2019 D23 Expo Predictions for Disney World & Beyond

The 2019 D23 Expo starts this weekend, and fans are hoping for a ton of Walt Disney World and Disneyland announcements. Of course, rumors have been swirling for months as to what projects are on the horizon, and fan speculation about overhauls and expansion to Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and elsewhere has been rampant.

Things are quiet as compared with two years ago. Before the last D23 Expo, there was a steady flow of well-sourced rumors and splashy stories for almost two months prior to the event. Pretty much the entire slate of announcements was leaked before the Parks & Resorts panel.

With that said, most of us were still surprised and excited, as the rumors seemed too good to be true. It was also a big slate of announcements, with a lot of projects that are still under construction. We’ll be seeing the fruits of those reveals through 2021, and it thus seems like we’re in store for a more restrained project slate come this year’s Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Panel (hereafter Parks & Resorts, since the new name is stupid)…

In the interest of disclosure and transparency, this is all just fun speculation and more of a wishlist more than it is credible predictions or informed reporting. I have no clue what will be announced and am not trying to present this as a scoop. I have zero insider sources and am waiting with baited breath just like everyone else.

It’s also not predictions because, if I’m being honest, my #1 prediction would be a very restrained Parks & Resorts panel. No matter how Disney spins it, I think there’s significant disappointment about the summer results from Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland, and fear that more of the same will occur for at least the first couple months the land is open at Walt Disney World.

If the near term performance of Star Wars Land were the only issue, it probably wouldn’t be enough to give Disney pause about making any splashy announcements. However, there is also reason to believe that, contrary to Iger’s denials, the U.S. Disney Parks do have a pricing issue. Moreover, there are signs of a looming recession, declines in consumer confidence, and the travel segment has already seen an erosion in consumer spending.

If faced with all of that, plus issues with the Fox acquisition and the very real likelihood that Disney+ will operate at a loss for years as it aims for marketshare rather than profitability, would you bet big on 2021-2023 and announce huge capex projects for Walt Disney World and Disneyland? I wouldn’t.

Of course, there are projects already in motion that have progressed far enough they’re not in danger of being axed or put on hold at this point. Additionally, there are other things that have yet to be announced that will offer worthwhile ROI even if the worst case scenario plays out. In other words, there are still new things on the horizon and to be announced, but don’t be disappointed if Disney opts not to go big with expansion to Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Animal Kingdom, or Disney California Adventure.

With that said, here’s what I hope gets announced, along with other things that we realistically can expect in terms of announcements during this year’s Expo, in order of increasing likelihood…

Figment & Dreamfinder

It is time.

After Frozen Ever After “stole” Journey into Imagination’s reimaging budget a few years ago, I have refused to get my hopes up over subsequent Figment rumors. However, for me, it just makes sense that a substantive addition would be announced featuring Figment and (hopefully) Dreamfinder at a presentation we already know will heavily feature Epcot’s reimagining.

Think about it. You’re a Disney executive who is concerned about guest perceptions of pricing coupled with the possibility of a recession. You’re also concerned about the Epcot transformation project, finding a way to thread the needle, making it appeal to both one and done guests and diehard EPCOT Center fans. At this point, you need both because loyal fans–who you may have already alienated–are one of the most reliable ways to weather whatever troubles might lie ahead.

What’s your most surefire response? One that’s sure to get massive applause from the D23 Expo audience, restore some goodwill that has been eroded the last few years, and guarantee visits from loyal fans? Figment and Dreamfinder. If Disney executives are truly concerned about all of these things (and maybe they aren’t!), it’s the logical time to do something that should’ve been done a decade ago.

Brazil

My actual ‘wish’ here is for a new World Showcase nation (or two), not necessarily Brazil. I just recognize the reality that Brazil is far and away the most likely candidate. If we only get one World Showcase announcement at the 2019 D23 Expo, it’ll be Brazil.

As a quick refresher, the scope and scale of the long-rumored Brazil pavilion has oscillated over the years, but the latest consensus among insiders is that it would open with shopping, dining, and maybe a boat ride, but probably just some sort of interactive exhibit. While I’d obviously prefer a slow-moving boat ride, I’d be content with a pavilion featuring some beautiful architecture. (Morocco is my current-favorite World Showcase pavilion, and it doesn’t have an attraction.)

Epcot’s Transformation

By now, pretty much every Walt Disney World fan knows that Epcot’s “major transformation” is going to be a significant focus of the 2019 D23 Expo. Ahead of the event, Disney has already announced the Moana: Journey of Water walk-through attraction and revealed new concept art. It appears several other future announcements are hiding in plain sight on the show floor.

Over two years ago, we wrote about the rumors most likely to come to fruition in our 8 Huge Epcot Rumors post. Since that post, some of those attractions have been announced, others have become less likely, and others still have been floated. Nevertheless, we think those remain the likeliest contenders for other big announcements in addition to a new World Showcase pavilion and reimagining of Journey into Imagination.

Beyond that, we really want to know the specifics of the Future World overhaul. Is the Future World name being retired in favor of (ugh) neighborhoods? Is that an elevated festival center replacing Fountain of Nations in the middle? What else can we expect from the new-look Epcot? Will Spaceship Earth be reimagined? We’ve been waiting for nearly 3 years for these details–it’d be nice to finally hear something concrete!

Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary

Walt Disney World’s slogan for its 25th Anniversary was: “it’s time to remember the magic,” a campaign focused on guest nostalgia for their memories. For the 50th Anniversary, nostalgia will still win the day, but this time focused on the parks’ own past.

Rumors point to there being 50 Magical Enhancements that will be promoted as part of what will likely be an 18-month celebration centered around Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary on October 1, 2021. To get the number that high, this probably means counting a variety of overlays, enhancements, special offers, and perhaps even fancy cupcakes in addition to the half-dozen headliner additions that’ll be made.

Mostly, these 50 enhancements will focus on plussing or restoring fan favorite attractions. Think of this as a cross between “Project Sparkle” that Disneyland Paris rolled out ahead of its 25th Anniversary and the Diamond Celebration for Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary. Expect a mix of character-driven things to appeal to new guests, and nostalgia-fueled fun for us old-timers.

Honestly, I don’t know whether to include this on my wish list or list of fears. If there’s any credence to rumors that were swirling over the summer, some of the plans being considered for the 50 for 50th Celebration are not things I want to see happen.

At this point, I’m hoping that the good outweighs the bad. My wishlist here includes SpectroMagic 2.0, new fireworks/night stage show for Magic Kingdom, Millennium Celebration style offering for Epcot, updates for Carousel of Progress, TTA PeopleMover, and other refreshes of classics (done with integrity).

“Avengers Campus” – Phase 2

One reveal of the 2019 D23 Expo has already occurred, and it’s that the new Marvel Land will be Avengers Campus. We’ve already detailed what this land is likely to include (and expect confirmation of that from Disney over the weekend, so we won’t rehash that here). 

As we’ve said previously, this is the first phase of a Marvel expansion for Disney California Adventure that is heavily backloaded. Nothing that is currently known about phase one inspires a lot of excitement, and with the future of Spider-Man’s presence in the MCU now up in the air, it puts a damper on any further discussion of the first phase.

However, phase 2 should be a lot more exciting, with a headliner E-Ticket attraction that should prove a big draw to Disney California Adventure. Even as other plans for Fantasyland and Tomorrowland across the Esplanade in Disneyland could be put on ice due to the problems above, DCA is in such need of help that canceling phase 2 seems unlikely (or at least, a really bad idea).

New Land at Animal Kingdom

Over the last couple of years, there have been a ton of rumors about Disney’s Animal Kingdom. My favorite is the Indiana Jones Adventure and Dinoland Changes, and that’s mostly because Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama being replaced by something that is not an abomination is my ultimate dream.

Another possibility that has been floated is a clone of the Zootopia Land that’s being built at Shanghai Disneyland coming to Animal Kingdom. I’ve never considered this to be all that credible, but Zootopia is popular and cloning what’s already being built elsewhere would save some costs.

Ultimately, I don’t think any big announcement for Disney’s Animal Kingdom is likely. I view it much like the blank slate dark ride for Disney’s Hollywood Studios–a good idea that positions Walt Disney World well for the long term, but something that seems unlikely to be announced just yet due to timing.

The Rock Worldwide Takeover

We already know that Moana: Journey of Water is coming to Epcot. I think we can all agree that this is the long-overdue Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson attraction that will finally put Walt Disney World on the map.

If Disney wants to take its mom and pop operation to the next level, it stands to reason that this will be the first of many the Rock-related announcements this weekend. It’s safe to assume that every single version of Jungle Cruise will have a 30-foot tall Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Audio Animatronics figure added, punching through the backside of water.

Also likely is a San Andreas attraction coming to Disney California Adventure. Think this will be a thrill ride? Think again. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson presents a 3-hour Powerpoint presentation in earthquake preparedness. (Joking aside, I’d totally be on board if Disney ripped off Earthquake: the Big One/Disaster; it “worked” with NBA Experience!) While I have literally dozens of other the Rock ride ideas all ready to be the next big thing, I think this is a good start. Disney doesn’t want to build too many great the Rock attractions all at once and have every single park filled to capacity every single day of the year.

No matter what ends up happening, we’ll be LIVE at the 2019 D23 Expo in Anaheim, California all weekend long, with camera and laptop in tow. Anything that’s announced, revealed, or even vaguely hinted at will be covered in excruciating detail here on the blog. If you have any specific “requests” for things you’d like to see from the D23 Expo, feel free to leave a note in the comments below. (No promises!)

Your Thoughts

Care to make it interesting by placing your own “bets” about what will be announced at the 2019 D23 Expo? Do you think it will be a time for big attraction announcements, or will mostly focus on details about Epcot’s transformation? Any surprise announcements you think might be possible? Obviously, none of us know what the future holds for the D23 Expo (unless you’re a Disney executive or Imagineer…in which case, please let us know what’s going to happen! 😉 ), but I think it’s fun to take some guesses and see who ‘wins’ just the same. We’ll revisit this post in a month and whoever got the most right will win…bragging rights!


26 Responses to “2019 D23 Expo Predictions for Disney World & Beyond”
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