For the first two days at the D23 Expo, you could hear an excited buzz flying through the buildings about the pending major announcement about Disney’s upcoming changes. Finally, on the morning of Day 3 at the “Imagineering the Future of Disney Parks” presentation, all rumors were put to rest and the exhilarating news thrilled the jam-packed arena beyond belief. From the expansion of Fantasyland to the renovations of Star Tours, the happiest place on earth is about to get even happier!
Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Jay Rasulo came on stage and took the eager room of D23 fans on a “behind the magic tour” that he promised would go “to the berm and beyond.” First on the list — confirming that yes, the online rumors about a Fantasyland expansion are absolutely true! By 2013, the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World will experience the largest expansion in the history of the park, virtually doubling in size! “Meeting a Disney princess is always a very special highlight of any visit to the Magic Kingdom and now those visits are going to be more entertaining than ever!” Jay revealed. “You’ll be meeting princesses in their own fairy tale worlds. You’ll be immersed in the sights, sound and magic that made every princess story so memorable.”
By 2012, guests will be able to enter a country chateau and share a dance with Cinderella to help her prepare for the ball, go to a surprise Sweet 16 party for Sleeping Beauty at her cottage with the Good Fairies or join Belle in her villa at her father’s cottage to help with a comical retelling of Beauty and the Beast. And of course, you don’t want to miss the chance to dine in the Beast’s castle in the Be Our Guest Restaurant or at Gaston’s Tavern where, as he says, he uses antlers in all his decorating! If the amazed oohs and ahhs from the audience in the arena are any indication, reservations are going to fill up quickly!
In addition, the beloved Dumbo ride will also be doubling in size surrounded by a new interactive, three-ring circus tent, and by 2013 fans will be able to meet Tinker Bell and her friends in the magical world of Pixie Hollow. Ariel will also be finding a new home in her own underwater attraction both in the Magic Kingdom and in Disney’s California Adventure (2011).
But Jay was just getting started. With the help of Darth Vader and an army of Storm Troopers, he announced that as of October 2010, Star Tours will be closing. But not to worry — Jay continued, “We’re closing Star Tours in order to create a spectacular new adventure at Disneyland. We’re going to do things with Star Tours that have never been done in any park attractions before at any theme park anywhere.” The crowd was then treated to a 3D sneak peek of the ride and wow — were people impressed! The new 3D experience will debut at the Disneyland Resort and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 2011.
Jay also provided updates on the multi-year expansion of Disney’s California Adventure including the new World of Color water attraction (spring 2010) and the addition of the 12-acre Cars Land scheduled to open in 2012. As a special treat, the audience was able to go on a brief virtual tour of the new Radiator Springs Races attraction, which is certain to be even more amazing when becomes a reality!
Hong Kong Disneyland will also be experiencing some fun changes. By 2014, there will be three new lands — Grizzly Trail, Mystic Point and Toy Story Land, all never before seen additions. But the changes for Disney won’t be stopping with the parks…there’s the Disney Dream, the new ship being built by Disney Cruise Line, the 19 unique, once-in-a-lifetime guided vacation experiences being offered by Adventures by Disney and Disney’s first stand alone family destination resort on the island of Oahu in Hawaii! With so many new options available, it looks like a vacation might be in order sometime very soon…
The future for Disney is looking bright as the evening star and as Walt always said, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”