Disney Confirms New Experiences, Hints at Much More
At last year’s D23 Expo, Josh D’Amaro stood on stage and wondered aloud about future theme park experiences.
At the time, Disney’s Chairman of Parks, Experiences and Products emphatically stated that all these ideas fell into the “blue sky” category.
In other words, they were theoretical rather than tangible. We didn’t learn much by way of officially confirmed projects.
Historically, Destination D23 hasn’t provided as many big reveals as its Anaheim counterpart.
Still, we had high hopes for this presentation in the wake of Disney CEO Bob Iger promising $17 billion in Walt Disney World expansions over the next decade.
What did we learn? Here are a few thoughts about the Destination D23 Parks Panel wherein Disney confirmed some things but hinted at MUCH bigger projects.
About This Year’s Parks Panel
After last year’s vaporware presentation, we should all employ a “trust but verify” kind of scrutiny to this year’s announcements.
Some of what Disney discussed today is all but certain to happen, but until someone breaks ground, it remains theoretical.
As theme park analysts know all too well, even confirmed projects like the Mary Poppins ride often fall by the wayside due to happenstance.
While we don’t talk about the issue much, the reality is that Walt Disney World runs out of new projects next year.
Once Tiana’s Bayou Adventure opens, there’s pretty much no new attraction or themed land in the offing.
That hasn’t been true of Walt Disney World in more than 15 years. So, we’ve reached a crossroads here, and Destination D23 should have provided guidance.
Alas, this year’s presentation utilized a kind of talk show format that didn’t necessarily work well.
D’Amaro and his cohost, Mika, would talk over one another. At one point, she just sang right through him.
Somebody missed a queue there or something. Whatever the explanation, Disney wanted to create an upbeat vibe via music.
I think I speak for most fans when I say that this presentation needed more rehearsal. But that’s a small quibble.
As Disney fans, we care more about content and conversation starters. We definitely got both today.
Disney revealed a dozen new attractions and experiences, almost all of which will arrive by the end of 2024.
Since we’re in September 2023, that’s not much longer. Several of them are noteworthy as well.
Re-theming the soundtrack for Country Bear Jamboree may not sound like a significant change, but it’ll boost attendance dramatically.
Similarly, a new version of Test Track with a World of Motion vibe should create renewed interest. Disney may be able to improve the throughput as well.
So, these are good changes worthy of commendation. But we had hoped for more.
What Disney Didn’t Confirm
Okay, now we’ve reached the “trust but verify” section.
Disney mentioned some absolutely tantalizing future park improvements.
We’re talking about the kind that makes you want to stop what you’re doing, pack a bag, and head to Orlando.
As was the case last year, Disney didn’t confirm specifics, though. Instead, it provided cruel teases of what’s to come…maybe.
Let’s start with what we DO know for sure. According to Disney, it has more theme park projects in development than at any time in its history.
Obviously, such progress takes time, though. And, as I already stated, plans sometimes collapse.
For this reason, Disney didn’t come out and guarantee that any of this stuff was happening for sure.
Park officials have learned their lesson from their past mistakes.
Still, Disney suggested that a new part of Magic Kingdom is being developed.
Yes, the space in question is what lies beyond Big Thunder Mountain. Disney had previously hinted that Encanto stuff could be coming here.
That may not be the case, though. I say this because Disney pointedly stated that DinoLand, U.S.A. is undergoing changes as well. That change IS happening!
Thankfully, this area of the park will maintain Animal Kingdom’s overall theme, though.
Disney hinted that it’ll celebrate “the northern part of South America” with thematically appropriate scenery and attractions.
At this point, Disney strongly hinted that Encanto and Indiana Jones attractions and experiences are coming.
The band played We Don’t Talk about Bruno, and then the Indiana Jones theme followed soon afterward.
Again, Disney didn’t necessarily confirm anything specific, though.
Presuming that we take Disney at its word, the Encanto themed land and its magical Casa Madrigal will happen here, though.
Thankfully, that revelation doesn’t rule out a Zootopia themed land. On the contrary, Disney stated that this may happen in a different section of the park.
Again, we’re not 100 percent sure on this, but it’s a game-changing possibility.
Animal Kingdom could ostensibly add an entirely new themed land based on Zootopia.
On top of that, it could re-theme DinoLand, U.S.A. to introduce Encanto experiences and likely update DINOSAUR into a new version of Indiana Jones Adventure.
How much of that will happen? Based on what I’m hearing, Imagineers feel confident that these projects are viable and likely to become a reality.
Unfortunately, Disney once again chose not to commit to the mega-expansions at today’s panel, though.
In a future article, I’ll expand more on why they took that approach, but let’s not lose sight of what Disney did today.
By my count, Disney just confirmed a dozen experiences coming to the parks by the end of 2024.
Simultaneously, D’Amaro and his staff indicated that several other absolutely massive projects are in various stages of development.
I fully believe that most of them will happen, but they’re not far enough along for Disney to commit just yet.
On the one hand, that’s frustrating. On the other hand, many of us remember the brutal six-year period of vague Avatar updates before Pandora finally opened.
Nobody wants to go through that again!
The other day, I’d calibrated my expectations for today’s event. These announcements fall into the middle category, in my estimation.
Sadly, they’re closer to “meh” than blockbusters, too. Still, I don’t find any of this surprising, and I’ll explain why in a day or two.
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