Announcements about new and returning attractions, entertainment, nighttime spectaculars, opening dates, and more were made at the Destination D23 event at Walt Disney World on November 20, 2021. This covers what was announced for Florida, California, Paris, and everywhere else during the “Connections: A Look at the Future of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products” presentation.
During that, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Chairman Josh D’Amaro offered a look at innovative projects being worked on by Walt Disney Imagineering–plus some surprises. Destination D23 attendees at Disney’s Contemporary Resort will be among the first to hear the announcements and we’ve recapped the coverage here.
Normally, the flagship event where announcements would occur is the D23 Expo held in Anaheim–a short walk from Disneyland. However, this year’s Expo was postponed until September 2022, which has increased the likelihood for some news at this Walt Disney World history and anniversary-oriented fan celebration. We’re still expecting any major announcements to occur at the upcoming D23 Expo, though. But more on that in our predictions section below.
Announcements from Destination D23
Project EXO – Disney Imagineers are working on bringing characters of all sizes to life at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and beyond. Right now, they’re developing a full-body exoskeleton system they’ve nicknamed “Project EXO.” It’s still in early concept development, but the team shared a glimpse at what the future of Disney Parks may look like.
Josh D’Amaro specifically indicated that he’s requested the team prioritize this project, which suggests there might be a specific in-park use envisioned for Project EXO. My guess would be Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, as there have been a lot of recent rumblings suggesting that various “plussings” or changes in scope to the land are being contemplated. (On the latest earnings call, Disney also said that there would be CapEx invested in SWGE, but that could’ve been an error.)
Entertainment Returning to WDW – Festival of Fantasy is returning to Magic Kingdom at some point in 2022. Additionally, a reimagined stage show will return to the park.
Likewise, Fantasmic will return to Disney’s Hollywood Studios sometime in 2022.
Mickey’s Magical Friendship Faire – Josh D’Amaro announced that a new show on the Cinderella Castle Forecourt Stage is coming to Magic Kingdom titled “Mickey’s Magical Friendship Faire” in celebration of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary.
It’s unclear how much this will differ from Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire, which is the prior show. Our guess is that this is a modified version of the previous show to account for AEA rules, and that there will be new costumes for the World’s Most Magical Celebration. No other details were provided.
Dreamers Point – As part of the transformation of Epcot, teams have been reimagining the front of the park and the entry experience for guests.
In the future, there will be a new location near Spaceship Earth called Dreamers Point with a spectacular view of the park and a new statue of Walt Disney. Imagineers are now working to bring this new statue to life–a video was shared of an Imagineer sculpting a model.
Connections Café and Eatery – Is the name of the new counter service restaurant debuting in the World Celebration neighborhood of EPCOT as part of the park’s ongoing transformation.
No opening date or even a timeframe was given for Connections Cafe & Eatery, but we’ve noticed that the pace of work has accelerated dramatically since the start of the new fiscal year. Seems like the first half of 2022 is likely–probably just in time for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. Speaking of which…
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind Opens in Summer 2022 – Walt Disney World has given a season–but not a specific date–to the next blockbuster addition that’ll debut during the World’s Most Magical Celebration.
Debuting in the newly renamed World Discovery neighborhood of EPCOT, this family-thrill coaster attraction will match the scale and adventure of the “Guardians of the Galaxy” films, inviting guests on an intergalactic chase through time and space. It will feature the first reverse launch on a Disney coaster and will be one of the longest fully enclosed coasters in the world. Here’s more info about Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, including a ‘special announcement’ from Glenn Close.
Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser – Lots of hype for this new voyage through outer space, but the highlight was the above video of Josh D’Amaro giving a sneak peek of lightsaber training in Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, where you’ll feel the Force as you train like a Jedi.
Walt Disney World Resort will also welcome Make-A-Wish children and their families as some of the very first guests to experience a Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser voyage. Here’s more info about Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser at Walt Disney World.
World of Color & Fantasmic Return – Both of these nighttime spectaculars are returning to Disney California Adventure and Disneyland at some point in 2022.
Additionally, the Main Street Electrical Parade will return in time to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Here’s more about yet another farewell run for Main Street Electrical Parade.
