First let me say that this post is by no means a dig against Jim Hill himself. I have never met Mr. Hill, I have no idea what kind of person he is. In fact, I have no doubt that Mr. Hill does indeed have many friends and contacts within the Walt Disney Company. However, Jim Hill’s problem is that he asserts EVERYTHING is true. Any idea that’s ever tossed around a board room is “going to happen”, regardless of where it is in the planning stages. Any idea that ever *was* tossed around but didn’t actually happen is “the way it was *supposed* to be”. To be sure, some of his rumors have actually come true. But the vast majority of them do not. With that in mind, this post serves as a cautionary tale, presenting you with evidence why you should never ever believe a rumor reported (or “confirmed”) by Jim Hill.
I present to you the Jim Hill of 2006. All of these are quotes from Jim Hill in his “Behind the Scenes with Jim Hill” sidebars in the 2006 edition of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. I’ve included every sidebar that made a prediction for the future, and left out all the ones that asserted that something *did* happen in the past, or gave a simple fun fact about the then-current state of an attraction. Let’s go through them and see which ones came true and which never saw the light of day, as of this post’s publication date, 2013-07-23.
|“Given that Disneyland’s Swiss Family Treehouse was rethemed back in 1999, Mouse House insiders suggest it will only be a matter of time ’til the Magic Kingdom’s version also goes under the knife. The attraction can then be tied directly in with a more modern, more viable Disney franchise||the “matter of time” is apparently greater than 7 years|
|“Following the successful introduction of water cannons and plastic piranhas to Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise, WDW’s version is reportedly slated to follow suit. In the not-so-distant future, a trip through the jungle could leave you with a soaked shirt and or missing a finger or two.”||No water cannons nor piranhas have been added to the World Famous Jungle Cruise|
|“Keep a weather eye out for an Audio Animatronic version of Johnny Depp the next time you set sail on “Pirates of the Caribbean.” As an affectionate tip of the cap to 2003’s The Curse of the Black Pearl, the Imagineers have decided to add a robotic Captain Jack Sparrow to this Adventureland attraction. Look for Jack to be lurking somewhere toward the end of the rid, perhaps near the treasure room”||Captain Jack was indeed added, and even in the treasure room, in 2006. It was much more than a “tip of the hat”, however, as two additional Jack AAs, Barbosa, and Davy Jones were all added as well.|
|“Given that Disneyland has already shuttered Fort Wilderness on its own version of Tom Sawyer’s Island (supposedly due to costs associated with disabled-access issues as well as safety concerns), it’s only a matter of time ’til Disney’s lawyers finally get around to closing down Fort Langhorn. So run up and down those extremely narrow and poorly lit stairs and fire off a politically incorrect rifle while you still can. The Imagineers expect to be playing “Taps” for this Frontierland icon in the very near future”||Fort Langhorn is still open for business, protecting wary settlers from the natives|
|“Sure, the recent addition of Pooh’s Playful Place to the Magic Kingdom is a boon for parents with young kids. Just don’t expect it to be around for very long. Disney is reportedly already eyeballing this portion of Fantaslyand (and former home to “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”) as a possible expansion area. What sort of ideas are they talking about? Well, don’t be too surprised if, over the next few years, nearby “Ariel’s Grotto” undergoes a growth spurt and eventually emerges as a full-blown attraction.”||Nailed it. Good job, Mr. Hill.|
|“Pixar’s 2006 release Cars may hold the key to the future of this Tomorrowland classic [Tomorrowland Indy Speedway]. If this John Lasetter film does well at the box office, the Imagineers are toying with using the Cars characters as the springboard for a whole new fleet of vehicles that will talk to and interact with their passengers as they roll around this ride track.”||To say Cars did well at the box office is an understatement. However, no changes have been made to the Speedway.|
|“Look for WDW’s version of Buzz to incorporate a popular interactive feature from its Disneyland cousin. Through the magic of the Internet, people sitting at their home computers will be able to make some elements in the attraction move around, and seriously increase the point value of various targets. This is all part of an ongoing effort by the Mouse to make the GameBoy generation bond that much more strongly with the Disney theme parks.”||Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger spin has never had an internet-enabled component. (In fact, does DL’s Astro Blasters still even have that? I have no idea.) Btw, “Game Boy generation”? Are we sure this was written in 2006, not 1996?|
