Marvel, Frozen & Castle Expansion at Hong Kong Disneyland
Hong Kong Disneyland is slated to receive a massive, multi-year expansion between now and late 2023, which includes the replacement of Sleeping Beauty Castle, plus Marvel rides and World of Frozen. These additions are projected to cost $1.4 billion. (Updated May 16, 2023.)
This was first announced over 5 years ago, and much of it has now debuted. The new Castle of Magical Dreams debuted almost two years ago, but has yet to be experienced by guests from outside of Hong Kong due to border closures. Similarly, the daytime show “Follow Your Dreams” and nighttime spectacular “Momentous” are big additions to the entertainment lineup at Hong Kong Disneyland.
Prior to this, Marvel attractions debuted at Hong Kong Disneyland. Tomorrowland is now home to Stark Expo, which currently includes the Iron Man Experience simulator and Ant-Man and The Wasp: Nano Battle! The former is a simulator very similar to Star Tours, whereas the latter is a shooter attraction that reimagined Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters. At some point in the future, Autopia might be replaced by an Avengers Quinjet E-Ticket.
We say “might’ about the Avengers E-Ticket because Hong Kong Disneyland hasn’t mentioned it in a long time. The last few years have been brutal on the park, which has endured multiple closures and reopenings, reduced capacity, and strict border closure measures that have significantly reduced its attendance.
Even pre-closure, Hong Kong Disneyland was struggling. Its position as a global hub had been diminished due to incursions by China as that country attempts a hostile takeover of Hong Kong. Sadly, China has largely been successful, with increasing interference from mainland China in Hong Kong have resulted in protests and hostility, while negatively impacting tourism.
As such, it’s entirely possible that the Avengers Quinjet attraction never gets off the ground. The projects currently underway might be the last major investments by Disney in Hong Kong Disneyland for a long time. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the latest updates on the HKDL expansion…
To commemorate the 17th anniversary celebration at Hong Kong Disneyland, a new line-up of exciting events is planned for 2023!
Michael Moriarty, managing director of Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, said: “2023 will bring to guests magic and surprises like never before as we celebrate having grown and evolved across 17 fantastic years so far. Join in as we celebrate 100 Years of Wonder with Mickey and Friends and our cast members in a year of many firsts, with the World of Frozen opening in the second half of 2023, a brand-new Duffy and Friends-themed experience, and our very own Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse statue on the way! The excitement will be set to one hundred in 2023!”
The year 2023 marks the 100th anniversary celebration of The Walt Disney Company, which was founded in 1923. This memorable milestone will include spectacular events from Lunar New Year to Halloween to Christmas and more.
It’ll also feature appearances from fan-favorite characters like Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Goofy, Pluto, Chip ‘n’ Dale in all-new 100th anniversary outfits. Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, one of Walt Disney’s original cartoon creations, will be making his debut in the park at long last too!
Hong Kong Disneyland will unveil a new statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse near Cinderella Carousel as part of Disney’s 100th anniversary celebration. This pays tribute to how Walt Disney famously conceived the idea for Disneyland while sitting on a bench in Griffith Park in Los Angeles. On this bench, Walt sat and waited while his daughters rode the merry-go-round.
Walt later said, “Disneyland really began when my two daughters were very young. Saturday was always Daddy’s Day and I would take them to the merry-go-round and sit on a bench eating peanuts while they rode. And sitting there alone, I felt there should be something built, some kind of family park, where parents and children could have fun together.” And that was the seed that planted the idea of Disneyland in Walt Disney’s mind.
While I’ve been a bit cynical when it comes to the current company’s use of Walt Disney as a corporate mascot and way to shield itself from criticism, I love this. It’s a thoughtful idea and lovingly pays tribute to the genesis of the Disney theme parks. It’s also practical–a bench makes for easy photo ops with guests. Here’s hoping this ends up at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. (It would certainly be better than the Dreamers Point statue coming to EPCOT!)
World of Frozen–the first highly immersive Frozen-themed land inspired by the Walt Disney Animation Studios hit films–is coming to Hong Kong Disneyland in November 2023. In this new land, guests will be able to visit the kingdom of Arendelle and be fully immersed in all its sights, sounds, cuisines, and traditions, as seen in the all-time favorite movies.
World of Frozen will be home to two exciting attractions: the first Frozen-themed coaster, Wandering Oaken’s Sliding Sleighs, where guests will embark on a scenic ride designed and built by Wandering Oaken and powered by his buddies Olaf and Sven, as they work together to pull the sleds to the top of the lift hill; and Frozen Ever After, the attraction where guests are invited to go on a whimsical journey to visit Elsa’s Ice Palace on the special occasion of “Summer Snow Day” and meet all their beloved friends from Frozen.
In addition to the long-awaited World of Frozen, more of everyone’s favorite Disney stories will come to life with the launch of 100 Years of Wonder in an immersive way guests can only experience at Hong Kong Disneyland.
Beloved Characters from various Disney stories will appear in a series of events during the centenary celebrations. A brand-new immersive Duffy and Friends-themed experience will magically transport guests into the world of Duffy and all his friends at Plaza Grounds in the coming spring.
