The Walt Disney Co. is like Apple. It doesn’t like to reveal plans for its theme parks until it has to. However, a user on a fan website called Walt Disney World Magic yesterday unearthed a recent watershed permit drawing that includes buildings looking an awful lot like those for a multi-stage gondola system. I’ve heard similar rumors for months and apparently the theme park world has too. Major newspapers joined the fray today, including the Orlando Sentinel and Orlando Business Journal. If true, this could become the largest lift project in North America since Peak 2 Peak.
The forum thread on WDWMagic now has 656 replies and users have pieced together a conceptual five-stage alignment based on the permit application that would require at least two haul ropes, some 200 cabins and three angle stations. The system could connect Disney’s Boardwalk, Caribbean Beach Resort, Epcot and Hollywood Studios, the latter of which is slated to house Star Wars land beginning in 2019 and all of which are scheduled for expansion/improvements in the next few years. Visitors currently go between these hotels and attractions by car or bus and gondolas would certainly be more in keeping with the Disney brand.
“Recent permits related to Caribbean Beach Resort and DHS seem to indicate that a new transportation system between CBR, DHS, Epcot and possibly AOA might be in the works. The shapes, location, and orientation of these structures form a interesting pattern that may not be coincidental. Based on this information a gondola/skyride system of some sort looks like a possibility.”
– WDWMagic forum user danlb_2000
Not surprisingly, the Walt Disney Co. has no comment. “At any given time, we have numerous projects in various stages of development across our resort,” the company said in a statement emailed to the Sentinel. “If a project moves forward, we will share details when it makes sense to do so for our business.” I’ve heard Disney has already selected a manufacturer.
Walt Disney World welcomes more than 50 million visitors annually, and capacity would have to be large. While monocable systems can carry up to 4,500 passengers per hour per direction, it’s possible Disney could opt for larger tri-cable gondolas. Monocable seems likely, however, with short stages and a relatively compact first trial that could set the stage for gondolas to further areas of the resort and at other Disney parks.
Disney World already features a VonRoll triple chair that opened in 1995 at Blizzard Beach. Historically, Disney’s Magic Kingdom had a VonRoll type 101 gondola from 1971 to 1999 and Disneyland operated a similar skyride from 1956 until 1994. The new gondolas would be geared towards transportation but would undoubtedly become attractions as well. As user kap91 posted on WDWMagic, “this is an amazingly simple yet brilliant idea that’s perfectly fitting….and I’m kinda amazed that someone at Walt Disney World might actually be thinking about transportation infrastructure. Pretty damn exciting.” I agree!