Everything Disney Just Announced at Destination D23

Josh D’Amaro and a team of Disney Imagineers just hosted a Destination D23 panel. During this event, Disney’s team provided insights about what’s coming soon to Disney theme parks. 

Much of what they said was tantalizing, but not all of it is sure to happen. Here’s what you need to know about Disney’s theme park announcements at Destination D23.  

The EPCOT Confirmations 

In 2016, Disney used the D23 Expo’s Parks Panel to announce sweeping changes coming to EPCOT. Obviously, progress slowed to a crawl due to the pandemic, but we’ve finally reached the end of this overhaul at the front of the park.

Future World no longer exists. In its place, EPCOT hosts three Neighborhoods: Celebration, Discovery, and World Nature. The last of those three Neighborhoods will debut this December. Between now and then, EPCOT will add a lot of new experiences. Here they are: 

The Figment Character Greeting

At the end of the Parks Panel, everyone’s favorite dragon, Figment, came out on stage. At this point, Josh D’Amaro informed the audience that they’d meet with Figment later that night. That wasn’t the shocker, though.

Disney also announced that the long-promised Figment character greeting would start the following day. Yes, as of Sunday, September 10th, you can meet Figment again at the Imagination! pavilion. 

Journey of Water | Inspired by Moana

Earlier this week, Disney announced annual passholder previews for Journey of Water | Inspired by Moana starting on September 24th. Typically, once those start, an attraction is mere days away from its official opening.

In this case, Disney officials saved a special date for the Moana interactive water attraction. It’ll open on October 16th, 2023, which happens to be the 100th anniversary of The Walt Disney Company’s founding! 

If you’re visiting in early October, there’s a good chance you can experience Journey of Water before its official opening date, but I like the symbolism here. Walt Disney’s love of nature earned him eight Academy Awards through the True-Life Adventures series.

The Moana Character Greeting 

What’s a Moana attraction without the Disney Princess herself? Someone at Disney realized this and set up a permanent character spot for her.

You’ll find Moana near Journey of Water. She will also make her first appearance on October 16th

Luminous The Symphony of Us

You may not know the name, but you’ll love this one. Disney has announced the replacement for Harmonious, and this new nighttime presentation will arrive in 2023.

Luminous The Symphony of Us will debut on December 5th, 2023. Based on images, it strikes me as Harmonious without the barges. 

Test Track Changes

Here’s one of the biggest surprises from this year’s Parks Panel. In 1999, EPCOT officially changed one of its oldest attractions, World of Motion, into a new ride called Test Track. 

In 2012, Chevrolet became Test Track’s sole sponsor. At the time, Imagineers worked with the company to overhaul the attraction a second time.

Remarkably, Disney and Chevrolet have once again agreed to turn Test Track into a new experience. Since the 2012 changes took about eight months, I expect something similar here. It’ll be the Test Track you know, but Imagineers will reintroduce some World of Motion elements. For EPCOT purists, this is very good news. 

World Celebration

Disney had previously confirmed that EPCOT would function as the hub of the Disney100 celebration at Walt Disney World. Not coincidentally, park officials want World Celebration open by the end of the year.

Disney just revealed that the new Neighborhood will host guests starting in December. At that point, Disney will unveil CommuniCore Hall, CommuniCore Plaza, and Dreamers Point. 

Disney’s recent park enhancements have emphasized gathering spots and community. World Celebration will become that for future generations of Disney guests. 

By the way, as a final bit of Disney100 joy, Disney announced one other pleasant surprise. Soarin’ Over California will return to EPCOT for a limited time starting on September 22nd! That date also happens to mark the official start of Disney100 at Walt Disney World.  

The Asha Character Greeting

I realize that many of you share the same question. “Who’s Asha?” You’ll know in November, as she’s the protagonist in Walt Disney Pictures’ 62nd animated feature film. 

As part of the marketing for that film, Asha will greet guests at three different Disney theme parks. At Walt Disney World, the character will appear at EPCOT. She’ll also meet Disney fans at Disneyland Park and Disneyland Paris. 

If you’d like to know more about the character and the story, here’s the trailer for Wish:


Country Bear Jamboree

Disney confirmed a few other attractions and experiences coming to Walt Disney World’s other parks. Probably the least expected of these changes will occur at Country Bear Jamboree.

After generations of offering the same music, your favorite Country and Western attraction will add new songs in 2024. Disney is working with some legendary recording artists. They will add bluegrass and rockabilly sounds to beloved Disney tunes. 

I have no idea how that will sound, but I’m intrigued. Also, Parrotheads in mourning will be happy to know that Jimmy Buffett’s bandmate, Mac McAnally, is the participant Disney showed in the pictures. So, we might get some Margaritaville-esque sounds at Magic Kingdom.

A Zootopia Show

Disney stopped short of confirming a Zootopia themed land coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. However, an Imagineer revealed that a Zootopia show is coming to the Tree of Life.

