With Disney’s 2013 D23 Expo only 23 days away, rumors are swirling as to what will be announced at the Expo. Since the announcements tend to leak out a few weeks before they’re actually made, I thought I’d jump out ahead of any potential weeks and place our “bets” now while rumors are still just that. Of course, this is all just fun speculation, not in any way informed reporting, so don’t go citing us for any of these rumors. I have no idea what’s happening beyond rumors I read elsewhere. And right now, there are a lot of rumors!
Disney itself has done a bit to quash some of these rumors with Imagineer Dave Fisher stating in an interview with Micechat that Imagineering will “not be making any new product announcements at the Expo this year.” Now, this is a bit troubling. Presumably, Fisher is “in the know” with regard to this, as the interview came across as something scheduled between D23 and Micechat, and not just a spontaneous conversation with a random Imagineer. It’s very likely that the interview was given as a form of fan community outreach to spark ticket sales to the Expo. Given this, it seems unlikely that the statement would have been made to “throw fans off the scent,” as many of those fans are less likely to purchase tickets if they know announcements aren’t going to be made. That in itself would defeat the purpose of the interview in the first place. Further, D23 has confirmed that there will be no Parks & Resorts Arena presentation, which is the most likely venue for such announcements.
Despite this, in recent months, rumors from trusted insiders have become more and more frequent. Beyond these rumors, Micechat posted photos last week of a rare in-park meeting of Disney’s Board of Directors, and CEO Bob Iger and Parks & Resort Chairmain Tom Staggs at Disneyland Resort. Since Board of Director-types generally don’t have an intimate interest in theme parks (shocking, I know), it’s very unlikely that this was just a fun venue for an normal meeting. There was likely a business purpose for meeting at Disneyland Resort, most likely to do with theme park capital expenditures. While ordinary spending (say, for the redo of Test Track) doesn’t require Board of Director approval, substantial capital investments do trigger Board approval requirements. As such, it’s unlikely that Iger and Staggs would have had to involve the Board if whatever being planned doesn’t involve several new “product” additions for the parks. In fact, it’s quite possible that it’s a comprehensive vision similar to the Disney California Adventure extreme makeover of 2007-2012, with plans to continue that trajectory for Disneyland Resort, and plans to use a similar model for Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World. After all, the aggressive strategy employed for fixing Disney California Adventure proved incredibly successful, and Disney is facing increasing competition from competitors in Orlando.
That said, all of this is what I surmise based upon current rumblings. It’s partly grounded in reality, it’s partly (undoubtedly) grounded in best case scenario wishful thinking. As for how it jives with the statement that there wouldn’t be any new announcements for the D23 Expo? Well, there’s the chance that the expectation was that these plans wouldn’t have Board approval in time for a D23 Expo announcement. This might very well might still be the case, in which case an announcement should be expected later in the year once approval has been secured, a la the Avatar Land shortly after the 2011 Expo (which is why the asterisk is in the title–our predictions are based upon the announcements being made by the end of 2013, not by the end of the Expo). It might also be the case that the plans have since been approved or will be approved in time for an announcement. There’s also the chance that the statement was deceptive for some reason, and announcements were planned all along. Finally, there’s the rather bleak possibility that no new attraction announcements were planned and none are seriously on the table…maybe several Board members just really like Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train and wanted to take a spin on it!
Anyway, I could speculate as to what’s going on in the halls of the Michael D. Eisner Building concerning the timing of announcements until the cows come home, but you get the idea. Things might be announced at the Expo, things might not be announced. Let’s have some fun and speculate about the likelihood of the currently strong rumors being announced before the end of 2013.
1. Journey into Imagination Refurbishment (Epcot) – 70% - Cast Members working at Journey into Imagination have reportedly been told they are going to be trained on other attractions, the reason being that Journey into Imagination will be down for an extended amount of time in 2014. It’s rumored that the reason for this is because the attraction will undergo a total overhaul of the ride and the removal of Captain EO. I suppose it’s also possible that only minor changes are planned, but is scheduling extensive downtime for whatever reason, which is why this is “only” at 70%. This is one announcement that could be made at the D23 Expo without contradicting the “no new product” line. Presumably, even an extensively refurbished attraction isn’t technically a new product.
5. New Fantasyland 2.0 (Disneyland) – 60% – No, not that New Fantasyland. The third incarnation of Disneyland’s Fantasyland after 1983’s New Fantasyland, which I guess would make this either be New New Fantasyland or New Fantasyland 2.0 (or how about just Fantasyland?). The rumor here is that Alice in Wonderland will finally go down to remove the temporary Cal OSHA safety “stuff” for a while in early 2014, and after it comes back up, each Fantasyland dark ride will close for several months for upgrades and renovations. This has been rumored to be for Disneyland’s 60th anniversary marketing campaign. This sounds like a great idea to me, and those dark rides are showing their age. I think it’s really only a question of whether others will follow Alice in Wonderland (which is way overdue for a permanent solution), and if so, whether the announcement will come this year. They have 2 years from today before Disneyland’s 60th, so an announcement could fall into 2014.
3. Cars Land (DHS) – 51% - The next three are the “big three” that have everyone’s attention. I think it would be very ambitious for Disney to announce all three this year, so I’ve separated them by single percentage points that are still significant. The differences mean that Cars Land is “more likely to be announced than not,” Monstropolis is “equally likely to be announced or not,” and Star Wars Land is “less likely to be announced than not.” Lame of me? Most definitely. I’d love to see all three announced, but that’s a lot of spending, and leaves little budgetary room for any surprises in the next 5 years. As far as Cars Land goes, this has been rumored since before Disney California Adventure’s version opened, and the rumors keep changing here. If it does go to Walt Disney World, I’d expect Luigi’s Flying Tires not to make it. There’s also chatter of Radiator Springs Racers not being a thrill ride in the Florida version.
