All the Disney World Updates at D23
At D23, Josh D’Amaro, the head of Disney Parks, discussed several updates coming to Walt Disney World. Let’s dive in!
Tron Lightcycle Power Run Will Debut in 2023
Let’s start with plans that Disney has finalized. For example, Magic Kingdom has recently reinvented the Tomorrowland skyline for the modern era. The central change stems from Tron Lightcycle Power Run, a breathtaking roller coaster with a unique illuminated canopy.
Fans had expected this ride to debut in late 2020, but the pandemic obliterated that dream. However, recent roller coaster testing had once again raised hopes for an impending debut. Alas, D’Amaro confirmed that the Tron coaster will open during the spring of 2023.
Happily Ever After Returns to Magic Kingdom
Disney has taken this approach to highlight its upcoming 100th anniversary next year. As a secondary part of this event, Happily Ever After will return after Disney Enchantment ends in March 2023.
Disney Reveals Tiana’s Bayou Adventure Storyline
At one point, D’Amaro transitioned to a conversation regarding Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. The crowd went wild with boisterous applause, thereby indicating that Disney may be on to something with this re-theming.
The Imagineers involved with the Splash Mountain reboot took the stage and went into detail regarding the story. Disney dedicated nearly 15 minutes to this segment, underscoring its significance by bringing Disney Legend Anika Noni Rose onstage to perform two Tiana songs.
Disney had previously indicated that the ride takes place in the aftermath of The Princess and the Frog. Now the Imagineers have revealed that Tiana has evolved into a huge success and community leader in New Orleans.
The Disney Princess wants to throw a party to show her appreciation for her neighbors. But unfortunately, she realizes she’s missing the ingredient needed for the event’s signature dish.
So, Tiana coaxes her friend and previous traveling companion, Louis, to join her. They journey to the bayou to acquire the ingredients needed for the dish.
Disney showed off a new misting technique that will play a role in the story. The mist functions as a color palette akin to World of Color. Disney has enhanced the technology for the Tiana ride, though.
Importantly, Disney doubled down on a 2024 release window for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. So, you should plan your 2023 trips in anticipation of one final ride on Splash Mountain.
EPCOT Will End Harmonious Next Year
One of the most surprising announcements involved the World Showcase Lagoon. A few years ago, Disney canceled the award-winning IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth in anticipation of a new nighttime presentation, Harmonious.
Unexpectedly, that show won’t last long at all. In 2023, a new presentation, 100 Years of Wonder, will celebrate Disney’s overall anniversary as well as the 40th anniversary of EPCOT, which occurs on October 1st. Harmonious only debuted last October, so its tenure will last two years or less.
The other significant update involves Figment, and the planned return of a Figment character greeting in 2023. EPCOT once hosted a Figment encounter, and now another will return for a limited engagement next year.
Disney also provided an update on Journey of Water – Inspired by Moana. The upcoming water feature will debut at World Nature in late 2023.
Some of the D23 artwork and publicity indicated that a 16-foot-tall statue of Te Fiti would anchor the walkthrough attraction. Here are some images:
In case you’re wondering, Disney didn’t mention the PLAY! pavilion or anything about a Mary Poppins attraction at the United Kingdom pavilion. So, we remain in the dark about any forward movement on these potential EPCOT projects.
Disney Explains Its Boundless Future
You may have heard/seen Disney announce several other projects coming to Walt Disney World. However, Disney never explicitly confirmed any of what we’re about to discuss.
Instead, D’Amaro and other Disney officials talked about various blue-sky projects that they hope or maybe even expect will happen. It’s imperative that we clarify that Disney refused to commit fully to these projects, at least right now.
I say this because you’re about to lose your mind over all the good news. For example, Disney has come up with a solution to a pressing park problem.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom currently suffers from a dramatic imbalance. You’ll find Pandora – The World of Avatar on one side of the park. The themed land on the other side is DinoLand U.S.A. You can guess which of those themed lands gains the most traffic. And no, it’s not even close.
Disney understandably wants to correct that traffic flow issue. So, park officials are strongly considering new themed lands based on Moana and Zootopia as DinoLand replacements.
Disney also showed progress from the Zootopia themed land coming to Shanghai Disneyland to underscore the point. Here are illustrations of these projects:
Disney Plans Possible New Theme Park
Somehow, the potential news at Animal Kingdom isn’t even the highlight, though. Instead, D’Amaro asked the creative director of the New Fantasyland project at Magic Kingdom to think about what lies beyond Big Thunder Mountain.
The tweet I just linked shows that vision as well. Disney has at least contemplated a fifth theme park at Walt Disney World. Yes, I just said a fifth theme park!!! The plans refer to this place as Magic Kingdom II.
However, Disney indicated that this project may become one or more multiple themed lands instead. They’d include areas based on Coco, Encanto, and…Disney Villains. So yes, the longstanding rumor about a fifth park based on Disney Villains is at least somewhat based in reality.
Before you get too excited, please remember what the phrase blue-sky means. It’s a creative process wherein any idea is possible. Of course, nothing is set in stone until Disney spends the money to break ground on the project. But it’s wildly exciting to contemplate!
I’ll note that Disney took the unorthodox but welcome step of posting a timeline for its various theme park and cruise projects. You can examine the roadmap here:
None of what Disney mentioned during the Boundless Future section of the panel appears on this timeline. Until it does, we should consider it vaporware.
Even presuming these projects happen, they’re many years away from opening. Still, that’s the beauty of DVC ownership. We think in terms of decades, not years!