D23 Expo Post-Mortem: Best & Worst Parks Announcements
A lot of announcements for Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and beyond were made at the Parks & Resorts panel of the 2017 D23 Expo. By our count, there were 13 announcements, which is a pretty staggering number–easily the biggest D23 Expo in terms of news.
We’ve covered most of these with individual posts, but I thought it’d be interesting and fun (and also convenient for the sake of organization) to rank the various announcements in terms of my excitement and/or trepidation about each announcement.
My “criteria” for the rankings is mostly just a gut-level response. With a lot of these announcements, few details were provided, so I’m making some inferences and judging some of these projects based on rumors, too…
13. Pixar Stuff, Disneyland Resort
Pixar Pier is coming to Disney California Adventure park in 2018, as is the Pixar Fest limited-time celebration. We know this means a new fireworks show, parade swaps, and some cosmetic changes. What else? That isn’t quite clear yet.
Even though I’ve ranked this last, I think there is the potential for (some of this) to be good. It really depends upon the execution, and what the final details end up being. With that said, I’m bracing myself for the worst. Some of this makes flat-out zero sense given the work done to improve and overhaul Disney California Adventure just 5 years ago. Read more of the details, and my concerns for Pixar Pier here.
12. Marvel Hotel, Disneyland Paris
Disney’s Hotel New York is becoming Disney’s Hotel New York — The Art of Marvel. The idea is that this hotel will transport guests to the action-packed, inspiring world of Super Heroes including Iron Man, The Avengers, and Spider Man among others!
We previously reported that an 18-month top to bottom overhaul of Hotel New York would be occurring next year. This overhaul is long overdue, as my brutal Hotel New York Review probably demonstrates. All things considered, I think Hotel New York is among the bottom 5 Disney hotels in the world. Arguably, this could be Disney’s Hotel of Stinky Armpits and if it was well-themed, it could’ve been a potential improvement. Okay…maybe not.
Even though the only direction Hotel New York can go is up, I’m not exactly wild about this Marvel concept. It sounds like it’s only going halfway–showcasing Marvel artifacts in the lobby (and perhaps elsewhere?) while maintaining a subdued style elsewhere to appeal to convention guests. Effectively, that means Hotel New York won’t really have a theme, but rather, some New York visual motifs and some Marvel ones. It seems choosing one or the other and going all-in on that would be the better and more ambitious route.
11. Main Street Theater, Walt Disney World
Magic Kingdom is adding a new entertainment venue that will be based on the Willis Wood theater in 1920s Kansas City, where Walt lived after he left Marceline. Both the Disney Parks Blog post and during Bob Chapek’s presentation went out of their way to explain how this fits well into Main Street, U.S.A. Such overemphasis is usually cover to explain away why things that don’t fit actually do.
My initial reaction to this theater is that it does not match the scale of Main Street, U.S.A. If the scale is off, it doesn’t matter what real-world place inspired the theater–it will not fit. The concept art also makes the materials (mostly concrete) look dissimilar to the rest of Main Street, but that could just be the art. On the plus side, if this means getting rid of that infernal Cinderella Castle Forecourt Stage, I guess it’s not all bad…
10. Toy Story Land Opening, Walt Disney World
Toy Story Land, currently under construction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, will officially open in Summer 2018. Next year, guests will be able to shrink to the size of a toy to explore the world of Andy’s backyard with your favorite Toy Story characters, experience Slinky Dog Dash, Alien Swirling Saucers, and more.
A lot of Walt Disney World fans are excited about Toy Story Land. I am not one of those fans.
9. DVC’s Riviera Resort, Walt Disney World
Disney Vacation Club’s 15th property will be Disney Riviera Resort, which will be added to Walt Disney World’s new Skyliner gondola line, adjacent to Caribbean Beach Resort. The resort would feature a rooftop restaurant with views of both Epcot’s and Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ nighttime spectaculars.
I’m willing to take a wait and see approach with this, but the concept art is concerning in that the exterior looks bland and forgettable. The recent trend of Disney Vacation Club (and other) resorts having more generic designs is concerning, and I’m worried that this trend will continue. On the plus side, the location along the Skyliner sounds great, as do the views from that restaurant. Click here to read more of my commentary on this new DVC resort.
8. Three New Ships, Disney Cruise Line
Disney Cruise Line has announced they’re expanding their fleet with an additional new cruise ship–on top of the two previously announced ships–for a total of 3 new ships. That means by 2023, Disney Cruise Line will nearly double the size of their current fleet.
I’m excited about what this means for Disney Cruise Line and guests, but also a bit nervous. I share more thoughts here.
