Just recently in the “Most Magical Place On Earth,” the Walt Disney Company’s executive leadership painted a glowing picture of what Disney fans can expect in the not-so-distant future with their theme parks and experiences.
The various major announcements and updates on the company’s attraction-based projects were made at Destination D23, which is a convention held every two years at Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando. It doubles as both an event for Disney’s biggest and most loyal fans, and a platform for the company to formally make major announcements.
Destination D23 is one of the flagship events organized by D23, the name of Disney’s official fan club, which is owned and operated by the company, with “23” in its name being a reference to the company’s founding year of 1923. Destination D23 is held every other year in Disney World, during the off-year of the separate D23 Expo biannual event in Disneyland Resort in Anaheim.
While D23 Expo is significantly larger than Destination D23, both events can be likened to Disney’s version of Apple’s product launch events.
“There are bound to be a few surprises before we are done today,” said Josh D’Amaro, the chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products.
“The theme of this year’s event is all about our Disney100 celebration,” he continued, with this event coming just weeks ahead of the company’s centennial birthday. Celebrations for Disney100 first began in January in Anaheim, the global hub for the company’s special year-long programming.
According to D’Amaro, over the next decade, the company will have more projects underway than at any point in its history, and they are planning to invest “billions of dollars” in their destinations around the world. This builds on Disney CEO Bob Iger’s announcement early this year the company plans to invest US$17 billion (CA$23 billion) into Disney World alone over the next 10 years and create 13,000 jobs.
Shortly after D23, Disney announced that its capital budget plans to spend about US$60 billion over the next 10 years to improve and expand its theme parks worldwide and increase Disney Cruise Line capacity.
They even teased that Disney Parks has over 1,000 acres of available land for possible future demand to expand its existing theme parks. This is equivalent to about seven new Disneyland theme parks.
“I hope you can see our future is certainly looking bright, and we are proud to lead the way for this industry. When theme parks deliver new experiences, that is good for everyone, but Disney charts the course for our future,” said D’Amaro.
“Seven of the 10 most popular parks around the globe are Disney parks, and that didn’t happen by accident. We didn’t just somehow get lucky because we invented this. Since before the gates opened at Disneyland in 1955, our Imagineers have been the cornerstone of creativity in this business. This is who we are, this is what we do, and we do it better than anyone.”
With their planning and rollout of their new wave of projects, he continued, “We’re going to speed up; we’re not going to slow down.”
Here is a roundup of the biggest new things to look forward to, based on several separate announcements over the last few months — listed in the order of their expected completion or possible timeline, starting from the very near term before going deeper into the longer term:
“Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana”
After much anticipation, the “Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana” experience within the Epcot theme park at Walt Disney World Resort officially opened on October 16, 2023.
It is located near Spaceship Earth within Epcot’s World Nature area, with the attraction using the latest technology to provide visitors with a highly immersive and playful experience that explores the stages of the water cycle.
As visitors walk through the attraction, their physical movements manipulate water in different ways, with this outdoor science park layered on with inspiration and themes from Moana.
“World of Frozen” in Hong Kong Disneyland
Hong Kong Disneyland is undergoing a renaissance of its own — the theme park’s single largest expansion to date since it opened nearly two decades ago and likely its most impactful.
Today, November 20, 2023, Disney’s very first Frozen-themed land, called the “World of Frozen,” officially opened at Hong Kong Disneyland.
In addition to bringing to life the Kingdom of Arendelle, including a second castle for the park and a lagoon, there will be two rides — Wander Oaken’s Sliding Sleighs, which will be a family roller coaster, and Frozen Ever After, which will be similar to the boat ride of the same name at Epcot.
This follows the recent reconstruction project to reimagine Hong Kong Disneyland’s main castle and the plans for more major Avengers-themed experiences in Tomorrowland.
New permanent fireworks show for Epcot
To replace the current temporary return of the “Epcot Forever” fireworks show, a new nighttime spectacular called “Luminous The Symphony of Us” will take over the World Showcase of Epcot theme park.
Starting on December 5, 2023, this new nighttime spectacular will be the permanent replacement of the short-lived “Harmonious” show, with its barges now fully removed from the lagoon.
Expect a new compelling overarching theme, defined by its music, for a symphony of fountains, lasers, lighting effects, and of course fireworks.
“Zootopia” land in Shanghai Disneyland
Disney will bookend 2023 with the opening of another unique theme park land — the world’s first Zootopia-themed land.
On December 20, 2023, the “Zootopia” land will open at Shanghai Disneyland, marking the second new land addition since the theme park opened just seven years ago.
This is no ordinary urban jungle, with Disney imagining what a city would be if animals were to co-exist — just like the mammalian metropolis from the hit animated film.
Lookout Cay at Lookout Point
The first major addition to the growing collection of Disney getaway offerings in 2024 will be the opening of Lookout Cay at Lookout Point — a brand new island destination for stopover excursions for Disney Cruise Line.
Like Castaway Cay, this will be an exclusive Disney port in the Bahamas offering sightseeing, recreational, and entertainment offerings in a way that fuses Disney magic and the Bahamian culture, as an extension of the onboard cruise ship experience.
Lookout Cay at Lookout Point will officially open on June 6, 2024.
Tokyo Fantasy Springs
Over at Tokyo DisneySea theme park, in keeping with its one-of-a-kind Disney maritime theme park concept, its seven theme park lands are not referred to as “lands” but rather “ports.”
And on June 6, 2024, the eighth themed port will open at Tokyo DisneySea, adding attractions based on four Walt Disney Animation Studios films — “Rapunzel’s Forest,” “Peter Pan’s Never Land,” and “Frozen Kingdom.”
Some of the most visually defining features of Fantasy Springs include Rapunzel’s tower and the Arendelle castle from Frozen, with major ride attractions such as a romantic boat ride with Rapunzel during the annual Lantern Festival.
Disney Treasure cruise ship
The sixth vessel on the Disney Cruise Line fleet, named the Disney Treasure, will make her inaugural sailing on December 21, 2024.
The Disney Treasure will carry a similar design to her sister, the 2022-launched Disney Wish, but with an adventure theme, as its name would suggest.
This includes onboard spaces and offerings inspired by the stories and themes of Aladdin, Moana, Mulan, The Lion King, Jungle Cruise, and even 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
Later this decade, in addition to the Disney Wish and Disney Treasure, a third Wish-class vessel will also be launched.
Disney Adventure cruise ship
Not to be confused with the three Wish-class vessels, the Disney Adventure will launch sometime in 2025 as the seventh cruise ship on the fleet. By a wide margin, it will be the largest Disney Cruise Line ship, serving the Asian market with its homeport in Singapore.
Magic Kingdom expansion behind Thunder Mountain
Following the opening in 2022 of the new TRON: Lightcycle launch coaster in Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom, Disney has teased the next massive expansion for the original theme park at Disney World.
A sprawling backstage area behind “Big Thunder Mountain” could be developed into a major new additional themed land — perhaps even multiple lands.
Very high level potential concepts so far suggest an area as big as “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge” and “Pandora: The World of Avatar” with themes after Coco, Encanto, and perhaps even the villains of Disney. So far, this is all highly preliminary with no established timeline.
Even the Animal Kingdom theme park at Disney World could get some new love with a complete overhaul of the existing “Dinoland USA” themed land.
So far, Disney Imagineers have teased fans with a potential retheming of the area after Encanto and Indiana Jones, but there is nothing concrete at the moment.
Fun fact: The existing Dinosaur Ride found at Dinoland USA uses the same ride technology as the Indiana Jones ride found at Disneyland.