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We all know how Disney parks commercials get us right in the feels. Imagine watching scenes from kids finding out they’re going to Disney World while singers perform “Go The Distance” from Disney’s Hercules; it brought more tears than all the parks’ commercials combined. Add to that over a dozen announcements regarding exciting changes coming to Disney parks, resorts, and cruise lines and it was pretty much an emotional meltdown for over 7,000 fans watching all unfold live at D23 Expo.
This year at the Expo, the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts panel with Chairman Bob Chapek brought news faster than many of us could tweet, but it didn’t stop us from trying.
“We have some really, really big plans for Walt Disney parks and resorts,” Chapek told the cheering crowd. “Every single day at our parks, millions of guests make memories that last a lifetime. One of the ways we do this is to create amazing new worlds that continue to raise the bar.”
Chapek unveiled more than a dozen new experiences coming to Disney parks and resorts and with sneak peeks into each of the projects that are in development. Even the CEO of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, John Lasseter, shared his enthusiasm for plans that will include a larger Pixar presence at Disneyland Resort.
In addition to the announcement of the return of Fantasmic! to Disneyland, each person in the hall was given a preferred seating pass for an early viewing of the show that premiered that night – two nights earlier than planned in honor of the Expo! Fans were also treated to a glimpse of the new Beauty and the Beast musical production coming to the Disney Dream on Disney Cruise Line.
“On the heels of the many new and incredibly popular experiences that just debuted this year, the best is yet to come,” Chapek said. “We have ambitious plans for our parks and resorts around the world. We’re investing in the guest experience like never before, and we’re doing it all in a way that is only possible at Disney!”
Brand New Theme Park Experiences and Attractions
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
Star Wars fans were elated to hear news of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the newly announced name for the Star Wars-themed lands. Chapek shared new details and a glimpse inside the two anchor attractions, including one that puts guests right in the middle of a battle between the First Order and the Resistance. This will be a hot attraction at the park as guests will feel like they are inside a hangar bay on a Star Destroyer!
Park-goers will also have the chance to fly the Millennium Falcon, where each guest is critical to the mission’s success. Chapek also revealed many characters that guests will have the opportunity to meet, including BB-8, Chewbacca, Rex and Kylo Ren. Representing the largest single-themed land expansion at 14 acres each, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will open in 2019, with the first debuting at Disneyland Park in Anaheim, then at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando.
A Timeless Transformation of Epcot
As we approach the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World, grand plans are currently in place to complete the transformation that started with the debut of New Fantasyland in 2014. Changes will take place across Epcot that realize the original vision of the park while making it more timeless and relevant than ever before. Patterned after the number one family attraction at Disneyland Paris, Ratatouille will be added in an all-new space in the France pavilion at World Showcase.
Epcot will also see the addition of a brand new E-ticket attraction based on the rockin’ and action-packed world of Guardians of the Galaxy, the next step in how guests can encounter these characters at Walt Disney World Resort.
In Future World, a new Green Mission at Mission: SPACE will take guests on a stunning tour around the Earth, and an updated Orange Mission will make the trip to Mars even more spectacular. Adjacent to Mission: Space will be a new restaurant that invites guests to travel high above the earth for an unforgettable dining experience.
More Thrills For Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom
Disney remains at the cutting edge of deeply immersive, creative storytelling that draws guests into new worlds, and it is a legacy that lives on in every new Disney Parks experience.
The first-ever Mickey-themed ride-through attraction, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, will come to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. With a new original story and lovable attraction theme song, this new state-of-the-art ride-through attraction will take guests on a journey inside the wacky and unpredictable world of Disney Channel’s Emmy Award-winning “Mickey Mouse” cartoon shorts using new technologies that transform the flat cartoon world into an incredible dimensional experience.
Chapek also announced that the highest rated attraction at Shanghai Disneyland is coming to Walt Disney World Resort. A thrilling, Tron-themed attraction will be added to a new area near Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom. Additionally, a new live entertainment theater coming to Main Street, U.S.A. will bring world-class entertainment to the world’s most popular park.
Pixar At The Happiest Place on Earth
In addition to announcing the summer 2018 opening of Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Chapek was joined by John Lasseter to unveil plans for the development of Pixar Pier at Disney California Adventure. The pier will take on a brand new look as more favorite Pixar characters and stories come to life. Favorite characters from The Incredibles, Inside Out and even more Toy Story. Chapek also announced Pixar Fest at Disneyland Resort starting in 2018. This limited-time offering will include a new fireworks spectacular as well as special characters.
As part of the celebration, the Pixar Play Parade will return to Disneyland Resort – this time at Disneyland Park – and the fan favorite Paint the Night Parade will move to Disney California Adventure, one of Disney’s longest parade routes.
Disney Cruise Line to Double the Size of its Fleet by 2023
Chapek surprised the crowd by announcing that Disney Cruise Line will add one more ship in its expansion to take family cruise vacations to a whole new level. Joining the other two new ships that were announced just last year, all three ships will be powered by one of the cleanest-burning fuels available, liquefied natural gas. When all three ships are completed by 2023, Disney Cruise Line will have nearly doubled the size of the fleet.
Brand New And More Immersive Hotel Concepts
Also announced were projects that hope to bring exciting new experiences for resort hotel guests in ways that are only possible at Disney. Chapek confirmed plans to create the most experiential concept ever in an immersive new Star Wars-themed hotel that will be located at Walt Disney World Resort. The environment of the hotel is dedicated entirely to the galaxy of Star Wars as a one-of-a-kind experience where a luxury resort meets a multi-day adventure in a galaxy far, far away.
Adding to the immersive resort hotel slate, Disney’s Hotel New York – The Art of Marvel at Disneyland Paris will transport guests to the action-packed world of Super Heroes, including Iron Man, The Avengers, Spider-Man and more. Guests will be able to explore the Marvel Universe through its comic art, films, Super Hero costumes and more, displayed in the style of a contemporary art gallery.
Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Wilderness Lodge
On July 17, Disney Vacation Club will welcome its 14th resort when the all new Copper Creek Villas & Cabins opens at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. Copper Creek will feature 184 rustically elegant vacation accommodations including Deluxe Studios, one- and two-bedroom Villas, three-bedroom Grand Villas and unique waterfront cabins.
“The opening of Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge in just a few days and the announcement of our next planned development, Disney Riviera Resort, demonstrate the incredible momentum underway at Disney Vacation Club,” said Ken Potrock, Senior Vice President & General Manager of Disney Vacation Club.
“Our members tell us over and over again how much they love the outstanding accommodations and the value and flexibility of a Disney Vacation Club Membership, as well as the unique location to our growing and evolving theme parks and the exclusive member experiences and benefits they get from our Membership Extras program.”
Disney Riviera Resort Near Epcot
“We’re thrilled to announce plans for a new Disney Vacation Club property called Disney Riviera Resort coming to Walt Disney World Resort,” Chapek told the D23 Expo crowd. “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.”
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.
Better Park Transportation Options
Also announced were plans that will make getting around Walt Disney World Resort even more fun. An all-new Minnie Van service will provide a point-to-point transportation service in a way that only Disney can do, giving guests an even more seamless resort vacation from start to finish.
Walt Disney World visitors will also see the addition of a whole new transportation system called Disney Skyliner that will give guests a birds-eye view of Walt Disney World Resort. This brand new system will connect Disney’s Art of Animation, Pop Century and Caribbean Beach resorts, as well as the proposed new Disney Riviera Resort, with Disney’s Hollywood Studios and the International Gateway at Epcot.
Where do you spend more of your time – Disney World or Disneyland? Which new park perk are you most excited about?