4. Monstropolis (DCA) – 50% - The rumor here is that the disjointed Hollywood Land in Disney California Adventure becomes Monstropolis, complete with an E-Ticket Door Coaster. There’s already a Monsters, Inc. dark ride in this part of the park, so this makes some sense from that perspective. On the other hand, I sort of hope it doesn’t happen. It would be the third land in DCA based entirely on Pixar (and having nothing to do with California). As long as it’s still Disney CALIFORNIA Adventure, I’d like to see that theme strengthened, not weakened. I don’t have a problem with Pixar in the parks in general, it’s the continued degradation of theme that I don’t like. The concept of a “California park” in California is not fatally flawed–as the demographics shift and more tourists visit, it’s actually not a problem. That said, three years ago I would have told you that the idea of a land based upon Cars was a bad idea, and I’ll now admit I was dead wrong on that one. Shoehorning in a Monstropolis won’t be as easy as the vague, Route 66 setting of Cars (which could, but doesn’t, take place in California), but I suppose it is possible.
5. Star Wars Land (DHS) – 49% - Fans have been speculating on a Star Wars Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios for years, but when it was announced that Disney purchased LucasFilm, the “rumors” really started to fly. Most of these were wishful thinking, as there’s no way plans for such a land could have been prepared as quickly as some claimed. The supposed rumors have had appeal because they have made a lot of sense, even if false. However, with a little bit of time now having passed, and the rumors becoming more solid, a lot more people are taking notice. The latest rumors for Star Wars Land involve an Endor Speed Bike (using a ride system developed for Shanghai Disneyland), a Mos Eisley Cantina restaurant, an X-Wing attraction for kids, and possibly a 3D film. I think “go big or go home” is the approach to take with fixing Disney’s Hollywood Studios (look at the success of DCA 2.0 as compared to the more modest New Fantasyland), and that it would be a mistake to not do both Cars Land and Star Wars Land together to generate the most buzz, but I think if one is less likely to be announced in 2013, it’s Star Wars Land.
6. Soarin’ Over The World (Shanghai Disneyland, ???) – 30% - With the exception of what was announced at the last D23 Expo in 2011, not much is known about Shanghai Disneyland. One version of a site-map has leaked, but even that requires serious speculation to understand. It has been rumored that Disney wants to finalize plans for Shanghai before announcing anything to avoid the Chinese government demanding changes to elements of the plans that don’t garner a strong reception from fans. Whether or not this is true is anyone’s guess, but watching how other parks have differed substantially from their initial designs to what was actually built, this doesn’t sound like such a bad idea to avoid disappointment. The one attraction that keeps being mentioned for Shanghai is Soarin’ Over the World, which would also (supposedly) be installed in Epcot and DCA. I don’t expect an announcement on it–or any other Shanghai plans–this year.
7. Tomorrowland (Disneyland) – 25% - Tomorrowland is Disneyland’s biggest problem, so naturally, it attracts a lot of rumors about an overhaul. The latest version involves Star Wars, which makes sense, and unsurprisingly involves the Innoventions building and the old Peoplemover track (it’s pretty much carved in stone that any Tomorrowland rumor for Disneyland involves these two components). There has also been some chatter that Autopia would go. The strongest rumor here involves the Endor Speed Bike attraction, but everything seems to be fluid. Eventually, something will happen with Disneyland’s Tomorrowland, but I don’t think it’ll be announced in 2013. I also think that using the Peoplemover track for an attraction again is unlikely. Let’s consider this the dark horse contender in the even that Disneyland and Walt Disney World each get their own “Extreme Makeover” proposals greenlit–it would certainly make sense to greenlight two Star Wars proposals and clone elements of them to spread costs.
8. Avatar Land Attractions (DAK) – 20% - At this point, I’ve lost interest in speculating on whether this land will even happen. If it does happen, it seems like an idea of what attractions the land will contain would be on its way in 2013. We’re coming up on the two-year anniversary of the announcement, and there have been 0 details since.
9. Cars Land (Tokyo Disneyland) – 15% - Tokyo Disney Resort has its own Expo this fall, and because of that, any announcements at the Anaheim Expo are highly unlikely. US fans don’t really care about the international parks, and an announcement in Anaheim would steal thunder from the Tokyo Expo. However, the likelihood that this is announced before the end of 2013 is about 15%, I think.
10. Tomorrowland (Walt Disney World) – <10% - Tomorrowland at Walt Disney World also has a lot of problems, and is oft-rumored to be receiving replacements for a variety of its attractions, but with the exception of Carousel of Progress, they all just seem too new (or newly refurbished) to me (regardless of how much fans dislike them). Vague rumors call for more of a Star Wars presence here, but I suspect that would initially be confined to DHS.
It’s impossible to keep track of every little rumor floating around (I’m sure there’s currently one about a new country in the World Showcase, more new DVC, and a mythical creature land for Animal Kingdom…), but there’s are the big ones, to my knowledge. It will be interesting to see how any announcements play out, as it does appear that something is brewing in Burbank! What, exactly, is anyone’s guess…
Care to make it interesting by placing your own “bets”? Put down your own percentages for the likelihood of each of these announcements being made in 2013. Winner gets…bragging rights!