Recap D23 Expo 2017 Disney Parks & Resorts Announcements

On Saturday July 15, Bob Chapek took to stage during the D23 Expo to announce upcoming changes to Disney Parks and Resorts. The one and half hour keynote confirmed some rumors but also brought some surprises. Let’s recap them all, and add some more thoughts behind each one of them as well.

Magic Kingdom will get its own TRON ride

This was something that was already heavily debated for weeks leading up to the D23 Expo, but it has been finally confirmed; Magic Kingdom is getting its own TRON ride. This opening-day attraction from Shanghai Disneyland has been a huge hit. While we were in Shanghai Disneyland we couldn’t get enough of this ride. We are so happy to see this attraction making its way to the US. This will for sure add some necessary live to Tomorrowland. If we can trust the concept art, the Speedway will still be there once TRON is built.

The TRON Lightcycle Power Run attraction will open in-time for the Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary in 2021.

Magic Kingdom’s Main Street USA to get a new theater

Inspired by the Willis Wood theater in 1920s Kansas City where Walt lived after he left Marceline, this new theater will be built right off Main Street USA. You can see a possible location on the image below. While there was no news on where it would be built, this location does match “right off Main Street USA”, plus there was no announcement of any ride or building being replaced. So our money is on this location.

“Across Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, we’ve been upping the game in Entertainment with shows like Frozen Live at the Hyperion,” Bob Chapek, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts said. “It’s been a huge hit at the Disneyland Resort, and I’m sure many of you have seen it. This new theater at Walt Disney World continues that streak by bringing a new venue for world-class entertainment to the world’s biggest park.”

While Magic Kingdom already has a lot of rides, it is lacking some performance areas. With the addition of this theater we can expect some big shows to open at Magic Kingdom. It’s not clear yet when this new theater will open, but we do expect it will open in-time for the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World in 2021.

Mickey to get his own ride in Disney’s Hollywood Studios

There were some rumors last week that The Great Movie Ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios would be replaced with a Mickey ride and now, it has been confirmed. Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway will feature a new story. It also will have a singable attraction theme song along with a new experience called 2 1/2D. More immersive than normal video, but no glasses required.

Walt Disney Imagineer Kevin Rafferty said teams are inventing new technologies that turn the flat world of a colorful cartoon short into a “dimensional display of amazingness. This is one of the boldest…most impossible things I’ve ever worked on in almost 40 years of being an Imagineer. And you know what? That’s what I love about it. Well, that, and Mickey,” Kevin said. “This is not going to be a small attraction, it’s going to be game-changing.”

Along with TRON coming to Magic Kingdom, I’m truly excited about this change. What all parks, around the world, have been lacking are rides based on the classic characters. And even though this will be based on the new animations, this could be a start of something great that we will also see in the other parks.  I have a harder time understanding why they are placing this ride in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I believe that Magic Kingdom would have been a better spot for this ride (or at least a Fab 5 style ride). I haven’t ridden The Great Movie Ride, but reading about it, seeing photos and watching some videos, I do think it still fits quite well inside the Studios, especially now that the park will keep its name.

As Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway  is replacing The Great Movie Ride, along with the announcement of the new ride, the last day of The Great Movie Ride has been announced; August 13. This of course doesn’t leave much time for fans to experience this ride one more time.

Star Wars Land gets its name

While construction is well under way, we have finally been told the name for Star Wars Land on both coasts; Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Both lands (WDW and DLR) will be host to two attractions:

  • Be on-board a Star Destroyer inside a hangar bay
  • Fly the Millenium Falcon, piloting the ship, shooting blasters or preparing for hyperspace – all while completing a critical mission

If you want to earn extra galactic credits, you have to make sure you accomplish the Millenium Falcon mission without banging up the ship. If you do so, you might end up on the list of a bounty hunter. End up on Harkos’s list and you may face a problem if you show up at the local cantina! Guests will also encounter  familiar faces inside Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, including BB-8, Chewbacca, members of the First Order and, among many others, Rex, the pilot you may remember from the previous version of a certain Disney attraction who takes on a new role in this land as the DJ at the cantina.

The addition of Star Wars Lands is a no brainer, but the name. It does have a nice ring to it, but it also feels like it has something do with Samsung. The location of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios makes more sense to me than the addition of Star Wars Land to Disneyland, especially as Tomorrowland is still at the same park as well, with Space Mountain (which currently doesn’t have Star Wars theming) and Star Tours. And especially the last ride worries me. As said, at DHS it makes more sense, also because Star Tours will be around the corner. At Disneyland you have to go to the other edge (see what I did there?) of the park. Regardless of all that; 2019 will be an amazing year for Star Wars fans, and might be not so amazing for Disney fans that have no relation to Star Wars.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will open in 2019, first at Disneyland and later that year at Walt Disney World.