I don’t have firm details on this one. The presentation specifically stated a Tree of Life base. However, rampant online speculation has focused on a re-theming of It’s Tough to Be a Bug!. 

So, you may want to watch Country Bear Jamboree and this show during your next visit, just in case. It may be your last chance. 

Ahsoka at Star Tours – The Adventures Continue!

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. The beloved Star Wars character is currently tearing up the streaming charts. Disney executives have indicated that Ahsoka is one of the most successful streaming shows on Disney+ to date. 

Recently, Ahsoka started appearing at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland Park. Soon, Disney will integrate scenes with the character into Star Tours – The Adventures Continue! The target date is sometime in 2024.

The Pirates of the Caribbean Tavern 

Adventureland at Magic Kingdom will add a bit more fun, adventure, and possibly even alcohol soon. I say this because Disney is adding a tavern beside Pirates of the Caribbean, one not to be confused with Tortuga Tavern in Adventureland. 

Disney’s social media feed referred to this new place as a lounge, while the Parks Panel hinted at a restaurant. No matter what Disney serves here, the experience will include the Barker Bird, the parrot with the peg-leg. Disney promises that this new space will extend the story of Pirates of the Caribbean as well. 

The Hatbox Ghost 

Disney unexpectedly chose not to reveal an opening date for the Hatbox Ghost’s arrival at Haunted Mansion in Magic Kingdom. However, park officials suggested that it’ll happen at some point in November. 

If you’re a DVC member with November reservations, you’ve got a better chance later in the month. I’m honestly surprised that the character isn’t arriving before Halloween. 

Disney Cruise Line Announces Disney Adventure

Disney is in the process of building the Disney Adventure, the seventh addition to the Disney Cruise Line fleet. Formerly known as the Global Dream, this magnificent 19-story vessel was acquired by Disney in 2022. With a host of captivating features, it offers a comfortable experience to approximately 6,000 guests.

In August 2023, the conversion into what we now know as the Disney Adventure officially kicked off, starting an awesome new chapter in Disney’s maritime ventures! This will be the first Disney cruise ship to offer sailings from Singapore and throughout Southeast Asia.

While the timeline for its maiden voyage remains undisclosed, excitement for this upcoming addition continues to build. We’ll be sure to keep you posted on the latest announcements.

What Disney Didn’t Announce 

Here’s where the conversation grows ambiguous. I have parsed the comments of Josh D’Amaro and Bruce Vaughn repeatedly. As a reminder, Vaughn recently returned to Disney to join Walt Disney Imagineering as Co-Lead alongside Barbara Bouza. So, Vaughn wasn’t even with Disney last year when D’Amaro discussed potential future park expansion.

During the 2023 Parks Panel, the two of them tap-danced around several earth-shaking announcements. Ultimately, they chose not to confirm any of it, though. As such, much of what I say next falls into the categories of Maybe or Probably rather than Definitely. 

For example, Disney indicated that a Zootopia themed land won’t go where DinoLand, U.S.A. currently is. That’s been the hot rumor for a while because, well, that’s what Disney indicated last year. Since then, park strategists have settled on a different part of Animal Kingdom as an ideal location for Zootopia…if it happens. Again, Disney only confirmed the Tree of Life area show, nothing else.

Disney Suggests More Blue Sky Projects 

Similarly, Disney officials stated that DinoLand, U.S.A. likely would undergo a re-theming…and a lovely one at that. Disney would bring this part of the park in line with the Asia and Africa sections by introducing a geographic theme.

Specifically, the “northernmost region of South America” would provide the new backdrop. Should that happen, Disney hinted that attractions based on Encanto and Indiana Jones would go here. 

Obviously, everyone is running with the idea that Indiana Jones Adventure will replace DINOSAUR. Remember that they share the same ride cart and design structure. 

Yet again, I must stress that Disney confirmed nothing, though. It’s a weird song and dance that D’Amaro and his team are performing right now. I fully expect some and maybe even all of this to happen, but it’s hearsay until Disney publicly announces something tangible.

Similarly, Disney again referenced what lies beyond Big Thunder Mountain and promised a Magic Kingdom expansion on a par with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Pandora – The World of Avatar. Vaughn, who worked on the New Fantasyland project, suggested this update would be even more substantial.

D’Amaro and Vaughn doubled down on the suggestion that Disney has more upcoming projects underway than at any point in the company’s history. Also, Disney will spend billions on these projects. CEO Bob Iger had indicated $17 billion in Walt Disney World improvements coming over the next decade.

Still, for the moment, the 12 projects I’ve mentioned are the only ones Disney has officially confirmed. And we already knew about five of those. So, we’re really talking about seven revelations, and only Test Track is one I’d describe as a significant announcement. 

In other words, Disney has largely left us waiting for…the 2024 D23 Expo on August 9th — August 11th, 2024. 

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