2015 D23 Expo Day 2 News Roundup
Yesterday an amazing amount of Disney Parks news flooded out of the D23 Expo. A deluge of new attractions and park expansions unlike anything before. We have a break down of what is coming and which parks will benefit, plus some incredible high resolution concept art for your viewing pleasure. Click on the images to view at full size.
Star Wars Land
Star Wars Land has been known about and much anticipated as part of a revitalization of Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando for the past few years and has been officially announced before, but never with any details. This weekend we finally had a chance to see some concept art and find out a little more about this major project. The first semi-surprise was that there will be TWO Star Wars Land expansions! Disneyland and Hollywood will both get a fully themed area with rides, dining, and more. The 14 acre areas are said to be the largest single expansions in Disney parks history. For comparison, New Fantasyland was roughly 11 acres in size.
Star Wars Land will be based on a far flung space port at the edge of the known galaxy. There will be two major rides installed; the first is a Millennium Falcon flight simulator and in the second guests will be “in the middle of a climactic battle between the First Order and the Resistance” from Force Awakens film. No new details were released, but we do know a restaurant based off of the Cantina in A New Hope will be part of the mix. Star Tours: The Adventure Continues will remain in Hollywood Studios and will get another update later this year and the Jedi Training Academy will also be updated to add new characters from the Star Wars Rebels animated series.
While a construction timeline has not been set, and based on the slow progress of other Disney Parks ventures, it will likely be a few years before this is all complete. However, we don’t need to wait too long before getting some new Star Wars areas in the Parks! According to Disney PR: The Star Wars Launch Bay will take guests into the upcoming film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, with special exhibits and peeks behind-the-scenes, including opportunities to visit with new and favorite Star Wars characters, special merchandise and food offerings. Star Wars Launch Bay will be located in the Animation Courtyard at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and in Tomorrowland at Disneyland park. The Launch Bay will be open to guests later this year. Also from Disney PR we learned that Season of the Force, a new seasonal event beginning early 2016, brings new experiences to both Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts. In Tomorrowland at Disneyland park, guests will explore the Star Wars galaxy with special entertainment throughout the land, themed food locations and more. Guests also will also climb aboard Hyperspace Mountain, a reimagining of the classic Space Mountain attraction, in which guests will join an X-wing Starfighter battle. At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, guests will close out weekend nights with a new fireworks spectacular set to the iconic score of the Star Wars movies.
Toy Story Land
Star Wars isn’t the only thing coming to Hollywood Studios, an 11 acre Toy Story Land will add to the current Pixar Place and inject some much needed thrills for families. We already knew Disney was working on a third track to insanely popular Toy Story Mania ride to better handle capacity and now we can look forward for more rides which will appeal to both young and old alike. The Slinky Dog roller coaster is described as family friendly, but expect it to still be enough fun for adults like Goofy’s Barnstormer but much longer. There will also be a flying saucer ride based on the Little Green Aliens. This will be another fully themed land, so expect some dining options, shopping, and character meet & greet areas.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is about to add a whole lot of extra excitement and I doubt we’ll hear much about it being a ‘half day park’ anymore. The AVATAR expansion has been under construction for quite some time now and is finally getting closer to completion. The new land, Pandora, is based on the forest planet from the movie and will feature the bioluminescent plants and floating mountains as scenery. The main attraction here will be Flight of Passage, which will give guests the experience of flying over the forest on the back of a banshee. Full details are not yet known, but it has been speculated that this ride may be similar to Soarin’. You can see some more concept art in our previous AVATAR Land post.
While Pandora may be a large expansion, there is something more dear to my theme park heart: night time at Animal Kingdom. It is not often you get to experience this lush park after dark due to its early closing time, but let me tell you it is an amazing transformation of low lights and the sounds of nature all around. The good news is that we will get to experience this on a regular basis beginning in Spring 2016 with the addition of an after dark safari and a light show.
The evening show, Rivers of Light, will be an innovative show unlike anything ever seen in Disney Parks, combining live performers, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery. Construction has been taking place all along the shore lines to create viewing areas and new paths around the lake. Kilimanjaro Safari will also become part of the extended hours with a sunset tour mode and African wild dogs and hyenas added to the land.
Soarin’ Over California will finally be receiving a long awaited update and become Soarin’ Over the World. This new variant will debut in Shanghai Disney plus California Adventure and Epcot will see their rides updated some time next year.
Live Action Movies
I’ll skip the details on live action movie releases since those are heavily covered all over the Internet. Look for a new Jungle Book (April 15), Pete’s Dragon (August 12), Captain America: Civil War, and the Alice Through the Looking Glass sequel (May 27) in 2016. Then we’ll see Beauty and the Beast and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales in 2017.