7. Star Wars Hotel, Walt Disney World
A Star Wars Resort Hotel was announced for Walt Disney World, which will offer an immersive visit that further enhances what guests experience in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. This Star Wars-inspired resort will debut as part of the new Disney 360 vacation concept, which will introduce “living adventure” experiences allowing guests to be active participants in an entirely new form of Disney storytelling.
This is not for me. I’m not interested in this type of totally immersed live action role playing, and even if I were, I wouldn’t want to pay what I expect to be an incredibly steep sum of money to be a part of this. With that said, I have to give kudos to Disney in pursuing a lofty concept here, and something that could revolutionize themed entertainment. Read more details and my thoughts on the Star Wars Starship Hotel here.
6. TRON Lightcycle Power Run, Walt Disney World
TRON Lightcycle Power Run has been a fan darling since its debut at Shanghai Disneyland last year, and many Walt Disney World fans have been yearning for it to come to Florida since. They are getting their wish, with the roller coaster being added adjacent to Space Mountain in Tomorrowland and scheduled to open for Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary in 2021.
I was initially a bit of a buzzkill on this (when it was rumored), but I have to admit that it’s really growing on me. This is especially true after seeing the concept art, including how it will slot in next to Space Mountain and the Tomorrowland Speedway. I suspect an aesthetic overhaul of Tomorrowland will accompany this new attraction, which would also be a big win. Click here to read more of my thoughts on TRON Lightcycle Power Run coming to WDW…
5. Marvel Land, Disneyland Resort
The Avengers and Spider-Man will be joining the Guardians of the Galaxy as Disney California Adventure’s next big expansion, in what will become a completely immersive Super Hero Universe.
Almost no details were shared at the D23 Expo about the substance of this Marvel Land at Disney California Adventure, but we cover the rumors about the potential Marvel Land plans in this post. We wouldn’t be surprised if specific details are not provided for this until Disney resolves some of its troubles with the Anaheim City Council.
4. Skyliner Gondolas, Walt Disney World
A new transportation system is coming to the Walt Disney World Resort called the Disney Skyliner. It will offer a birdseye view, and connect Disney’s Art of Animation, Pop Century, Caribbean Beach, and Riviera resorts with Disney’s Hollywood Studios and the International Gateway at Epcot.
I’m a total geek for transportation at Walt Disney World. I love the monorail and the boats, and sometimes take these just for fun. I’m also not at all a fan of the bus fleet, even though it has gotten better in recent years. I view these gondolas as another transportation option that will be cool and fun. It also will bring non-bus transportation to four resorts that were previously bus-only, which I consider a huge win. Click here for more commentary on the Skyliner Gondolas, plus details on the new “Minnie Vans” service.
3. Epcot Reimagining, Walt Disney World
Too much was announced here to recap in a quick-hitting capsule. Suffice to say, Future World is being reinvented and redesigned, while World Showcase will receive a couple of new attractions, too.
We have full details of what has been announced thus far for Epcot’s reimagining. More announcements will be coming soon. My feelings on this are all over the place, but I’m fairly optimistic about the future of Epcot. The park I loved–EPCOT Center–has been gone for ages, and although this is not a return to that, I think there’s a lot of potential in the new vision for the park…even if I’m vehemently against the Guardians of the Galaxy addition.
2. Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, Walt Disney World
Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway is planned for Grauman’s Chinese Theater at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This new attraction based on the new Disney Channel Mickey Mouse Shorts will allow guests to step through the movie screen and join Mickey and friends on a zany adventure.
Although I have mixed emotions about replacing the Great Movie Ride, I’m really looking forward to this. It’s the kind of flagship attraction that could really tie together the reinvented Disney Hollywood Adventure park after Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge open. Click here to read more about this new Mickey Mouse dark ride and my thoughts on it.
1. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Walt Disney World & Disneyland
Even though little time was spent on it during the Parks & Resorts panel, you could say this D23 Expo was still all about Star Wars. In addition to the announcement of the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge name for the land, and its inclusion of Rex, the Parks & Resorts booth on the show floor was dedicated to model of this new Star Wars land.
Click here to view our Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Photo & Video Tour. If you haven’t already, you’ll really want to take a look at our tour of the model they had on display. I’m only a casual Star Wars fan, and this still blew me away. This feels like Imagineering really flexing its muscles. If the model is any indication, this is going to be a game-changer, raising the bar on what a theme park can offer. I’m incredibly excited, especially for the Walt Disney World version…
What’s crazy is that this list is not even everything currently being developed for the Disney Parks. There are three huge projects that are already official, but were not even discussed: Marvel at Walt Disney Studios Park, Frozen & Marvel in Hong Kong Disneyland, and New Fantasyland in Tokyo Disneyland. It’s a time of heavy investment in the parks.
