I made my first trip to Walt Disney World in Florida in 1988. It was a unique experience in that I went by myself – sans parents – at age 12, the winner of a contest held by the Star Newspapers here in Chicagoland. I was a paperboy – a “newspaper carrier” – and as part of a yearly push for great customer service and increased subscriptions, the top carriers were rewarded with a trip to Disney World. I was one of them, and the experience marked my first ride in a limousine, and my first big adventure away from home (under the guidance of two chaperones). The Magic Kingdom is, indeed, a magical place, and in 2016 I returned for the first time as a parent, my wife and I taking our girls on a Florida adventure. On the west coast, I’d never been to Disneyland until December of 2015, when I attended as a guest as part of the Global Media Event for STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS. Five hours in the park and I was hooked. I did return this week (more on that later), but at the recent D23 Expo in Anaheim, I was on the show floor, live-tweeting announcements about what the future holds for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. There’s a whole lot of Marvel… a whole lot of Star Wars… a whole lot of Pixar… some new ships… new hotels… and a ton of magic to be experienced. Here’s the full rundown…
In Hall D23, after a special musical performance that honored the history and legacy of the Disney Parks, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Bob Chapek greeted 7,000 fans as he dropped the curtain on plans for the next few years ahead. Alongside Imagineers working on the projects, Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios John Lasseter also joined the fun in sharing details on an increased Pixar presence at Disneyland.
“Star Wars Land” has a real name – STAR WARS: GALAXY’S EDGE
When the long-awaited and currently under-construction Star Wars-themed lands open in Florida and California, they will be known as Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. While each land will have numerous experiences spread across some 14 acres, the two anchor attractions include one that puts guests right in the middle of a battle between The Resistance and The First Order – right inside a hangar bay on a First Order Star Destroyer, much like Finn and Poe Dameron experienced in STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS.
Visitors to the park will also get to fly Han Solo’s iconic ship, the Millennium Falcon – but this is no simple ride. The actions of each guest is critical to the mission’s success. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will open in 2019, with the first land debuting at Disneyland Park in Anaheim, then at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando.
EPCOT is getting a BIG, and quite overdue transformation…
With the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World on the horizon, plans across Epcot are said “to realize the original vision of the park while making it more timeless and relevant than ever before.”
Ratatouille will be added in an all-new space in the France pavilion at World Showcase; Guardians of the Galaxy, will come to EPCOT in a new e-ticket ride; Green Mission at Mission: SPACE will take guests on a stunning tour around the Earth, and an updated Orange Mission will make the trip to Mars even more spectacular. Adjacent to Mission: Space will be a new restaurant that will invite guests to travel high above the earth for an unforgettable dining experience.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom get new additions…
Did you know that Mickey Mouse has never had a proper ride-through attraction? That changes when Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway comes to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, bringing with it a sing-able theme song (said to be quite an earworm) based on the world of Disney Channel’s Emmy Award-winning “Mickey Mouse” cartoon shorts.
Additionally, a Tron-themed attraction will be added in a new area near Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom, while a new live entertainment theater is coming to Main Street, U.S.A., based on the iconic Willis Theater in 1920s Kansas City.
Pixar Pier & Pixar Fest come to California… MARVEL Expands…
John Lasseter hit the stage to announce a 2018 opening of Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but also that Pixar Pier will come to Disney California Adventure, transforming the pier as more favorite Pixar characters and stories come to life, from The Incredibles, to Inside Out to even more Toy Story.
Additionally, Pixar Fest at Disneyland Resort will be a limited-time offering in 2018, set to include a new fireworks spectacular as well as special characters and entertainment moments inside Disneyland Park. As part of the celebration, the Pixar Play Parade will return to Disneyland Resort – this time at Disneyland Park – and the fan favorite Paint the Night Parade will move to Disney California Adventure, one of Disney’s longest parade routes.
Additionally, MARVEL will have an increased presence and experience inside Disney’s California Adventure.
More Ships for the Disney Cruise Line… Fleet Set to Double
I’m not big on the idea of “taking a cruise,” but a lot of people are, and the Disney Cruise Line will double in size by 2023. There’s another new ship under construction and set to join the other two new ships that were announced last year. The three ships will be powered by one of the cleanest-burning fuels available, liquefied natural gas.
STAR WARS and MARVEL get Immersive Hotel Experiences; Copper Creek opens & More…
Some months back, I took a survey (not a fan of surveys, but this one was important!) about the possibility of a Star Wars-themed hotel that would essentially put guests into a galaxy far, far away. Now it’s official, and Disney is creating their “most experiential concept ever” in an immersive Star Wars-themed hotel at Walt Disney World Resort. Dedicated entirely to the galaxy of Star Wars, it will be a one-of-a-kind experience where a luxury resort meets a multi-day adventure in a galaxy far, far away. My question: When can we book a room?
Additionally, Disney’s Hotel New York – The Art of Marvel at Disneyland Paris will transport guests to the action-packed world of Super Heroes, including Iron Man, The Avengers, Spider-Man and more.
Copper Creek Villas & Cabins opens it’s doors this week, and now comes the announcement of the proposed 15th Disney Vacation Club property, Disney Riviera Resort, coming to Walt Disney World Resort near Epcot.
New Seamless Transportation Options
The all-new Minnie Van service will provide a point-to-point transportation service with guests riding in Minnie-themed Minivans. And, the long-rumored gondola system is really happening!
Disney Skyliner will give guests a birds-eye view of Walt Disney World Resort. This brand new system will connect Disney’s Art of Animation, Pop Century and Caribbean Beach resorts, as well as the proposed new Disney Riviera Resort, with Disney’s Hollywood Studios and the International Gateway at Epcot.
Now I feel like I need to book our family another trip or two or three or four to Disney World and Disneyland for the years ahead. I don’t know about you, but I need to set aside some time and money!