This past weekend the Walt Disney Company held their biannual “D23 Expo” in Anaheim, CA featuring panels, presentations, and press events both looking back at the past and towards the future of Disney parks, films, television, and assorted properties.
The biggest news to come out of the weekend was the announcement that Star Wars “lands” were coming to both Disneyland in California and Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World in Florida. Details were sketchy (not even the location of the Florida land was confirmed outside of the assumption that it would be in the general vicinity of the already existing Star Tours attraction) and featuring only “blue sky” concept art and a few vague details of what guests can expect in the new land. Among the highlights will be a new e-ticket (big) attraction featuring a ride on the Millennium Falcon. A long-awaited Cantina inspired restaurant also seems to be a shoe in for the land. No opening date was announced but I would conservatively estimate that it will open in phases between 2017-19.
The other big Walt Disney World announcement came in the form of a new Toy Story inspired land also coming to Hollywood Studios. The land will be along the lines of the one in Hong Kong but seemingly bigger and better. It will include a Slinky Dog roller coaster and, most importantly, added capacity for the already existing Toy Story Midway Mania attraction. This announcement is a big disappointing as many had rumored that Hollywood Studios would get a more inclusive Pixar land to feature some version of California Adventure’s Radiator Springs Racers and perhaps even a stateside version of the Ratatouille ride from Disneyland Paris or an east coast version of California’s Monsters Inc. ride. The confirmation of these two lands coming to Hollywood Studios, and their size (14 and 11 acres respectively) all but assures the end of three more existing attractions: The Indiana Jones stunt show, Muppetvision 3D, and the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground (and probably also Lights, Motors, Action, but that’s still up in the air…they might need to keep it open just for the sake of its large capacity.)
Other big announcements from around the expo:
- Lots of other new Star Wars stuff is coming to Hollywood Studios in the interim including fireworks and Star Wars Launch Bay, a temporary exhibit looking at the new stuff coming to the parks as well as displays on the old and upcoming films.
- Soarin is getting an upgrade at both Disney World and Disneyland and will finally feature a new ride film: Soarin over the World.
- The new Avatar ride (coming soon to Animal Kingdom whether we like it or not) will be called Flight of Passage. Animal Kingdom will also be getting a nighttime show centered on the Tree of Life and Kilimanjaro Safari will get new animals and a nighttime version. Animal Kingdom will also begin to stay open every night, which I find way more exciting in and of itself than any of these other announcements.
- Shanghai Disneyland is going to be amazing, featuring a layout similar to the existing Disneylands, but with everything plussed and updated for a new generation including a new Main Street theme, a new kind of castle, and an updated Pirates of the Caribbean among other things. Of course, it’s unlikely anyone reading this will ever go there, but it sounds cool!
- Iron Man is coming to Hong Kong Disneyland. Once again, we’re probably all never going to see it.
- The next big Disney film is Gigantic. It has the people who did the music for Frozen and will be a retelling of Jack & the Beanstalk. Expect it to get its own land at a Disney park in 2024. They are also working on two movies starring the Rock: the animated Moana and the live action theme park inspired Jungle Cruise. A live action Jungle Book starring Bill Murray is on the way, for reals, as well as Pirates of the Caribbean 5 starring Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom, yawn.
- Sequels are all the rage at Pixar with their upcoming slate to include Finding Dory, Cars 3, The Incredibles 2, and Toy Story 4 (a stand-alone love story to focus on Woody and Bo Peep…seriously.)
- The Kingdom Hearts and Disney Infinity video games are doing a crossover. I haven’t played a video game not called Madden in twenty years so this announcement is lost on me but it seemed like kind of a big deal.
All told, the D23 Expo was a rousing success for Disney, garnering headlines, viral clips, and tons of social media activity all weekend long. Most assuredly the event will continue to be a bigger and bigger deals as years go on, likely approacing Comic Con levels, if it wasn’t already there yet.
If you’re planning a trip to Walt Disney World, don’t forget to check out my four part guide here at Place To Be Nation. Also make sure to check me out at Touring Plans and on my blog WDWorld Traveler. Follow me on Twitter @NeilTrama.