What It Takes to CHANGE a Disney World Ride

Ever been totally shocked by the news that your favorite Disney attraction is changing?

Frozen Ever After

Disney World updates and changes rides ALL. THE. TIME. So, it might seem like Disney can do whatever they want with their attractions, but there are actually a LOT of approvals they have to go through first. Let’s take a look at the FULL process!

Keep in mind that these steps can be changed, skipped, and rearranged depending on the project!

Step 1: Determining which attractions to change or update.

The first step is for the teams behind the scenes at Disney to determine what attractions need to be changed. Disney fans are notoriously resistant to changeso figuring out which rides need a refresh could be a daunting task.

figure!

Disney keeps a lot of its business dealings private, but it’s likely that there is a long process internally before a ride refurbishment is initiated. This likely involves some sort of ride update proposal team and a long process of creative project proposals (and budget approvals) before something is ever announced.

Splash Mountain

after all, Disney needs to make sure a ride change is really what’s best for the company. Is the ride outdated? Would a newer movie be a better base for a ride? How expensive will the refurbishment be? Once these questions (and more!) are answered, Disney can move ahead with the process.

Click here to see some controversial Disney World opinions!

Step 2: Develop the necessary technology.

Next up, comes the actual development part. In many cases, this comes well before the ride change is announced to Disney fans. The appropriate internal approvals need to be made and often concept art is created to demonstrate the changes when they are announced.

soarin’

Sometimes, we can see this happening though, even though it’s behind the scenes! When Disney needs to develop entirely new technology for a ride system, they have to file patents to claim ownership of the new technology.

©Disney

Disney files a LOT of patents, and it’s given us a bit of an idea about what might be coming in the future before. We’ve spotted patents for updates to Mad Tea Party, updates to water ride attractions, new smell-focused techand a lot more!

mad tea party

Patents might get approved in a few months or it may take years, and Disney might choose to wait for that approval. It really depends on the process. Plus, many of these updates haven’t been announced and may never actually happen, but the fact that Disney is working on and filing permits for the technology could be a clue that updates are coming!

Want to learn more about the Mad Tea Party tech? Click here!

Step 3: Filing the first round of permits.

Once the internal steps are at a sufficient point, it’s time for the first big round of permits. Depending on the scale of the project, this step is sometimes skipped.

Construction Plan ©Google Maps

The first permits we typically see for a project are environmental. If a project is going to affect the water table in Florida or a number of other environmental projects, Disney has to file with the South Florida Water Management District for approval. Once they’ve filed the project with full maps and plans, they have to wait for approval from the district.

Construction Plans©Disney

This is also something we can find publicly, but it’s only for MAJOR projects. In fact, this is usually for new structures — not changes. But a MAJOR refurbishment could be filed with SFWMD.

©Disney

Most recently, we’ve seen SFWMD permits filed for the major changes happening to World Drive and new fireworks platforms behind Magic Kingdom ahead of Disney Enchantment.

To see Disney Enchantment, click here!

Step 4: Announcing the change.

And now, we get to the step where Disney goes public! Typically an announcement comes around this point in the development process (sometimes a little earlier, sometimes later). This is where Disney shares concept art from the development stage and the plan for the ride changes — however vague.

Princess and the Frog attraction concept art ©Disney

We’ve seen changes more explicitly laid out at this stage like when Disney announced the changes coming to The Jungle Cruise and we’ve seen changes announced with little to no specifics, like the initial Splash Mountain announcements. It all depends on Disney’s timeline!

Click here to learn more about the Splash Mountain refurbishment!

Step 5: Starting work on the ground and filing MORE permits.

Then, once the teams at Disney are satisfied with a project plan, they can get going. Typically, Disney does not use internal teams to complete larger projects, so this step might also mean finalizing agreements with a contractor.

EPCOT

For instance, Disney has been known to contract with Whiting-Turner Contracting Co., a national contractor. The company played major roles in the construction of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Morimoto Asia, and the overhaul of EPCOT’s Maelstrom to Frozen Ever After. Plus, they were contracted pre-closure to play a part in the refurbishment of Spaceship Earth.

Galaxy’s Edge

Whenever Disney does ANY construction from electrical work to entirely new attractions, they have to file a Notice of Commencement with the Orange County Comptroller before any work begins on the ground. Then, we start seeing the work in the parks; whether that means ride closures, construction walls, or actually seeing construction teams getting it done.

Want to learn more about the Spaceship Earth refurbishment? Click here!

Step 6: Completing the process.

Disney typically has a timeline for these projects but as we’ve seen that doesn’t always pan out. Many refurbishments are complicated and require the implementation of new technology. Plus, if a contractor doesn’t perform as promised, it can mean extending those dates.

Spaceship Earth’s Computer Lady

Eventually, though, these projects are completed and there’s a reopening! Unless of course, a project is tabled which can happen at any point (We’re looking at you, Spaceship Earth).

To see the current situation with the Spaceship Earth refurbishment, click here!

And that’s how Disney goes about ride refurbishments and other construction projects! It’s a pretty involved process with even MORE internal steps to go with all the permitting. For more interesting tidbits about Disney World, keep an eye on DFB!

Click here to see 8 times Disney TOTALLY changed iconic rides!


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What Disney ride changes are you looking forward to? Tell us in the comments!

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