June 15, 2024

BREAKING: New Drone Show Coming to Disney World in Summer 2024!

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Walt Disney World is announcing its plans for June through September 2024, promising that Summertime at The Most Magical Place On Earth is going to be extra magical this year! This means new offerings and entertainment for

Walt Disney World is announcing its plans for June through September 2024, promising that Summertime at The Most Magical Place On Earth is going to be extra magical this year! This means new offerings and entertainment for EPCOT, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios. And now, the biggest news of all–a brand new drone show!

To quickly recap what’s coming for Summer 2024, the ¡Celebración Encanto! Sing-Along is Coming to EPCOT. Along with this, CommuniCore Hall will finally open and greet guests. As we discuss in the commentary to that post, we’re also expecting a fully-fledged EPCOT Summer Festival–it’s not just tinfoil hat speculation, Disney even teases something more.

Then there’s the Lion King 30th Anniversary Celebration Coming to Animal Kingdom in Summer 2024. As announced, this isn’t really anything. Merchandise, food, characters, and maybe some photo ops. However, as we discuss there, it’s not the first time Animal Kingdom has hosted a Lion King anniversary event–and the park needs people to stay later–so hopefully more is on the horizon there, too. We’re not holding our breath, though.

Next up is Disney’s Hollywood Studios, where you’ll be able to get into your feels with Joy herself! She’s headed to Pixar Plaza starting June 10, where she joins other Pixar stars. She’ll be in her new home just in time for Disney Pixar’s “Inside Out 2,” which premieres in theaters June 14, 2024.

Of the four parks, the final stop is Magic Kingdom. Nothing was announced for Summer 2024, but we already know that Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is opening there. Personally, I would not expect this to open by early June, but I would expect it to debut before Independence Day.

My guess is that Walt Disney World didn’t share an official opening date today because they’re not quite confident in one just yet. Unlike other recent attraction openings, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure has been moved forward and is now a race against the clock, rather than waiting it out. Our other guess is that Magic Kingdom will do something for summer beyond TBA, but that’s TBA. I could see it being relatively simple–like a refreshed cavalcade and a foodie ‘event’ at locations around the park, all inspired by Princess Tiana.

All of that brings us to the final–and biggest–piece of news for Summer 2024 at Walt Disney World…

At Disney Springs, drones take to the skies above Lake Buena Vista with “Disney Dreams That Soar,” a summertime experience that will be a late-night perk for Walt Disney World visitors. “You can fly” takes on a whole new meaning as Walt Disney World showcases stories celebrating the joy of flight with state-of-the-art drones choreographed to create designs in the sky and paired with a soaring musical score and memorable movie quotes.

After spending a day delighting in shopping, discovering fun activities and savoring diverse flavors at Disney Springs, turn your eyes to the skies above the West Side for “Disney Dreams That Soar,” a nighttime show amongst the stars.

“Disney Dreams That Soar” will run nightly at Disney Springs from May 24 through September 2, 2024!

To regular readers, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that Walt Disney World is getting a drone show. Finally. It’s something we’ve been covering this year in Will Walt Disney World Get a Dazzling Drone Display? We lay out the ‘why’ in that post, but our answer has been that it’s an inevitability, and sooner rather than later.

This saga started with the drone shows at Disneyland Paris, and the incredibly positive guest reception to those. At that point, it became a foregone conclusion that any Disney destination that could get drones, would get drones. Given its abundance of space, Walt Disney World was/is the logical landing point for the next Disney drone display.

The most recent development was drone testing visible from Saratoga Springs Resort that occurred exactly one month ago, in late February. According to firsthand reports, the drone made several loops around the Disney Springs lake before returning to its launch pad in the parking lot behind Cirque du Soleil. The drone was illuminated with a bright purple show light and carried out several take-offs and landings as part of the test.

While we’ve been betting big on drones coming to Walt Disney World, but is the one part of the prediction we got wrong. Our belief was that testing was only occurring at Disney Springs out of convenience–to avoid areas in the parks with people or having to test during the overnight hours to avoid guests. It’s also easier to stage and test drone displays at Disney Springs without making any infrastructure changes.

Our expectation was that drones would come to one of the parks and not Disney Springs. Although there’s been a drone show there before, that was almost a different era. It’s highly unlikely the current-day Walt Disney World would put on an “ungated” drone show. Whoops! (In our defense, nobody bats 1.000 or even .500 with Disney news/rumor predictions.)

Even though I was undeniably incorrect, I’m going to double down on that wrong-ness. I’m still highly skeptical that “Disney Dreams That Soar” is Walt Disney World’s end game with drones. Everything Disney does with entertainment is expensive–from the development costs to the music to the infrastructure and so forth. It’s also labor intensive, which itself is becoming increasingly costly.

I do not believe for a second that Walt Disney World would spend all of that money to put on a free drone show at Disney Springs, largely for the benefit of guests and third party operating participants (who will see increased business with added foot traffic). It just doesn’t pass the smell test as something modern Disney would do.

