A lot was announced or revealed for Disneyland, California Adventure, Downtown Disney, and the hotels during the 2022 D23 Expo. Outside of entertainment, San Fransokyo from Big Hero 6, and the Marvels Multiverse attraction featuring King Thanos, we haven’t covered much of this.
In part, that’s because there wasn’t a lot of big news for Disneyland. No Tomorrowland transformation. Ditto Fantasyland expansion. Nothing about DisneylandForward (lol) or the other major projects about which Californians have been salivating for a while. There was the one home run with the Marvel Multiverse ride, but that’s about it.
Instead, you might say the company went with a singles and doubles approach. While not as flashy as moonshots, there’s something to be said for just getting on base instead of striking out all the time. I know that many of you hate these sports analogies, but this one seems particularly apt given how many of the ‘swinging for the fences’ announcements for Walt Disney World might actually be Ks.
Anyway, during his ~90 minute “A Boundless Future: Disney Parks, Experiences and Products” presentation, Disney Parks, Experiences and Consumer Products Chairman Josh D’Amaro bounced from topic to topic, covering a lot of ground. Much of that was actually at Disneyland, with a few quick segments revealing things that would have big impact on the California parks.
With that in mind, rather than long posts for each brief announcement, I’ll do a quick round-up here of everything covered for Disneyland Resort with rapid fire reactions.
Let’s start with Disney California Adventure’s Marvel-themed land, Avengers Campus…
New Characters Coming to Avengers Campus – More than 35 different characters have already made appearances in Avengers Campus in Disney California Adventure since it opened last year, including several Lokis. Meeting and interacting with these Marvel heroes and villains is what makes Avengers Campus not totally awful.
Beginning next week for a limited time, visitors to the Avengers Campus will have the opportunity to meet the Incredible Hulk, who will appear in his Quantum Suit.
Hulk is the first character that Imagineering will playtest as part of Project Exo, which allows giant characters to appear in person via exoskeleton technology. Imagineering has teased other characters that could come to life via these robotic suits, including a Wampa from Star Wars and the Abominable Snowman. (Perhaps Expedition Everest’s “Disco Yeti” problem could be fixed by a dude in a snowman suit!)
I love the idea of Project Exo, and it seems like something with a ton of potential. My fear was that Imagineering would dump a ton of money into R&D on these robotic suits but never actually put them to practical use. Or only have limited and inconsistent tests, a la the Living Character Initiative. While the jury is still out on the latter, I’m happy to be disproven on the former. It’ll be awesome to see a Project Exo character out and about in Avengers Campus.
My only criticism here is the particular version of the Hulk. Surely Imagineering knows that this is not how guests want to meet the Hulk, so it must be a matter of his green skin and uncovered facial features not looking realistic? Still, it should be a fun test, and I’m looking forward to Imagineering iterate and improve upon this concept in the years to come. This could be a gamechanger for character meet & greets. Maybe we’ll even get a more ‘zilla version of Figzilla!!!
Marvel Multiverse Family Battle Against King Thanos – Disney CEO Bob Chapek announced that Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure will be expanding with a third attraction featuring a brand-new story that will bring guests into battle alongside their favorite Marvel super heroes.
Josh D’Amaro and President of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige, expanded upon that announcement and shared details around the third attraction coming to Disneyland Resort in the future. According to them, Avengers Campus will expand into the multiverse, with a new epic family adventure attraction, where you’ll get to team up with more of the Avengers and their allies to battle King Thanos.
This is different from the Avengers E-Ticket that was announced at the last D23 Expo. That was expected to be a simulator attraction similar to Avatar Flight of Passage, albeit with a different seating system. (Jet backpacks instead of banshees, among other differences.)
Vague details plus one piece of concept art plus a character model isn’t exactly reassuring, but this new Marvel Multiverse attraction does seem likely to happen. The fact that they’re moving forward with the intention to build a third Avengers Campus attraction is itself positive.
Still, even if construction started tomorrow (it won’t), there’s still a ton that needs to be done. The show building for the previous attraction was never built–all that exists below the Quinjet is a facade. Assuming this Marvel Multiverse ride is a screen-based trackless dark ride similar to Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, the attraction could open in as few as 3 years.
That’s assuming the ride system and other specifics have actually been settled upon, and there are no delays due to filming scenes or animation. My guess is that this opens between Christmas 2025 or Summer 2026. Here’s hoping that’s wrong, and Disney finds a way to condense its construction timelines. Maybe in a different multiverse, Disney builds faster than Universal.
