It’s been another huge year for Walt Disney World news–good, bad and ugly. From the ongoing reopening and new rides to construction and reimaginings to political problems and controversial changes. This post takes a look at the 22 biggest Walt Disney World news of the year, as decided by you.
By that, we mean the stories were the most read by readers. Some of what makes this top 22 list is unsurprising, but in other cases, the news that struck the biggest chord with readers caught us by surprise. (I’ve actually made a concerted effort to cover news beyond what personally interests me, in part because a lot of that has been popular and in part because reader comments have made topics much more interesting to me on multiple occasions.)
Rather than just going into autopilot mode for the end of the year and having this be a regurgitation of past stories, I also want to keep it interesting and fresh by revisiting some of these stories. With the benefit of hindsight and more time to ruminate on the topics, there’s added perspective for at least some of them. With that in mind, let’s run down the top Walt Disney World news of 2022…
Epcot’s Longest Line! – Silly as it might sound, this goes down as the most “optimistic” news of the year for me. While Figment and old school EPCOT Center have seen a resurgence (at least superficially), this made national headlines and demonstrated the drawing power of the iconic character. If there’s a new Journey into Imagination announced in the next few years, we can point to this as the turning point.
New Tower Coming to the Polynesian – And this goes down as the most depressing news of the year to me. So much on this list is temporary, subject to undoing or other future changes. Building a giant, generic timeshare tower between two exemplars of themed design is not. For me, this demonstrates a prioritization of efficiency (denser and cheaper construction) over show, and that’s really unfortunate for fans of themed design.
Chapek Addresses Disney Fan Outrage, Demand, Price Increases, Reservations & Reedy Creek – About one month before he was fired, Bob Chapek sat down for this erratic interview with the Wall Street Journal. I was no fan of his before, but this is where he really jumped the shark for me, as he became openly antagonistic towards fans and defensive–while claiming to be “teflon.” His downfall was the earnings call and c-suite revolt a few weeks later, but this was the beginning of the end from my perspective.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind Opening Info – Not that new attractions need to be talked about for months or years, but it’s wild to me that Cosmic Rewind largely left ‘the discourse’ so shortly after it debuted. That’s especially true given how much ‘New EPCOT’ has disappointed or been met with indifference. Cosmic Rewind, by contrast, is really good and really fun, and also tries it’s darndest to thematically fit into Future World. (It falls short of that, but comes closer than reasonably could’ve been expected.) To whatever extent the new EPCOT is good, it’s being carried by Cosmic Rewind, Beacons of Magic, and a few other smaller additions.
Cosmic Rewind Getting Holiday Remix – We haven’t talked about it much, but some lessons should’ve been learned based on the fan response to Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind: Holiday Remix. First, don’t do overlays for brand new attractions–a lot of fans do annual Christmas trips. Second, provide more notice and clear start and stop dates for overlays–Disney never announced when this would begin, nor when it’ll end. Finally, make holiday overlays good–Holiday Remix underwhelms, actively undercutting the otherwise great ride in the process.
Modify Button Coming to Genie+ – We called the introduction of the modify button a game changer, and stand by that. The paid FastPass service will likely never escape the shadow of its predecessor–and bungled launch–among diehard fans, but this was an important step forward. We still don’t love paying for the service or a lot of little things about it, but this was the feature that should allow some fans to move on, and finally at least accept the switch from free FastPass to a paid service.
Tiana’s Bayou Adventure Model First Look – Speaking of acceptance, one of the things that has heartened me this year is the ‘evolving attitudes’ towards the Splash Mountain reimagining. Sure, there’s still a vocal minority with their petitions and so forth, but they’ve become a self-defeating fringe group. There are still plenty of others who are understandably mourning the loss of a childhood favorite, but doing so with an optimistic outlook about Tiana’s Bayou Adventure–or at least the hope that it’s a great reimagining.
Splash Mountain Closing Date – Same idea here. A big part of the acceptance is likely fueled by the sorry state of Splash Mountain for the last several months. I can safely and confidently say that if you didn’t get to “say goodbye” with one last ride, you are not missing anything. Your memory here, however hazy, is unquestionably better than the actual attraction right now.
Disney’s Bath Brand Ending – I was surprised that this was such a big story, and debated whether to even cover it. Nostalgia ultimately won out, as we have fond ‘scent memories’ of Walt Disney World’s soaps and shampoos over the years. If we’re learning lessons by looking back at news, the takeaways here should be that emotion and nostalgia are of paramount importance to fans, and little details matter. All of that should be patently obvious, but if you look at some of Walt Disney World’s decisions over the past few years…perhaps a reminder is needed.
Prices Increasing & Removing Reservations for 1-Day Tickets – If last year was that of nickel and diming (and I think it was), this was the year of the price increase at Walt Disney World. While I don’t think consumers actually became number to rising costs–to the contrary, people are feeling increasingly squeezed in all directions–you all definitely became numb to news of price increases. Normally, price increases are major news. This year, only a couple stories broke through. (And this one was arguably ‘popular’ due to the reservations angle.)
