While sitting in a room of 7500 of the most fanatical Disney fans at the D23 EXPO, the energy of the room is contagious. It doesn’t matter if you have been to one or all of the Disney Parks a thousand times, the announcements made it clear, there will be many new things to see and do you will be heading back again soon.
Growing up in Florida, I was fortunate to visit Disney World a lot growing up. I remember the E tickets, waiting to go on Dumbo, Snow White, Tea Cups and even the no longer existent Skyline ride. EPCOT opening was a big deal, and then shortly after visiting the new MGM, now Hollywood Studios, hoping to get a glimpse of the “new” Mouseketeers. There were so many new and exciting things happening in the 80’s at Walt Disney World Florida, but I had no clue what was going on on the west coast at the original park in Anaheim. As a matter of fact, I didn’t visit that park until many years later, as an adult to cover the then new Carsland. So with the following announcements for what’s ahead for all of the Disney parks, let’s just say, I may be more excited as to what to come as a 42 year old than what I was as a tween/teen in the 80’s.
Here’s a look at what was announced at D23 this year and you too can join me in the excitement of what’s to come!
Star Wars, Toy Story Land, Pandora – The World of AVATAR and More
Star Wars Enhancements & New Experiences
“I am thrilled to announce the next chapter in the long and exciting history between Disney Parks and Star Wars,” said Iger. “We are creating a jaw-dropping new world that represents our largest single themed land expansion ever. These new lands at Disneyland and Walt Disney World will transport guests to a whole new Star Wars planet, including an epic Star Wars adventure that puts you in the middle of a climactic battle between the First Order and the Resistance.”
From a new Star Tours adventure to Star Wars Launch Bay, from a new Jedi Training Academy to “Season of the Force,” soon guests will be part of both new and enhanced experiences at Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort.
· Star Tours – The Adventures Continue – Later this year, Star Tours will include a new adventure featuring locations and characters from the upcoming film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, giving guests a new adventure in the Star Wars galaxy.
· Star Wars Launch Bay – This interactive experience will take guests into the upcoming film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, with special exhibits and peeks behind-the-scenes, including opportunities to visit with new and favorite Star Wars characters, special merchandise and food offerings. Star Wars Launch Bay will be located in the Animation Courtyard at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and in Tomorrowland at Disneyland park. Also atDisneyland park, Star Wars Launch Bay will share the space with the reimagined Super Hero HQ, featuring opportunities to meet and take photos with super heroes like Captain America and Thor, as well as experience the returning Iron Man Tech Presented by Stark Industries. Both experiences will be available for guests later this year.
· Jedi Training Academy — A favorite of younger fans is reimagined with a new experience that includes new characters and a new villain to battle from the popular Disney XD series “Star Wars Rebels.”
· Season of the Force – This new seasonal event, beginning early 2016, brings new experiences to both coasts. In Tomorrowland at Disneyland park, guests will explore the Star Wars galaxy with special entertainment throughout the land, themed food locations and more. Guests also will be thrilled to climb aboard Hyperspace Mountain, a reimagining of the classic Space Mountain attraction, in which guests will join an X-wing Starfighter battle. At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, guests will close out weekend nights with a new fireworks spectacular set to the iconic score of the Star Wars movies.
Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida
OK, so yes, no doubt, Star Wars looks and will be amazing, but COME ON! TOY STORY LAND??? This makes me feel like a child waiting for Christmas! The re-imagining of Disney’s Hollywood Studios will take guests to infinity and beyond (in my best Buzz voice), allowing them to step into the worlds of their favorite films, starting with Toy Story Land. This new 11-acre land will transport guests into the adventurous outdoors of Andy’s backyard. I am envisioning something like the old Honey I Shrunk the Kids area, maybe for guests will think they’ve been shrunk to the size of Woody and Buzz as they are surrounded by oversized toys that Andy has assembled using his vivid imagination. Using toys like building blocks, plastic buckets and shovels, and game board pieces, Andy has designed the perfect setting for this land, which will include two new attractions for any Disney park and one expanded favorite.
· Family-friendly roller coaster – All on the back of Slinky Dog, this coaster will zip and zoom, plunge and coast as it takes guests on a fun, toy-filled adventure throughout the new land.
· Alien saucers attraction – The famous little green aliens from the movie will take guests around for a spin in their very own flying saucers. The music, lighting and sound effects add to the flurry of action, while “The Claw” looms over.
· Toy Story Mania! – Guests glide into the Toy Story Midway Games Play Set and take aim at 3D objects in a variety of fast-paced games, with an expansion that adds a third track to this popular attraction.
After Dark at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Pandora – The World of AVATAR
Now it is pretty cool! I mean watching AVATAR made me wonder what it would be like to visit. As part of the largest expansion in the park’s history, Disney’s Animal Kingdom will immerse guests into the world of Pandora, and the entire park will transform after dark with new nighttime entertainment experiences, offering guests longer days than ever before to experience this one-of-a-kind theme park.
· “Rivers of Light” – Expected to open next spring, “Rivers of Light” will be an innovative experience unlike anything ever seen in a Disney park, combining live music, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery. “Rivers of Light” will magically come to life on the natural stage of Discovery River, delighting guests and truly capping off a full day of adventures at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
· Kilimanjaro Safaris – This popular attraction will be extended for a new nighttime adventure next spring, where guests will travel through the African savanna amid the magically extended orange glow of the setting sun and discover two species new to the attraction: African wild dogs and hyenas.
· Pandora – The World of AVATAR – Disney’s Animal Kingdom guests will journey into the magnificent world of Pandora at this new AVATAR-themed land – a world that includes floating mountains, a bioluminescent forest and the winged creatures known as Banshees, giving guests a transformational experience they will never forget.
· AVATAR Flight of Passage – This E-ticket attraction, the centerpiece of Pandora, allows guests to soar on a Banshee over a vast alien world. The spectacular flying experience will give guests a birds-eye view of the beauty and grandeur of the world of Pandora on an aerial rite of passage.
Soarin’ Around the Worldin Florida and California
I love Soarin’. The feeling of flying and the way Disney add the magic of even the smells of what you are seeing. Well next year, guests at Epcot in Florida and Disney California Adventure in California will journey to far-flung lands and fly above some of the world’s most unique natural landscapes and man-made wonders when the new Soarin’ Around the World makes its U.S. debut.
Iron Man Unveiled for Hong Kong Disneyland
Iron Man landed at D23 EXPO today for a special appearance, and soon Hong Kong Disneyland guests will have the opportunity to meet and take photos with the Super Hero himself. Set to open in 2016, Iron Man Experience will be the first Marvel attraction at any Disney park, taking guests on an epic adventure over the streets and in the sky above Hong Kong. The adventure will begin at the new Stark Expo where guests board the Iron Wing to take flight and battle Hydra alongside fan-favorite Avenger, Iron Man.
All of this excitement coming to the parks of Disney! Could it be a better time to be a Disney lover?