As the theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort re-open today, Typhoid Lagoon reporters were granted full media access around the property to see what kind of damage Hurricane Matthew inflicted. We first made our way to Animal Kingdom.
The park overall seemed to be in great condition. We were expecting the bloody carcasses of animals lying about on the pedestrian walkways. Either no animals perished or Disney did a fantastic job cleaning up all of the blood and entrails.
We made our way over to Dinoland, USA where the damage to the park is quite apparent. It appears as though the damage is focused in one area, known as Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama. We noticed a cheaply made roller coaster that has seen better days, a Dumbo-like ride with dinosaurs instead of Dumbo, and various carnival games. It was clear that this was not meant to be here and the hurricane blew this area in from a lower-quality theme park from nearby.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios:
Again, the front of the park seemed to look like it held up to the brunt of the storm. It was the back of the park that told the whole story. The entire backlot including the Streets of America has been leveled by Hurricane Matthew. It is virtually a pile of dirt at this point. Disney already had tall construction walls in place by the time we arrived, preventing us from getting a good look at the extent of the damage. As far as we could tell, the façades of the buildings, the amphitheater by MuppetVision 3D, the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Playset, and the Lights! Motors! Action! Extreme Stunt Show had all been leveled. It is my personal opinion that nothing here is salvageable, and that Disney should really think about placing something new in this area.
We arrived expecting to see Spaceship Earth floating in World Showcase Lagoon but much to our disappointment, the ride is in the exact spot it was prior to the storm. The hurricane did manage to claim most of the interior of both Innoventions buildings. Many of the exhibits that were once there had been wiped away by Hurricane Matthew. The buildings are in tact, but it is virtually empty, save for a few character Meet & Greet areas.
We toured the park prior to the official opening time and were quite surprised to see the building practices of the late 1960’s were quite hurricane-proof. It wasn’t until we reached Tomorrowland where we saw the extent of what Hurricane Matthew had done.
Many of the support columns holding the Tomorrowland Transit Authority did not match the “New Tomorrowland” from the late 1990’s. It appeared as though the hurricane blew off the futuristic support columns to reveal the old support columns from the original WEDway PeopleMover.
We also noticed that Stitch’s Great Escape was not scheduled to be open today. We can only speculate that Hurricane Matthew must have caused flooding on the inside of the attraction.
“All I can tell you is that Stitch’s Great Escape will remain as ‘seasonal’ status, until further notice,” said Thomas Jefferson Geronimo III, Vice President of Post-Hurricane Media Relations.
The damage we could see was contained to the Planet Hollywood and The Edison restaurants. We arrived to find scaffolding on both buildings and repairs being made to The Edison. The damage to The Edison must have been extensive, because Disney is now advertising a Spring 2017 re-opening for the popular restaurant.
Overall, I’d say the parks held up quite well. It’s either that, or Disney is quite good at cleaning up a place quickly after a natural disaster like a hurricane. Our advice would be to keep any existing reservations in tact for an upcoming Walt Disney World vacations, because the parks seem to be operating at or near 100%, despite the issues we mentioned here. I can see how the destruction left behind in the Backlot area of Disney’s Hollywood Studios could ruin someone’s vacation, so keep that in mind when planning your stay.