Disney Expels Beloved Theming, Previous Design Suspended From Property

in Disney Parks, Walt Disney World

A yellow-striped monorail train emerges from a station with colorful geometric patterns on the walls, characteristic of Disney's previous design choices. The train glides along an elevated concrete track under an overcast sky. Palm trees and a small part of another building are visible in the background.

Credit: Jennifer Teffner, Flickr

Disney has just further leaned into one of its biggest criticisms yet, and fans do not seem too thrilled about the whole thing.

Over the past few years, we have started to see many of the resorts at the Walt Disney World Resort property receive a makeover.

Refurbishments have taken place at every value resort aside from Disney’s Art of Animation as it was much newer than the rest, and from Disney’s Caribbean Beach to Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, to Disney’s Grand Floridian, to Disney’s Contemporary Resort, and many in between, the mouse has been updating the resorts to bring them out of the late 90s and early 2000s and into today’s day and age.

A bustling crowd walks down Main Street towards a castle at a theme park. The street is lined with shops and decorated with orange pumpkins and fall-themed decorations, while the sky overhead is overcast. The castle stands large and iconic in the background.
Credit: Nicholas Fuentes, Unsplash

The issue with that is that when it comes to Disney, the original look was often filled with whimsy and over-the-top theming, and updating that look, while necessary, has often turned into an ultra-sleek modern look that many compared to a Marriott or Hilton hotel.

While the rooms come out looking nice to that standard, Disney fans tend to choose Disney resorts as opposed to the other hotel chains in order to stay in the Disney bubble and keep up the magical theming that Disney built its reputation on.

While the clean white look of Disney’s Riviera Resort sparked some discussion, it was Disney’s BoardWalk Inn that really threw fanatics over the edge.

Situated on the lively Disney BoardWalk, the BoardWalk Inn evokes a classic Coney Island atmosphere. Guests can enjoy carnival games, street performers, and a variety of dining options, including Flying Fish and Trattoria al Forno, alongside convenient access to EPCOT. This combination of theming, amenities, and proximity to a major park has cemented BoardWalk Inn’s position as a popular choice for Disney vacationers.

disney's boardwalk inn lobby
Credit: Disney

However, the recent room refresh has generated some concern among guests, who perceive a potential dilution of the resort’s unique thematic identity. While the need for updates is undeniable, the specific design choices appear to have deviated from the whimsical elements that initially captivated guests.

Similarly, the recent redesign of cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campgrounds received mixed reviews. While some guests appreciate the modernization, others lament the shift away from the immersive wilderness experience they associate with the resort.

These developments highlight the delicate balance Disney must achieve as it strives to maintain its signature theming while keeping pace with guest expectations for modern amenities and design. Moving forward, it will be crucial for Disney to engage in open communication with its loyal fan base to ensure that updates enhance, rather than diminish, the unique atmosphere of each resort.

Island Tower at Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
Credit: Disney

Today, Disney shared more news on the new Island Tower addition at Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows. This new Disney Vacation Club tower has been the source of a lot of discussion because it does not match up with the other Polynesian-style buildings, ruining the resort’s theme and a major sight line on Seven Seas Lagoon.

“This week marks the start of bookings, so we’re sharing a first look inside the guest rooms!

Projected to open on December 17, 2024, the proposed 10-story tower will feature a variety of room types, each brimming with original artwork inspired by the Polynesian Islands, wayfinding and the natural elements – earth, water, wind and sky. Each guest room will also feature stunning custom pieces inspired by Walt Disney Animation Studios film, “Moana.””

Disney Parks and Walt Disney Imagineering took to Instagram to share the latest room reveal in the towers, which keep with the Moana theme that the rest of the resort has adapted to.

With Moana 2 coming out this November, the theme is not necessarily a bad choice, especially with the IP being so popular and Bob Iger, Disney CEO, pointing out that a lot of their financial success has come from IP integration, but the overall room design lacks is not so beloved by fans.

See the Moana rooms at Island Tower? They call me! ⛵️🌀


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While posts on X have many in the Disney community raging like keyboard warriors, there are others replying directly to Disney, sharing their upset with comments like, “Bring back colorful rooms! Lots of cool details in here, but everything looks “Greige”.

Where are those tropical earthy colors at?”, “What a beautiful Hilton!”, “The building is awful @disneyparks It takes away from the beauty of the Polynesian and the Grand Floridian. It was so sad to observe this monstrosity this weekend”, and “Boring and very vanilla. What a shame for a DVC property” taking up a lot of space on the latest post.

A modern hotel room features a large bed with white linens, a green sofa, and a kitchenette with a microwave and sink. The room is decorated with vibrant artwork and ample lighting. A TV is mounted on a wall opposite the bed, and the floor has a wood-like finish.
Credit: Disney

Again, we see a lot of fans referencing the lack of color and the minimalistic style of theming. Instead of being fully immersed into a Polynesian atmosphere, as you are when you walk through the resort, you only get touches of it in the room through some hidden artwork of Maui, Moana, Te Fitit, Pua, and other characters from the film.

If you want a more in-depth room tour, the Disney Parks YouTube channel released it:

If you want to book a stay at the new Polynesian tower, below are all the details you need to know to book:

  • June 4: Beginning today, Disney Vacation Club members can make rental reservations by contacting Member Services at (800) 800-9800. Members will be able to make points-based reservations at a later date.
  • June 5: Walt Disney World Annual Passholders can start booking rental reservations by contacting (407) 934-7639.
  • June 6: All guests can make reservations online or by contacting (407) 934-7639.
Island Tower at Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
Credit: Disney

Guests will choose between studios, one, and two-bedroom villas. With Disney’s Polynesian Resort being on the monorail line, a short ride to Magic Kingdom, as well as being home to popular dining such as Ohana and Kona Café, it is one of the more popular options for guests coming to Walt Disney World Resort.

What do you think of the new Polynesian rooms at Walt Disney World?

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