Pacific Wharf Being Reimagined into San Fransokyo from Big Hero 6 – Disney California Adventure’s Pacific Wharf food court area evokes San Francisco’s waterfront, will be reimagined into San Fransokyo from “Big Hero 6,” where East meets West, and technology meets tradition. According to Disney, Imagineers are only in the early phases of this work, but it’ll feature a place to meet Baymax, plus new spots to eat and shop!
I’m looking forward to this. While it doesn’t have tremendous upside given that Pacific Wharf is literally just a food court, there’s next to no downside risk. Unlike Pixar Pier, there’s minimal chance of this being screwed up since it’s small and simple. Even if they literally just modify the bridge, add a bunch of lanterns, change all the restaurant names, and add Baymax…that’ll be a small win.
The one thing I can’t get past is that Imagineers are in the “early phases” of this work. How many phases are there for a project like this? Ole Hitchcock & Scully could’ve had the idea for this yesterday while chowing down on mac & cheese bread bowls and work could’ve started today. It’s not that complicated. Disney’s seeming inability to deliver on a tight turnaround time is frustrating.
As for the Baymax meet & greet, my guess is that it replaces the Boudin Bakery Tour or goes across the way in the now-unused Blue Sky Cellar. Here’s hoping for the latter. I subsist on free bread samples at DCA.
During the D23 Expo, Disney announced that the Mandalorian and Baby Yoda (or Grogu for squares) will make their first appearance in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland starting in mid-November 2022.
Following D’Amaro’s announcement, it took Nicolas Cage all of two seconds to announce a plan to steal Baby Yoda.
Mickey’s Toontown Reimagining Update– A transformation of Mickey’s Toontown in Disneyland is underway. The neighborhood that Mickey Mouse and friends call home will reopen as a vibrant symphony of sights, sounds and sensations. The reimagined land will feature some all-new experiences and interactive play for guests, with a focus on family and young children.
Coming to Mickey’s Toontown will be a new attraction, the family-friendly and adventurous Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. Disney Imagineers are making some clever adjustments to the attraction to ensure it perfectly fits into the story of Mickey’s Toontown. During the parks presentation, Disney shared a closer look at the queue inside the El CapiTOON Theater and also Goofy’s How-to-Play Yard.
Disney also reiterated that the reimagined land will reopen in early 2023. In our post about the Mickey’s Toontown Reimagining, we share all the new concept art, photos of the model on display at D23 Expo, and offer our (specific) predicted opening date for the attraction and area.
Tiana’s Bayou Adventure Details – The new attraction’s story will pick up right where the movie left off, with Princess Tiana realizing her lifelong dream when she opens her restaurant, Tiana’s Palace. We pick up the story during Carnival season, when Tiana is hosting a party for the people of New Orleans. She discovers her celebration is missing a key ingredient and needs our help to find it. On Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, we’ll join Tiana and Louis on a trip to the bayou, where they meet all sorts of unexpected new friends who have a special role to play at the party.
Additionally, it was announced that voice actors from the film will reprise their roles in the attraction, including Bruno Campos as Prince Naveen, Michael Leon Wooley as Louis, Jenifer Lewis as Mama Odie, and Anika Noni Rose as Princess Tiana. Music will be a big part of the experience on Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.
Not that you care how the sausage is made, but I totally missed this portion of the presentation. WiFi in the Hall at Anaheim Convention Center was abysmal, so I actually left the room at this point to try improving my connection. Sarah was unimpressed by what was shown–a lot of fanfare for very little of substance.
A retail store will be opening in New Orleans Square at Disneyland on September 20, 2022, called Eudora’s Chic Boutique Featuring Tiana’s Gourmet Secrets. Tiana is collaborating with her talented dressmaker mother, Eudora, to open this fantastic little shop, with accessories to create and serve masterful Orleans-style cuisine and more.
I don’t have a strong opinion on this. I was hoping that D’Amaro would announce Tiana’s Palace Restaurant at Disneyland (and possibly Walt Disney World). Imagineers on the show floor let the cat out of the bag about this one, and it was strongly hinted at during the parks presentation, but wasn’t mentioned.
If I had to guess, this is because Disney is potentially working with a third party on the restaurant, and either the contracts aren’t finalized or that operating participant gets to choose when and where the announcement is made for maximum impact. Or, it could be totally random and inexplicable…that seems to be one “theme” of the parks presentation.
