What a year for Walt Disney World! 2022 was eventful, to say the least. Disney World opened new attractions, continued major construction, endured political blowback, made big changes, announced new attractions and rides–and reopened much of the offerings that closed sometime in 2020. This is not a comprehensive list of what happened at Disney World in 2022, but instead, a round up of the biggest news stories. Most of these stories were the most-read by you–the readers of this site. Let’s get into it!
D23 Announcements. September’s D23 Expo did not disappoint–well, depending on who you ask. Several announcements about the upcoming Disney Parks experiences were indeed exciting; some were less than concrete, forcing fans to temper their expectations. For my fellow theme parks enthusiasts, here are the highlights:
- Beyond Big Thunder Mountain. Coco and Encanto-themed lands could be coming to the Magic Kingdom in the space that sits behind Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Another, villains-themed land could also be constructed in the same space. Both concepts look to be worthwhile additions to the most-popular theme park but the plans are very much in the “Blue Sky” phase–a phase of Imagineering planning that means it is in early development. We don’t know whether any of these plans will come to fruition, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get our hopes up.
- Animal Kingdom Additions. As I speculated, a Zootopia-themed land will be replacing Dinoland, U.S.A. at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. In a surprise announcement, Disney revealed that a Moana-themed section will also be coming to the same space within Disney’s Animal Kingdom. That is a lot of Moana coverage at Walt Disney World, considering the Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana walkthrough attraction is nearly complete over at EPCOT, but it is exciting nonetheless. While we don’t know much about the Zootopia-themed land, we can look to progress on a similar land nearing completion at Shanghai Disneyland.
- Happily Ever After, the nighttime fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom is coming back. Disney Enchantment, which replaced the former version of Happily Ever After will (thankfully) conclude at the end of the 50th Celebration at Disney World. I am usually someone who can roll with the changes at Disney World; let’s just say I am excited about this course correction back to Happily Ever After.
- Harmonious, the barge-focused EPCOT show that ushered in the beginning of the 50th Celebration at Disney World, will be replaced with another, new show in 2023. Again, this is a welcome announcement.
- For my full coverage of all the theme parks announcements, including news about Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disney Resort, Shanghai Disneyland. Hong Kong Disneyland, and the Disney Cruise Line, see my article, Everything Announced about the Disney Parks at D23 EXPO 2022.
Goodbye, Bob. Hello, Again, Bob. In perhaps the biggest shock of the year, Disney quietly announced that Bob Chapek was out as CEO, to be replaced by none other than Bob Iger, the former CEO of The Walt Disney Company. To say this news was well-received would be an understatement; if you listened close-enough, you could hear fans and Wall Street investors alike singing that the wicked witch was dead. What this means for future changes at Disney World remains to be seen. Like many, I remain cautiously optimistic.
Fantasmic! Returned. The beloved, fan favorite nighttime spectacular returned to Disney’s Hollywood Studios to deserved fanfare. And with new, well-received scenes, including an Aladdin chase stunt and Elsa singing “Show Yourself” from Frozen 2. Something about this show’s return felt right, like Disney World is really, really back to normal–whatever that means now.
Surge Pricing at Disney World Parks. Genie+ prices, which originally costed a flat rate of $15 per person, can now fluctuate based on the day. Additionally, the price for the Park Hopper add-on—which allows guests to visit more than one Disney World theme park per day–can now vary per day as well. Prices for theme park day tickets also now vary based on the day and the theme park. Basically, theme park tickets, park-hopper options, and Genie+ options, each can individually cost more (or less) depending on what day you visit. If it is a more popular park (read: Magic Kingdom), and/or a more popular day, it will cost you more. Remember, Genie+ and Park Hoppers, while potentially helpful for your trip, are not required–only a theme park ticket is necessary (well, and a Park Pass Reservation).
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind Opened at EPCOT. The first roller coaster, and first Marvel-themed attraction at Disney World, opened at EPCOT earlier this year. The much-anticipated attraction delivers both thrills and a new vibe to EPCOT. At this time, must snag a virtual queue timeslot or purchase an Individual Lightning Lane to ride this attraction. That means you cannot simply show up and wait in line to ride–even if you have a theme park ticket. For my complete guide to securing your place in line, see my guide to riding Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind.
MagicBand+ Debuted. MagicBand+, the updated take on Disney World’s ever-popular MagicBands, entered circulation this past summer. In addition to the other features offered by the original MagicBands, MagicBand+ offer new interactive opportunities, such as the ability to interact with the golden statutes knows as the Disney Fab 50 Character Collection, and to participate in a virtual bounty hunting experience at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. They also vibrate and illuminate with the existing nighttime spectaculars. No word yet on any new experiences, or how they will correspond to the new nighttime spectaculars coming in the new year. If you are still on the fence about whether MagicBand+ is worth it, or whether you should use an original MagicBand–or the MagicMobile option available for free on your phone–check out my article all about using MagicBands at Disney World.
The Battle for Reedy Creek. In what proved to be one of the more unexpected fallouts during the short-lived Bob Chapek era, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, in a retaliatory action based on The Walt Disney Company’s delayed opposition to the state’s Parent Rights in Education bill, signed a law that would dissolve The Reedy Creek Improvement District. Reedy Creek is truly sui generis to Disney World, resulting in a structure that permits Disney World to act as an independent government that provides its own municipal services to the area known as Disney World. There are financial, tax, and political implications of such a dissolution, which, though still very much planned, has yet to occur. Learn about Reedy Creek and all about this strange period in Disney history here–and watch this space for any updates.
Disney Vacation Club Announces New Polynesian Resort Tower. Disney announced a new DVC tower to be built adjacent to the existing Polynesian Village Resort, in the space where the Spirit of Aloha show took place. This design is similar to the Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort model, which proved successful. No additional details were revealed, but it is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2024.
Avatar: The Way of Water is Released. Yes, this is more of a film update–see my thoughts on the sequel here--but the success of the film could impact the Disney Parks. The long-awaited sequel made a big splash on December 16, and to celebrate its arrival, Disney announced a range of Avatar-inspired experiences at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It is not clear that the experiences will remain permanent, but, according to James Cameron (the director), communications have been made regarding potential updates to Avatar: Flight of Passage, my favorite attraction at Disney World. With the film representing a major part of Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox, its continued success could impact what films are released in the future, and potential changes or additions to Pandora: The World of Avatar.
Some Personal Park Highlights
I visited Disney World several times over the course of 2022. Here are a few guides and reviews from my trips!
Looking for something a little more comprehensive? Check out my guide to navigating Disney World in the post-pandemic era, The New Parents’ Guide to Disney World.
Thank you for reading this, and any other article on this blog, and Happy New Year.
See you real soon!