Disney fan convention D23 Expo produced a welter of stories, news, and tantalizing hints for the future of the theme parks and Disney cruise line during Sunday’s big headline event.
The near two-hour presentation “A Boundless Future” with Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Resorts, and Experiences, lifted the lid on a host of developments worldwide, from Disneyland Paris to cruises to Australia and New Zealand.
Other highlights were the naming of Disney Cruise Line’s new ship for 2024 and the company’s first voyages Down Under with the Disney Wonder in late 2023; the debut of The Hatbox Ghost at Walt Disney World’s Haunted Mansion attraction at some point in 2023; and the eye-popping possibility of a whole new land for the Magic Kingdom.
More Walt Disney World news included the spring 2023 opening date for the Tron Lightcycle/Run ride at the Magic Kingdom, and some exciting developments at Epcot.
At the Magic Kingdom, the evergreen anthem “Happily Ever After” will play again when an updated nighttime spectacular lights up the skies over Cinderella Castle in 2023, while a major new evening show is planned for Epcot’s World Showcase Lagoon in late 2023.
This latter will be part of the Disney 100 Years of Wonder celebration to mark the centenary of the Walt Disney Company, and there will be a welcome comeback for hugely popular character Figment at the same time.
Other details about the ongoing transformation of Epcot included the planned completion of the World Celebration area in late 2023, along with the “Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana” walk-through attraction for the newly-created World Nature section at the same time.
D’Amaro shared more details of the forthcoming conversion of the Splash Mountain ride at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World into Tiana’s Bayou Adventure for late 2024, with the story set as a sequel to “The Princess and the Frog,” where Tiana needs help on a trip through the bayou to find a missing ingredient for the party she’s hosting.
According to the Imagineers who appeared on stage with the parks’ chairman, the attraction will have a new sense of grandeur, as well as a dazzling night-time lighting package and state-of-the-art misting effects to create “Bayou magic,” and an overall effect that celebrates the culture and feel of New Orleans.
The movie “Frozen” was another feature to take front and center on the Anaheim Convention Center stage, as D’Amaro shared a closer look at the film-themed areas coming to Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disney Resort, and Hong Kong Disneyland.
The World of Frozen will open first in Hong Kong in the second half of 2023, blending Arendelle with the park’s natural landscapes on Lantau Island.
That will be followed at a later date by Paris, which will also get a new Tangled-themed attraction, and then Tokyo, where it will be part of an expansion called Fantasy Springs, including elements inspired by the movies “Tangled” and “Peter Pan.”
Fantasy Springs will feature several new high-tech audio-animatronic figures, including Queen Elsa, who will sing in Japanese, with her movements synchronized to the rhythms of the language.
In addition, the Tokyo park’s iconic Space Mountain ride will undergo an exterior updating that will give it a dazzling night-time lighting effect.
Disneyland Resort in Anaheim also had plenty of reason to look ahead, with the re-opening of the Mickey’s Toontown land slated for early 2023, along with the Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway ride artwork showing new inclusive experiences, games, and interactive fun.
The makeover of the Paradise Pier Hotel was also confirmed, with the new name being the Pixar Place Hotel and the feel of stepping into a Pixar art gallery, featuring a celebration of their classic characters, as well as a splash pad and swimming pool area themed to “Finding Nemo” and “Finding Dory.”
A flagship venue for popular Southern California restaurant Great Maple will be added on the first floor, and it will operate all the other food and beverage locations throughout the hotel.
The Shanghai Disney Resort will be the first Disney resort to bring the world of Oscar-winning Disney Animation film “Zootopia” to life, and the D23 presentation offered a first look at the concept art for Zootopia Central Station and Zootopia Police Department, which doubles as the entrance for the land’s new family attraction where guests will be greeted by an elaborate audio-animatronic figure of Officer Clawhauser.
Mickey’s favorite teddy bear, Duffy, is a big hit with fans in all three Disney resorts in Asia, and D’Amaro revealed that Duffy and Friends, including new character LinaBell, will star in their own six-episode, stop-motion animated series on Disney+ next year.
There was even more Disney Cruise Line news, with a video update on the construction of the Lighthouse Point private island development in Eleuthera in the Bahamas, where 90 percent of the power for the blissful beach destination highlighted by D’Amaro will come from solar energy.
Finally, more details about the upcoming Disney 100 Years of Wonder event were announced, including how Disney will mark the biggest celebration in the history of the company, with new décor, specialty food and beverage, and extra character experiences coming to parks around the world.
The heart of the celebration will be based at Disneyland Resort, where two nighttime spectaculars – “World of Color – One” and fireworks show “Wondrous Journeys” – will set the ball rolling in late January.
Disney California Adventure will highlight the storytelling legacy started by Walt Disney a century ago, and D’Amaro promised a new “World of Color” show “like you’ve never seen it before, with an all-new inspiring story told through some favorite characters.”
“Wondrous Journeys” at the Disneyland park will then ignite a sense of wonder in guests with nods to all 60 Walt Disney Animation Studios movies to date, “on a journey filled with artistry, music, storytelling, and heart.” Special entertainment moments will also pop up across the resort, including the long-awaited return of the “Magic Happens” parade in spring 2023.