Everything You Need to Know About the Next Five Years of Disney Parks
Yes, there will be Star Wars.
At this weekend’s annual Disney fan conference, D23 Expo, the company revealed exciting intel about the parks’ next decade. On the agenda? Three new lands for the parks in California and Florida, plus major updates to familiar attractions. Read on for how these announcements will affect your future trip.
Star Wars land is coming and it will be awesome.
Disney confirmed on Saturday that Star Wars lands are coming to Disneyland in California andDisney Hollywood Studios in Florida. Details are scant, but there are already plans for two rides—one allowing guests to take control of the famed Millennium Falcon, and another “putting guests in the middle of a climactic battle”—as well as a fully immersive port town manned by familiar people (and creatures!).
If it sounds similar to Universal’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, that’s actually the point: at over 14 acres each, it marks Disney’s largest single-land expansion, and the brand’s best chance keep up with Universal’s recent rising ticket sales.
A Star Wars Launch Bay is planned to open in early 2016 in both California and Florida, featuring an interactive experience with video games, movie previews, and—of course—exclusive merchandise for sale. Space Mountain at Disneyland will become Hyperspace Mountain, themed as a Star Wars adventure through space, while Disney Hollywood Studios will get an improved Star Wars fireworks show on weekend nights, featuring the famed score by John Williams, newly recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra.
Toy Story land will make you feel like a kid again.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida will soon boast an attraction that makes visitors feel toy-sized, as if shrunken down to the level of Buzz and Woody. While Toy Story land currently exists in two parks overseas, this iteration will present rides exclusive to the U.S. The first new ride, which will feature little green aliens pulling you away from a looming claw, sounds similar to the setup of Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree at California Adventure. The Slinky Dog roller coaster, which was previewed at the D23 expo, will be completely one-of-a-kind.
And don’t forget about AVATAR Land, Disney’s own Pandora:
The World of Avatar is aiming to blow people away. The backstory is shaky at best—the war is long over, a travel company has stepped in, and the Na’vi are happily welcoming humans—but with floating mountains and a glowing world that transforms at night, it’s set up to be pure magic. The “Flight of Passage” ride is set to make visitors feel like they’re truly flying on the back of a Banshee over Pandora. Avatar land and will also be home to a boat excursion through a bioluminescent forest. With James Cameron at the helm alongside the team who did digital effects for Avatar—which remains the highest-grossing movie of all time—this is sure to be a jaw-dropping spectacle.
If you’re going to Walt Disney World later this year, consider skipping Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Attractions are disappearing into thin air to accommodate the future expansion of Toy Story and Star Wars lands, and it doesn’t make sense to pay a full-price ticket for an incomplete park. If you can, hold off until Star Wars: The Season Of The Force opens.
Travel to Disney and visit the entire world.
Beloved fan favorite Soarin’ Over California is getting a new reel with Soarin’ Around The World, which will allow visitors at both Disney California Adventure and EPCOT to fly over famous landmarks.
Frozen’s Anna and Elsa aren’t going anywhere.
In Epcot’s Norway pavilion, The Frozen Ever After expansion is reaching its final stages, with animatronics nearly in place and Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson Lopez, the brains behind the movie’s soundtrack, creating new music specifically for the boat ride. Details were also revealed about Royal Summer House as well. It will be a historical Norwegian log cabin where guests will meet the two princesses.
You’ll be spending more on souvenirs, but will save more on checked bags.
Disney’s newest app, Shop Disney Parks, was quietly released during the D23 Expo. It allows you to find out where every item is sold within in the park, but more importantly, allows you to buy them directly from your phone while you’re there—or once you get home.
Get ready to spend day—night—at Animal Kingdom.
Sunset Kilimanjaro Safaris will add new animals and take guests out on the savannah even later. The nighttime spectacular known as Rivers of Light, which will combine fire, water, and animal imagery to celebrate life itself, will be a major draw. Add Pandora’s glowing effects (and the fact that this park serves alcohol) into the mix, and it’s going to be, well, really fun.
Prepare to ride Star Tours II over and over...and over.
Rotating experiences make for a different ride each time, but with new scenes and characters from The Force Awakens to be added, there are now thousands of possibilities.
Don’t plan on seeing most—or any—of this before your next trip.
Though D23 Expo was filled with announcements, there were absolutely no dates mentioned for park openings or ride changes—minus “early 2016” for Star Wars: The Season of The Force. Pandora is rumored to be coming in 2017, as it’s been in the works for a while, but your children may be teenagers by the time Star Wars land is up and running.