This is especially true at Walt Disney World, which is demonstrated by the vast majority of the projects on this list being for Florida. This is in addition to Pandora – World of Avatar, which just finished. It’s also in addition to what has not yet been announced for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, and other details of the Epcot reimagining. It’s pretty wild to think about how many changes and additions will happen to the parks in the next 5 years!
What announcement from the 2017 D23 Expo is most exciting for you? What about your least favorite announcement? What do you think of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge? Thoughts on the Epcot reimagining? Are you excited for the future of Walt Disney World? We love hearing from readers, so if you have other thoughts or questions (or if there’s anything else you’d like to see in terms of photos), please share in the comments!
I guess star wars galaxy’s edge is Disney’s answer to Harry potter, finally. I am not a big star wars fan either but I can’t wait to see this.
I am probably most excited about the changes coming to Epcot, as well as the Tron coaster. The mickey ride is going to be epic as well.
Tom. Always enjoy reading your blog – from the latest news to just sharing your perspective, tips and hacks – I like that you keep it fresh! #churnisgood
We’re heading to WDW in Sept and I’m really bummed that I can’t take one last spin around the ol’ Great Movie Ride – so much for a drawn-out ‘farewell’ tour. Same goes for Ellen’s Energy Adventure. Although corny at best, it takes me back to my childhood … the sites, the sounds – even the musty smell!
And I realize I’m part of the minority here, but I could care less about Star Wars anything. I was already devastated that HS took away my beloved Animation Pavilion in 2015 … other than shopping, there’s not much I find enjoyable to do here – it’s definitely become my least favorite of the four over the years. And this recent closure basically leaves a large majority of HS under construction for the foreseeable future. #boo
All this to say, what I love most about WDW is that it truly takes me back to the magic and wonder of my childhood. I understand the “show must go on” and WD needs to continue to evolve – so they can conti to raise prices (and be able to justify in doing so) – I just hope they remain true to Walt’s original vision for the place – leaving some of the old while mixing in a bit of the new. 🙂
Doing away with the Great Movie Ride as well as the addition of SO MUCH STAR WARS probably means we will not be returning to WDW. Actually, we may go once more to check out Pandora but, other than that, I’m pretty sure my son will be done with WDW – and maybe Disney in general.
Wow! At this stage of my life and having been a Disneymaniac for most of it, this news is just the incentive I need to keep on going. Not kidding. Want to see all these renovations and additions come to fruition. I know I won’t ride Tron or stay at the Star Wars hotel (imagine the cost will be prohibitive), but seeing them would be just as good.
I only visit WDW now, as I am not able to travel too far. However, considering what will be going on during the next few years, WDW will almost feel like a new destination.
I don’t know how you keep up with it Tom. It must take a huge portion of your time to research and put these posts together. And that’s on top of your regular life (I assume you and Sarah have a regular life). I would be remiss if I didn’t say thank you for keeping us informed. So, thank you.
I was actually surprised and shocked at the sheer number of significant announcements at D23 this year. I’m thrilled to see the changes for WDW and DLR. The vast majority of American Disney fans will only ever visit one or both of the domestic parks. Even the majority of super fans tend to revisit the domestic parks rather than travel overseas. These changes give those visitors (including DVC members) new reasons to visit and reinvigorated attitudes towards the parks. For me, Central Florida will always be Disney’s premier parks location. I love seeing all of the new energy and changes coming to these parks.
I agree with your mixed emotions over so many of the changes . A world without the Great Movie Ride? Not sure I’ve accepted this one yet. I’m still recovering from the loss of Maelstrom.
I’ve realized I would be a lot more happy with Toy Story land if it had one or two more rides. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy- I would be perfectly fine with one or two well themed off the shelf simple rides like at bugs land in CA, or heck, even an awesome playground area like the old “I shrunk the kids” playground. The Toy story theme lends itself well to this sort of thing, and provide some capacity to Hollywood Studios (especially for the families with young kids set), something the park really needs. While the additions coming are much needed, this is still going to leave HS as a park with 9 rides, and of those, only 3 are going to be something that will likely have no height limit (Toy story mania, the new Mickey Ride, and the Toy Story alien one). AK has a similar problem, but the Zoo aspects do help cover the gap there a little bit
To me it seems like the following
Magic Kingdom will become an even better Park.
Epcot will get some much needed attractions and renovations for dated concepts that might clash with Epcot but still absolutely necessary for the future of the park.
DHS finally has a proper plan and vision in place which is better than what’s currently there at the moment.
Starwars land is good news regardless if you’re a fan of star wars or not because anything that redirects traffic away from Disney land is a plus.
