D23 Walt Disney World Update

There are lots of announcements about changes coming to Walt Disney World.  Some were expected, some were not, but we’re excited for all of them!

Magic Kingdom

The most popular ride in Shanghai Disneyland is Tron Lightcycle Power Run.  It’s a roller coaster on lightcycles.  Guests race through the digital world at 60 miles per hour, the fastest of any Disney roller coaster.  The roller coaster will be ported to the Magic Kingdom, next to Space Mountain, in time for Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary. It will be built on a new piece of land so we won’t lose any other Tomorrowland attractions

The park will also get a new theater on Main Street.  It will be designed to look like the Willis Wood Theater Kansas City, MO.  This theater will host stage shows, though no shows for it were announced.

Hollywood Studios

For the first time ever, Mickey Mouse will be receiving his own ride!  That’s the claim Chapek made, but you have to be a bit careful when you say that.  He said, ride, not attraction, so we have to exclude all the shows.  And the Silly Symphony Swings (themed to the Band Concert) over in California is a ride with Mickey on top… But as far as an immersive environment that showcases a character, this will be the first.

Runaway Railway begins with Mickey and Minnie driving on a road that goes along a railroad track.  When a train pulls up next to them with Goofy as the engineer, you’re invited on to the train.  And of course, with Goofy in charge, the trip gets a bit zany.  This addition to the Studios is themed to be a new short in the style of the new Mickey Mouse cartoons on Disney Channel.  The shorts’ animators are part of the development.

The ride utilizes a new technology Called 2½D.  2½D is like 3D, but each element will be flat like it is in the cartoon.  The extra dimension comes from the layering, and this technology will not require glasses.

All the Star Wars additions to the parks are going to be incredible, but I’m much more excited for this.  Chapek showed a few-second clip of one of the effects in the ride, and Runaway Railcar looks fantastic.

Toy Story Land does not have any additional details announced.  Construction is going great: steel for the Slinky Dog coaster is up, and the turntables for the LGM spinner are turning.  The new area will be open for the summer of 2018.

Star Wars

The official name of what has been dubbed “Star Wars Land” since it’s announcement in 2015 has been revealed. The land will now be known as Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

When Disney opened Pandora in Animal Kingdom just a few months ago, fans got to see a land with a more immersive experience. Star Wars land will take this to the next level. Everything you do will affect how your visit goes. You’ll be asked to work as a freighter pilot onboard the Millennium Falcon You can do a great job and earn galaxy credits, or you can bring the ship back a little banged up and maybe end up on Harko’s list, a bounty hunter who will probably find you at the local cantina.

There are some fun characters you will be able to meet and see like BB-8, Chewbacca, Kylo Ren, and a fan favorite Rex who will become the DJ at the cantina. We can’t wait to enter this remote trading port and get to interact with the Star Wars characters in a new way. Here is a fly-through of just how incredible this land will be.

The two Star Wars lands will be open before D23 2019.  Disneyland’s will open before the one in Hollywood Studios.

Star Wars Hotel

One huge difference in the Star Wars plans between California and Florida is that Florida will be getting a first of its kind Star Wars Hotel.  Chapek said that the Imagineers want this to be the first of a new breed of luxury hotels.  This will be the first hotel that provides an immersive, multi-day experience.  From the moment you enter this star ship, you’ll meet Star Wars characters who will create an adventure.  The interactions you have with the characters will be focused on that adventure: they may push you into an adventure or ask you to make a trade.  It looks like something very similar to the Galaxy’s Edge interactive system.  The story will likely be integrated with Galaxy’s Edge.

This level of interactivity may be difficult (logistically) to support with a large group.  My guess is that this hotel will not be one of Walt Disney World’s value resorts. Rumor is the hotel will be built with only 400 rooms to start.

And every window will give a view into the galaxy far, far away.

Epcot – World Showcase

With the opening of Pandora: the World of Avatar and the park’s night time extension, Animal Kingdom has gotten revamped over the last few years.  Between Toy Story, Star Wars and Micky, Hollywood Studios is getting major changes.  We’ve seen the changes for the Magic Kingdom.  That leaves Epcot.  And Chapek promised that huge changes would come to the park in time for the Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary in 2021.

The popular ride Ratatouille will be added near the France pavilion in World showcase.  It will be out near the Eiffel Tower.  This will be an American port of the ride from Hollywood Studios park at Disneyland Paris.  The trackless dark ride shrinks you down to Remmy’s size as you run around Gusteau’s kitchen.  It’s a very popular ride, and having it here will be a welcome addition.

The China pavilion will be getting an upgrade, too.  The Imagineers have extended Walt’s vision for circlevision and developed a new camera.  This digital rig has an array of cameras that allow completely seamless filming.  This camera will be used to generate a new pavilion to showcase the beauty of China.

Epcot – Future World

There are big changes in Future World, too.  The first is a Marvel expansion.  While we don’t have a lot of details about the new ride, the Guardians of the Galaxy will be added.  This won’t be the same ride that is in California Adventure.  We expect that it will replace Ellen’s Energy Adventure.  How do the Guardians fit in with the Epcot?  Chapek explained that young Peter Quill came to Epcot before he left Earth, so the Guardians are coming back.

Mission Space will receive a new adventure when it reopens this fall.  In the past, the green side has been a tamer version of the orange adventure.  Starting this fall, the green side will feature its own adventure.  Rather than featuring a space mission to mars, this will be a breathtaking adventure of Earth.  Tom Fitzgerald, the Imagineer introducing the change, explained that this would be like Soarin’ Around the Earth.

Future World will be getting a new restaurant, too.  This one will carry an outer space-theme.  When you enter the restaurant, you are taken to a space station orbiting Earth.  From there, you’ll enjoy your meal as you watch astronauts, satellites, and other object in orbit as they pass the stations viewports.

General Resort

Walt loved transportation.  With ideas like the monorail and the people mover, he was looking for new ways to get where you want to go.

With that in mind, Walt Disney World is expanding its transportation options for guests.  The first way is with a styling new van called a Minnie Van.  These vans will run like taxi’s, but they are not the driverless cars that have been rumored.  The advantage to these is that guests will not have to worry about bus transfers to get from one resort to another; they can travel exactly to where they are going.

Chapek also announced the gondola system that has been rumored.  He described it as a sort of resurrection of the Skyway at Disneyland.  The system will have images of popular characters on the outside, and will build up to linking the entire resort.

There will also be a new DVC resort opening soon.  It will be a luxury resort titled Disney Riviera.  It will be nestled between Epcot and Hollywood Studios with a roof lounge giving guests the chance to see the nighttime spectaculars of both parks without leaving their resort.

Summary

There’s a lot of great stuff coming to Walt Disney World the next few years.  The big event that’s driving a lot of these changes is the resort’s 50th anniversary in 2021.  These new additions are like all those that came to Disneyland before its 50th anniversary.  Universal Studios plan to have Nintendo Land opened by 2021 as well, so Disney is pushing out the best they can to keep the crowds coming for the 50th.

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