|“Wondering what’s going on with Epcot’s Wonders of Life pavilion? So are a lot of other people. Where once this assortment of attractions was at least open on a seasonal basis, now this Future World pavilion is closed year round. The Walt Disney Company has supposedly been showing the building to various pharmaceutical companies, with the hope that one of them might agree to be the next corporate sponsor. But – to date – nobody’s been willing to put up the necessary $100 million to completely renovate and update this Future World structure, which is why demolition may now be in its future.||I’m calling this one ‘neutral’. While the building itself hasn’t been demolished, it certainly was gutted, and I presume the attractions within were indeed demolished.|
|“So what’s next for Disney’s Animal Kingdom? Many Disney insiders point to this part of the theme park [Camp Minnie Mickey] as being the next logical spot for a major new thrill ride (…)”||I’m dividing this one into two parts. This part certainly seems to be true – Camp Minnie Mickey’s final days are indeed approaching, and some sort of new E-ticket appears destined for its location. However…|
|“(…) Among the ideas that are currently being kicked around is adding a clone of Disney’s California Adventure Grizzly River Run whitewater raft ride to the Animal Kingdom. The upside is that it would result in a large, bear-shaped mountain rising from the left side of the theme park, balancing out Expedition Everest on the right. The downside is that Grizzly River Run is virtually the same attraction as Kali River Rapids. Still, the Imagineers are hoping that someday soon they’ll be able to add an area to Animal Kingdom that allows WDW guests to get up close and personal with North American Grizzly Bears.”||We know now that the land of Pandora, from Avatar, is slated to be created in the current location of Camp Minnie Mickey, not a GRR clone. Indeed, in the 7 years since Mr. Hill wrote this, there have been no Grizzly Bear encounters in the Animal Kingdom.|
|“Though this Theater in the Wild show has been entertaining ladies who like ogling guys in loin cloths for more than five years now, Tarzan Rocks finally had to swing out of this Animal Kingdom facility to make room for a more family-friendly show. Though WDI is deliberately being vague about its plans for this theater, sources say that a new show based on finding Nemo will debut here by fall 2006″.||Yup. Finding Nemo: The Musical did indeed make its debut and is still going strong.|
|“Once considered the signature attraction of this park, The Great Movie Ride isn’t looking all that great anymore. Since a new script didn’t really improve the attraction, Disney is considering ripping out several show scenes, or gutting the attraction entirely for its real estate. In the not-so-distant future, there may be a whole new show being presented in the Chinese Theater.”||The Great Movie has had absolutely zero modifications since this rumor was published in the Unofficial Guide, and is still playing the same show to this day.|
|“If you’re an Epic Stunt Spectacular fan, you may want to make sure to visit the next time you’re in Orlando. With the arrival of Lights! Motors! Action! stunt show, there’s been a lot of talk about making some big changes to this hoary MGM attraction. One idea calls for the show to incorporate scenes from the upcoming fourth installment in the Indiana Jones series. Another is to replace the show with an East Coast version of Disneyland’s popular Indiana Jones Adventure attraction. How the next film in the series does at the box office may well determine this attraction’s fate.”||Indy and Marion are still escaping from exploding trucks and helicopter blades on a daily basis.|
|“After more than a decade of trying, the Walt Disney Company was finally able to acquire the Muppets characters from the Jim Henson Company in 2004. Among the plans that are currently in the works for Kermit and company is a new outdoor stage show starring Miss Piggy and pals, allowing Disney-MGM visitors to once again get up-close and personal with theses [sic] characters. And in late 2007-early 2008, a major new Muppet-based attraction may be coming. So have faith, felt-fans-m-more [sic] Muppet fun is on the way!”||Sadly, none of this has turned out true. Muppetvision 3D (and its associated gift shop) remains the only place in Disney’s Hollywood Studios where the Muppets exist.|
I could include other rumors of Mr. Hill’s that turned out false (Night Kingdom springs to mind) as well as a few that turned out true (Pleasure Island’s clubs all closing). But that would not be fair as I don’t know all of his rumors, and would more than likely end up Googling the ones I already know to be false, creating a bias in the tally. So instead, we’ll just go with the rumors he gave us in the 2006 edition, where the final truth score stands at 4-9-1. Four out of the 14 rumors published by Mr. Hill in this book were true. 9 false, 1 neutral. That leaves his accuracy at 28.6%. In other words, going by his record in 2006, any rumor that you see from Mr. Hill has less than a 3 in 10 chance of being correct. So really, really, don’t believe what he says, especially if it’s something you’re looking forward to – chances are you’ll end up disappointed.