lockdown. Iron Gwazi is a hybrid coaster, rising from the remnants of the park’s long-shuttered wooden racing coaster, Gwazi. Its grand reveal has been pushed back to Spring 2021. This isn’t surprising since the park has yet to return to a 7 day a week schedule. Free transport usually provided courtesy of Mears is also still suspended. Your only means of getting to Busch Gardens if you stay in Orlando is to drive.
New 2021 Attractions: Legoland Florida
Legoland has been aggressively expanding its offerings over the past few years. The waterpark received an expansion in 2016, 4 short years since opening. The main park has received numerous upgrades, most recently the Lego Movie World expansion in 2019. The park was first to reopen on 1st June with Universal following suit 2 weeks later. It looks as though COVID has had little impact on Legoland Florida. Capital expenditure in the park was practically complete when the crisis hit. Along with the park a new pirate-themed hotel opened with the resort in June. Legoland Florida now offers 2 onsite hotels, a theme park and waterpark. Low-cost bus transport to the park from International Drive is still suspended. Your only option, like Busch Gardens, currently will be to drive to the park for the foreseeable future.
There Is Still Fun To Be Had!
As you can see there is still plenty to get excited about all around Orlando come 2021 and 2022. Although we may not be able to travel to the States currently, now is the perfect time to familiarise yourself with everything Orlando has to offer. Florida’s economy is dependent on the tourism sector. It will open its borders to international travellers (and out of state visitors) at some point. When it does you can expect capacity to fill up fast. After months of enforced isolation, everyone will be looking for a little bit of escapism. There is no better time than now to start planning your best adventure so why not jump in?!
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