Epcot getting ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ & ‘Ratatouille’ Attractions

Confirming earlier rumors, Epcot will see the addition of two new rides. The Universe of Energy will be replaced with an attraction based on the Guardians of the Galaxy. What the ride will be is not entirely clear. But the backstory might be that Peter Quill (aka Star Lord) actually visited Epcot as a kid. This new attraction will replace the current Universe of Energy attraction, which will close August 13, 2017.

Although I’m not a fan of Guardians of the Galaxy or the Marvel franchise by itself, it is a no-brainer that Disney is adding an attraction based on this superhero movie. And even though The Universe of Energy is well passed its expiration date, I question whether Epcot would have been the best location to put this. In my opinion, adding this to DHS would have made more sense. Nonetheless, adding attractions on current movies, sorry Avatar, makes a lot of sense business wise. It might stop some hardcore Disney fans from visiting Epcot, but in the end share holders are often placed on number 1 and guests come after that.

The new Guardians of the Galaxy attraction is set to open in 2021, right in time for the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World.

Epcot - Ratatouille

Also rumored for a few weeks, the addition of a new attraction to the France Pavilion was also confirmed during the announcements. While there were speculations of a Ratatouille type attraction, now we know this will be the case. Ratatouille will be based on the 4D ride from Disneyland Paris which opened at Walt Disney Studios in 2014.

While I’m a fan of the trackless ride, I’m not a huge fan of the use of 3D. The 4th dimension is something that I do love of this ride. We haven’t ridden it often when we visit Disneyland Paris. This is not because the ride itself is lame, this is more because of the fact that the attraction is located in WDS and we rarely visit that park as we spend most of our time at Disneyland Park itself. The addition of this ride to the World Showcase makes sense. The times that we have visited Epcot and more specifically the World Showcase, you always feel there is something missing. Especially pavilions like France (or Canada) can benefit from more elaborate attractions. What really fits is the fact that Ratatouille is a movie which takes place in Paris, adding more to the French atmosphere. Let’s hope that this is a new trend and that we will see more of these attractions coming to the World Showcase.

The new ride at the France Pavilion is set to open in 2021, right in time for the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World.

Epcot will get a new space themed restaurant

Restaurant Mission Space - Epcot

A new dining experience is headed to Epcot. Over at Mission Space, the new restaurant will invite guests to travel into space for amazing dining experiences in the stars. Walt Disney Imagineer Tom Fitzgerald shared a first look at the restaurant during the Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts presentation at D23 Expo 2017. “We know our guests love dining at Epcot – and the restaurants really are out of this world,” Tom said. “Now we’re about to create one that takes that literally.”

Epcot is known for its Disney food fans, and the addition of one more sit-down restaurant is a good choice which we can only applaud. Opening up a restaurant next to Mission Space, with a similar theme is a great idea and we can’t wait for it to be opened.

Information on when the restaurant will open, and what the menu will be is not known yet. The restaurant will be operated by the Patina Restaurant Group which already operates several other restaurants at Walt Disney World including Tutto Italia and Via Napoli at Epcot and Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs.

Disneyland Paris to get a Marvel themed hotel

During the D23 Expo announcements, Bob Chapek announced that Disney’s Hotel New York at Disneyland Paris will be reimagined into a new Marvel-themed wonderland. “We’re going to create a hotel at Disneyland Paris that would make Tony Stark proud,” Bob said. “I’m thrilled to announce that Disney’s Hotel New York – The Art of Marvel will transport our guests to the action-packed, inspiring world of Super Heroes including Iron Man, The Avengers, and Spider Man among others!”

While, also here, I’m not a huge fan of the Marvel Franchise, it makes perfect sense. The location of the hotel, the current theming, the pending renovation, and the new theming all come perfectly together. Having seen what a Marvel make-over has done in Hong Kong, I’m curious to see what this change will bring to Paris. While Disneyland Paris fans were expecting a bit more; like a new Marvel themed show at Walt Disney Studios, the reimagination of the hotel is a start. And let’s hope it is a start of more. As the park desperately needs some new life. The last major reveal/opening was Ratatouille in 2014 and ever since, the team at Paris has only delivered some amazing stage shows. But Paris needs more.

Disney’s Hotel New York will be undergoing extensive renovations for most of 2018. An opening date hasn’t been set yet.

Star Wars-Inspired Themed Resort coming to Walt Disney World

With the addition of Star Wars Land, it was just a matter of time before a Star Wars themed hotel would make its way to either Walt Disney World or Disneyland. At D23 plans have been unveiled for a Star Wars-Inspired Themed Resort as part of the new Disney 360 vacation concept.

