Love it or hate it, Walt Disney Studios has always been seen somewhat of the runt of the Disney parks litter. Opening late to a lacklustre roster of attractions, minimal theming and poor attendance numbers, it was a major step back for Disneyland Paris in 2002. After another park of this era – Disney California Adventure – received a game changing refurbishment with the entrance of Bob Iger, European fans have long called for a similar approach to WDS.
Though a master plan has never been unveiled, clues and hints of a brighter Studios future has been clear with additions such as Crush and Cars, Ratatouille and of course, Tower of Terror. The foundations of an enhanced, bigger and better themed second gate had been made. It was never going to be overnight, and I imagine there have been a lot of redrafts over the years (especially as Disney acquired certain properties), but slowly and surely things are taking shape.
And it looks like the next chapter of the Walt Disney Studios story is on the way, if rumours are to be believed. According to ED92, DLP has listed three attractions for future closure: Art of Disney Animation, Armageddon, and Disney Junior. No date of when the trio are expected to close up shop is given, but with their neighbour CinéMagique already extinct it’s surely only a matter of time.
I can say with a fair amount of confidence that unlike Ciné, these are closures that few are going to sorely miss.
Given the success of temporary character meets in Art of Animation such as Moana and Belle, I think it’s very likely the building could play future host to a Princess Pavilion type meet & greet zone for the Studios. If done right this could be a very easy spot to quickly change in and out new characters according to what is playing in real cinemas around the globe. It could even be a perfect little spot to meet rare characters during dry periods of Disney releases such as Kuzco, the Zootopia gang and Oswald.
Disney Junior’s closure is the only one I feel could have the slight stain of controversy upon it. Often a forgotten attraction among fans, it is one of the very few suitable attractions for the very young and toddler guest in the park. This was something part of that pile of issues WDS originally had on its opening 15 years ago. While it may not seem like a big deal to many this would be a costly loss for families with young children, possibly detouring them away from visiting the park altogether. The solution however isn’t as dire as the consequence fortunately as the Toon Studio expansion has opened up lots of space for future experiences in the park. Room could be made to fit a successor to Disney Junior (populated with whoever is entertaining toddlers of today on TV) in Art of Animation easily while closure of Flying Carpets would also leave a pretty big footprint to work with. If I had my way however, Studio 1 would face the wrecking ball some day opening up for a lot of potential easy build attractions and stores along a new, Main Street-like entrance to the park.
There is also the issue that Stitch Live!, the current attraction flatmate with Disney Jr, isn’t mentioned on this list of closures. Should this come to fruition however I feel the little alien’s days will be numbered.
As for Armageddon, I think everyone knows by now my views on the attraction. The sooner it is part of WDS’ past the better.
These closures look to spell progress for Walt Disney Studios. In two cases these are opening day disappointments finally facing the axe and leaving Imagineers with good spaces to play around with. Given the long rumours of CinéMagique making way for a Marvel stage show, it certainly isn’t hard to imagine these plans are part of something bigger. Something more heroic. Like the MCU movies themselves, it’s all connected.
This does leave the question what will become of these buildings? If indeed this is all part of a future Marvel Land taking over Production Courtyard and Backlot, what will Disney Junior and Armageddon change to?
I’m not all that certain on Junior’s footprint and what exactly it could hold (something tells me the showbuilding is deceptively large if it’s capable to whole two attractions), but given its current setup and popularity I think another interactive ‘show’ is possible. These talk-with-the-audience experiences seem to be popular all over the world so I wouldn’t rule out loveable characters like Rocket and Baby Groot getting this treatment. It could actually be a pretty funny show with the backchatting Racoon working as a translator for the sentient sequoia.
Armageddon is a trickier one to put a replacement down onto due to its infamously small building. A real benchmark in failing to plan for the future, the footprint is too small for any sort of darkride or notable attraction, making its future limited. Many have often called for a Marvel meet & greet spot and – as awesome as that sounds – I’ve always seen the spot as prime real estate for a flagship store. Despite being arguably Disney’s biggest property right now, DLP is yet to truly recognise Marvel merchandise into its sales. Sure you can find superhero toys and apparel dotted in different stores of the resort but there isn’t a single, one stop shop for all your Marvel needs like that of Star Traders. Armageddon’s Goldilocks size would make it pretty ideal to hold a store and suitable stockroom I believe, nicely future-proofing the way for a hyper themed, full immersive Marvel Land taking over the left side of WDS.
What do you think of the rumour that three more attractions may face closure? Would you be sad to see any of them go? What are your thoughts on a possible Marvel Land coming to Walt Disney Studios Park and perhaps the biggest question – is Tower of Terror becoming Guardians: Mission Breakout a part of it? Be sure to tell me your own opinions in the comments below and on Twitter!