Disney Kicks the Can Down the Road…and That’s Smart
Destination D23 has come and gone for another two years.
The signature event at Walt Disney World included several exciting theme park announcements.
Still, Disney avoided confirmation on several projects that it openly discussed. These themed lands and experiences remain theoretical for now.
Disney has kicked the can down the road rather than committing fully, and I understand why.
Here’s why Destination D23 lacked the huge reveals that Disney fans craved.
What Just Happened?
At Destination D23, Disney confirmed as many as 14 projects, depending on how you count them.
Sadly, we already knew about at least half of them, though.
While a pair of theme park titans openly discussed grander plans, they wouldn’t guarantee anything.
Josh D’Amaro, the Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, asked the recently returned Bruce Vaughn to join him on stage for this event.
During last year’s D23 Parks Panel, Vaughn didn’t even work at Disney. So, he stood on the outside and looked in, just like the rest of us.
Now, Vaughn has returned as the co-lead of Walt Disney Imagineering. He also currently holds the job title of Chief Creative Officer at Imagineering.
As far as dream jobs go, that’s a good one. Of course, D’Amaro is in charge of all Disney theme parks and experience, and that job is even better!
So, we had the two people on stage who are most responsible for decision-making about the future of Disney theme parks.
If anybody were going to get something done, it would be one of these individuals.
Sadly, they stopped short of fully committing to the sweeping theme park changes we’ve been expecting at Walt Disney World.
Part of this is D’Amaro and Disney CEO Bob Iger’s fault. They’d previously indicated upcoming investments of $17 billion in Orlando over the next decade.
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge cost $1 billion to construct. So, $17 billion is about ten Star Wars Lands, even after several years of dramatic inflation.
That money has to go somewhere, and we’d expected Disney to tell us the specifics.
Disney didn’t do that.
Another Blue Sky Tease
MickeyBlog sometimes discusses the term “blue-sky development.” And it came up again this weekend.
When Imagineers employ blue-sky thinking, they’re unconstrained by practicalities like budgets, spatial limitations, or environmental concerns.
The Imagineers simply do what they do best: they think about ways to improve Disney theme parks.
During the Parks Panel, Vaughn and D’Amaro mentioned several potential projects that are under discussion.
Disney refused to acknowledge that its biggest ideas are in active development, though, a vital distinction.
Let’s describe the difference in simple terms. When you mention that you’d like to visit Paris one day, that’s a blue-sky idea.
Once you buy plane tickets and book a hotel room, you’re now in active development.
Sure, something could happen that causes you to cancel your trip, but the die has been cast.
Once you spend the money and make the plans, you’re probably going. Until then, everything is theoretical.
That’s the spot where Disney finds itself with its most dramatic plans.
Last year, D’Amaro and his team wondered what lies beyond Big Thunder Mountain. To date, the answer remains “lots of garbage.”
Similarly, Imagineers in hard hats have crisscrossed Disney’s Animal Kingdom this year and winked at anyone who suggests that they’re working on Zootopia.
At the 2022 D23 Expo, Disney wanted to talk about the possibility of themed lands and attractions based on Coco, Encanto, Moana, and others.
Thus far, those experiences like those are only sure to be on the Disney Treasure and at Disney’s international theme parks.
Disney Teases Us Again
We’re waiting for Disney to give us the green light on its Walt Disney World expansion plans.
Once again, that announcement didn’t happen this past weekend, and I’m not that surprised.
I tried to warn you to calibrate your expectations, but I must admit that when Disney started pushing the Parks Panel announcement on social media, I fell for it, too.
Like Charlie Brown, I refused to believe that Lucy would pull the football away once again. That would be two straight years!
Alas, that’s what Disney did.
In speaking about a Zootopia themed land, Disney revealed that if it happens, it won’t be at DinoLand, U.S.A.
Instead, Disney would position this elsewhere in the park to maintain a certain symmetry.
When former Imagineer Joe Rohde anchored creative on Animal Kingdom, he stressed a real-world geographical setting.
Disney ignored that, at least somewhat, with Pandora – The World of Avatar.
Then, we have DinoLand, U.S.A., which lacks a geographical locale like Animal Kingdom’s themed lands of Asia and Africa.
Not coincidentally, D’Amaro and Vaughn suggested that a re-theme of DinoLand is coming.
In the future, this section of the park will pay tribute to the Continental Americas, the northern part of South America and some of Central America.
Do you know which Disney stories would pair perfectly with these surroundings? Encanto and Indiana Jones.
During the presentation, Disney weirdly teased fans with musical cues to remind us of this fact.
Frustratingly, Disney wouldn’t confirm these projects, though.
Everything we’re discussing here, from Zootopia to Encanto and Indiana Jones to what lies beyond Big Thunder Mountain, remains theoretical.
I fully understand why. Please let me explain.
Disney Should Hold Back for Now
When Disney breaks ground on a project, you’ll know it.
I say this because MickeyBlog employs a savvy, gifted team of park reporters who scour the parks for news, updates, and rumors.
We had pictures of the Splash Mountain/Tiana’s Bayou Adventure conversion and Journey of Water | Inspired by Moana the moment the projects started.
Disney knows that everyone has a smartphone camera today and will record video of such moments.
That’s a double-edged sword. Should Disney start and then stop construction, that’d be embarrassing.
Anyone who doesn’t believe me, read some social media posts about the 2019 D23 announcements that never happened. There’s a lot of rage expressed.
Delays and cancellations like this are a part of theme park planning, though.
To his credit, Bob Iger has always understood something fundamental about Disney theme parks.
Every time Disney has built one, it’s almost gone broke.
This scenario occurred with Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Disneyland Paris, and Disney California Adventure. It’s a repetitive cycle.
Other Reasons to Delay
With so much in flux, Iger and D’Amaro have likely held discussions about the right time to announce sweeping changes coming to the parks.
Does right now strike you as the best time? Or even a smart time to confirm billions in spending?
The next D23 Expo will occur in August 2024, 11 months from now. If you were Disney, wouldn’t you wait until then as well?
Kicking the can down the road doesn’t hurt anything, and it keeps Disney’s options open.
I know we live in a “NOW! NOW! NOW!” society, and my recent Lorcana search proves I’m the same way.
Still, if we all take a step back and evaluate this choice from Disney’s perspective, I think most of us will agree it’s the right call.
Personally, I fully believe that Lucy won’t pull away the football again in 2024. Right? RIGHT???
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Feature Photo: D23