Generally I try to share travel and Disney content around here that will help you out no matter when you are planning a trip. But I just finished watching the D23 Disney Park Panel and I have *thoughts.* And since my husband is currently holed up with Fantasy Football, what better place to share them than my own blog. So here’s a breakdown of what was announced at the D23 Disney Parks Panel plus my thoughts on what these announcements mean, what looks good, and what *gasp* doesn’t.
Walt Disney World Parks Announcements at D23
They started off the presentation with Jordan Fisher singing the beloved anthem “Happily Ever After.” Which could only lead everyone to wonder one thing….is it coming back???
Happily Ever After is Returning
After…not great…reviews for the debut of Enchantment in 2021, Josh D’Amaro announced that Happily Ever After will be returning in some capacity to Disney World next year. But he didn’t announce a full reinstatement. Instead it sounds like the anthem might be coming back as part of a new fireworks show? Time will tell.
D’Amaro also did not announce an opening season for this show, but Jordan Fisher tweeted that it is coming in Spring of 2023.
D’Amaro also announced that Epcot will be getting a new nighttime show to replace Harmonius in 2023. Leaving a lot of people to wonder….why???
Harmonius has generally been beloved at Epcot since it debuted in 2021. So I have two thoughts on why this might be happening:
- To make the replacement of Enchantment seem a little less like a corrective action.
- One thing people HAVEN’T loved about Harmonius is those barges in World Showcase Lagoon. Could they be getting the ax???
I’ve also seen people say that Harmonius was always meant to last just a couple of years. So I guess any theory could go here.
Tiana’s Bayou Adventure Opening Late 2024
They announced that Tiana’s Bayou Adventure (the rethemed Splash Mountain) will be opening in late 2024 at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. They spent A LOT of time on this, with musical performances, Imagineers discussing the ride, etc.
They also shared a bit more about the story, which is that Tiana is throwing a party for Carnival after opening her restaurant, and we have to travel into the bayou with her to search for a missing ingredient.
My main takeaways here are:
- They are really trying to get the culture right here with lots of research, which is definitely a good move.
- The right looks like it will be absolutely spectacular at night.
- The hanging lanterns right before the drop! This is my favorite detail.
Journey of Water and World Celebration Opening Late 2023
They have been working for a LONG time on Epcot. But we are still going to have to wait for almost a whole year longer for all of World Celebration plus the new Moana Journey of Water attraction (which, mind you, isn’t even a ride, but rather a walk through attraction) to open.
I know this Epcot transformation is pretty huge, but it does seem like it’s taking forever. Hopefully we will find this worth it once it opens.
TRON Lightcycle Run Opening Spring 2023
Another attraction that has been taking FOREVER is the new Tron rollercoaster in Tomorrowland in Magic Kingdom. It’s opening Spring 2023, which honestly considering they are already testing the ride with actual people seems a little long to wait. But at least we have a date now.
Hatbox Ghost Coming to Walt Disney World Haunted Mansion
The Hatbox Ghost, which is in Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion, is coming to Disney World. Lots of Haunted Mansion fans are celebrating this one, I’m sure.
Figment Meet and Greet is Coming
At the end of 2023, a Figment meet and greet is coming to Epcot. LOTS of people are excited about this one (there are some true die-hard Figment fans out there).
Possible Magic Kingdom Expansions
We’re going to get to Disneyland and the rest of Disney experiences in a moment, but first let’s talk about the end of the D23 Parks Panel where things went a little off the rails as they entered…What If??? territory.
They talked about the possibility of expanding Magic Kingdom back behind Big Thunder Mountain. Which in theory sounds like an awesome idea. And that’s what it is…a theory.
Among the possibilities of what they mentioned putting back there were areas themed to Coco, Encanto, and Disney Villains. I love ALL of these ideas (seriously, I squealed when the Coco images came up on the screen). But it very much seems like they are just ideas at this point, and there was no real commitment to anything. There was some cool concept art. But nothing concrete was mentioned. Not even a “We ARE expanding the park beyond Big Thunder Mountain” or “We ARE incorporating Coco somehow somewhere.” Instead they were both presented as theories. So will these actually happen? Who knows.
