By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here. PDF version available on Gumroad here.—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor

What’s New at Disney World in 2011?

By Dave Shute

(This page is one of a series explicating Walt Disney World lingo, abbreviations, and FAQ for first time family visitors to Walt Disney World.)


Disney’s theme parks division is in the middle of a massive multi-billion dollar capital spend.

(The link is to a PDF.)

Unfortunately, not much of this spend will show up as new rides and attractions at Walt Disney World in 2011.

The bulk of what’s new in 2011 will be new Disney cruise ships and major new stuff at Disney California Adventure park at the Disneyland Resort.

What’s new at Disney World in 2011 will largely be the result of tweaks and rehabs.

2012 and later, however, will be a different story…although one whose unfolding plot is still a little hard to predict.


No completely new major ride or attraction is expected to launch at Walt Disney World in 2011.

The closest to something new will be the results of the rehab of Star Tours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

The revised ride is currently scheduled to open in mid-2011.  The Disney website currently says it will re-open May 20, 2011.  These dates can shift…

The underlying concept of a Star Wars-themed ride into the galaxy will remain, but a new story, host, 3-D film and effects will make the result more like a new ride than like a sprucing up of the old Star Tours. See this for more.

Minor tweaks and changes for 2011 include

  • A new afternoon parade,  Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun Parade, has launched at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
  • Replacement of the High School Musical event at the Studios with a Disney Channel Rocks event
  • Replacement of Storytime with Belle at the Magic Kingdom with a meet and greet with characters from Tangled

This story by Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel has more on each of these last two.

Finally, a new, expensive, and low capacity—that is, dozens of people per day—adventure has opened at the Animal Kingdom. It’s called the Wild Africa Trek AdventuresSee this on the Disney Parks blog for more.

On the 2011 rumor front—and add your own rumors by using the comment form below!—the one I find most credible is the replacement of Captain EO at Epcot with a new 3D film.


The new rides and attractions at Walt Disney World show up not in 2011 but rather in 2012 and later.

Disney has re-thought its Fantasyland expansion plans, and I expect the new Little Mermaid ride and Be Our Guest restaurant to open in 2012

Even more may be happening at Walt Disney World in 2012.

 According to Disney’s FY10 earnings call, World of Color popped attendance up by 20% at California Adventure.

And of course Harry Potter has had a great impact on Universal, raising attendance by 36%.

All this must reinforce the impact great new attractions can have on attendance.

Beyond the Fantasyland expansion, Disney’s NextGen project remains largely obscure in its full scope and timing, although more info about NextGen came out in February 2011.

I doubt NextGen will have a material impact in 2011 other than continued improvements to Disney’s waiting areas.

On the other hand, for later years I would not be surprised if some of the capital planned for NextGen finds its way into even more new rides instead….thanks to World of Color and Harry Potter.

Also new at Walt Disney World in 2012 will be a new family-suite oriented value resort, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. See the image above for my best guess at floor plans, or check out this page.


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1 Sharon { 02.22.11 at 1:38 pm }

I heard that with this whole Fantasy Land Transformation, that the speedway was going to get a makeover as well along the line of CARS. Is this true or was someone just pulling my leg.


2 Dave { 02.22.11 at 2:34 pm }

Hi Sharon!

It’s a rumor, and I can’t find any basis to put credence in it. There’s a major Cars-themed area going into Disney California Adventure, but I know of no credible reports of any re-theming of the Speedway at Walt Disney World.

One of the issues is that the Speedway is a Tomorrowland ride, and it’s not clear how Cars would fit into the Tomorrowland theming (not that the current ride fits either!)

Assuming that Cars-land at DCA goes well, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Tomorrowland Speedway re-themed to Cars, and have its entrance moved out of Tomorrowland to Fantasyland near the Mad Tea Party.

I could also see more Cars-themed stuff from DCA going into the northeast quadrant–across the railroad tracks, berm and drainage canal to unused land just north of Space Mountain–but both of these thoughts are WAGs, and years away…

3 Sandra { 03.14.11 at 1:36 pm }

Hi Dave! I will be going to WDW 4/9 – 4/15 with my 4 year old daughter and 2 year old son. Is there information on where we can go to meet characters? We would like to meet as many as possible (Mickey, Minnie, Tinkerbell, Princess, Pooh, etc). We are going to Cinderella’s Castle for dinner and Chef Mickey’s for breakfast, however, I wanted to see if there were any areas within the parks that are free. I would prefer to not do a 3rd lunch at Crystal Palace in order to save money.

I also have reservations at Akershus, but I was going to cancel this dining since I was able to get a reservation for Cinderella. Which one has a better princess experience? The princess experience is more important than the quality of food.

Also, I noticed that you didn’t recommend Mickey’s Backyard BBQ. It seemed like a fun time, and again, we the quality of food isn’t very important. This is something that we should avoid?


4 Dave { 03.14.11 at 4:10 pm }

Hi Sandra!

Yes, each park has areas where you can meet characters for free. Where they are, and what characters appear when, is available at the parks themselves by checking the Times Guide–a little overview of the day you get at the entrance. The difference between these and the character dining is that you have to wait in line to meet the free characters, whereas at the dining events the characters come to your table while you are eating…

I’d pick Cinderella’s Castle over Akershus, you don’t need to be do both, and if you are doing Chef Mickey, you don’t need to pay for the Backyard Barbecue as well! But it is pretty fun! Definitely not an “avoid” issue–just a question of cost, and the complexity of getting to Fort Wilderness to see it…

5 Elizabeth { 10.17.11 at 10:24 pm }

In 2009, the invitation to the Pirates and Princess Ball was forefront at the entrance to Magic Kingdom. This theme ran thru the park with other special programming. Is there a similar theme for 2012? Our band will be attending in February. Thanks!

6 Dave { 10.18.11 at 6:20 am }

Hi Elizabeth! I don’t think there will be a big movie tie-in this year…

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