News & Rumor Roundup: Star Wars Land Changes, Castle Refurb, CookieAnn & More!

It’s time for another news & rumor roundup, this time with stories from Disneyland Paris, Tokyo DisneySea, and Walt Disney World–including tweaks to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and an early closure for Magic Kingdom. Let’s start over in France, where we have news about both the quickly-approaching holiday season, and the iconic castle…

We recently shared Christmas 2019 at Disneyland Paris Info & Tips, and the seasonal lineup there looks pretty formidable. Between the decorations, entertainment, festive atmosphere, and even the “authentic” winter weather, Disneyland Paris is one of our favorite places during the holiday season.

Unfortunately, something will be missing this year. Disneyland Paris insider ED92 is reporting that Christmas lights won’t be installed on that park’s Sleeping Beauty Castle (or Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant) this year. This is rumored to be because “the in-depth refurbishment plan is back on track.” This extensive project is likely to include replacement of turrets, roofing, and other details, plus color scheme adjustments and repairs to the Castle Stage.

The rumored Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant project sounds similar to the recent reimagining of Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland, with the likely rationales for this overhaul taking significantly longer being due to its scope and the reality that there’s more to be repaired in Disneyland Paris.

General maintenance standards at Disneyland Paris is one explanation for this, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out the climate differences between France and Southern California. While the latter doesn’t really have “weather” (unless you count sunshine and like a dozen rainy days per year), Disneyland Paris has perhaps the worst weather of any Disney locale, with everything from rain to snow. This is a big reason why upkeep is a constant battle there.

The silver lining here is that the Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant will still be getting in the holiday spirit this year, as Disneyland Paris has confirmed that the castle will be part of the new tree lighting ceremony. Sleeping Beauty Castle will be enhanced via projection mapping projection and fountain moments.

In addition to this, the new Christmas tree lighting ceremony will feature special lighting on the Central Plaza and Main Street, ending with the lighting of the tree in Town Square. Disneyland Paris has also indicated that there will be special “fountain moment” with Christmas music during the day around Sleeping Beauty Castle.

Disneyland Paris has done these little lighting and fountain shows at night during the holiday season before, so this isn’t entirely a novel idea. Obviously, projection mapping shows are not new either–it’ll be interesting to see whether this is also extended to Main Street, too.

What’s probably most interesting here is that it would seem that Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant won’t be behind a refurbishment scrim (at least initially) if it’s going to have projection mapping this Christmas. This would differ from Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland or in Hong Kong during their big projects, but is at least partially unsurprising if it’s truly going to be a 2-year refurbishment. That would be a long time for the castle to be behind scrims, especially given that it’s so iconic, and such a huge draw to the park.

Moving along to Tokyo Disney Resort, where Oriental Land Company has just announced that Duffy’s newest friend, CookieAnn, will be joining the rest of the gang at Tokyo DisneySea beginning on December 26, 2019. This character previously debuted as a Hong Kong Disneyland “exclusive” and was recently renamed from Cookie to CookieAnn (which now makes sense given naming conventions).

For those unfamiliar with her, CookieAnn is “a puppy with cute floppy ears and a nose for good ideas. With her natural curiosity and healthy appetite for food, fun and flair, she’s a whiz at mixing up unique and wonderful creations, much to the enjoyment of Duffy and Friends.”

As with all of Duffy’s friends, CookieAnn has an origin story–or rather, a story of how she met Duffy (basically the same thing, as none of their lives truly began until that fateful day): “Duffy first met CookieAnn when he was enjoying some delicious cotton candy.

He accidentally bumped into her as she was carrying a huge stack of waffles, and all their treats flew into the air! Luckily, CookieAnn caught them, and turned the ingredients into a cotton candy waffle sandwich. The accident turned out to be a recipe for friendship!

CookieAnn will be featured in “Duffy and Friends’ Heartwarming Days, which runs from January 10, 2020 until March 27, 2020. She will also appear alongside Duffy and Mickey Mouse in “CookieAnn’s Greeting Drive,” a Disney Character Greeting with the three friends taking a drive around American Waterfront in a Big City Vehicle.

I have some strong opinions about Duffy’s growing circle of friends, but I doubt many of you care, so I’ll keep those to myself. With that said, if Tokyo DisneySea starts serving freshly made waffles topped with gelato as a tag-team effort between CookieAnn and Gelatoni, I’m totally on board with another new character.

Now for some quick hits. First, Magic Kingdom will now be closing at 6 pm on October 22, 2019. This might not seem like major news during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party season. This time it’s due to a park buyout by the Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo (if you’re staying in the Crescent Lake Resort Area right now, you’ve probably seen their signs, etc).

