It's a small world, as the famous Disneyland ride proclaims, but there are plenty of big news stories in the theme park world, especially as summer is heating up. Here's what theme park fans and visitors need to know. It's time for Theme Park News.
DISNEYLAND IS OPEN — WAY OPEN
Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, the most-anticipated Disney Parks opening in recent history, finally debuted to the general public last Monday with a highly detailed virtual queue system that... has not been used since.
Guests have been able to walk right in to pilot the Millennium Falcon or sip blue milk or do practically anything else at Disneyland this past week because for some strange reason, the park is calm beyond belief. From Space Mountain to Splash Mountain, Disneyland's attractions are currently seeing unprecedentedly short wait times all days of the week, even with a massive opening just days ago.
So, what gives? Summertime is often thought to be a peak period — it surely is at Walt Disney World — but with many local annual passholders blocked out and relegated to Disney California Adventure, the main park is much more manageable. Some hopeful Star Wars fans may have planned to wait in fear of crowds, given that reservations for the land's first few weeks sold out in less than two hours, while another factor could be that tickets are at an all-time high, costing $150 a pop all summer long.
Although the oncoming wave of Fourth of July visitors are likely to put an end to this lull, the blissful 10-minute Friday night waits for Star Tours or Big Thunder Mountain Railroad might stick around. Disney lifted its employees' admission restrictions after Monday's low crowds, and introduced a $99 park-hopper ticket deal for "friends of annual passholders" — half off the going rate. Disneyland has also been hyping how chill the park has been, retweeting unofficial fan posts boasting about how quiet and easy the park has been and screen-shotting low wait times, so the word's getting out.
There's no concrete reason for the dip, but plenty of guests flooded Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge during its reservation period and might be skipping a return visit until Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance opens later this year. Still, there's now another reason to return sooner than later that isn't at all space-related: the famed Main Street Electrical Parade is coming back on August 2, and it's a dose of Disney nostalgia no fan will be immune to.
You're never supposed to read the comments — and definitely not engage with trolls — but Disney broke unofficial internet rules last week when it publicly responded to the proverbial online thorn in its side. Walt Disney World News Today (also known as WDWNT) regularly breaks news and theme park "rumors" and recently dropped two Magic Kingdom bombshells: that Country Bear Jamboree would close for a Toy Story marionette show and that Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room would be replaced by a Moana-themed show, both for the park's 50th Anniversary in 2021.
WDWNT's rumor posts have been known to permeate throughout "DisTwitter" — oh yes, it's a thing — and Disney, seemingly frustrated with the kerfuffles that ensue, clapped back twice. First came a thinly-veiled post confirming the tiki birds would stay despite "unscrupulous sources" citing otherwise, and 48 hours later, another response on the Bears' longevity, all but shutting down WDWNT's recent would-be revelations.
Now, things change rapidly within the parks and it's possible both could have been true at some point in time, but the delicious drama (and the confirmation both attractions would stay) was plenty for fans to indulge in.
EVERYTHING ELSE THAT HAPPENED IN THE THEME PARK WORLD
- Universal Hollywood is introducing a "Fan Preview Night" for Halloween Horror Nights on September 12, which lets horror obsessives see every maze before, well, Twitter ruins it for them. Is it bait for influencers who want to pay to be there first? Perhaps — Disney has done similar ticketed "parties" in the past prior to the public openings of Pixar Pier and Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: BREAKOUT! — but being the first to experience this year's Stranger Things house is probably worth the money.
- Disneyland opened a new parking lot, which, if you go there enough, is breaking news. (Forget any tram-boarding chaos of the past few years, too, as the new loading procedure is a breeze.)
- Universal Orlando Resort's (very good!) new low-cost hotel opened this week. Endless Summer Resort: Surfside Inn & Suites comes with the perks of its fancier outposts but with bargain-basement pricing; rooms start under $100. Another similar hotel, Dockside Inn and Suites, will open next spring, raising the stakes in competition between off-site properties.
- Good riddance, Red, White, and Blue salad! EPCOT is finally getting a new restaurant in its American pavilion, replacing the mediocre-at-best menu of Liberty Inn. The new Regal Eagle Smokehouse: Craft Drafts & Barbecue, which will open this year, will even have a large smoker out front to draw crowds in for a solid Southern time.
- Kennywood's Steel Curtain, a 220-foot coaster themed to — what else? — the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers, will open July 13.
- The Inside Out-themed Emotional Whirlwind, Disneyland's final Pixar Pier attraction, has opened one year after the re-themed land’s debut.
- eBay is littered with space debris stolen from inside Galaxy's Edge, which pales in comparison to the very good souvenirs.