Magic Kingdom Expansion: Coco, Encanto & Villains Lands Revealed – It was a weird D23 Expo, with Disney sorta-but-not-really announcing Moana and Zootopia lands for Animal Kingdom, and offering a vague “beyond Big Thunder” look at what could possibly be coming to Magic Kingdom. Honestly, I was surprised these stories were not bigger–but as explained before, I understand fans not taking seriously these non-announcements after being burned before on really-for-real announcements.
Record High Price for Genie+ – A little over a month after the move to date-based pricing, Genie+ hit its highest price of the year at Walt Disney World. Even at almost double the cost, demand has remained high and Lightning Lane availability is lower on ~$30 days than ~$16 ones. There’s gotta be a price point at which demand starts to drop, but it’s definitely not $30. Perhaps we’ll find out whether $40 or $50 does the trick in 2023.
Affordable Housing Coming to Walt Disney World – This is one of those “bigger picture” stories that I don’t think some Walt Disney World fans fully grasp yet. Although staffing shortages have been improving, increased competition for hospitality workers in the coming years (hello, Epic Universe) and the unsustainable upward trend of shelter costs pose long-term challenges.
What’s Up With Housekeeping? – We haven’t revisited this topic in a while, probably in large part because Sarah and I have had zero issues with housekeeping in the second half of the year. (I’m curious…is that consistent with your experiences?) Walt Disney World taking active steps to restore housekeeping service, even as hotels were booking up regardless, should be viewed as a positive and that not all of the current corner-cutting is permanent. (Admittedly a low bar and not worthy of praise, but a nice development.)
Walt Disney World Cancels Brightline Train Station – In an unsurprising twist, Walt Disney World released the following statement over the summer: “As many people who are involved in this project are aware, the new route configuration does not support a Disney Springs station and as a result, we don’t anticipate being part of this project.” However, the saga did not end there…
Disney Changes ADR Cancellation Window – While there have been justifiable concerns that this would only worsen ADR hoarding, that doesn’t yet appear to be the case. Walt Disney World has done a lot to even the playing field and make it easier for casual guests to dine at table service restaurants, and this is another net positive, in our view.
Happily Ever After Returning – This news is still devoid of details, but one of the first reveals during Josh D’Amaro’s D23 Expo presentation was that Happily Ever After is returning and Harmonious is going away. Some fans (mistakenly) believe it’s just the theme song returning, but it’s the full show, likely modified for Main Street projections and more.
TRON Lightcycle Run Delayed – I’m really curious as to how this roller coaster will be perceived by Walt Disney World fans. I’m already anticipating issues with a ride designed for Asian body types being built in America. (In fact, before it was announced, I contended that it would never be cloned domestically because even with some standard ride vehicles, it just wasn’t workable.) I’m also wondering whether expectations are too high for this given the construction duration and following Cosmic Rewind. (It’s fun, but short and not nearly as good as that EPCOT E-Ticket, in my opinion.) I guess we shall see about all of that!
Genie+ Lawsuit – This lawsuit is interesting from a historical perspective, and readers were clearly fascinated by that–and, I suppose, the prospect of Disney being forced to “abandon” Genie Plus. Not to burst any bubbles, but I don’t think this lawsuit will amount to anything. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s quietly dismissed (probably not settled) and we never hear anything about it again. Who knows, though.
Florida Passes Bills to Dissolve Reedy Creek Improvement District – I guess I lied when I called the Poly tower the most depressing news of the year. Substantively, that’s true, but this was the most depressing non-substantive topic. I love over-analyzing boring Disney news and dissecting corporate business decisions. I hate divisive topics that are almost impossible to break down without bias. Ironically enough, Walt Disney World has had two major issues in the last three years that largely revolve around different types of “theater.”
Southwest’s Holiday Meltdown – This is not Walt Disney World specific and it’s actually pretty shocking that a news story that’s only a few days old has become bigger than those that have had months to unfold (and garner views). The more I read about this, the more interesting it becomes to me.
Southwest is a company with clear parallels to Disney in terms of its corporate culture and unique position in its industry. Both Disney and Southwest technically have competitors, and yet, to so many of their fans, there is no alternative. Now, Southwest is damaging its special brand in ways that might prove to be irreparable if it doesn’t course correct quickly. Sound familiar?!
Disney’s Bob Swap: Chapek Fired, Iger Rehired – I also lied when I called the Figment line the most optimistic news of the year. Same deal here as above, but on the positive, non-substantive side. For me, this comes down to the simple concept of the company heading in the wrong or right direction. Admittedly, this is predicated largely upon “vibes” and nebulous notion of “magic,” but I think those are of paramount concern for the Walt Disney Company.
It’s likely going to take years to recover from the Chapek era, but at least the train is on the right track again. As someone who has been a fan for decades and will be one for decades to come, outlasting past, present, and future CEOs, I’m thinking about the big picture and long-term. For all of the cynicism and disappointment of the last few years–much of which will linger for at least one more–it’s been a while since I’ve been this optimistic about the future of the company and the parks. More than anything else, my outlook heading into 2023 is that there’s a great big beautiful tomorrow.
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What do you think of the biggest news stories of the year for Walt Disney World? Any major announcements, cancellations, or bombshells that you’re surprised didn’t make the cut? What’s your take on the good, bad, and ugly of 2022 WDW news? Do you agree or disagree with our commentary? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!