Saturday, September 9, 2023

Destination D23 Announcements


Destination D23 is taking place this weekend at the Contemporary Resort at Walt Disney World.  This is a convention with numerous panels discussing everything coming up for Disney as a company. We're going to focus only on news related to Disney World, as that is this blog's focus, and there are plenty of new items to discuss.  So let's get to it!

We'll start with some updates on previously announced information, now with more solid dates.


Figment Meet and Greet starting September 10 at Epcot

Back in March, the Figment meet and greet was announced as coming "later this summer" along with a few others, most of which have already opened.  I'm not sure why it took so long to get a costumed character to meet in his home park, but here we are.  I do kind of like that this one was announced, along with Figment actually appearing on stage with the presenters, and it will be open right away.  The wait for Figment is over!


Journey of Water Inspired by Moana opens October 16

Speaking of Epcot, here's another one that's finally ready to go.  Journey of Water is a walkthrough attraction, and one that has been worked on for a while now.  Cast member and annual passholder previews have been happening, so it was only a matter of time before it opened to the general public, and that time is next month.  This one doesn't really seem like a "big" Disney attraction, but all photos and videos I've seen of it so far make it look quite nice.  There are also some views of Spaceship Earth in the background (not to mention the giant Te Fiti topiary), which should make for some really nice photos.

Hatbox Ghost coming to Haunted Mansion November 2023

Another announcement that dates back to last year's D23, Hatbox Ghost will finally "materialize" at Magic Kingdom in the near future.  This is a nice nod to a niche character.  I don't know how much I should stress about the rumored location for Hatbox (near the endless hallway at the start of the ride, before the seance that's supposed to awaken the spirits later on in the ride) but I'll just be happy with something new and not let it get to me (for now).

Epcot's World Celebration to be completed December 2023

It feels like Epcot has been under construction forever, but we might actually be at the end of the tunnel here.  Journey of Water opening was one major step closer and World Celebration being completely "finished" (as in, no more pile of dirt or construction walls up) will certainly make Epcot look nicer.  I've talked a lot about what we're getting (as opposed to not getting) in this overhaul, but at least it's finally (almost) done.

New Epcot nighttime spectacular opens December 5

The biggest news from the completion of Epcot is the new nighttime show, replacing (once again) the temporary Epcot Forever, which in turn replaced the last big hyped nighttime show, Harmonious.  I was a little worried about this one, as it was also announced last year, and since then, details have been scant.  Usually more information would have trickled out by now, but up until today, we had only seen a few structural pieces put in around the lagoon and nothing further.

That changed today, as the show, now officially called "Luminous The Symphony of Us" debuts December 5.  There aren't a lot of actual details yet, but I have high hopes for this one.  I like that it plays on the same "us" theme as Harmonious (a show that grew on me over time) but without all of the visual blight that came with that show.  I'm sure more information will come out on this one, and I'll update accordingly.

Now for some things that were announced today that were entirely new (and in many cases, not on my radar at all):


Ahsoka to be part of Star Tours

Ahsoka is Disney+'s new Star Wars themed show.  I've watched the first three so far, and am a little underwhelmed.  Regardless, I like this addition.  First, Disney is often very slow to react to their current show/movie in the parks, so planning for this is a good idea (though of course, with no announced date, this could still be well past the time when Ahsoka is relevant).  And second, Star Tours is an easy ride to update, since the infrastructure doesn't change, but the scenes can be moved in and out as they see fit.  This is a good place for Ahsoka to make her Disney World debut.

Asha from Wish will meet at Epcot

Speaking of current movie characters, Disney's Wish doesn't come out in theaters until November, but there are already plans for a meet and greet with Asha, the main character.  Disneyland is also getting Asha, but this doesn't surprise me, as that park is always much quicker to react to Disney's current product.  In any case, planning ahead here is a good move - Mirabel from Encanto just got a meet and greet almost two years after that movie released.  More relevancy is a good thing (plus, I suspect Wish will be a big hit, though I'm usually not great at these kinds of predictions).

Test Track reimagining coming to Epcot

Here's one that seemingly came out of left field!  Test Track is still one of Epcot's biggest draws, and one that, besides a lot of down time, didn't seem like it needed a refresh.  But Disney says they are, "reaching back into history for inspiration - from the original World of Motion - and bringing that spirit of optimism to the next iteration of the Test Track attraction!"  

Mentioning a beloved Epcot attraction of the past in World of Motion was a savvy move here.  With no timeframe or any other details, it's hard to say what this will be, but I'm cautiously optimistic.  The concept art looks interesting, and I suspect the ride mechanics won't change much, so maybe there will just be more depth to a pretty basic ride.  

