Updated 7/17/17 to include MinnieVan accessibility.
Yesterday was the highly anticipated Parks Panel at D23. There are many big things planned, and some of them affect the parks in less than a month!
What is D23??? D23 is the bi-annual Disney convention held in Anaheim. Think ComicCon for Disney fans. There are 3 days full of panels and discussions covering animated films, live action films, celebrating Disney past and present and inducting the newest class of Disney Legends. Plus a convention floor full of vendors with fun Disney products.
Every year there were many rumors about the parks leading up to the official announcements. Some were true, others half true, some not at all. Then there were surprises, and sadly none of the announcements came with as much detail as I would like...
There are big changes here, but nothing looks to be in danger of leaving!
- Tron light coaster coming to Tomorrowland. This is a ride that is already in Shanghai and it's very popular, based on the 80's cult classic movie TRON. It will not be replacing anything, and from the concept art it appears that it will go over both the railroad and the path along Space Mountain to Fantasyland (a great area for running out some energy). You must transfer from your wheelchair to experience this attraction. Other accessibility details are not listed on the Shanghai maps.
- New theater near Main Street. A big beautiful theater designed to be like the iconic Willis Theater from Kansas City in the 1920's. This venue will be the home for world class entertainment similar to the shows currently entertaining guests at California Adventure Park in Anaheim. Where will it go?? I have seen guesses ranging from replacing the Exhibition Hall on Town Square (where Mickey and Tinkerbell are) to an area right behind the hall near the easy exit from fireworks beside the Confectionary (currently a backstage space not visible to guests).
There are many changes brewing and a long time favorite will be replaced.
- Future World is getting a new look. The entrance and much of the current aesthetic will be updated.
- Guardians of the Galaxy will have an attraction. There really weren't any details about the ride- but it's sure to have a fun soundtrack! The Universe of Energy Pavilion will be the new GOTG location, meaning we will have to say goodbye to the current attraction starring Ellen DeGenerous, Bill Nye and DINOSAURS.- This closing will be SOON. August 14, 2017. If you have a fan of dinosaurs, prepare them. Walt Disney World will only have the intense ride DINOSAUR that is in Animal Kingdom for true dinosaur fans. Cute and funny dinosaurs that are not frightening are still also found in Animal Kingdom.
- Mission Space is being re-themed for a more timid audience. The green side, indicating it is less intense, will be different when it re-opens from it's current refurbishment in September.
- New Space themed table service restaurant. Details were not shared, but I am assuming it will be located in the East side of Future World between Guardians of the Galaxy and Mission Space.
- World Showcase- China Pavilion will get a new film. This will be a seam free Circle Vision film.
- The French Pavilion will receive a new ride- Ratatouille! This is currently a popular ride in the Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris, France (the real one). It is based on the Pixar film by the same name. The ride takes you through the kitchen of a famous french restaurant from Remy's point of view,so everything is really big while immersing you in sound, smells and action. The cars are shaped like rats and it is a trackless ride. I haven't ridden it yet, but fans that have are excited it's coming to Epcot. This attraction in France has cars that are wheelchair accessible and service animals are allowed.
Disney's Hollywood Studios
Much of the announcements for this park are just confirming what was already public- but there is a big change and some fun details to report.
- The Great Movie Ride is closing. The iconic Chinese Theater will still hold court at the end of Hollywood Boulevard, but the inside will have a ride starring Mickey and Minnie! Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railroad will take you into a cartoon! The style is based on the current shows seen on The Disney Channel with an original plot line and music. The ride function itself sounds to me like it's similar to Ratatouille with a trackless car. Hopefully that means it can be accessible too. We won't really know those details until it is ready to open, and no, they didn't give us an opening date. But August 13, 2017 is the last day for The Great Movie Ride.
- Toy Story Land is opening Summer of 2018. Explore the land built by Andy and his imagination. Ride the Slinky Dog Roller Coaster, a ride that will be comfortable for guests of most ages with a size and scale similar to Goofy's Barnstormer in the Magic Kingdom. Make the aliens "eternally grateful" as you join them in spinning while the claw attempts to make you the chosen one (inspired by the ever popular Pizza Planet)! With Toy Story Midway Mania having a new opening to complete this "land" it sounds like a fabulous time!
- Star Wars Land has a name- Galaxy's Edge! D23 unveiled a new model of this immersive new land. Galaxy's Edge will have interactions with favorites like BB-8 and R2D2 as well as many other creatures you will recognize from this beloved franchise. A specific opening date was not announced, but it arrive in the Orlando Galaxy in 2019 before the end of the Summer.
Disney's Animal Kingdom
I'm just kidding with this header. Animal Kingdom just had 2 big years adding a nightlife and Pandora: The Land of Avatar. i think it's set for awhile.
Transportation is not typically as exciting as Park news- but with Disney everything can be magical!
- Disney's Skyliner- A new air gondola system will connect Epcot to the Caribbean resort, to Pop Century, Art of Animation and Hollywood Studio's. Fun concept art was released, but not many details. I know the modern urban gondolas have air conditioning, are wheelchair accessible and many even have wi-fi, but these features are all assumptions I'm making... My daughter Meg say's she and Steve, my husband are still taking the bus because they dislikes heights- Ben and I will wave as we fly over them!
- MinnieVans- No I didn't turn off my spell check. Disney is launching there own ride sharing service similar to Lyft or Uber with cute vans stylized like Minnie. This mode of transportation helps when you have a dinner reservation in a different resort, or the busses just won't get you there in time. UPDATE- The vans are now running. Speak to Guest services in the resorts or Parks to book a ride. Foldable wheelchairs and strollers are welcome. The vans can not accommodate electric chairs or EVC. The cost is $20/ride.
Two very different resorts were announced!
- Star Wars Resort! This is a fully inclusive experience unlike anything else Disney has done before. This property is an attraction all by itself, not just a hotel where you sleep and maybe swim. You will experience this on days you do not go to the parks. It is fully immersive, that includes activities, costumes (even you) your meals and food. It is rumored to take 2 days to do everything, requiring a 2 night minimum stay. Obviously there will be MANY more details. As soon as I have them I will let you know! One very well educated guess from good contacts says is it will be located across from the Swan and Dolphin hotels where Fantasia Gardens is. Remember- the only thing announced by Disney was a fully immersive and unique Star Wars themed resort- the rest is well informed rumor (not usually my style to share but this seems like a decent exception).
- Riviera Resort will be a new DVC (Disney Vacation Club) property in the Epcot Area. It will be connected to the new Skyliner Gondolas and have a rooftop restaurant with views of Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios. Look for the opening in the Fall of 2019.
Yes, That was a lot!! The hardest part will be waiting for all of the magic to begin! As soon as I have updates I will be sure to post them!