We with just under a month until this year’s D23 Expo, it’s time it dive into the parks-related events and happenings. And to make predications on what they could announce, of course!
So, what is D23 Expo? The D23 Expo is a yearly event where Disney showcases its offerings, and makes announcements about its future film, tv shows, theme parks, and technology-related projects. Think of it as Disney’s version of San Diego Comic Con, or the annual Apple Event. Expect Disney to make much-hyped announcements about Marvel, Lucasfilm, Pixar, and projects coming to Disney+, and Disney’s suite of programming. But, let’s be honest: we are all here for announcements about the future of the Disney Parks. With the Walt Disney Company being in a transitional period, and this event happening during the W orld’s Most Magical Celebration on Earth, fans are ready to eat any crumb of information Disney drops at the event.
This year, the theme parks events will take place in the Wonderful World of Dreams pavilion. Disney has stated that it will give glimpses into Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, the transformation of EPCOT, new Frozen-related experiences, Disney Cruise Line, and more. It takes place on September 9, 10, and 11. If you cannot attend in person, some of the events will be streamed live, so make sure you check the schedule!
Instead of addressing each of planned events in chronological order, I will first address those that are most anticipated. Shall we get into it?
This is it. The Disney Parks & Experiences and Products event that is noticeably reserved for the last day, if only to string us along. This is where the major theme parks news will be announced, and for that reason, it is the most consequential of all of the D23 Expo events. Why, you ask? Well, the Disney Parks are in a pivotal, transitional moment. Pivotal, because we sit in an advanced stage of a global pandemic that led to park shut downs, a park pass reservation system, and an all around changed park experience.
Transitional because the 50th Celebration at Walt Disney World is near completion, and much of the big announcements from the past few years have either opened, or are (hopefully) opening soon–think EPCOT’s ongoing transformation, Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind, Tron: Lightcycle Power Run at the Magic Kingdom, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. These are the major attractions and expansions that have fueled park hype and attendance for the past several years, and it’s fair to say that avid Disney Parks fans can’t hep but wonder: what’s next? And let’s not forget that Universal is hard at work on Epic Universe, its third theme park in the Orlando area that will include, at minimum, a Super Nintendo World-themed land.
So, here are some predictions and questions I have for the Boundless Future event:
Play Pavilion. Originally planned to open in time for the 50th Celebration of Walt Disney World, this “digital metropolis” was intended to be a city with games, activities, and experiences–some real, some virtual. Disney stated that this new pavilion would allow guests to help Edna Mode on her quest to ride the world of uninspired style, or have a water ballon fight with Huey, Dewey, Louis, and Webby—though I’m not sure exactly how those experiences were to unfold. This pavilion sounded interesting, modern, yet distinctly EPCOT, and I was excited to explore it, and hopefully show my kids as they get older. It remains to be seen whether this was shelved for good.
Mary Poppins Ride. Described as “a step in time” down Cherry Tree Lane, into Number 17 where an adventure would begin, this first of its kind attraction was announced in 2019. Of course, like many attractions and experiences announced around that time, it was shelved due to COVID-19. Will the U.K. Pavilion finally get an attraction it so deserves?
Encanto. Its no secret that Encanto took the world by storm, becoming an overnight success both on Disney+ and the Billboard charts. Not since Frozen has a film seemingly seeped into every part of pop culture, and I think some sort of attraction around the film is due. To me, the natural location would be EPCOT, possibly in a new pavilion? True, that is certainly a tall order, but the film’s colorful Casita deserves something large in scale, and I don’t think a walk-through experience will suffice. A Columbia pavilion, along with an indoor, hybrid-screens-and-audio-animatronic experience through the Casita would be a dream. Think of the character experiences, the music—the arepas! With Lin Manuel Miranda on our side, what else can we do?
Animal Kingdom. All eyes are on this Walt Disney World park. Of the four Walt Disney World theme parks. Animal Kingdom is due for a major update, and based on the demolition of Primeval Whirl, and the somewhat stagnant nature of DinoLand U.S.A, all signs point to a new land to fill its space. But to what theme? My money is on a Zootopia themed land akin to the land already under construction at Shanghai Disneyland.
Disneyland’s Tomorrowland Update. “A Great, Big, Beautiful Tomorrowland Entrance” was announced for Disneyland in November of 2019, and like many things swept away by the pandemic, this has yet to come to fruition. It will be interesting to see if this is announced again, or changed in any way.
Frozen. Sure, Walt Disney World already has Frozen Ever After at the Norway Pavilion. But, this franchise remains as popular as ever, and fans are salivating at the construction photos of the Frozen-inspired lands at both Disneyland Paris, and Hong Kong Disneyland. Note that the Hong Kong Disneyland version will feature Frozen Ever After, and Wandering Oaken’s Sliding Sleighs, a full on roller coaster. It would be a missed opportunity for Disney to not add a Frozen-themed land at one (or both) of its U.S. Parks. In my opinion, the Frozen-themed land could naturally extend from its presence in Norway. But, it could also be a contender for Animal Kingdom, which could use a boost; think of the area in DinoLand covered in snow with Expedition Everest as the backdrop?
New Resorts. Remember Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge? This resort was planned for the Bay Lake Area next to Fort Wilderness at Walt Disney World. Announced just before the pandemic, progress on this nature-focused resort has stalled. It’s unclear whether its delay (or cancellation) is entirely due to the pandemic; the new DVC tower at Disney’s Polynesian was announced earlier this year. I am looking forward to an update about this resort, or potential announcements about other resorts.
In interesting news, an entire event is dedicated to The World of Duffy and Friends, including his newest friend LinaBell, pictured above. If you have followed along with my blog, you know I recently took a deep dive into the Duffy and Friends phenomenon in my article, Who is Duffy the Disney Bear? And now I am obsessed not only with Duffy and all of his friends, but with their story, and their popularity in international parks. In my opinion, I think we should prepare ourselves for Duffy and Friends to take the US parks by storm in the near future.
D23 Expo attendees will be first to try out DisneyMe, a new digital avatar available in the Play Disney Parks app. (This app, which is intended to be a companion when attending the Disney theme parks, already offers games, trivia, and integration with the interactive MagicBand+ activities, as discussed in my article, MagicBand+ Arrives at Walt Disney World on July 27.)
According to Disney, DisneyMe “empowers guests to express their Disney style by creating their own unique DisneyMe.” DisneyMe appears to be part of the previously announced Uncharted Adventure, a virtual interactive experience set to launch on the Disney Wish. D23 guests, who will need to download the latest version of the app in September, will be granted access to an in-app experience that can only be completed at the expo, which will include digital clothing and accessories for their DisneyMe. As always, I will reserve final judgment until I learn more about this experience, but the thought of D23 guests navigating the event and a brand new virtual experience–while many attempt to record and document their experiences on social media–sounds…interesting.
The Society of Explorers and Adventurers, or SEA for short, is a long-running story built around fictional characters around the Disney Parks. To the unassuming eye, the references to the SEA are hidden in plain sight. A fantastic deep dive into the SEA can be found here.
We don’t know much about the events that follow, but they sound exciting and sure to thrill park fans!
What are your thoughts on this year’s D23 Expo? Any predictions of your own? Are you attending? Let me know!
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