“It’s unlike anything that exists today.” Bob Chapek said. “From the second you arrive, you will become a part of a Star Wars story! You’ll immediately become a citizen of the galaxy and experience all that entails, including dressing up in the proper attire. Once you leave Earth, you will discover a starship alive with characters, stories, and adventures that unfold all around you. It is 100% immersive, and the story will touch every single minute of your day, and it will culminate in a unique journey for every person who visits.”

All I can think of is, why wasn’t this announced earlier and why won’t it open at the same time the new land opens at DHS. Rumors for such a resort have been flying around a lot lately so it is good to see that it is actually happening. For all the Star Wars fans, this is going to be the ultimate vacation, and I know for sure it will make sure that attendance numbers will increase a lot. Let’s just hope it won’t affect any of the other parks negatively.

Information on where this resort will be placed is not available yet, nor do we know when it will be opened. But based on the overall idea of the resort, we would expect it to be placed close to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and that it will open in the first or second year after Star Wars Land opens to guests.

New transport modes coming to Walt Disney World Resort

Two new transportation options are coming to Walt Disney Resort; Skyliner and Minnie Vans.

Walt Disney World Skyliner

The Skyliner was already quite out in the open. TWDC already filled the necessary permits and some major work already started. Finally we know how it will look like and what it will bring to guests. The Skyliner system will connect Disney’s Art of Animation, Pop Century and Caribbean Beach resorts and other locations with Disney’s Hollywood Studios and the International Gateway at Epcot.

The addition of a gondola type transportation option has been discussed a lot in the last few months. Now that we officially know it is coming, it both makes sense but also it doesn’t. It makes sense in a way that guests will enjoy the bird’s eye view of the resort, and will experience the slow mode of transport as a good thing. But the fact that these gondola’s will only have limited capacity, I’m not sure how well this will work. Especially at peak moments (early magic hours, or after the nighttime shows). I can see it as a nice leisure way of getting to Epcot during the day, but during rush hour, I guess a lot of guests will be disappointed when the gondola they wanted was already full and they have to wait another round. Still, I’m excited!

No news as of yet when the Skyliner will be available to guests.

Walt Disney World Minnie Van

The Uber-like van service was also already heavily debated. The Minnie vehicles will take you everywhere you want to go at the Walt Disney World Resort, and you’ll ride in Minnie’s classic style. “Since we’re all about exceeding guest expectations and making every aspect of your vacation uniquely Disney, we’re creating a new point-to-point transportation service in a way that only Disney can do,” Bob Chapek said.

While I was listening to the announcement, the only thing I could think of; finally! Haven’t spent a few weeks at the Walt Disney World Resort, I felt the pressure on the system during peak times. More than once we had to wait about an hour before we would be able to hop on a bus. This also caused us to miss certain shows or performances. Even when you plan, buses can be unexpectedly full, or just unavailable. And I know, you can easily call for an Uber, or a local cab, or heck even just rent a car. But when you are on vacation, you don’t want to think about all that, and you just want to receive the Disney experience. With this van service by Disney, you will be guaranteed that this will be indeed up to par of what you are expecting.

The Minnie Vans are already available around the resort and will cost you about $20 at the moment. Disney might decide to increase the cost of this service. I know that I would opt for a Minnie Van to get me to the parks, and use the Express Transportation.

Toy Story Land to Open at Walt Disney World Resort in Summer 2018

Toy Story Land - Disney Hollywood Studios

Toy Story Land is set to open in the summer of 2018 at Disney Hollywood Studios. This new Toy Story Land will get two new attractions:

  • Slinky Dog Dash will be a family coaster attraction
  • Alien Swirling Saucers.  Aliens are flying around in their toy flying saucers and trying to capture your rocket toy vehicle with “The Claw.”

Seeing how popular Toy Story rides are in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Paris, Anaheim, but also in Orlando, this should have been there already before. The description of both rides get me quite excited and I can’t wait for them to open and experience them. I do think though that just adding two more rides, next to the already existing Toy Story Mania, might not be sufficient. I would also add one or two more rides like for instance Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop (which we enjoy way too much).

Disney California Adventure is getting a whole lot of Pixar

Pixar Pier DCA

Paradise Pier at Disney California Adventure will be renamed to Pixar Pier. With the renaming of this classic board walk pier, more Pixar changes will be added to DCA. Not all changes are known yet, so we just have to wait and see what will happen. Some of the things we already know:

  • Cars Land will get a Halloween Overlay this year
  • The Pixar Play Parade will move to Disneyland (so DCA is loosing out on Pixar?)
  • Paint the Night will move to DCA

Pixar Fest

Your favorite Pixar characters come to life on this seaside waterfront. The various areas will be filled with friends from “The Incredibles,” “Inside Out” and even more pals from “Toy Story.” This permanent addition to the park will open during a new limited-time celebration taking place throughout the Disneyland Resort in 2018 — Pixar Fest! Experience the magical worlds of Pixar in brand new ways.

