Today was Disney’s D23 panel on “Disney Parks, Experiences and Products”. If you are the type of person who follows Disney news, there were no real surprises.
The first group of updates all concern the Magic Kingdom:
- TRON: Lightcycle / Run is going to open in Spring 2023. There had been some rumblings recently that Disney wanted TRON open for the holiday season (and testing seemed like, maybe (?), this was a possibility.) The safer bet was that Disney would open TRON next year, and that is precisely what it did.
- There will be an “updated” nighttime spectacular that involves the Happily Ever After song in 2023. (In other words, it does not seem like the original Happily Ever After show will be coming back the same as before.)
- Disney fan favorite The Hat Box Ghost is coming to Disney World in 2023. I’m excited to see this longtime Disneyland-only character arrive at Disney World.
- The Princess and the Frog re-theme of Splash Mountain is targeted for late 2024. The major voice actors from the original film will be back to voice their characters on the attraction.
There was also a group of updates involving the re-imaging of Epcot that is supposed to be done by late 2023, specially:
- An all-new nighttime spectacular to replace Harmonious. (Waiting for a Miracle from Encanto is the perfect song to end an Epcot show. Just do it, already.)
- Completion of the Moana-inspired Journey of Water walk-through garden and the rest of the World of Celebration.
- A Figment Meet and Greet (I mean, I’m sure people are super psyched for this. It’s not my thing, but I’m happy if you’re happy.)
There were no actual updates for Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios (characters outside of Episodes VII-IX time frame like Mando and Grogu still seem only available at Disneyland…I guess for Star Cruiser reasons ??) There were also no updates on the scheduled re-opening of fan-favorite show FANTASMIC!.
I give the “actual updates” qualifier since there was a segment near the end of the presentation where Josh D’Amaro brought out an imagineer and representative from Disney’s animation department and talked about “Blue Sky” projects that could eventually come to the parks. It was a strange presentation that, essentially, said, “we are considering these things, but are not committing to them.” In summary, the proposals were:
- A revamp of Dinoland at the Animal Kingdom to be some kind of Zootopia and/or Moana land or lands.
- Developing the area “behind” Big Thunder Mountain to be some kind of combination of Coco, Encanto, and Disney Villains.
I am not sure how to comment on something when it is presented this way. Would I like a huge new expansion of Magic Kingdom that involves a Coco section, an Encanto section, and a Disney Villains section? Yes. Yes, I would. Would I prefer that Dinoland actually have attractions instead of the area that used to be Primeval Whirl just sitting vacant? Again, yes. Unfortunately, it is anyone’s guess as to how long it will be before Disney gives us more clarity on these plans.
At the end of the presentation, Josh D’Amaro showed a slide that broke down all the actual announcements (not the Blue Sky stuff) and the timing of things through 2024. He said that there is more stuff he “wished he could share”, but if there is something else in the pipeline, why not announce it now? My guess: The press release for whatever comes next is already written, and we’ll all get to read it the same day that Universal gives its next major Epic Universe update.