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On Sunday, D23 Expo 2022 started off its last day with the hotly anticipated Parks and Resorts presentation, “Boundless Future: Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products.” Hosted by Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products Chairman Josh D’Amaro, the multi-media show gave fans a sneak peek into some of the future changes planned for each DPEP branch around the world.
After a rousing start to the presentation with singer-songwriter Jordan Fisher’s performance of “Happily Ever After” leading into the announcement that the popular fireworks show will be back at the Magic Kingdom next year, D’Amaro led off with news about the original Anaheim resort.
Joined by Executive Producer and Disney Legend Jon Favreau, D’Amaro gave guests an advance look at the Mandalorian and Grogu, as they will appear in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Oga’s Cantina starting in mid-November.
Turning his attention to Avengers Campus in DCA, D’Amaro brought out Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige who announced the plans for a third attraction there, based in the multiverse. Guests will be able to battle alongside all Avengers against every foe in the multiverse, with the introduction of a new character, King Thanos–a version of Thanos who won.
After a quick zoom call with Mark (Hulk) Ruffalo where he suggested that the Avengers Campus would benefit from “…a little green…” the two were greeted by The Incredible Hulk in his Quantum Suit, and announce that he would be available for meet and greets at Avengers Campus beginning next week for a limited time.
Close by, Pacific Wharf in Disney California Adventure will be reimagined as San Fransokyo from Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Big Hero 6. Current plans for the space include a meet and greet with Baymax, as well as new dining and retail options.
Pixar Place Hotel
Outside of the parks, Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel at the Disneyland Resort is becoming transformed into Pixar Place Hotel. Guests will experience a resort that combines the feeling of being surrounded by Pixar art with modern comforts and amenities.
Downtown Disney District
Some of the most appetizing news of the presentation was the announcement that popular local eateries Din Tai Fung and Porto’s Bakery & Cafe will be moving into the Downtown Disney District. To work off all those soup dumplings and potato balls, runners will be pleased to note that runDisney races will return to the resort in 2024.
Mickey’s Toontown – Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway
Over in Disneyland’s Toontown, the new attraction Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway is scheduled to open in 2023. A version of the existing attraction currently in operation at the Disney Studios park in Walt Disney World, D’Amaro shared some concept art on the queue as it goes through the El CapiTOON Theater.
Other changes coming to Toontown include the opening of Goofy’s How-to-Play Yard, complete with a playful sound garden, along with Donald’s Boat and Duck Pond in 2023.
Tiana’s Bayou Adventure
The reimagineering of Splash Mountain in both Disneyland and Walt Disney World to Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is underway. The story of the ride will pick up where the film left off and take guests on a trip with Tiana, Naveen and alligator Louis through the bayou to prepare to put on an inclusive Mardi Gras celebration. It will reopen in late 2024. Several members of the original film cast will return to lend their voices to the attraction, including Anika Noni Rose as Tiana, Bruno Campos as Naveen, Michael-Leon Wooley as Louis and Jenifer Lewis as Mama Odie.
As a special treat, Tony Award® winner Anika Noni Rose, who voiced Tiana in The Princess and The Frog, once again returned to D23 Expo (she performed at the 2009 D23 Expo singing “Down in New Orleans” before the film’s release.) She performed both “Almost There” and “Dig a Little Deeper” from the movie.
The Haunted Mansion Hatbox Ghost
The last news from Disneyland was the announcement that the Hatbox Ghost, replaced in the Disneyland Haunted Mansion back in 2015, will make an appearance at the Haunted Mansion in Magic Kingdom park in 2023.
Disney Cruise Line
Over at the Disney Cruise Line, a sixth ship for the Disney fleet was announced–the Disney Treasure. Inspired by both the theme of adventure and Walt Disney’s own love of exploration, the ship will incorporate real-world design elements from Asian and Africa, while tying in the fictional land of Agrabah from Aladdin, and will set sail in 2024.
The entryway atrium–The Grand Hall–will again house the ship’s signature statue which will have three characters for the first time in DCL history: Aladdin, Jasmin, and the Magic Carpet.
Also for the first time, DCL announced they will be taking the Disney Wonder to Australia and New Zealand beginning in late October 2023. Repositioning cruises will also be a first to go through the South Pacific, visiting destinations such as Fiji and Samoa.
