Disclosure: I was provided with an all expenses paid trip by Disney to attend this event. All opinions expressed are 100% my own.
I was lucky enough to be able to attend one of the most anticipated panels at the D23 Expo this weekend – the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts panel. There was so much news that my mind was racing. From Star Wars to Toy Story, the park expansions across the world are going to be incredible. Get ready to have your mind blown.
The first major announcement was one that we heard during the Worlds, Galaxies, and Universes: Live Action at The Walt Disney Studios panel – there will be a Star Wars expansion to the theme parks. Yes, I said PARKS. Star Wars “Land” will be coming to both Disneyland and Disney World! In Disneyland it will take up 14 acres and at Disney World it will be added on to Hollywood Studios. Both of these will be the largest land expansions that the parks have seen. This is beyond exciting guys. I was freaking out when I heard this.
Oh, and it gets even better. Plan to be immersed in a whole new world. The Star Wars section of the parks will be set up as a whole new planet and all shops and restaurants will be run by local inhabitants. Yup. That means that the native aliens of the planet(s) you are visiting will be assisting you during your stay. There will even be a cantina just like in the film. Oh and I did I mention that you will get a chance to take the wheel of the MILLENNIUM FALCON! Like… what! I about died when I heard that – amazing! You will be greeted by the characters you know and love – as well as some new characters. The concept art is incredible and I am so excited to share it with you.
Since this park is going to take a long time to be completed, Disney wants to give you something in the meantime. Star Tours in both parks will be updated with a new adventure featuring locations and characters from the upcoming film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. There will also be a Star Wars Launch Bay which will take guests into the upcoming film with special exhibits and peeks behind-the-scenes, including opportunities to visit with new characters, special merchandise, and food offerings. This will be located in the Animation Courtyard at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Tomorrowland at Disneyland Park. At Disneyland, it will be sharing it’s space with Super Hero HQ where guests will be able to take photos with Captain America and Thor, as well as experience Iron Man Tech Presented by Stark Industries.
Jedi Training Academy will also be reimagined with a new experience that includes new characters and a new villain to battle from Star Wars Rebels. One of the things that I am most excited about is the Season of the Force. This is a seasonal event that will begin in early 2016 and brings new experiences to both coasts. At Disneyland guests will explore the Star Wars galaxy with special entertainment and foods throughout. Space Mountain will be reimagined as Hyperspace Mountain and guests will join and X-wing Starfighter battle! At Hollywood Studios guests will close out weekend nights with a new fireworks spectacular set to the iconic score of the Star Wars movies.
Toy Story Land
The reimagining of Hollywood Studios Florida doesn’t stop at Star Wars. If you thought things couldn’t get any more exciting, than you were wrong. Toy Story Land will be cover 11 acres of the park and will bring guests in to the world of Andy’s toys. You will be shrunk down to the size of Woody and Buzz as you navigate through toys like building blocks, buckets, and game board pieces. The experience alone is sure to be like nothing you have ever seen before. Toys Story will be launching the fourth movie in the series soon – but that story is for another post.
I know you are dying to hear about the rides that will be featured in Toy Story Land so get ready. There will be a family friendly roller coaster all taking place on the back of Slinky Dog. He will zip and zoom, plunge and coast as he takes guests on a fun, toy-filled adventure throughout the new land. There will also be an alien saucers attraction where they will take you around for a spin in their very own flying saucers. The music, lighting and sound effects add to the flurry of the action, while the “claw” looms over. Toy Story Mania will also be adding a third track to the popular ride.
Pandora: The World of AVATAR
As part of the largest expansion in the park’s history, Disney’s Animal Kingdom will immerse guests into the world of Pandora, the entire park will transform after dark with new nighttime entertainment experiences which will offer longer days at the park. Expected to open next spring, “Rivers of Light” will be an innovative experience unlike anything ever seen in a Disney park. It will combine live music, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery. The most exciting announcement about Pandora (besides the giant floating lands above you of course) is the AVATAR Flight of Passage ride. In this E-ticket attraction, guests will soar over Pandora on a Banchee to see it like it was meant to be seen – from a bird’s eye view. I was over the moon at this presentation because guess what – James Cameron came out to talk to us about it! He is incredibly talented and it was so cool to see him live and in person!
Animal Kingdom will also be extending of Kilimanjaro Safaris for a new nighttime adventure. This expansion also includes two new species of animals – African Wild Dogs and hyenas. I know that my girls will love this addition because this is their favorite ride at Disney World.
Other announcements included Soarin Around the Worlds to be added to both California and Florida parks as well as the Iron Man Experience news which will be added to the Hong Kong park. And let me just say that Stan Lee showed up to talk about this amazing addition and I couldn’t stop the tears. That man is my hero. He is funny and beyond talented. It was an absolute honor to see him in person!