New Zootopia show coming to Animal Kingdom

I was expecting some Zootopia news at Animal Kingdom, but this wasn't it (more on this below).  This will be a show in the Tree of Life, replacing It's Tough to be a Bug, which has been there since the park opened.  While I like that show and think it's cute, this is a big upgrade, in my opinion.  First, Bug doesn't draw a lot of people anymore, and Animal Kingdom needs more draws.  And second, I love Zootopia and think that a lot can be done here (in hopefully not a lot of time?) to improve this spot in the park.

Dinoland USA to be overhauled into "Tropical Americas Land"

Speaking of Animal Kingdom, here is finally some confirmation that Dinoland is being replaced.  This was also talked about last year at D23, but nothing was official.  Even now, the details are sketchy but at least it's really happening now.  I've written about Dinoland needing to be changed, so I welcome whatever we're getting here.  


But what ARE we getting? That's the more interesting news today.  Last year, it seemed like Zootopia and/or Moana lands were going into this location.  Today, along with some concept art, the theme appears to be "tropical Americas land", possibly featuring Encanto and/or Indiana Jones. I say possibly because Disney used the words "being considered", which is not exactly a ringing endorsement that things are finalized.


From an attraction perspective, Indiana Jones actually makes sense here, as the Indiana Jones attraction at Disneyland uses the same ride system as Dinosaur, Dinoland's big attraction.  A clone of that ride would certainly be the easiest and cheapest fix.  I'm not sure where Encanto fits in, or how these two worlds will co-exist, but anything has to be better than the ghost town that currently exists.  Much like the new Zootopia show, Animal Kingdom needs more attractions to pull guests from Pandora and return it to being a full day park, which is its biggest issue right now.


New Pirates of the Caribbean themed lounge coming to Magic Kingdom

This is another one I didn't see coming.  The word "lounge" implies a bar and/or quick service restaurant.  That's not exactly Blue Bayou (Disneyland's Pirates restaurant) but I can't see anything wrong with it.  Disney says it's a "first-of-its-kind experience" that "will extend the story of Pirates of the Caribbean."  More pirates is never a bad thing!


Country Bear Jamboree overhaul in 2024

The long running Country Bear Jamboree will be changing in 2024, as "the bears will be reinterpreting favorite Disney songs in different genres of country music", likening it to a Nashville musical revue.  From a macro perspective, I understand this change.  The Country Bears have been around a long time, and they are not a huge draw anymore.  Mixing it up will likely get a lot of people to visit again, and a new generation will probably love it.

On a personal note, this one disappoints me greatly.  I love the Country Bears as is, full stop.  It's one of the few remaining attractions that has Walt's fingerprints on it and the more of those we lose, the worse off we are in the long run.  The Country Bears were wholly park related, meaning they didn't need Disney music or other IP to work.  Now it'll be yet another place where you can hear A Whole New World (not that I don't love that, but ...).  As I said, I can understand the desire for the change, but I don't have to like it.

Major Magic Kingdom Expansion coming

I'll finish with this one, which would be the biggest change to any of the parks in a long time, but is also exceptionally light on details.  This kind of "blue sky" talk actually came up last year at D23 as well, as Disney imagined what was "beyond Big Thunder."  Some ideas were floated at the time, including a Villains Land and a Coco/Encanto Land.  No specifics were mentioned this time, so there's no way to know whether those are even under consideration anymore.


The scope of this will be big, if and when it happens, with the footprint being compared to Galaxy's Edge and Pandora, two massive changes to the parks in recent years.  The biggest problem here (and with these announcements as a whole) is that any major changes are very far off.  If Disney started work on this expansion today, it would be at least five years before anything of substance existed.  And I don't see anything starting today.


Both Bob Iger and Josh D'Amaro have been quoted recently as saying they were very bullish on theme park expansion, with a large investment being planned.  But as of now, nothing of any substance has been finalized.  Disney as a company has to resolve a lot of other, non-theme park related money issues right now, including Disney+ profitability, whatever they're doing with Hulu, whatever they're doing with ESPN, and the future of "regular" non-streaming television.  That's a lot on their plates, and it will be a while before the parks see any of this time, money and attention coming their way.


That's why, even though there were a lot of announcements today, most of them are smaller scale, quicker fix type things than anything major.  And while I appreciate that they're doing SOMETHING while they wait, these aren't the capacity altering changes that will be needed to sustain the parks going forward.  Even the Animal Kingdom overhaul, which is a big one, didn't provide any more details on how long it will take or even when it will begin, and that's clearly the next "big" project happening.


If they can pull this together, the future is very bright for the Disney parks.  It just might take a while to get there.  Josh D'Amaro ended the presentation on a typically positive note, saying, "over the next decade, we're going to have more projects underway than at any point in our history.   Our sole purpose is to give you more of what you love about a Disney experience."  If we take him at his word, there is going to be a great big beautiful tomorrow out there.  Now if only they would get to work on these things ...



No comments:

Post a Comment