Disney100 Entertainment– The Walt Disney Company’s 100th Anniversary celebration will kick off in late January 2023 at Disneyland Resort with special limited-time celebrations taking place throughout the whole year. The Happiest Place on Earth will receive new platinum-infused décor, new sparkling looks for Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and their pals, special food and beverage offerings, and so much more.
Disneyland Resort guests will be dazzled by two all-new nighttime spectaculars: “World of Color – One” at Disney California Adventure park and “Wondrous Journeys” at Disneyland.
We’re really looking forward to both new nighttime spectaculars, and are cautiously optimistic about Wondrous Journeys. Disney has done a good job with fireworks shows at Disneyland, which always seem to strike the right tone and are properly paced. The track record is less-than-stellar when it comes to World of Color, and our fear there is that this will be another bungled offering–and potentially one that leans too heavily on Disney+ era animated movies. Still, it’s nice that they’re trying something new with World of Color, and here’s hoping that it actually delivers.
Magic Happens Returns – In Spring 2023, the long-awaited return of the “Magic Happens” parade will debut at Disneyland park.
This parade ran for roughly two weeks pre-closure, and is still essentially brand-new. We have never seen Magic Happens, and have resisted the temptation to watch on YouTube or listen to the soundtrack. Glad to hear it’s finally returning!
Pixar Place Hotel Coming Soon – Disney has been working on reimagining Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel with a Pixar theme. It was widely assumed that this would be called Pixar Pier Hotel.
Instead, it’ll be called Pixar Place Hotel (not to be confused with the nicer Hyatt Place Hotel down the street). The company could’ve cut $1,678,455 from the project budget by retaining “Pier” in the name (fewer letters to change on marquees presents considerable cost savings!) but I guess that’s why we pay the big bucks to stay at Disney-branded hotels.
Pixar Place Hotel will weave the artistry of Pixar into its contemporary setting, including areas for everyone to enjoy, like the Finding Nemo-themed splash pad area.
Don’t let the colorful concept art fool you. Even decorated with fish and friends from Finding Nemo, this will still (easily) be the worst pool area of the three Hotels of Disneyland Resort.
Pixar Place Hotel will welcome the team from Southern California local favorite Great Maple, which will open a flagship restaurant on the first floor and operate other food and beverage locations throughout Pixar Place Hotel. This modern American eatery specializes in upscale comfort food with a twist, serving fresh takes on American classics for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Normally, I’d take issue with Disney outsourcing all resort food & beverage to a third party. Not when it’s this hotel. Most of the food I’ve had at Paradise Pier Hotel has been nasty, and its dining scene has been sad for a long time. This is basically a third party hotel with Pixar decorations, anyway. It’ll be interesting to see how Club Level and character dining are handled (or are eliminated).
Downtown Disney Reimagining – In the Downtown Disney District, there are plans to introduce more than a dozen new and reimagined locations.
Earlier this year, Disneyland Resort announced Din Tai Fung, a world-renowned Asian restaurant that originated in Taiwan and specializes in soup dumplings, will join the district with its authentic cuisine.
Above is a look at new concept art for the Downtown Disney Din Tai Fung.
Din Tai Fung is awesome, and will be a great addition to Downtown Disney. Zero complaints from me about this, although I’ll undoubtedly have future complaints about the long waitlist once this excellent establishment opens.
Additionally, Porto’s Bakery and Café, an iconic Southern California destination known across the country for its sweet pastries and desserts, as well as delicious California–Cuban inspired dishes, will be coming to the Downtown Disney District in the future.
We had never heard of Porto’s Bakery, which came as a surprise to our Southern Californian friends. According to them, this is another excellent establishment. Sounds like exactly what Downtown Disney needs.
runDisney Returns to Disneyland – Five years after the completion of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge construction (the official excuse) and the election of a more Disney-friendly Anaheim City Council (the real reason), runDisney races will return to the Disneyland Resort in 2024!
I’m looking forward to this. RunDisney events at Disneyland don’t benefit from the bubble like at Walt Disney World, but the ones I’ve done have been a ton of fun. I just hope the current run of great race themes continues. RunDisney has been on a roll!
What are your reactions to the various announcements for Disneyland at the 2022 D23 Expo? What has you most and least excited? Anything you’re hoping does not end up coming to fruition? Surprised nothing was mentioned for Tomorrowland or Fantasyland? Are you ready to dazzled by two all-new nighttime spectaculars: “World of Color – One” at Disney California Adventure and “Wondrous Journeys” at Disneyland for Disney100? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!