It has been a very busy day for Disney Parks and Resorts. Earlier today, Bob Iger announced the genuinely mind-blowing news that two state-of-the-art, 14-acre Star Wars-themed lands will be constructed at both Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World. And that was before the presentation exclusively devoted to Disney Parks and Resorts.
Here are just some of the things that were discussed in the 90-minute-long presentation:
Much More Star Wars
Yes, the two Star Wars-themed lands are the biggest galactic additions to the Disney theme park, but they’re not the only interstellar adventures coming to the parks. In the next few months, a number of new Star Wars-related additions will be appearing at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland. There will be a new location added to Star Tours – The Adventures Continue, based off of characters and locations from Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Jedi Training Academy will allow younger fans to feel the Force, with new scenarios based on Disney XD’s Star Wars Rebels. Additionally, later this year the Star Wars Launch Bay, an all-new interactive experience, will come to the Animation Courtyard at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Tomorrowland at Disneyland. There will be photo opportunities, previews of new games, artifacts from the films and testimonials from the filmmakers. (Upstairs in the same building in Disneyland will be an updated Superheroes HQ, featuring your favorite Marvel characters.) And the Season of the Force, based in part on the phenomenally successful Star Wars Weekends, will be a seasonal part of both domestic parks beginning in early 2016, with exclusive food, drinks, merchandise and entertainment. At Disneyland, Space Mountain will be transformed into Hyperspace Mountain, with new effects and music. And at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, guests will experience a nightly fireworks show set to the classic Star Wars music.
Toy Story Land
One of the amazing aspects of the parks presentation was the assertion that Disney’s Hollywood Studios is going from a “park that took you behind the scenes, to putting you in them.” To that end, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is about to expand massively with an 11-acre Toy Story Land. This land includes a super-long family-friendly roller coaster, where guests climb aboard a Slinky Dog ride vehicle and coast through a toy-filled adventure. The land will also feature an alien saucers attraction, where “The Claw” looms over and defines your fate. And this is in addition to the already-announced new track for Toy Story Mania!, the popular 3D attraction.
Soarin’ Around the World
Soaring Over the Horizon is a new version of the popular attraction, set to open at Shanghai Disneyland next year. But fret not; today it was announced that the attraction, called Soarin’ Over the World here, will arrive in 2016 at both EPCOT and Disney California Adventure. Both attractions have been getting rejuvenated in recent months, receiving an upgrade in both sound and picture quality (with laser projection replacing the old 70 mm format), so when Soarin’ Around the World finally opens, it will be spectacular.
Iron Man Experience
In Hong Kong Disneyland, the Iron Man Experience is coming. The complex is designed after the Stark Expo, the World’s Fair-esque technological showcase that Tony’s dad, Howard Stark, oversaw many years ago. After checking out some of the history and technology of the Stark dynasty, you climb aboard a ride vehicle designed like the Iron Wing (a nifty vehicle made with Stark tech). Once you get into your Iron Wing, you’re supposed to take a leisurely tour of the new Stark Tower in Hong Kong but, of course, trouble finds you in the form of Hydra. From there, you’ve got to battle your way out and return to the Expo safely. And if the ride footage (created with the help of the wizards at Industrial Light & Magic) we saw is any indication, it’s going to be a wild ride!
Frozen Ever After
There wasn’t a lot shown from Frozen Ever After, the Frozen-themed attraction that will occupy the former space of the Maelstrom at EPCOT. They flashed a photo of the Sven animatronic figure, which looks insanely adorable, while work continues on the expansive building adjacent to the Norway pavilion. It was announced that Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez will be helping with the soundtrack for the, bringing magical continuity to the franchise. When this opens next year, this is going to be a next level dark ride attraction for kids of all ages.
Nighttime Fun at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
A lot of this D23 Expo has been focused on how amazing the model for the Avatar-themed land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, now formally named Pandora: The World of Avatar, really looks. And it does. It is stunning. And Avatar director James Cameron and producer Jon Landau were on hand to discuss just how immersive this experience will be, and give an official name for the flight attraction, now called Flight of Passage. (Imagineer Joe Rohde said that together, “Our combined goal is to feel that it’s real.”) We cannot wait to visit the richly detailed world of Pandora. But that isn’t the only change coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, especially since the part is going to be open into the night now. There will be an extended Kilimanjaro Safaris, magically suspended in a perpetual dusk, set to open next spring, that will feature new African wild dogs and hyenas. There’s also the Rivers of Light nighttime spectacular (“a celebration of life itself,” per Rohde’s description) with cascading water, dancing fountains, live performers, and insane projections (during the panel they showed a test where a barge traveled along the water, projecting a bear running across the surface). Disney’s Animal Kingdom promises to transform into an entirely different park at night.
These next few years promise endless excitement for Disney Parks and Resorts, as some of the wildest attractions from the Walt Disney Imagineers are bringing truly unforgettable and cutting-edge experiences to life.