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Will a New Show Save Disney World's Least Popular Park?

By Rick Munarriz – May 26, 2017 at 9:09AM

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The world's leading theme park operator introduces a new Pixar-based show to attract visitors to Disney World's least visited park.

Tomorrow is going to be a big day for Disney's (DIS -0.01%) domestic theme parks. It will be opening major attractions on both coasts. Galaxy -- Mission BREAKOUT! will open at Disney's California Adventure in Anaheim, the first time that it opens a Marvel-themed ride in the U.S. market. It will also be the official debut of Pandora -- The World of Avatar at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Disney's first new Disney World land in nearly five years. 

The two Saturday openings will be the ones garnering all of the media attention -- and rightfully so -- but it's not the only new attraction debuting at a Disney park this weekend. The Music of Pixar LIVE! A Symphony of Characters will be introduced tonight in Disney World at Disney's Hollywood Studios. The show will feature a live orchestra playing the music of Pixar's popular computer-animated films. Costumed characters from Toy Story, Cars, Up, The Incredibles, and Monsters Inc. will share the stage with the symphony. 

Pixar Live stage show with various Pixar film characters.

Image source: Disney.

To infinity and beyond

Disney's Hollywood Studios can use the boost. The park that used to be Disney World's third least visited park slipped into fourth place last year, and there are no signs that any of that will change until 2019 at the earliest.

Park2009 Attendance2015 AttendanceChange
Magic Kingdom 17,233,000  20,492,000 18.9%
EPCOT 10,990,000 11,798,000 7.4%
Animal Kingdom 9,590,000 10,922,000 13.9%
Hollywood Studios 9,700,000 10,822,000 11.6%

Data source: Themed Entertainment Association. 

Disney's Hollywood Studios was already losing steam before it began shutting down rides and attractions in 2014, paving the way for the eventual arrival of Star Wars Land in 2019 and Toy Story Land. Disney has yet to offer an estimated opening for Toy Story Land, but aerial shots show that construction is well underway for that expansion. Toy Story Land should open within a year of Star Wars Land's rollout. 

Toy Story Land and more importantly Star Wars Land will obviously result in a spike in attendance at what is now a half-day park. With Disney's Animal Kingdom also likely to experience a big boost in turnstile clicks with this weekend's opening of Pandora -- The World of Avatar, it won't be a surprise if Disney's second most visited park -- EPCOT -- slips to last place in two to three years without a massive makeover. Thankfully for EPCOT, it seems as if it will be the target of Disney World's next major expansion project.

Today's arrival of The Music of Pixar LIVE! A Symphony of Characters is a smart short-term fix. The show will take place three times nightly for a limited time, in the same Theater of the Stars that hosts Beauty and the Beast -- Live on Stage several times earlier in the day. In other words, it utilizes existing real estate to add a new attraction in a park that's sorely lacking in space that's free of construction crews. The new show should have multigenerational appeal with the characters entertaining the kids while the orchestra dazzles the parents and grandparents. The park's return to glory is still two years away, but it's not standing still in the process.

Rick Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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