On Wednesday, September 25th, we were given a sneak-peak and ride of Disney’s newest addition to its already proficient transportation system, the gondola transportation system, the Disney Skyliner. Although for many millions of guests, this is amazing way to navigate around property, but for older guests, we all remember the original Disney Skyway system. It first opened in Disneyland on June 23rd, 1956 and closed on November 9th, 1994. The Walt Disney Skyway, an opening day attraction on October 1st, 1971 ran until its closing date on November 10th, 1999.
It was built by Von Roll, Ltd. founded in Bern, Switzerland. It was the first Von Roll Type 101 aerial ropeway in the United States. Walt Disney bought the ride from Switzerland. There were never any concrete reasons the Skyway was removed, but Disney decided to revive the Skyway with a rename of the Skyliner, and utilizing modern systems, cars and a new take on the system. The system will transport guests from Hollywood Studios station to stations at Disney’s Art of Animation, Pop Century, and Caribbean Beach resorts, as well as the Disney Riviera Resort, and the International Gateway at Epcot.
All of the participants began at the Hollywood Studios station. As with all the Imagineers do, it is beautiful to look at, functional and maintains the 30’s and 40’s retro look of the Studios architecture. The other stations will be themed according to their location… International Gateway will be Parisian, Pop Century will be a wave, Caribbean Beach, tropical and Art of Animation and Pop Century retro style. The gondolas will hold a maximum of 10 guests and a maximum of 6 mobility assisted guests.
It seems as if every other gondola is festooned with beautiful screen printed pictures of Disney Characters, From Horace Horsecoller to Chip and Dale and Animated features, such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to Ratatouille. The interior of the gondolas’ is spacious, and has bowed outer walls to give a feeling of openness. Entering the vehicles is very easy and efficient. The vehicles never really stop, they are continually moving, but at the embarkation point, they slow to a crawl, giving more than enough time to enter safely. Here is a tip…If you are a picture taking nut like myself, ask to attendant for a gondola without the graphics. They cover most of the glass and it is hard to get a good picture. The plain gondolas have plenty of open clear windows for picture taking.
After entering our vehicle, it slowly and very quietly began its ascent. The views outside were spectacular. Now there is only one thing that for me, the jury is still out on. The gondolas are not air-conditioned, and Disney said that it should not be a concern in the Florida summer. The day we went, it was in the 90’s, but for the first time in many months, the humidity was very low. We got on at 6:30pm, still warm but not humid. The only ventilation in the gondolas are upper vents forward and back and as the Skyliner moves, there seems to be a good airflow. However, as the gondola made the slow turn towards EPCOT, in that brief time, it did get noticeable warmer. I will ride this on a very hot day and give a final opinion.
If it does get uncomfortably hot, I believe the solution would be to install a large overhead exhaust or intake fan in the roof, that would keep the airflow moving and alleviate the problem without air conditioning. But I digress. After arriving at the Caribbean Beach resort station, we exited the gondola. The station is large and airy, with clear signage to either the Art of Animation or Pop Century, or the new Riviera Resort/EPCOT or back to the Studios. We chose to check out the Rivera route and EPCOT.
This route to EPCOT is the longest, at approximately 12 minutes. This route, as all the others, offers amazing vistas of Walt Disney World that can be seen nowhere else. The views of the Caribbean Beach resort below are beautiful. As we pulled into the Riviera Resort station, we all told to stay in the gondolas, to continue on to EPCOT’s station at International Gateway, because the Resort is not yet open. After arriving at EPCOT station, we have to disembark and re-enter the station for the return trip to Caribbean Beach, then the Studios. The most impressive thing about the new Skyliner is how quiet and serene it is! This is going to enhance these four resorts because of the ease of getting around. This new Skyliner will also alleviate the volume of passengers on the buses.
The biggest difference in the past and present Skyway/Skyliner systems are the size and configuration of the gondolas. I remember the original gondolas; They were open all around, you received lots of fresh air, abet they were much smaller and only held about 6 persons. You had almost 360 degrees to take pictures, you could look down directly and get a great view as you passed by. I believe Disney has another winner in its stable. In fact, I wish that Disney would look into connecting Animal Kingdom with this Skyliner. It would be more affordable then running a new monorail beam, since Animal Kingdom can only be reached by buss or car. That would be a “Magical” ride out to Animal Kingdom, imagine the views!
For me, I will give my personal 9 out of 10 for this amazing upgrade to an old favorite. The last point will be on how it feels in the very hot summer. But knowing how the Imagineers work, they will get that last point.