Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Disney News: New Meet and Greets, Epcot Nighttime Update, Disney100

Picture courtesy of Disney Parks Blog

Disney dropped a bunch of news tidbits today about what's coming soon to Walt Disney World.  In the post I wrote just yesterday, I talked about how there would be a lag between announcing a major project and actually seeing it come to fruition.  In the meantime, though, a bunch of other, smaller changes can happen which will breathe new life into the parks and that's what's happening here.  As I said in that post, with the 50th anniversary celebration coming to an end, it made sense to entice guests with new offerings rather than risk a lull.

To that end, let's talk about what was mentioned today.  First are some new meet and greets.  Disney has slowly worked these back into the parks as things returned to normal post-Covid.  Even if you aren't interested in meet and greets, they give the parks an alive feel, and (more cynically) soak up some crowds who are waiting in line to meet characters.  That's a win for everyone, in my opinion.  Most recently, Enchanted Tales with Belle returned to Magic Kingdom, and while it's not a meet and greet in the traditional sense, I'm happy that it's back to use its dedicated space and show off some cool technology.

In any case, as announced today, there are four new character meets coming in, and all are pretty much slam dunks.  First, Moana will meet on Discovery Island at Animal Kingdom starting on April 22.  That day isn't a coincidence, as it is Earth Day and the 25th anniversary of Animal Kingdom (this hadn't even occurred to me, but it's nice that Disney is recognizing it).  Moana is a popular character and formerly only met during holiday parties at Magic Kingdom.  This will make the character much more accessible - an easy win for Disney here.

Next, the previously announced Figment meet and greet is coming to Epcot "later this summer."  While that's still vague, at least it narrows it down a little.  Figment is the Epcot icon and mascot, so if anyone deserves a meet and greet there, it's him.  Most characters would fit in any park, but obviously the only place for Figment is Epcot.  Glad to see it's happening.

The big one is probably Mirabel Madrigal from Encanto meeting at Magic Kingdom.  Disney has been slow to react to Encanto's success (the movie came out more than a year ago, and they've barely had an Encanto presence in the parks).  But this will be a huge deal for them, and as such, they're having the meet at Fairytale Garden, the home of the Merida (from Brave) meet and greet.  No word on what happens to Merida once Mirabel moves in, but hopefully she's not being relegated to "rare" status. Not only is this a good use of this space, but it will be "transformed" to look like the Casita Madrigal.  Another big win here (and Disney should take these where they can).

Picture courtesy of Disney Parks Blog

The final meet and greet announced leads into another topic - when CommuniCore Hall in Epcot opens "later this year" (there's that vagueness again), there will be a dedicated greeting area for Mickey and Friends.  While you can meet Mickey in every park, Epcot formerly had a dedicated character meet area, so it makes sense to bring that back here.  

I also wasn't sure what CommuniCore was going to be, so at least that answers some of that question.  They also note that it will be a "dynamic exhibition space" that will be the central hub for the many Epcot festivals.  This seems like a good idea to me, akin to the Epcot Experience that was showcased during the early part of the construction.  Also at Epcot, Moana Journey of Water has a somewhat narrowed down opening date of "this fall."  While expected, that's good to hear - they even note that the full Epcot transformation will be complete "later this year."  It's good to have an end date for the seemingly endless construction work.

That also leads into the announcement that Epcot will be the east coast home of the Disney100 celebration.  I bemoaned the fact that Disneyland was getting all the 100th anniversary (of the Walt Disney Company) fun, but now it appears that this will be coming east as well.  Details are vague, but Epcot is practically festival central, so they might as well get in on this celebration, and show off all of its shiny new features.

There was also a mention of the new nighttime spectacular coming to Epcot later this year.  While it doesn't narrow down the timeframe, the announcement did share some concept art (seen at the top of this post) and mentions the Epcot theme of connectivity, stating "this new spectacular will remind us that we're more alike than different."  It's hard to tell from the artwork, but I hope that the structures in World Showcase Lagoon are more moveable than the ones that ultimately sunk Harmonious.  

None of these things in and of themselves are earth shaking new announcements.  But there's very little to complain about here (unless you think CommuniCore should have been something else instead of an exhibition space, but that ship had long sailed).  Disney deserves to take an occasional victory lap, and that's how I view today's news.

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