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Every other summer, Disney superfans descend upon the Anaheim Convention Center near Disneyland for the D23 Expo. D23 is the name of the Official Disney Fan Club, and the Expo gathering is truly a sight to behold. The event is full of celebrity appearances, exclusive merchandise, crazy costumes, and major Disney announcements from every division of the company.
What theme park enthusiasts look forward to most at D23 Expo is the parks panel. This session is when Disney makes most of its major announcements about plans for new attractions, lands and experiences in its many theme parks, resorts, and cruise ships around the world. At the last D23 Expo in 2017, Disney announced Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge to the world, so the anticipation was certainly high in 2019 for what might follow.
Arguably there were not as many bombshells this year, but Disney did reveal quite a bit of breaking news. Company leaders also provided additional details and images for many previously announced coming attractions. Here are seven major announcements (and a lot of additional minor ones) that came out of this year’s D23 Expo that theme park travelers need to know.
Avengers Campus (Disney California Adventure at the Disneyland Resort & Disneyland Paris)
The area that was formerly “a bug’s land” in Disney California Adventure park in Anaheim, California, has been under construction for about a year. We’ve known for awhile that it was slated to become a Marvel-themed superhero land, tying it in with the Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: BREAKOUT! ride that is already nearby. A similar land was previously announced for Disneyland Paris as well.
The naming of it, however, has been a secret until now, complicated by the fact that contractual restrictions with Universal prohibit Disney from using the Marvel brand in its parks. The solution, of course, was the fallback on the popular Avengers franchise name. Avengers Campus will be a place where new recruits can train to join their favorite superheroes.
The campus will be home to the first Disney ride-through attraction to feature Spider-Man, where guests will be able to sling webs in an interactive attraction. It will also feature the Pym test kitchen, where food grows and shrinks, as well as an offering featuring the world of Dr. Strange and lots of character appearances.
The first phase of Avengers Campus is set to open some time in 2020 at Disneyland and at a later date in Disneyland Paris. A second phase at Disneyland, date still to be determined, will also feature a brand new E-Ticket attraction set in the Avengers Headquarters building. In this attraction, guests fly to Wakanda on an all-new ride system, headed into battle along with their favorite Avengers.
The Transformation of Epcot (Walt Disney World)
Epcot is currently undergoing a major transformation the next few years. The geeky “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow” of old is giving way to experiences that feature more Disney characters and intellectual property. The park has been a construction zone for much of this year, with some new attractions already known.
Bob Chapek, Disney’s Chairman of Parks, Experiences and Products, announced in the D23 Expo parks panel that Epcot will now have four neighborhoods. World Showcase will remain, but the area now known as Future World becomes three new spaces: World Celebration, World Nature and World Discovery.
Anchoring the World Celebration area is Spaceship Earth, which will also see some changes. While the ride will have many of the same scenes, it will have a new story arc, new narrator, and a new exit. Also in World Celebration, a new area called Dreamer’s Point will feature a new Walt Disney statue and amazing views of the park. There will also be a new pavilion to serve the many food festivals that happen at Epcot yearound.
Over in World Discovery, the previously-announced Guardians of the Galaxy coaster construction continues. At D23 Expo, Disney finally gave this coaster a name: Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. As the name might suggest, it will be a reverse launch coaster, bringing some major thrills to the park.
World Discovery will also have a new restaurant, which will be named Space 220 Restaurant and will open this winter. The former Wonders of Life Pavilion will become the Play Pavilion and will feature characters like Edna Mode from Pixar’s The Incredibles as well as a water balloon flight with Huey, Dewey and Louie. The Play Pavilion will be open in time for Disney World’s 50th anniversary.
Finally, the World Nature neighborhood will have two new additions — one previously known and one new. A new movie, Awesome Planet, will open in The Land Pavilion. The second attraction is Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana. Details on this attraction are sparse, but Disney describes it as a place that will “let guests interact with magical, living water in a beautiful and inspiring setting.”