In keeping with the crowd-avoidance tips from our Off-Season Is Over: An Overwhelming October at Disney World post, we strongly recommend avoiding Magic Kingdom on October 23, 2019. That’s the only weekday this week with normal park hours, which will make it attractive to a lot of people…which will also mean bonkers crowds. Seriously–it won’t be worth the extra 4 hours.

Next, a couple of one-day special events. On Halloween day, Typhoon Lagoon will have a bunch of special offerings, including a meet & greet with Pirate Mickey and Donald (but not Minnie–that’s just the photo I have).

There will also be trick or treating, Halloween menus, crafts, and carved pumpkins on display. It actually sounds pretty cool! (Disney Parks Blog has the full details.)

On January 1, 2020, Topolino’s Terrace – Flavors of the Riviera will be hosting a New Year’s Day Character Brunch to say, “bonne année” and “felice anno nuovo” to 2020!

We assume the menu is what will be different rather than the character attire, but Walt Disney World is highly encouraging guests to wear accents of red, as the Italian tradition is to wear red as a festive way to ring in the New Year. Maybe that’ll be reflected via the characters, too? (More info on’s official page here.)

Finally, the week’s “biggest” news story (which slows just how slow of a news week it was!), which is the various changes throughout Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. In addition to a handful of new menu items being introduced throughout the land, simplified, descriptive names replaced the ‘on-planet’ names at Docking Bay 7 Food & Cargo.

As you might recall from our Docking Bay 7 Food & Cargo Review, every menu item name was based upon a real Star Wars creature, many of which are featured in the 200-page Star Wars: Visual Encyclopedia. (We also noted that we were oblivious to the meaning of literally all of these things, and assume they’re mostly deep cuts to amuse serious fans.)

Despite this being a wholly superficial change, there was a swift backlash via social media. Some viewed this as an example of why we “can’t have nice things” and demonstrative of how Disney’s attempts at immersiveness can be undermined by guests who won’t put in the effort to play along.

Others found it odd that the menu names at Docking Bay 7, of all things, is the problem with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge that Walt Disney World identified as being in need of a fix.

I can understand some of that sentiment. However, just because this one change is being made doesn’t mean that other modifications aren’t also on the way. Changing menus is probably really simple as compared to other tweaks and substantive changes that probably require a lot more effort. (It also doesn’t mean anything that changes now will be permanent–I could see a lot of tweaks made in the name of ‘testing and adjusting’ to see what improves the guest experience and what does not.)

I love Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. I also recognize that it has not been an immediate hit and have no issue conceding there are some changes that can and should be made in order for the land to resonate more with guests. Some of these (like some epic background music) are seemingly small adjustments that could have a disproportionately large impact. Others would be a bit more involved.

Regardless, I don’t think menu name changes is the hill to die on. It’s easy to point to this and say it’s endemic of Disney scaling back on ambitious and immersive offerings because guests won’t put in the effort to engage with the land. However, we don’t know whether that’s an accurate assessment.

Perhaps it is that–or maybe the menus are difficult to read due to a mix of typeface, spacing & names, ordering is taking too long, and the restaurant is having issues with throughput. I haven’t heard a ton of feedback and I’m not there often enough to know one way or the other.

I suspect some of this frustration is being driven by a larger trend of the least adventurous guests dictating a disproportionate amount of Walt Disney World’s operations and policies. We’ve seen countless examples of this over the years, and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge seems like a prime candidate for having its open-exploration and experiential nature diluted in the name of smoother operations.

The great thing about Walt Disney World is that it’s a totally controlled and self-contained universe. (The “Disney Bubble” is very apt here.) It can be a totally frictionless experience, without real world intrusions or the type of issues you might normally encounter when traveling.

Arguably, this is also a weakness. As compared to traveling in the real world, there is less of a sense of discovery and exploration. Guests plan their days checklist style and down to the minute, with little room for spontaneity and free-roaming adventure. When things don’t go according to plan, there’s a sense of frustration and discomfort that you’d never experience when traveling outside of Disney, where ‘the best laid plans going awry’ is actually to be expected.

At its best (and for what it’s worth, I do not think it has achieved this…yet), Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge could be a place that fosters such a sense of discover, exploration, and free-roaming adventure–all in the confines of a safe and controlled theme park. The menus might be an example of Disney veering away from that, or maybe not. Personally, I hope Disney leans into this even more, as right now Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is sort of an in-between land, not really offering what guests expect from a traditional theme park land, and also not delivering on its promises of immersiveness, either.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

Your Thoughts

What do you think of these news? Willing to take a wait-and-see approach with the changes to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, or worried about losing immersiveness? What about CookieAnn or the Sleeping Beauty Castle project? Do you agree or disagree with our thoughts? Any questions we can help you answer? 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!

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