By Susan & Simon Veness
Walt Disney World in Orlando is never a place that stands still or rests on its not-inconsiderable laurels. There is always something new, and, for 2020, the latest attractions are already queueing up.
At the EPCOT park, there are three new film shows to enjoy, one each in the France and Canada pavilions, and the fabulous Awesome Planet show in The Land pavilion. This summer will see the opening of dark ride Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, and there will also be a highly themed new restaurant, Space 220.
But head over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, where the latest and greatest is now open, and it’s already creating quite a buzz of excitement.
Yes, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway has chugged into town and it’s a guaranteed free-wheeling, cartoon style adventure of the hilarious kind that is sure to be a runaway success this year.
Just to start with, it is the first Disney ride ever to headline the iconic Mouse. Yes, that’s right – it’s taken 92 years for Mickey to have his own signature attraction, but it has definitely been worth the wait.
Fans of this park will no doubt still be lamenting the loss of The Great Movie Ride, the previous attraction within the façade of the famous Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. But they should grieve no more, because not only does the Runaway Railway pay homage to the previous ride in its detail and styling, it also takes visitors on a far more dynamic ‘movie ride’ than the previous version ever managed.
From the moment you enter, expecting to see the new Mickey and Minnie cartoon short, Perfect Picnic, things do not go to plan. Instead, guests are whisked off with Engineer Goofy into the animated world of all their favourite characters, including Pluto, Donald and Daisy, Horace Horsecollar and Jackhammer Pete.
As your train car lurches unpredictably from one madcap scene to another, there is a welter of Disney animation creativity all around you, and the overall effect is of being taken on a mad dash through a two-dimensional realm that becomes fully 3-D as you travel through it.
There are surprises aplenty (not least in the highly imaginative pre-show), and, of course, Mickey and Minnie save the day just when it seems your train is heading for a runaway calamity. As family fun, it is first class, but even adults on their own will get a kick out of some of the visual gags and artistry that is absolutely everywhere you look.
During the special media event to preview the ride earlier this month, we were able to ride no fewer than eight times in one afternoon, and even on the eighth turn we were still noticing things we hadn’t seen before, which speaks to the astounding level of detail throughout the attraction.
The Runaway Railway is certainly the must-try ride at the Studios park this month, with initial wait times topping two hours, but it is definitely worth it for the full eight-minute experience of vivid Disney fun. And, while this is not any kind of roller-coaster ride, there is enough movement to make you want to hang on to that lap-bar at times!
For more insight, you can check out our video of the ride on this link.
This isn’t the only new attraction in the park, either, and families in particular will want to make a note of the Mickey Shorts Theater, a clever little faux cinema that features the specially-made Mickey animated short, Vacation Fun. It’s the more modern iteration of cartoon Mickey, and it features new animation spliced with other recent Mickey shorts, and there is then a fun series of photo opportunities in the post-show area.
Want more? Well, this is Walt Disney World – all 40 square miles of it – so you can be sure there is always something else just around the corner. And, for April, the ‘something else’ is a brand new Cirque du Soleil show, called Drawn To Life in the Disney Springs shopping-dining-entertainment district.
We were given a ‘sneak preview’ of the first two acts, and our immediate reaction was a jaw-dropping “Oh wow!” Drawn To Life replaces the previous Cirque show, La Nouba, which we absolutely adored and saw more than a dozen times in all. We thought it would be difficult to top the original, but – if the rest of the show is as stunning as the two acts we saw – this unique collaboration between Disney’s designers and animators and the brilliance of Cirque’s own creative team will be little short of sheer genius.
The beauty, elegance and vivacity of a typical Cirque show has been melded with the visual artistry and imagination of Disney for a truly unique theatrical experience, complete with an all-new musical score performed by a live band. We simple can’t wait for April 17 when it opens, and we suspect we will be repeat visitors to this one-of-a-kind show.
Again, if you’d like your own sneak peek at Drawn To Life, we have a video highlighting those two acts on this link.
Ready for a new bar/restaurant experience? Disney has that, too, in the shape of CityWorks Eatery & Pour House, an upscale sports bar and craft beer emporium in Disney Springs boasting more than 90 local and international beers of just about every kind, as well as a tempting menu of all-American classics such as tacos, burgers and barbecue.
And then there’s their newest hotel, Disney’s Riviera Resort, styled like one of the elegant grand hotels of the French and Italian Riviera. As well as a wonderfully gracious environment, the Resort boasts rooftop restaurant Topolino’s Terrace, which features some of the best continental cuisine we’ve ever tasted in Florida. Unsurprisingly, the head chef hails from St Tropez in France, and his stamp of culinary prowess is all over a gorgeous menu.
Just to top things off, Topolino’s also offers a grandstand seat for the nightly fireworks from the nearby EPCOT park, so this is a great place for dinner for just about every reason!
And there will be more soon, we’re sure, so make sure you bookmark America First Coast Travel’s News pages and come back regularly for the latest news on Florida’s dazzling array of attractions.
Susan & Simon Veness are the UK’s leading experts on Florida, having written about it for more than 25 years and sold more than half a million copies of their books about Orlando, Disney and the Sunshine State.