Disney also announced the name of a new nighttime show, which was promised to be the largest in Disney history. Called Harmonious, this spectacular will open in 2020.
Last but certainly not least is a brand new Mary Poppins themed attraction at the United Kingdom pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase. While rumor-watchers had been predicting everything from a new Brazil pavilion to the re-theming of the Gran Fiesta Tour to feature Coco characters, ultimately Disney threw everyone a bit of a curveball with this World Showcase announcement.
Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser (Walt Disney World)
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is open in Disneyland and opens August 29, 2019 in Walt Disney World, but Disney parks aren’t done yet with all things Star Wars. An immersive Star Wars themed hotel is coming to Walt Disney World, adjacent to Disney’s Hollywood Studios where Galaxy’s Edge will open.
The hotel has been under construction for awhile, but at D23, it was finally given a name: The Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. It will offer adventures where guests can be active participants in the world of all things Star Wars.
Guests board the Starcruiser — named the Halcyon — together, much like a cruise. Disney will be offering stays of two nights and three day. The experience includes activities and onboard dining. Guests interact with the crew, characters and other passengers, and the choices they make affect the course of their journey. Much like a cruise, guests have a port day on Batuu, the name of the planet featured in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. There are additional activities on board the ship, including an experience where kids and adults alike can face off against a training remote with a lightsaber.
Cirque du Soleil (Disney Springs, Walt Disney World)
The large theater in Disney Springs in Walt Disney World formerly occupied by Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba has been empty for a few years now. But a new Cirque show — as yet unnamed — will return here in the spring.
This new show celebrates the art of animation and represents a major collaboration between the artists at Cirque du Soleil as well as those at both Walt Disney Animation Studios and Disney Imagineering. In the show, animated characters will interact with live performers. Previews begin March 20, 2020, and the world premiere is scheduled for April 17, 2020.
Magic Happens Parade (Disneyland)
While many of the changes announced at D23 Expo center around Walt Disney World, Disneyland made some headlines as well. The park will be getting a brand new parade in Spring of 2020. Called “Magic Happens,” the parade will blend both new and classic Disney characters on brand new floats and will including Moana, Coco, Sleeping Beauty, and Mickey and Minnie. The new theme music for the parade was composed by singer/songwriter Todrick Hall.
Disney Genie (Walt Disney World)
One of the major complaints from Disney guests is the amount of time-consuming planning a Disney vacation requires, particularly in Walt Disney World in Orlando. Hearing those complaints, Disney announced its answer: Disney Genie.
Disney Genie is a brand new digital offering that complements the technology of My Disney Experience to help guests take vacations with less planning and research required. Disney Genie will provide guests with custom itineraries geared toward their interests. Guests can even re-optimize their day’s plans as they change. Disney Genie will also make dining and FastPass reservations for guests who don’t want to do it all themselves. It is set to debut in 2020.
The World of Frozen (Hong Kong Disneyland)
A new land themed around Frozen is part of a multiyear expansion in Hong Kong Disneyland. But it was not until D23 that additional details about the attractions in this Frozen-themed land were revealed.
The first of these is Frozen Ever After, already found in Epcot at Walt Disney World. A second, however, is brand new: Wandering Oaken’s Sliding Sleighs. This ride, which looks like a cross between the Matterhorn and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, features fan favorites Olaf and Sven, who help guests pull a sleigh up a hill before sending them on their way.
Final Bits and Pieces
While there were quite a few major announcements at D23 Expo, sprinkled into the parks panel were plenty of smaller ones as well. Other new offerings, newly-announced opening dates, and coming attractions include:
- A new resort hotel at Walt Disney World — Reflections: A Disney Lakeside Lodge — will get a Princess and Frog table service restaurant.
- The next Disney Cruise Line ship to enter service will be named the Disney Wish and will feature Rapunzel on the stern. It will be delivered to Disney in 2021 and will set sail in January 2022.
- The long rumored new private island for Disney Cruise Line is now official. Disney Imagineers are hard at work creating a port of call that highlights the natural beauty of Lighthouse Point on the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas.
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