More likely, in my opinion, is that Walt Disney World realizes extensive testing and training will be necessary for a permanent production in one of the parks, so why not hold that out in the open at Disney Springs and get some benefit out of it? Throw together a quick show, and market that alongside a suite of other entertainment offerings for Summer 2024.

Suddenly, there’s a compelling reason not just for those who already are visiting to spend an evening at Disney Springs, but for other fans to plan summer vacations to Walt Disney World in the first place. Increase buzz and bookings, while also benefiting the tenants at Disney Springs. (And, if people are going to leave Animal Kingdom early anyway, give them somewhere to go that’s not Magic Kingdom or EPCOT, thereby reducing the overcrowding in those parks.) Now that makes perfect sense!

It’s easy to forget, but this has happened in the past–Walt Disney World already did a drone show at Disney Springs!

It’s now been almost a decade ago that Walt Disney World went to great lengths to get waivers on their no-fly zones. In November 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration granted Walt Disney Parks & Resorts a waiver to use “small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) operations” within its restricted airspaces. These sUAS are drones, and Disney has dubbed the technology Flixels (per a 2014 patent filing), which it has planned to use in nighttime shows.

Based on the approval, the flight paths of drones must be 100 feet away from guest areas at all times, and they must primarily fly over water and restricted areas, maxing out at 150 feet above the ground. The only question was how and where Disney would use this Flixels technology.

To the surprise of many of us, the first answer to that was: Disney Springs. Only a couple weeks after the waiver, Walt Disney World launched a free-to-view Christmas drone show over the water. It was short-lived, leading to the “obvious” conclusion that it was early testing for Rivers of Light at Animal Kingdom or Windows on the World, the working title for EPCOT’s Illuminations replacement.

That ended up being incorrect, but it is worth noting that the development for both Rivers of Light and the IllumiNations replacement were troubled (stating the obvious–see end results) and it’s entirely plausible that drones were planned for one of them at some point. We’ll never know the why behind that not happening, but it’s safe to assume a free 2-month drone show at Disney Springs was the starting point of testing and not the end game. Regardless, there hasn’t been a drone display at Walt Disney World since 2016.

Ultimately, we’re really looking forward to the “Disney Dreams That Soar” drone show. The name is fantastic and the concept of showcasing stories celebrating the joy of flight is phenomenal. I hope it includes a nod to the excellent Soarin’ score (too bad The Wind Rises isn’t a Disney movie). I’m also pleased that, regardless of the reason, Disney Springs is getting entertainment. We got burnt out on Disney Springs as locals, thanks to AMC A-List and visiting often during the phased reopening. We’ve since visited fewer times in the last 3 years than we did during a single month from 2018 to 2020, but that’s obviously an “us issue.”

Above all else, I’m excited for what I think this signals–ushering in a new era of entertainment at Walt Disney World. Purely speculative, but I’m betting that the “Disney Dreams That Soar” drone show at Disney Springs is the starting point for drones at WDW, but certainly not the endpoint. That “Disney Dreams That Soar” is a test, and the real deal will come to Animal Kingdom in 2025.

We’ve been over this before, but there’s currently nothing on the official timeline for Walt Disney World in 2025. Tropical Americas almost certainly won’t be ready by then and there are no yet-unannounced brand-new additions that could conceivably be ready by then. It appears increasingly likely that Walt Disney World is going to “sit out” 2025 and not try to compete with Universal’s Epic Universe. At least, not in the traditional sense of the term.

However, that doesn’t mean that Walt Disney World will do nothing at all. They’ll want something to market, to capture some of the guests drawn down by Epic Universe. I remain of the belief that a reimagined Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster will be the tentpole addition of 2025. Test Track 3.0 has already been announced, so it stands to reason that could be ready by 2025. Add to that maybe a couple more redone things in EPCOT, and you have the marketable ride roster.

This is where a drone show and other entertainment is the ace up Walt Disney World’s sleeve. Although they’re becoming increasingly common, drone shows still have a certain wow-factor not found in fireworks or fountain shows on a lagoon. A Walt Disney World drone show could be the secret sauce to somehow competing with Universal for eyeballs in 2025–the kind of thing that manages to resonate on social media as much as Mario.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

YOUR THOUGHTS

Are you excited for the “Disney Dreams That Soar” drone show at Disney Springs? Do you think this is testing for a fully-fledged, drone-driven nighttime spectacular at Walt Disney World in 2025? Or do you think it ends here, at Disney Springs? Do you agree or disagree with our reasons as to why one is unlikely–or desirable–in the foreseeable future? Think drones will be the ace up Disney’s sleeve to “compete” (air quotes) with Epic Universe? If a drone show comes to Walt Disney World, at which park would you like to see it? Any other thoughts or commentary to add? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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