D23 is almost always chock full of news and exciting updates, but 2015’s announcements were huge for the Disney Company. There were so many updates it is hard to know where to begin, but since most of us here at BtT are nerds and parks geeks, we will start at the most anticipated IP… Star Wars.
The Star Wars Universe is officially coming to both Disneyland and Walt Disney World in the not so distant future, and its presence is nothing to scoff at. Yes it has been present for many years at both parks in the form of the Jedi Training Academy, Star Tours and occasional character interactions (plus Star Wars Weekends of course), but this time it is different. Disney Parks will be bringing an entire land to each coastal park!
Both Disney Parks will be treated to similar experiences (according to Imagineering at D23 expo) and both will contain a 14 acre expansion – in Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. In the expansion, each park will be receiving a Star Wars themed experience where guests will visit a new planet (one not previously seen before), pilot the Millennium Falcon (during a climactic battle in the upcoming “The Force Awakens” film) and visiting a space port where they will eat and dine at a fully themed “cantina” and interact with a whole host of characters. Innoventions will also be transformed into Star Wars Launch Bay (more details to come).
Imagineers say that all aspects of the land will be completely “in story” for full guest immersion and will include to scale detail of the land as well as smells and even blue milk. Both Star Tours rides (both coasts) will see an update that will include possible locations, character interactions and possibly new villains as well. There will also be an update to the Jedi Training Academy, all to coincide with the release of the new Star Wars films (see The Force Awakens, etc).
If you are anything like us you simply cannot wait for years it will take for all of this to come to fruition, luckily you don’t have to. Disney has stated that many new interactive Star Wars related experiences will be added to the parks leading up to the opening of the new lands. If that isn’t enough Star Wars for you, early 2016 will see a build off from Star Wars Weekends called Season of the Force. During this event, Space Mountain will be called Hyperspace Mountain and re-branded with music and projections (*see Disneyland‘s Halloween makeover) and a new fireworks show will be added to Hollywood Studios and many more details will be announced as we get closer.
Now if Star Wars is not your thing and you are wondering, ” so what’s in it for me then”? Let us just tell you that there is so much more… let’s break it down by park shall we?
First, we will start at the park that needs the most attention and wow is it getting it. Over in Florida at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, a lot is happening in the near future. We are all aware of the dreaded hat being taken down (hurrah… right?) and various attractions and areas closing down (see tram tour and areas around animation pavilion), but what will take it’s place? Pixar… a lot more Pixar.
If you are not a fan of Pixar (is anyone NOT a fan of Pixar?) then you will probably want to groan and skip this section. Toy Story Land is invading Hollywood in a big way. The new land will be expanding Pixar Place and will include 2 major attraction (so far released) including a family friendly roller coaster themed off of slinky dog and a spinner style ride based on the “little green men” with a “The Claw” theme. While not a lot of details have been released, the concept art is different from other Toy Story Land in the parks overseas and the rollercoaster seems quite large and sprawling for a family style (perhaps similar to the Seven Dwarves Mine Train. For those who are not fans of waiting in the 2 hour queue, Toy Story Mania will be adding a 3rd track to pick up the slack a bit.
Imagineers are comparing the land itself to Cars Land over in Disney’s California Adventure in its scale and attention to detail. All that is known so far is that guests will be shrunk down to the size of a toy to immerse themselves into the Toy Story world.
Next we jump over to EPCOT for some Frozen magic. Ahh EPCOT, love it or hate it, it is about to get crazy over there. With kids still feverishly (if you will excuse the pun) craving Frozen (and with a new film coming out in the near future) Disney is holding firm to their IP and attempting to meld it into the current Norway Pavilion. Imagineers will be expanding the pavilion with traditional buildings being built for the expansion with meet and greet for frozen characters. The original Maelstrom Ride has long been gutted and is being replaced by Frozen Ever After, a ride that revisits all of your favourite Frozen characters and locations and include a new song and voice from the original characters.
The last major US Disney Parks update comes from the underdog of Walt Disney World, Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Often overlooked as just a large (and very hot) zoo with a decent roller coaster, Animal Kingdom is about to get not one but three new additions. The first update is called nighttime. Yes, really… the absence of sun.
If you have ever wondered what the park looks like at night but have not made it to the “special occasion” events, then you are now in luck. Animal Kingdom will be staying open through the evening and adding nighttime shows to the tree of life as “River of Life” show. The Kilimanjaro Safari will be receiving an expansion as well as being open for nighttime safaris (and adding two new species to that area, Hyenas and Wild African Dogs. Not enough nighttime spectacle for you? How about a relaxing, bioluminescent water ride where it is always nighttime?
That will now be possible as you step into Animal Kingdom’s newest land, “Pandora: The World of Avatar”. Guests will enter a fully immersive Pandora complete with floating mountains and bioluminescent plant life. Once there they will be able to experience all of Pandora in its glory, including an e-ticket personal flying experience called “Flight of Passage, where guests will ride their very own banshee (more details on this to come).
That sums up the U.S. details, however, the overseas parks are getting the full upgrade treatment as well.
Tokyo SeaDisney will see an addition of three lands to its growing park. Guests will be able to visit Arendelle, Alice and Wonderland and Beauty and the Beast, all in their respective lands and interact with characters there. Fantasyland will get upgrades and minor adjustments in addition to the adding of these lands.
Hong Kong Disneyland will be getting the Marvel treatment in full force as the Ironman Experience transports guests to the Stark Expo on the new Iron Wing but are interrupted by Hydra where an original battle takes place.
Now last but not least is Shanghai Disney. This park has been shrouded in secrecy until the most recent concept art was released and fans went wild. While some of the updates are not brand new was is good to have them clarified and set in stone for us.
As the park is built what is commonly known as Main Street USA will be replaced with a new area entitled Mickey Avenue. Details about the Avenue have not been released though we expect it to be similar to its US counterparts with local influences. One concept we were all aware of was Pirates Cove as we have all seen the concept art (see below) but were happy to see this land progressing along as planned. The main weenie of the park, Enchanted Storybook Castle gets a unique twist with a Snow White themed boat ride and theming.
An additional ride has been added called Roaring Rapids which is a white water experience for guests. The real news that delighted fans of the park is Disney‘s newest and fastest ride ever… Tron Cycle Power Run. Yes, we know the IP return was lacklustre despite the incredible marketing and sequels have been put to a halt, however this one looks amazing. Tron Cycle Power Run appears to have each guests seated on their own “cycle” and whipped around a track at high-speed.
This being Disney‘s fastest ride should be a thrill seekers delight and a great addition for a planned park that lacked any high-octane rides until now.
As more details come through we will keep you updated.