Exciting Announcements from the D23 Expo
Last week, the annual D23 Expo was held in the Anaheim Convention Center. As always, it was a jam-packed weekend with a ton of exciting news, ranging from new movies, television shows, and changes to Disney parks around the globe.
Along with announcements from Pixar, Walt Disney Animation, Star Wars, and Marvel, the show included a number of notable announcements about Walt Disney World. Here are a few of the things that we’re most excited about.
The Upcoming Opening of TRON Lightcycle Run
One of the most highly anticipated new attractions at Walt Disney World is TRON Lightcycle Run. It was announced that the long-awaited coaster will open in the spring of 2023. Based on the 2010 film TRON: Legacy, the attraction will be one of the fastest coasters at any Disney theme park in the world.
Over the last few years, Guests have watched as the attraction has slowly taken shape in the Tomorrowland portion of the Magic Kingdom, and now adrenaline junkies finally have an idea of when they’ll be able to take part in this high-stakes race. If you’ve been to the Magic Kingdom recently, you may even have gotten the chance to see the new canopy all lit up at night, it truly is breathtaking!
The Return of the Hatbox Ghost
The Hatbox Ghost is one of the truly legendary figures in Disney Parks’ history. After appearing briefly in the original Disneyland version of the Haunted Mansion, the character was decommissioned after a few months when it was determined that the effect was not convincing enough.
From there, it disappeared into the world of Disney lore until 2015 when the Hatbox Ghost made his triumphant return to the Disneyland. However, up until now, Walt Disney World Guests have not had access to the spooky icon. That’s all set to change, as it was announced that the Hatbox Ghost will become part of the Magic Kingdom’s Haunted Mansion next year.
Walt the Dreamer
Visitors to the D23 Expo were able to visit the World of Dreams Disney Parks Pavilion, which featured previews of what’s to come at Disney Parks around the world. One of the most notable items on display was the actual “Walt the Dreamer” statue, which will be installed in EPCOT’s World Celebration neighborhood.
A press release earlier in the year described the statue stating, “World Celebration will also feature a new statue honoring the legacy of the original dreamer, Walt Disney, plus beautiful natural environments and global design elements filled with Disney magic.”
The D23 display featured a plaque that read, “Walt Disney said that EPCOT should always be in a state of becoming. He wanted to create a space that inspires people to keep dreaming of the future and celebrate the magic of possibility. When our new statue finds its home in the neighborhood of World Celebration, we hope that it inspires this global community to always keep dreaming of a better tomorrow.”
Given the love Walt had for the EPCOT project, it’s nice to know that he’ll have a presence in the park, looking out at it with a smile as it continues into tomorrow.
Guests got to see another glimpse of the magic coming to EPCOT in the form of a scale model of the statue of Te Fiti, which will be the centerpiece of the upcoming Journey of Water section of World Nature, inspired by the film Moana. Visitors to EPCOT can now see these elements taking shape as they ride overhead in the monorail upon their arrival to EPCOT!
One Little Spark…
Speaking of EPCOT, a major announcement was made in regard to one of the park’s most beloved characters. It seems that everyone’s favorite little purple dragon will become a meet-and-greet character in the near future!
While Figment can today be found in the attraction Journey Into Imagination with Figment, as well as merchandise including shirts, popcorn buckets, and more, he has not been a meetable character for some time. In the past, Guests were able to meet him (along with the Dreamfinder), and later were able to interact with a rather large walkaround version of the character.
Details remain fairly sparse, but it seems he’ll be making his in-person return sometime in late 2023. We can hardly wait!
Reach Out and Find Your Happily Ever After
Disney fireworks shows have always been one of the great Guest experiences. From shows like Fantasy in the Sky to Wishes, they are always breathtaking displays that beautifully merge awe-inspiring fireworks with beautiful music, and state of the art effects like projection mapping.
One of the most celebrated announcements at D23 was that an updated version of the wildly popular nighttime show Happily Ever After will be coming next year. While we don’t know exactly what this new version of the show will look like, we do know that it will include the popular anthem of the same name.
Tiana’s Bayou Adventure
A model of the upcoming Tiana’s Bayou Adventure was on display at the Expo, and it was announced that the attraction (which will open in 2024) will feature the original voice actors from the animated classic, The Princess and the Frog! Disney Executive Creative Producer Charita Carter also stated that the attraction will utilize mists “like a painter’s canvas to create this amazing sense of aura, which is going to be different from anything that you have seen in an attraction.”
Blue Skies Smiling at Me
Some of the most talked about parts of D23 require a bit of a caveat. A number of “blue sky” ideas were discussed during the parks panel. For those not familiar with the term, the “blue sky phase” of park planning is essentially the first pre-concept design. Or, to put it a little more plainly, these are ideas that they’re contemplating. Nothing is set in stone.
That said, several significant changes were hinted at. One involved potentially replacing the area of Disney’s Animal Kingdom currently occupied by DinoLand U.S.A. with attractions based on the hit films Moana and Zootopia. Concept art was shared for what this would potentially look like, though there were not a lot of specifics. (And again, to be clear, this wasn’t an official announcement that DinoLand would be closing, so we will just have to sit back and see what unfolds!)
Along the same lines, Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products Chairman Josh D’Amaro, Walt Disney Animation Chief Creative Officer Jennifer Lee and Walt Disney Imagineering Creative Portfolio Executive Chris Beatty, invited the crowd to ask, “What’s beyond Big Thunder Mountain?” in the Magic Kingdom. The possible answer: attractions based on Santa Cecilia’s Dia de Los Muertos celebrations from Coco, the Madrigals’ enchanted Casita from Encanto, and maybe even an area dedicated to Disney villains.
It’s worth re-iterating that at this point, these are only possibilities, but it’s exciting to know that Imagineers are dreaming big when it comes to the parks. What can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings, after all, Walt Disney famously said that there is enough land here to hold all of our dreams!