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D23 Brings Additions and Upgrades to WDW
Aug 16, 2015
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Star Wars Land concept art

The Disney D23 Expo takes place every two years and the 2015 edition has passed. We learned a lot of new additions coming to the parks as well as some rides that are getting upgrades. Let’s take it park by park to see what is coming.

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom featured the newest and biggest restructure of the past five years with New Fantasyland, including the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride that opened last year. We learned from the expo that the planned restaurant coming to Adventureland will be themed after the popular attraction, Jungle Cruise. The Skipper Canteen restaurant will share a kitchen with the Liberty Tree Tavern, currently on refurbishment, and is scheduled to open later this year.

Epcot

The two main attractions discussed at the Expo had previously been announced, but let us go over them again. For those that have been under a rock the past two years, Frozen has come through Disney World like a massive snowstorm. The Norway Pavilion’s attraction, Maelstrom, closed in 2014 and has been confirmed that it will feature a similar attraction named “Frozen Ever After” scheduled to open next May. There will also be a meet and greet area with Anna and Elsa that will be based off an actual Norwegian cabin. So for those worrying that Frozen would completely taking over Norway, it looks like the Disney Imagineers aren’t going too overboard.

During the 2015 year, it was also announced that Soarin’ would feature an upgrade to the screens, film projection, and the addition of a third theater to help cut down on wait times. The big announcement that came from the D23 Expo is that Soarin’ will now be flying “over the world” instead of only California. Some of the sights feature the savannas of Africa and the Great Wall of China. Soarin’ Over the World will debut in Spring 2016.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

As a frequent visitor to Disney World, I have been saying more and more that if you are not interested in shows, then Studios is a half day park. It is the park that currently has the smallest amount of moving rides with five and has seen the Backlot Tour, American Idol Experience and Magic of Disney Animation all close within the last year. Many were hopeful that the D23 Expo would bring some big news for this park. Theme park fans asked and received!

The first major announcement came during the Walt Disney Studios presentation that 14 acres of the park would be developed into a “Star Wars Land” (I’m sure it will receive an actual name). The new land will feature a ride based off of the Millennium Falcon that will have a customized mission, similar to that of Star Tours, and an epic adventure that will put guests into the middle of a climatic battle between the First Order and the Resistance. The land will also feature a “Mos Eisley Cantina” that will have the fabled, blue milk featured in the Star Wars saga.

In addition to the Star Wars Land, the current Star Wars attraction at the park, Star Tours, will have additions to new lands being traveled to from Episode VII: The Force Awakens. The new additions to the ride will come later this year. Star Wars Launch Bay will also come to Studios in 2015 and be located in the former location of The Magic of Disney Animation. The Launch Bay will be an interactive experience taking guests into the new Star Wars film and the previous six movies.

The Jedi Academy will feature new characters, including a new villain to battle, based off the Disney XD series, Star Wars Rebels. The Studios will also have a new seasonal event based off Star Wars, known as “Seasons of the Force.” The event will take place on weekend nights in the Spring before Star Wars Weekends and will feature a fireworks show set to the scores from the movie. Disney execs have definitely gone from 0 to 100 on Star Wars.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Wait, didn’t you mention Studios already? Yes, that happened because Star Wars Land isn’t the only major movie franchise getting an entire land in the park. The now 20-year-old movie, Toy Story, will get its own land and expansion. Toy Story Midway Mania was already announced to be getting a third track to help bring down wait times on the most popular attraction in the park. The area will bring two new rides. One will be a family style roller coaster with Woody’s best pal before Buzz, Slinky Dog. The other will be a flying saucer spin ride while avoiding “The Claw.”

To say that Studios is getting a makeover is an understatement. This will be the park getting a giant facelift and making sure it is never considered a half-day park again. No timetable has been set for the upgraded areas to this park.

Animal Kingdom

The main news everybody from D23 Expo were waiting for comes from the World of Avatar, better known as Pandora. Most theme park bloggers knew two rides were coming, a simulator and a boat ride. That and the themed land it would be featured in. From the mind of famed Imagineer that brought you Expedition Everest, Joe Rhode, comes this wonderfully thought out land. The first ride will be known as “Flight of Passage.” It will take guests soaring through the most thrilling part of the movie on a Banshee over the world of Pandora. The boat ride, to be named later, will take visitors through a bioluminescent forest located on the alien planet.

The Expo discussed the nighttime show, Rivers of Light, coming to Animal Kingdom next spring has been in construction over the past year. The show will combine effects and sounds illuminating the park. The show will take place between Discovery Island and Expedition Everest in the lagoon that surrounds the area. I am already going to suggest grabbing dinner and a seat at Flame Tree BBQ restaurant.

The final news coming to the park is an upgrade to Kilimanjaro Safaris. The staple of the Animal Kingdom park will now feature nighttime safaris where guests can hop aboard a trek across the Harambe Wildlife Preserve. The ride will now have two new sets of animals on the ride: African wild dogs and hyenas. The Sunset Kilimanjaro Safaris will start in Spring 2016.

About author

Profile photo of Dan Suárez

Dan Suárez

UCF grad that is way too much into the theme park life here in Orlando (Disney World and Universal mostly). I also work full-time as a Human Resources Coordinator and I am a huge sports fan when not frequenting the World.

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