Dinoland USA Retheme
During this “What If” segment, they also touched on retheming Dinoland USA in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. No concrete plans were made, but they mentioned both Zootopia and Moana as possibilities. Is this both of them together? One or the other? Who knows.
While this was still very theoretical in concept, I have a feeling we might be hearing more about this sooner than the potential Magic Kingdom expansion because Dinoland USA is an area that has long needed some love. I’m glad Disney is working on some plans for this.
(Although, my personal preference would be to stick to countries/areas of the world not represented in World Showcase and have a South America area where you can easily keep the Dinosaur ride and also incorporate IP like Emperor’s New Groove and Encanto. But no one asked me.)
Disneyland Park News at D23
Let’s move onto Disneyland news now, where there was a fair amount of parks news I know Disneylanders are excited about. In addition to the fact that Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is opening in late 2024 (see notes above) here are some more announcements.
Mando and Grogu Coming to Galaxy’s Edge
Beginning in mid-November, Mando and Grogu will be walking around Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyland greeting guests.
Hulk Character Coming to Avenger’s Campus
Also coming to Disneyland NEXT WEEK (i.e. mid-September) is a Hulk character to Avenger’s Campus. They brought him on stage and he’s pretty big, but also looks a bit cumbersome and it will be interesting to see how this plays out in the parks. D’Amaro said the greeting times will be pretty limited for now.
New Multiverse Ride at Avenger’s Campus in Disneyland
They did announce that a new ride will be coming to Avenger’s Campus. No name or opening date was given. But they did say it is a story from the multiverse where you will be joining characters from everywhere and everyWHEN to battle a new villain: King Thanos.
Pacific Wharf is Becoming San Fransokyo
Pacific Wharf in Disney’s California Adventure is getting a retheme to San Fransokyo from Big Hero 6. This is great in concept and it will include new shopping, restaurants, and a Baymax meet and greet.
But I’ll be honest here…the concept art doesn’t look great. It looks like they are taking the already existing buildings and…adding lanterns? And retheming the bridge? So far this feels like a less than stellar effort, but it will be interesting to see what actually happens.
Paradise Pier Hotel Will Become Pixar Place Hotel
We already knew Paradise Pier Hotel was getting a retheme, and they announced the name will be Pixar Place Hotel. Nothing super surprising here I don’t think.
New Restaurants in Downtown Disney
Downtown Disney is getting new restaurants and shopping and they announced two of them: Portos and Din Tai Fung. Being from Alabama, I’m not super familiar with these. But from what I can tell, Southern Californians are PUMPED.
runDisney Returning to Disneyland
Races for runDisney are set to return to Disneyland in 2024. I think D’Amaro said they haven’t been held in Disneyland since 2017? So I know there are a lot of people excited for this.
We already know Toontown is being expanded with the addition of Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, but during the D23 Parks Panel, we got a look at some of the additions.
First of all, the queue for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway in El Capitoon Theater (how adorable is that name!) will be themed to Mickey history, with all kinds of callbacks to shows and movies Mickey has been in.
Then they will be introducing a “new era of inclusive experiences” and showed some of the new areas in Toontown. This included a splash pad/water play area near Donald’s house and a sound garden next to Goofy’s house.
We also know from the model in the Wonderful World of Dreams Pavilion at D23 that the area will be getting two new restaurants: Good Boy Grocers (a grab and go snack location) and Café Daisy.
Magic Happens Parade Returning to Disneyland
A fan favorite parade, the Magic Happens Parade, will be returning to Disneyland after hardly getting off the ground before the pandemic hit in 2020. This parade will be returning in Spring 2023.
Two New Nighttime Spectaculars at Disneyland
Disneyland is getting two new nighttime shows.
The first is a new World of Color Show at Disney’s California Adventure called World of Color One. It will celebrate 100 years of Disney animation.
The second is a new fireworks show at Disneyland called “Wondrous Journeys.” Not a lot of details were given, but they did perform the new song for it and I’m…having a hard time envisioning what the show will be like. Honestly the song felt a little too folksy for fireworks, but we’ll see.