In May, Marvel fans will be surprised by a series of Heroic Encounters. More Disney and Pixar friends also await guests with a series of summer surprises. For fans looking for some spooky excitement, the only thing to do is join in on the wicked fun with a terribly delightful line-up of Disney Villains during Disney Halloween Time.
Get ready for more magical surprises as Hong Kong Disneyland brings more Disney franchises to life in 2023 and make the resort the best gathering place ever for Disney fans!
Overall, I guess you could say I’m cautiously optimistic about these plans. While I would love to see Hong Kong Disneyland remain the quaint, peaceful park, that’s completely unrealistic. The concept art for the castle does have me worried a bit, but the rest of the plans hold a good deal of promise. The park has been hemorrhaging guests this year, and staying on the current trajectory–particularly while nearly doubling their room inventory–was simply not viable.
This plan is demonstrative of TWDC’s and HKSAR’s dedication to the park as a going concern. It’s definitely good to see that Hong Kong Disneyland hasn’t simply been forgotten now that Shanghai Disneyland is open. Based on these plans, it also seems likely that Disney will expand both HKDL and SDL in ways that keep each park distinct, so regional guests feel compelled to visit both. While we are certainly not the target audience for these parks, we are unintended beneficiaries of this philosophy. Even if you don’t have any interest in the Asia parks, this also might function as a window into what Disneyland Resort will build in the decade after Star Wars Land.
For the rest of your planning needs, consult our Hong Kong Disneyland Trip Planning Guide. It covers everything you need to know for a visit to HKDL, including reviews, strategy, packing, and more. If you’re visiting the city as well, please consult our Hong Kong City Guide on TravelCaffeine, our non-Disney planning site.
What do you think of the Castle of Magical Dreams or World of Frozen? Excited about these additions? If you’ve visited the park, what do you like to do most at Hong Kong Disneyland? Any tips of your own for exploring HKDL? If you’ve never been to Hong Kong, what interests you most about the park? Anything else to add? Any questions? Hearing from you is half the fun, so please share your questions and thoughts in the comments!
I do wish HKDL had a Pirates of the Carribean ride. (even if it’s obligated to be Jack Sparrow themed -_-‘ ) it would do well at the foot-end of Adventureland near the Grizzly Gulch section.
I am SO excited about the Frozen world! Maybe Frozen will start getting more rep elsewhere too! I’ve only been to Disney World so far but I was super disappointed that the only Frozen things were 1 ride, 1 sing-a-long, a tiny kiosk, and a small gift shop by Frozen Ever After… I looked so hard but the only “adult” merch I even found was one shirt!
Does anyone know if Disneyland has a better selection? In the mean time, I’m saving up for Hong Kong!
Any chance you’ll bring reviewing Moana like you did with Pete’s Dragon?
Unfortunately, we haven’t had a chance to see it yet!
I don’t honestly have many complaints about this. The idea of changing the castle is a bit odd to me, but I don’t hate the look of it. The park could certainly benefit from more attractions.
Buzz is not a big loss, but I am a bit disappointed about the apparent removal of Autopia. While I don’t think that any of the various car rides are imagineering masterpieces, I did think that Hong Kong had arguably the best version of the ride with an appealing aesthetic. Oh well.
I applaud their decision to fill up the park a bit more before soldiering on with a second gate. Hopefully these additions will land with the public and HKDL can have a fighting chance.
Liked reading your reactions to this :). I think HKDL is my favorite park to actually spend time in, but i guess you are right that though ‘quaint’ is good for regular guests, it’s not great for business.
I quite like the idea of the redesigned castle. The current one is cute, but not at all ambitious – so a pretty good indicator for all of HKDL really!
The Frozen land excites me the most, I think Mystic Point showcased that HKDL imagineering can make really excellent unique lands, so looking forward to seeing how that goes!
I am ok with these additions, I was there last when Toy Story land opened, so I have yet to experience the other lands, but its nice to see they are adding more.
I wish that as part of this expansion, they added more to do around the resort itself, sure the new hotel will have places to eat and such, but would it be too hard to place a mini disney springs / disney village / Ikspiari / downtown disney, there is plenty of space there.
I mean, imagine a coffee house on your right as you approach from the train station, perhaps a giant world of disney across from it. The other corners can offer up restaurants and other activities, giving people more access to keep them there longer. They have the space on the walk way, so why not use it
I agree wholeheartedly. HKDL is masterplanned with space for a lot of things (including a second gate), so it’d be nice to see the resort district built up a bit, making it more than a 1-day destination.
Can’t complain too much about them adding onto the first gate before building a second half-day park, though…
I’m actually really happy that they decided to replace the castle.
I understand your concern about them building the new castle on top of the existing one, but I think they could make this work. Remember: many real-life European castles have had awkward additions over many generations, giving them an eclectic and charming character. In fact, Disneyland Paris’ own castle looks like it had multiple unplanned additions over the centuries.
