2015 is upon us. Now that there’s been enough time to try out and quit all my New Year’s Resolutions (see you next year, gym!), I’m ready to take another shot at my yearly tradition of previewing and predicting what will happen at Walt Disney World in 2015. I am by no means an insider. Other than what’s been announced, I have no privileged knowledge of what Disney is planning for this year. I base my predictions on a mixture of reasonable sounding rumors, the recent past behavior of Disney, and gut instinct.

Hopefully my predictions will go better than last year.

15 Previews and Predictions for Disney World in 2015 - Guide2WDW

Definitely Happening

The following 5 items are previews of news that Disney has already announced. These are definitely coming true.

1) The Hat is going away.

Late last year, Disney announced the removal of Hollywood Studios’ Sorcerer Hat icon, and construction walls for the hat destruction have already gone up. The hat was added to Hollywood Studios in 2001, blocking the Chinese Theater. Many are relieved to see the hat go, as it could herald a return to form for Hollywood Studios. While I am not a huge fan of the hat, my feelings on it have softened a little bit now that it is finally going away. Expect the view down Hollywood Boulevard to be restored to its original glory in a few weeks.

2) New restaurants will premiere at Disney Springs.

Downtown Disney’s transformation into Disney Springs will continue this year, and it looks like the retail and shopping venue is turning into something really special. While the transformation will not be totally complete until next year, Disney Springs’ first major area, The Landing, will open this spring, bringing a lineup of new dining and shopping options. Notable additions include:

  • The BOATHOUSE, an interactive seafood dining experience that will feature waterfront dining and Amphicar tours of the lagoon. (Opens Spring 2015)
  • STK, a modern steakhouse featuring a lounge, a DJ, and Disney Springs’ only rooftop dining. (Opens 2015)
  • Morimoto Asia, the first pan-Asian dining experience from the legendary Iron Chef. (Opens Summer 2015)

3) Starbucks will open at Hollywood Studios in February.

Located on the end of Hollywood Boulevard, the new Trolley Car Cafe will be home to Hollywood Studios’ Starbucks location. This is the fifth Starbucks at Walt Disney World, with one at Magic Kingdom, one at Epcot, and two at Downtown Disney.

4) Trader Sam’s will make its East Coast debut

The wonderfully themed tiki bar from Disneyland Hotel is opening up a new location at the Polynesian Village Resort. This might be my most anticipated addition to Disney World in 2015. Trader Sam’s is one of my favorite places to relax at Disneyland. I’ve even shared all the reasons why you should be excited Trader Sam’s is coming to Disney World. My birthday tradition of getting a Lapu Lapu at the Kona Cafe might be altered next year.

5) Expansions to Magic Kingdom’s hub and Animal Kingdom’s Africa will be completed

Construction efforts to expand Magic Kingdom’s hub are scheduled to be completed this year. The additions will include new walkways, gardens, trees, and a special viewing area for fireworks. Considering how congested the hub can get during the fireworks and parades, this expansion will be a welcome change to the Magic Kingdom.

Meanwhile, over at Animal Kingdom, the new Africa Marketplace will open up. The dining and shopping expansion to Africa will include the Harambe Marketplace, a new quick service dining location featuring African street dishes. The new additions will mark a doubling in size of the original Harambe Village area.

Probably/Maybe Happening

Now we get to the section where the rampant speculation begins!

6) We’ll get our first significant look at Pandora: The Land of Avatar

One of my few correct predictions last year was that there would not be any new details for Avatar Land in 2014. Well, I’m predicting the opposite for this year. With D23 this fall and Avatar’s opening projected anywhere from late 2015 to early 2017, it’s time that Disney got into more depth about what we can expect from Animal Kingdom’s Avatar land. I think we’ll be keyed into more specifics about the attractions, dining, entertainment, and probably get an opening date.

7) Soarin’ will get 4K digital projection.

