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!

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