Disney (NYSE:DIS) just opened its most ambitious Florida theme park expansion in nearly two decades over the holiday weekend, and we already know that it will likely be trumped in a couple of years by the arrival of Star Wars Land in 2019. However, we haven't heard a lot about Toy Story Land, the Pixar-themed expansion that's going up adjacent to Star Wars Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida.
One can argue that Disney isn't talking up Toy Story Land because it's not supposed to be a game changer. The two new rides are run-of-the-mill kid-friendly carnival attractions that won't raise the bar the way that Flight of Passage did over the weekend at Animal Kingdom's Pandora -- The World of Avatar or the way that the two marquee experiences at Star Wars Land will in two years.
However, it's certainly peculiar that Disney hasn't offered up an opening date for Toy Story Land, an expansion that will clearly open well before Star Wars Land which was slapped with a 2019 opening date during its fiscal first quarter's earnings call back in early February. There's no reason why Toy Story Land won't be ready to greet guests at some point next year, but Disney's being tight-lipped about that. The best explanation that I can come up with -- since Disney itself won't say it -- is that the media giant is trying to keep quiet about a target opening so it doesn't dissuade crowds from booking trips to Disney World this summer.
Disney's Hollywood Studios has become a shell of the park that it used to be, as chunks of the park that housed former rides, retail, and other attractions closed down to make way for the eventual arrival of Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land. It has been Disney World's least visited park for several years according to turnstile watcher Themed Entertainment Association and rightfully so.
Construction at Toy Story Land started more than a year ago. Aerial shots on social media and fan sites show that construction is well underway for Slinky Dog Dash, the family coaster ride that will serve as the anchor attraction as it winds through most of Toy Story Land.
Slinky dog coaster track in Toy Story land at Disney's Hollywood Studios. pic.twitter.com/Imrv8Cbwc9— bioreconstruct (@bioreconstruct) May 28, 2017
Slinky Dog Dash shouldn't take more than a few more months to piece together. The expansion's other new addition is Alien Swirling Saucers, a themed flat ride that should be even easier to set up. Toss in the rich theming -- and it's Disney so you know the Toy Story touches will be top notch -- and it's hard to see Toy Story Land not opening at some point next year. The park can certainly use the new rides and areas to explore, and there's no point in waiting until 2019 when Star Wars Land will be a major draw. Disney's Central Florida rivals have already gone public with their new rides for 2018 including a The Fast and the Furious 3-D simulator and a record-setting river-rafting ride. Disney isn't going to enter next summer empty-handed.
Disney likely isn't talking up 2018 as Toy Story Land's opening because it doesn't want folks putting off their trips to Disney World this summer. Pandora's pretty special, but since the intellectual property isn't as familiar or endearing as Pixar films to Disney buffs, announcing a 2018 opening now could freeze bookings this summer. Why check Pandora out now when one can wait until next summer and see Pandora and Toy Story Land? If Toy Story Land will be ready by 2018 you can expect an announcement out of Disney later this summer, possibly by mid-July when it hosts the annual D23 Expo or during Disney's fiscal third-quarter conference call in early August. By then, it will be safe to talk about next year without disrupting any bookings for this peak summer season. No matter what, Disney's Hollywood Studios won't be Disney's least visited theme park by 2019.