While I see that most of the Pixar movies are huge hits, I’m questioning whether they should re-theme an entire area that a lot of people love to just being Pixar. What will for instance happen to the Cove Bar, California Screamin’, Ariel’s Grotto, Goofy’s flight school, Mickey’s Fun Wheel, the Golden Zephyr, Silly Symphony Swings, The Little Mermaid~Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, the various food locations and let’s not forget Hotel Paradise Pier. I’m curious to see what will change in the year to come, and what will be left of the current theming. I must say that Paradise Pier always had a huge draw on me. I loved walking around the area and soak it all up. But I’m not sure whether I would have the same feeling when it is all Pixar themed. It almost feels like a ‘cheap’ way of adding a Toy Story Land to the Disneyland Resort. Having all this said, I’m still curious to see what will happen. I’m just cautious with the fact that all this re-theming has to take place within a year, basically rending a large portion of DCA not usable for the next year.

Disney Planning Not Two, But Three New Ships

Disney Cruise Line

Disney already ordered two ships and is now adding a third ship to that order. The ships are being built by the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany with scheduled completion dates of 2021 and 2023. The additional ship will be built at the same shipyard and is scheduled to be completed in 2022.

“We decided two ships wouldn’t be enough to hold all of the exciting new experiences we have been dreaming up to take family cruise vacations to a whole new level with immersive Disney storytelling, world-class family entertainment, and imaginative innovations that are fantastically fun and uniquely Disney,” Bob Chapek, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, said. The ship names, design plans and itineraries are still in development. Each ship will have their own unique experience. The three new ships will be powered by clean-burning liquefied natural gas and be the same size – approximately 135,000 gross tons with about 1,250 guest staterooms planned – which is slightly larger than the newest Disney Cruise Line ships; the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy.

We haven’t sailed with Disney Cruise Line but are planning on doing so in 2018. Building these new ships, and adding a third one makes a lot of sense. The Asia market is currently booming and with the success of Disneyland Shanghai and Tokyo Disney Resort, it can only be expected that one or two of these ships will be designated to the Asian waters. Also the European cruises are picking up steam and having the ability to for instance dedicated a few more ships to specific regions of the world will help Disney design better itineraries that match regional requests. We can’t wait to sail with DCL and are excited to see what these three new ships will bring.

Immersive Super Hero universe at Disney California Adventure

Avengers DCA

The Guardians of the Galaxy will be joined by the Avengers and Spider-man. Creating an immersive Super Hero Universe at DCA. What all this means is not yet known, but we will for sure see some enhanced meet and greet with the characters from the Marvel universe, and we might see some changes to Bugs land. Especially when Parade Pier will become Pixar Pier. For now we have to wait as no other information has been shared.

New DVC resort near Epcot: Disney Riviera Resort

Disney Vacation Club Riviera Resort

During the D23 Expo Bob Chapek announced the next planned development for Disney Vacation Club will be an entirely new resort near Epcot called Disney Riviera Resort and that a new Skyliner transportation system will connect the new resort to other areas on Walt Disney World property.

Disney Riviera Resort is estimated to open in fall 2019. This new resort experience is slated to be the 15th Disney Vacation Club property with approximately 300 units spread across a variety of accommodation types. “We’re thrilled to announce plans for a new Disney Vacation Club property called Disney Riviera Resort coming to Walt Disney World Resort,” Bob Chapek said. “Our Vacation Club Members are among our most loyal fans, and we think that they will love what we have planned, especially the rooftop restaurant that will offer unbelievable views of nighttime spectaculars at both Epcot and Hollywood Studios.”

Works on this resort already have been started, and now that it has a name, it is clear that it will be completely decoupled from the Caribbean Beach Resort. And with this, we can also expect it to be in a different class. As a family member to somebody who is a member of DVC, I can’t get enough of the “welcome home”-feeling you get when you visit a park or a resort. Based on the rendering, this is for sure going to look like a classy resort, a lot more in line with for instance Disney’s Yacht Club Resort. I’m curious to see what the point value of this new resort will be. You either like DVC or you don’t. But it does offer a lot of Disney fans a good way to stay on property without always breaking the bank.

That’s a wrap for the D23 Expo Disney Parks and Resort Announcements

Thats a wrap - Walt Disney Studios DLP

These are all the noteworthy announcements for the Disney Parks and Resorts worldwide. What are your thoughts? Happy with all new announcements? Were you hoping for something? Leave a comment.

 

Photo: Disney Concept Art, Disney Vacation Club.

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