Disney Cruise Line News at D23
Perhaps the news I was unexpectedly the most excited for was the news about Disney Cruise Line, including the name of the next ship!
The Disney Treasure
The next ship will be called Disney Treasure and will be themed after adventure. Honestly, I think it looks awesome and I love that they are going in a different imaginative direction than even the Wish.
The atrium has a statue of Aladdin, Jasmine, and Magic Carpet and is themed with dark blues and golds after Asia/Africa/Agrabah. The concept art looks beautiful.
The Disney Treasure is coming in 2024!
Disney Wonder is Going to Australia and New Zealand
For the first time, Disney is cruising in the South Pacific! They will be having repositioning cruises for the Disney Wonder and will have new itineraries in Australia and New Zealand.
Lighthouse Point is Under Development
We already knew Disney was working on a new private island in the Bahamas. Not a lot new was shared about this (in fact, they video they showed had absolutely no development yet). But they did share a couple things I thought was interesting.
- 90% of the power on this island will be from solar energy, which feels like a great move.
- They are really working to be responsible in how they develop the island, both environmentally and culturally. They are working hard to highlight Bahamian culture on the island.
D23 Announcements for Other Parks Around the World
In addition to the US mainstays of Disneyland, Disney World, and Disney Cruise Line, they also announced some news for other parks around the world.
This is, admittedly, an area I have a lot less expertise in. So we’ll hit on them quickly here.
- New show “Pixar: We Belong Together” is coming to Walt Disney Studios in Paris.
- Hong Kong Disneyland is getting a new Walt and Mickey statue.
- World of Frozen in Hong Kong is opening in the second half of 2023 and they shared some new details about this.
- Shanghai Zootopia looks amazing. I’m not sure how much of what they announced is news though (we already new it was coming).
- The Frozen land in Disneyland Paris’s Walt Disney Studios is coming along and will include a new promenade through the center of the park.
- Walt Disney Studios in Paris is also getting a new Tangled attraction. (No details! But I really want to hear more about this!)
- Space Mountain in Tokyo Disneyland is getting reimagined by 2027.
- We saw a peak into some of the new stuff going into Fantasy Springs in Tokyo’s DisneySea.
What DIDN’T Get Announced at the D23 Parks Panel
With all the new news, there is also a lot of talk about what didn’t get announced at the Parks Panel and there’s definitely some disappointment going around.
New Gate at Disney World
There has long been talk (requests?) for a new gate (i.e. a 5th park) in Walt Disney World. We didn’t get that announcement this year, and with Universal Studios opening a new park later this year, a lot of people are wondering why.
Honestly, my thoughts: why would they? As Chapek made clear in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter earlier in the weekend, the demand for Disney Parks is still there, as they are continuing to feel the need to limit Annual Passes and continue the Park Pass Reservation system. In fact, many say demand is TOO high. Wait to announce a 5th park for when you need to renew enthusiasm.
But right now, the enthusiasm is still clearly there. They don’t need to spend the money on a new park…yet.
After a teaser about it earlier this year, nothing was said about the possible Disneyland expansion.
What does this mean? Is it happening? Not happening? Is Anaheim telling them no?
No word on this.
Aside from the new Avenger’s Campus ride (which we had already been told about earlier in the weekend) there was no news about new rides at ANY of the Disney Parks.
To me, this is the biggest disappointment. Isn’t there *anything* they are working on? Apparently not…or at least not enough to share with us yet.
My D23 Parks Panel Concluding Thoughts
While there’s a lot that didn’t get announced, D’Amaro did give us a lot to be excited about. New cruise ship! Opening time frame for Tron! Tiana’s Bayou Adventure date!
But admittedly…there’s a lot that didn’t get announced. Does that mean expectations were too high? Or was this a truly disappointing showing? Maybe somewhere in the middle I think.
The most exciting news was the Disney World expansions, but at the same time, this could turn out to be the most disappointing takeaway from D23 if these become projects that never happen.
Are concrete plans for these dreams actually happening? Or was this a D23 deadline driven showing to give us something before they were ready?
We’ll just have to wait and see.