Condor Flats at Disney California Adventure is currently closed for a refurbishment, and Soarin’ is rumored to be upgraded to a 4K digital projection system. I’m hoping that Disney will follow suit with the same upgrade at Epcot. While this won’t be an upgrade in terms of resolution (because Soarin’s large format film is very high resolution already), it should make the picture much cleaner. The removal of dust and dirt being projected onto the screen will make Soarin’ even better.

8) An Extended Preview of Star Wars: The Force Awakens at Hollywood Studios

Similar to Guardians of the Galaxy last year, I think Disney will take the opportunity to preview their biggest movie of the year inside the parks. While I doubt they would show much, maybe they will preview the opening scene mixed with the full length trailer. While Star Wars doesn’t need any additional publicity, an extended preview of Star Wars could get some more crowds headed to Hollywood Studios.

9) Star Wars Land announced for Hollywood Studios

The prediction so nice, I guessed it twice. Yes, I predicted this last year. But there’s too much smoke around this fire to not be true. Bob Iger confirmed last month that they are still working on Star Wars for the theme parks, but they were waiting on the new movies to solidify their plans. Now that Disney knows where the franchise is heading, it’s time for them to announce a fully-fledged Star Wars land for Hollywood Studios. There will be two major opportunities for Disney to announce this news. The first will be Star Wars Celebration in April, and the second will be D23 in August. I would guess that they’ll announce the land at Celebration and give some new details at D23.

10) Pixar Place expansion announced for DHS

But that’s not all for Hollywood Studios. It’s fairly obvious that big things are in store for that park after the removal of the hat and the closure of so many attractions last year. With the closure of the Backlot Tour, there’s a huge chunk of real estate available. Completely plausible rumors have been swirling about an expansion to Pixar Place. I’ve read everything from a fully fledged lineup of Pixar attractions to just a cut and paste job of Toy Story Playand from Paris and Hong Kong. My hunch? It will exist somewhere in the middle of those two. Maybe a Toy Story Playland Plus at first, and attractions from Monsters Inc and Cars on the docket for expansion.

Wild Guesses

11) Frozen ride will soft open in December.

Disney’s announced timeline for Epcot’s Frozen ride placed it at late 2015, early 2016. It’s rumored to use the same ride system as Maelstrom, so I’m going to be bullish and guess that it will open earlier rather than later.

12) This year’s Villains Party will be expanded.

For the last two years, Disney has thrown a Villains Party at Hollywood Studios, and for the last two years, it has been kind of an overcrowded mess. I read numerous reports of people being granted refunds for last year’s party. Disney knows there’s money to be made. I’m thinking they’ll expand the party to three nights, which should help with the crowds.

13) Fastpass+ will see further refinements.

Fastpass+ is still controversial, but Disney has done a great job of updating and refining the system. I think Disney will continue that process this year. The two most obvious additions would be to add the ability to make multi-park reservations and the ability to reserve a fourth Fastpass from the MyDisney Experience app.

Extreme Longshots

14) Tomorrowland will inspire changes to Tomorrowland.

Other than The Force Awakens, Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland is my most anticipated movie of 2015. A sci-fi mystery with Walt Disney and the 1964 World’s Fair as key factors? I’ll be there at midnight. Although I’ve only seen the teaser trailer, the brief glimpse of Tomorrowland is inspired. It’s full of a feeling of hope and futuristic energy that I think is a bit lacking from the current Tomorrowland area of the park. I’m really hopeful that Tomorrowland is a smash hit and inspires some energy to be spent revitalizing the Tomorrowland inside the parks. I think this is a longshot because the Magic Kingdom just finished up a huge, years-long expansion, and it’s the other parks’ turn for some TLC.

15) 5th Park Announced at D23

Yeah, right. But one can dream…

So, there you have it. Do you have any predictions for 2015 at Disney World? Let me know in the comments below. If you get something right, I’ll be sure to mention you in next year’s grades.

(Trader Sam’s Concept Art and Force Awakens Still Copyright Disney)

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James is a lifelong Disney Parks fan. While at the parks, he loves finding new details, learning more about Disney World history, and taking pictures. His favorite WDW attractions include Spaceship Earth, Tower of Terror, and Star Tours.
James is a filmmaker and writer based in Los Angeles.

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