On problem is DCA it’s seems like a jumbled mess at the moment.
I’m most excited to read about The TRON Power Run and the Skyliner Gondolas coming to WDW. As the projected completions look to be 2021, I just hope I’m not too old to go!
No mention was made as to what would become of the cement handprints/footprints in the Grauman courtyard. Hope they are not destroyed.
I agree with everyone else. Love your blog, your on the mark perspectives, and all the effort that goes into it. Love your humor too. I look forward to it every week. Please keep it going – you have many very loyal followers…
Lots of news! I would love to see a post (or an addition to your general posts) with a timeline for DLR and WDW on what will be open/closed/under construction for the next few years – announced, rumored, speculated – whatever you know. I know you’ve got the information in the blog, but it would be great to see it laid out in one place.
Thanks, YYC mom
Tom, your D23 announcement reports have been outstanding, the best out there. Thanks so much! I’m loving most of the announcements, but wish a new World Showcase country had been amongst them. What’s your opinion? Will there be one announced soon?
I’m most excited about the cruise line expansion! Other cruise lines are sailing out of Baltimore and with the increase in fleet, I hope that Disney could do that as well! Or add a Hawaiian itinerary back!
I’m really hoping for Hawaii too!
Aside from the spectacular Star Wars Galaxy Edge model and the shear number of Epcot announcements, I’m mostly disappointed with the lack of details of certain attractions. What the heck is Pixar Pier? Then there’s nothing about Marvel Land. It is unknown what is Epcot’s Guardians and the new Future World plaza and park entrance.
The new Magic Kingdom theater lacks the location of where it’s going. It was rumored to be going in Frontierland.
I guess we must wait for more announcements in the future like ComicCon for Marvel news and
D23 Japan for Tokyo news.
Main Street bypass…
Great roundup, Tom. I’m more optimistic about the new theater in MK, because I’m hopeful that it’ll be behind the bypass. I can’t envision that behemoth from the concept art fitting in anywhere on Main Street without causing insane congestion. If my memory serves, you’ve given some pretty good reviews to the live stage shows in Tokyo…I’m really hoping we see some entertainment of that caliber on this new stage, no matter where they ultimately place it.
Can I say MONEY….what we are paying today is going to double with these announcements
Any idea where the theater will be going on main street?
Main Street bypass
Well, I think I’m the only one who seems to be somewhat disappointed by the announcements. Where to begin. We already pretty much knew about Star Wars and Toy Story Land, so that was not new – more of an opening update. Pixar theming at Paradise Pier that will be ready in less than a year? Sounds like a faÃ§ade change mostly. We already knew that Marvel was expanding at DCA, so there was nothing new since there were zero details. Riviera Hotel looks, as you say, bland with no real theming and no projected opening. Guardians of the Galaxy does not at all fit in that part of Epcot and should be placed somewhere else. The spirit of the place is being lost, as you say. Nothing at all was said about what they’re doing with all of the empty space/exhibits that are currently in Future World. I thought we were having big announcements for major upgrades at Epcot. A new theater on Main Street. OK, maybe, depending on how it fits the theming there and what the unknown intent is. Otherwise, how is that a big announcement? A new film for China. Gee, OK. Nothing really new re Disney Cruise ships, just more of them. Marvel Hotel lobby decorations. Yawn. New transportation systems. OK, that could be good – particularly if more than just a couple of hotels eventually can have the services. So the positive takeaways: Tron, Ratatouille, a new Space Restaurant, Mickey’s replacement of the Great Movie Ride. These are worth announcing. The immersive hotel is an interesting idea that will please some. But, again, sounds vague at this point – not even a projected timeline. As always, major disappointment about no new pavilion announcement for World Showcase – especially this time with all of the Epcot refurbishment expectations. Of course, the biggest problem for me now comes with my advancing age (I used to work at Disneyland back in the Walt era): these projects take so long (where’s Bob Gurr when we need him), that there’s an increasingly good chance I won’t live to see a number of them come to fruition. Sigh…
Wow!!! That is a lot of announcements
another great write up – thanks for all you do!
You have typed a million words in the past few days – thanks for keeping the blog up to date.
I love that picture of the Tron coaster, so I’m excited for it coming even just to walk around it at night. I might put it at #2 behind Star Wars.
I hope everything I typed actually makes sense. Most of this was written either while I was at the D23 Expo waiting in line with people all around, or late at night after the day ended and I was running on empty.
I would’ve liked to provide more commentary for each announcement (I hate copy & paste style news), but couldn’t offer that for every story. Hopefully you and others still found the coverage interesting and worth reading.
Now, I’m ready for a nap!
You’ve earned it!