A masked family walks past Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
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Disney’s theme parks are recovering after the coronavirus pandemic closed their domestic and international locations in 2020.
Disney’s Parks, Experiences and Products division is growing in revenue and the company is seeing steady increases in visitor numbers, room nights occupied and cruise ship travel.
In terms of recent earnings, Disney noted that its new Genie+ and Lightning Lane products helped boost average ticket sales per capita for the quarter. These new digital features have been introduced to curate the guest experience and allow park-goers to skip-the-line at major attractions.
The company said it’s been able to bring back in-park experiences like character meet-and-greets, theatrical performances and nightly events at Disneyland, which has allowed it to increase capacity at its parks, CEO Bob said Chapek back then. Since reopening after the first round of pandemic closures in early 2020, Disney has limited visitor numbers and introduced a new online reservation system to help control crowds.
The company continues to add new features and attractions to its theme parks and cruise lines, which Josh D’Amaro, director of Disney’s parks, experiences and products division, outlined at its D23 Expo on Sunday.
D’Amaro welcomed The Mandalorian Executive Producer Jon Favreau on stage to announce that the Mandalorian will be appearing domestically with an animatronic grogu in Galaxy’s Edge as part of his costumed characters, used for meet-and-greets and interactions are available. He arrives in November.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek announced Friday that California-based Disneyland will be getting a third attraction on its Avengers campus. The ride is based on the multiverse and drivers will fight against villains from different universes including King Thanos.
Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige appeared in person, while Mark Ruffalo, who portrays the Hulk, appeared via video to reveal that Hulk will be at the park as part of a meet-and-greet opportunity. Developed as part of Project Exo, the version of Hulk will arrive at the park next week.
(LR): Jonathan Becker (Research and Development Imagineer), Josh D’Amaro (Chairman, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products), Richard-Alexandre Peloquin (Research Engineer Imagineer).
Pacific Wharf at Disney California Adventure is transformed into San Fransokyo from Big Hero Six and offers a chance to meet Baymax, the helpful health robot. Also, the Paradise Pier Hotel will become the Pixar Place Hotel.
Downtown Disney will add several new restaurants including Porto’s Bakery and Cafe and Din Tai Fung.
Disneyland’s Toon Town land is getting a version of Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway attraction from Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Florida, along with a number of cosmetic updates and a new children’s playground. These updates are expected in 2023.
Tiana’s bayou adventure, replacing Splash Mountain, is set directly after the events of Princes and the Frog and follows Princess Tiana on her quest to find a missing ingredient for a carnival party. The ride is scheduled to reopen in late 2024.
A model of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, which will reinvent Disneyland’s Splash Mountain, is on display during the Walt Disney D23 Expo on September 9, 2022 in Anaheim, California.
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D’Amaro said music will be a big part of the ride and the film’s cast will return to lend their voices to the attraction. Anika Noni Rose, the voice of Tiana, took to the stage to sing “I’m Almost There” and “Dig a Little Deeper” from the 2009 animated film.
Walt Disney World
D’Amaro announced that Disney is in the process of creating a new nighttime extravaganza for Epcot to celebrate the company’s 100th anniversary. Additionally, Journey of Water, inspired by “Moana” announced back in 2019, will open in late 2023.
Also coming to Epcot is Figment, the fan-favorite purple dragon, who will return to the park for meet-and-greets in the future.
Also, the Hatbox Ghost will appear in the Haunted Mansion at Walt Disney World next year.
D’Amaro shared footage of his test ride of Tron Light Cycle Run, noting that the ride at Magic Kingdom is scheduled to open in Spring 2023.
Disney’s sixth cruise ship is called Disney Treasure and celebrates Walt Disney’s spirit of adventure. The Great Hall is inspired by Aladdin and features a statue of Jasmine and Aladdin riding the magic carpet.
D’Amaro said the “Disney Wonder” will now travel to Australia and New Zealand starting in October 2023.
The company is also opening a new island resort in the Bahamas called Lighthouse Point. D’Amaro said that 90% of the electricity consumed at this site is provided by solar power.
Duffy and Friends, adorable cuddly characters from Shanghai Disney Resort, are getting their own stop motion series on Disney+.
D’Amaro also showed off new images from Zootopia Land, which will feature a large animatronic of Officer Clawhauser. No date has been set for the country’s official opening.
Hong Kong Disneyland is getting a new Walt Disney statue inspired by how Walt watched his kids ride the carousel and inspired the launch of Disney’s theme parks. The park’s Frozen-themed land will open in the second half of 2023.
In Paris, a new promenade will be added to connect the new Frozen-inspired land to the rest of the park, and a Tangled-themed attraction will be added to the new garden area.
Tokyo Disney Resort is also in the process of adding a new land based on Frozen, Tangled, and Peter Pan to its park called Fantasy Springs.
Space Mountain at Tokyo Disneyland will be remodeled in 2024 with a new plaza to be completed in 2027.
Beyond the Great Thunder Mountain
At the end of the panel, D’Amaro discussed what he called “Blue Sky” projects that the Imagineering team is working on. There are projects that are still in the early stages of development and may not see the light of day in the end.
D’Amaro spoke about the opportunity to redesign Dino Land at Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida. Initial ideas for the space envisage the possibility of bringing “Zootopia” with its variety of districts and animal species or “Vaiana” into the park.
At Magic Kingdom, Disney asks, “What’s behind Big Thunder Mountain?” The company teased that an area based on “Coco” could be in that location or “Encanto.” Maybe both.
D’Amaro even teased the possibility of also bringing to life an area of Magic Kingdom overrun by Disney villains. The crowd erupted in applause at the suggestion. Most often, villains appear during Disney’s Halloween special events.
“We will never stop pleasing you,” he said.