That’s a fair point, and I hope they’re able to pull off the eclectic visual style. Clearly, it can work…
I, too, am consciously optimistic overall about the changes and, as you mentioned on Twitter, I cannot help but enjoy the political implications of it all. I’ll see if I can keep my thoughts cogent:
1. The castle – I think the quaint castle in the mountains make for a great photo, but its underwhelming in person, and MSUSA (a concept I love) looks out of place among more jungle-y HK. I haven’t been to TDL or DLP, so I can’t speak to how MS has translated there, but I think Mickey Ave in Shanghai was a smart change because of what I saw in HK. I agree the design looks very piecemeal, but I am cautiously optimistic. I am willing to go on record and say, for all the crap I gave Enchanted Storybook Castle, it looks better in person. But I do think it will also be a catch-all castle because of Shanghai.
2. Marvel land – I continue to be unable to muster any sort of enthusiasm for Marvel in the parks. I feel the same way about Star Wars, and SW is something I absolutely love. I was less enthused by HK’s Tomorrowland than you were, Tom, so I hope these changes add life and visual interest to that side of the park, but I also worry that is a fate that could befall other Tomorrowlands around the world.
3. Frozenland – I agree this will be the gem of the expansion, but I also want Disney to turn out another huge hit so we can collectively shift our obsession somewhere else. While I think this sort of mini-expansion should have been put into WDW’s MK instead of replacing Maelstrom, (insert diatribe about franchises and such).
4. Exclusivity – you raise a very interesting point, and I hope this means that TDS Frozen land is delayed long enough that people second-guess whether it should be built or not. And so too is the issue of funding. I wouldn’t be surprised if the news is being used to curry favor with those making the financial decisions. The more cynical side of me also wonders if this is nice, fluffy, mass-appeal news that will fill air time during a period of political unrest. We can’t be too sure.
And this is absolutely envy of Shanghai, as well as issues of tourism caused by the mainland Chinese government. In that way the castle choice is interesting. By going for what Shanghai has, they are going for a more “Chinese” style. But HK really needs to be courting other populations, particularly SE Asians, to go to HKDL and other tourist destinations. The Chinese government is proving it is willing to play with tourist dollars to punish Hong Kong when it acts up (China does the exact same thing to Taiwan). HK needs to capitalize on the fact that it allows much more travel freedom than does China/Shanghai in order to attract more people from outside Greater China to go to HKDL. Will HKDL be more successful in that being a unique park, or becoming Shanghai-lite with fewer visa requirements?
Solid points, all around.
One thing: Tokyo DisneySea’s port was to be Scandinavia with a strong emphasis on Frozen. I had heard some (unannounced) details about this port, and based on that, I was/am very much on board with it. Now, a lot can change between the time the concepts are approved and built, and the scales could have shifted towards a more character-centric port, but the approved plans sounded absolutely fantastic to me.
To your final point, it’s interesting that they are choosing to add on to this park rather than building a second gate and turning it into a ‘weekend getaway’ for Hong Kongers. They are adding a *lot* of rooms to the hotel inventory, and they need guests who will stay in them. Other Asian countries is one option, but that’s difficult and still going to be ~25-35% of their demo, at most. They need to give locals a reason to book a hotel stay, and a second gate would be that “reason.”
Personally, I’d rather have the first gate fully fleshed out before starting a second, but I find it interesting that’s the route they are choosing to go. I know there were plans for a second gate as recently as last year. Perhaps the estimated cost was significantly higher than $1.4 billion and the stakeholders couldn’t justify it?
I personally love the sense of perspective created by the combination of the mountains in the background and the smaller castle – and of course you get that somewhat unique effect of the fireworks appearing above the castle but not in the sky (as per the HKDL logo).
If I had my way, I’d have loved to see HKDL take its Tomorrowland concept further. There are some really great ideas there, and I love the land entrance sign – in some ways it had potential to be the best Tomorrowland in a Disney park. But it looked a little less wonderful this year, partly viewed in the light of SDL’s more sophisticated Tomorrowland, so I guess this is a logical response.
But I think the best news is the suggestion that DisneySea’s Frozen plans might be on hold 😉 – and I think putting it in Fantasyland is more thematically acceptable.
Exciting news! We just visited HKDL for the first time and used your website extensively for research. Sooo helpful – thank you!! Can’t wait to visit again once this expansion is complete.
Allow me: “Frozen!?!? Marvel?!??! What on earth do they have to do with Disney??!??!! The HORROR!!!!!!!!”
In all seriousness, awesome news. Just made my first trip to HKDL. Loved the park, but agree it is relatively small and could use more – and these changes and additions sound great!
This is exciting news for HKDL, but does this mean no second gate? Each park should really have its own original castle – not just a clone of another one. Or is this Shanghai castle envy? Thanks for always keeping us updated on the international parks! How is it that they can announce this before they have funding and all we get is crickets regarding Rivers of Light?
When we were at DCA in June I saw a large group of predominantly Asian executive-types closely examining the Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree ride vehicles and watching the guests experience the ride. I had assumed they were from Shanghai, but it all makes sense now!