Continuing with exciting off-the-ship locations, DCL is continuing work on a new private island in the Bahamas called Lighthouse Point. Located on the island of Eleuthera, Lighthouse Point will not only have the beaches and water recreations guests would expect, but also a cultural pavilion that will represent Bahamian culture authentically, using traditions and stories passed down through generations of local residents, artists, and advisors.
Shanghai Disney Resort–Zootopia-themed Land
Over in Shanghai, work continues on the first land based on the Walt Disney Animation Studios film Zootopia. Fans were treated to some new concept art and a look at the audio-animatronic figure of Officer Clawhauser that will greet guests as they enter the land through the Zootopia Police Department.
LinaBell, an inquisitive fox from the Duffy universe, made her very first appearance in the United States at D23 Expo. Previously she had only been available at Shanghai Disneyland.
Duffy and Friends Coming to Disney+
Duffy and Friends are getting their own show on Disney+. The six-episode, stop-motion animated series will debut in 2023.
Hong Kong Disneyland
Walt and Mickey Statue
As part of the Disney company’s 100th-anniversary celebration, Hong Kong Disneyland will unveil a new statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse in 2023, depicting Walt with Mickey near Cinderella’s carousel.
World of Frozen
Based on the blockbuster film Frozen, World of Frozen will open in the second half of 2023. The first of three new Frozen-themed areas coming to international Disney parks, it will blend Arendelle with the natural landscape of Lantau Island.
Along with the Walt Disney Studios Park getting a new promenade transformation with an attraction themed to the WDAS hit Tangled, it will be getting its own Frozen-themed land. The Disneyland Hotel, reopening in 2024, will also be renovated with Frozen influences.
As part of the grand finale of the 30th Anniversary celebration underway, a new stage show, “Pixar: We Belong Together,” will debut in 2023, also in Walt Disney Studios park.
Tokyo Disney Resort
The third Frozen-themed land will come to Tokyo Disney Resort as part of the Fantasy Springs expansion of Tokyo DisneySea. The expansion will also include areas for Peter Pan and Tangled, and a new hotel.
To celebrate all the Frozen-ness coming to the three parks, the Expo audience was treated to a live performance of the Frozen 2 hit song “Into the Unknown,” performed in Cantonese, Japanese, and French.
Walt Disney World
Back in the US, the completion of EPCOT’s World Celebration project should happen in late 2023. Around that same time Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana should open as well, allowing guests to follow the story of water on Earth.
Also in 2023 will be the spring opening of TRON/Lightcycle Run in Magic Kingdom, and the live appearance of EPCOT’s mascot Figment for meet and greets.
For this segment, D’Amaro was joined by Disney Animation Chief Creative Officer Jennifer Lee and Imagineering Portfolio Creative Executive Chris Beatty to explore some of the “blue sky” possibilities for the parks. Potential changes included changing out DinoLand USA at Animal Kingdom for an area themed to Zootopia and/or Moana.
Another expansion teased by the panel was the concept of “Beyond Big Thunder Mountain.” An area on the other side of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Magic Kingdom could potentially be developed into an adventure-themed area with lands incorporating a guided tour of the house in the valley of Encanto or a flight into the Land of the Dead from Coco or the often-rumored Land of Villains.
Disney 100 Years of Wonder
Finally, D’Amaro offered a look at Disney100–the biggest celebration in the company’s history–which will kick off in January. New nighttime spectaculars are coming to several of the parks:
- World of Color – One will be a new version of World of Color with a new story celebrating Walt Disney’s storytelling legacy.
- Wondrous Journeys will be a new fireworks show that will kick off in late January at the Disneyland Resort. It will feature nods to all 60 Walt Disney Animation Studios films to date.
- Magic Happens, the popular parade whose run was terminated early by COVID, will return this spring.
- The relatively new World Showcase Lagoon show Harmonious, at EPCOT, will be retired and replaced in late 2023.
The panel concluded with a performance of the new song “It’s Wondrous” from the upcoming Wondrous Journeys show.
All in all, a lot of additions/replacements coming to Disney Parks and Resorts all over the globe. How many will come to fruition? Only time, and perhaps another D23 Expo, will tell.