MagicBands Coming to California – The next-generation MagicBand+ wearable technology and “Hey, Disney!” voice assistant, recently announced for Walt Disney World Resort, will also be coming to Disneyland Resort in 2022.
This will mark the first time MagicBand+ will be available at Disneyland Resort. Some of the features of MagicBand+ will vary between Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World, and full details will be shared in the months ahead. The “Hey, Disney!” voice assistant will work alongside Alexa on Amazon Echo devices and also will begin rolling out to guest rooms across the Disneyland Resort Hotels. Read more about MagicBand+ at Walt Disney World AND Disneyland!
Downtown Disney Reimagining – At Disneyland Resort, the next evolution of Downtown Disney District is being planned with work starting in January 2022. The multi-year project to reimagine Downtown Disney District will include an even broader collection of shopping, dining and entertainment experiences.
The above concept art showcases a space that’ll replace the former AMC Theater. Previously, this area closed to become a new luxury hotel–a plan that was ultimately scrapped due to a standoff between Disney and the (former) city council in Anaheim.
Disneyland Hotel DVC Expansion – Disney released room concept art and new details about the Disney Vacation Club Tower at Disneyland Hotel. This DVC expansion will feature elements that bring Disney storytelling to life, all inspired by characters and stories from Walt Disney Animation Studios’ classic films.
There will be a newly-designed pool and recreation area, along with a variety of room types and the ability to explore the magic steps away at the Disneyland Resort.
Mickey’s Toontown Reimagining – The hills will be returning to Toontown to conceal the show building of Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway.
Fantasy Springs – This is the eighth theme port of Tokyo DisneySea, which consists of three areas and a Disney hotel, and has a total development area of approximately 140,000 square meters, the largest since the opening of Tokyo DisneySea.
In the video above, you can see the entire construction site from an aerial perspective. The three areas are based on the Disney movies “Frozen”, “Tangled” and “Peter Pan”, and attractive spaces such as attractions and restaurants invite guests to the world of their stories. Here’s a look at earlier concept art and construction progress on Fantasy Springs at Tokyo DisneySea.
Disneyland Paris 30th Anniversary – This Celebration will begin March 6, 2022 and will feature dazzling shows, entertainment, décor along Main Street, U.S.A. and new costumes for Mickey Mouse and pals, making the resort shine brighter than ever.
A new, limited time show will debut at the Castle Hub, and Disneyland Paris is bringing back classic shows and parades, including “Disney Stars of Parade” and “Disney Illuminations” for the celebration.
Avengers Campus at WDSP – The new Marvel land will open at Walt Disney Studios Park in France in Summer 2022 as part of the Disneyland Paris 30th Anniversary Celebration.
Earth’s Mightiest Heroes will assemble for the next chapter of the Global Avengers initiative and offer incredible new experiences for Super Hero fans, right on the heels of the opening of Disney’s Hotel New York – The Art of Marvel earlier this year.
Zootopia Land – Disney shared a look at one of the Audio Animatronics from the upcoming Zootopia Land at Shanghai Disneyland.
While most Walt Disney World fans will never make it to Shanghai, there’s the expectation among some (not us) that this land will be cloned at Animal Kingdom down the road. So perhaps interesting from that perspective?
Disney Wish Entertainment – The Disney Wish will premiere two new stage shows in the Walt Disney Theatre, including “Disney The Little Mermaid,” an original Broadway-style reimagining of the Walt Disney Animation Studios classic with a modern and innovative take on a young woman learning the power of her voice. The show will feature dazzling special effects, innovative theatrical design, artistic choreography, and a reimagined script and score that will surprise and delight guests of all ages.
The other stage show is “Disney Seas the Adventure,” which will follow Goofy as he discovers his own inner captain with the help of Captain Minnie and an all-star cast of Disney and Pixar characters.
Destination D23 Pre-Event Predictions
First, a simple matter of where Walt Disney World projects are in their development and construction timelines. While originally scheduled to open “in time for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary,” both TRON Lightcycle Run and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind have had their pace slowed and will instead open next year. We already know that the latter will open in 2022, but TRON Lightcycle Run is more of a wildcard–hopefully it’ll open next year, but 2023 isn’t out of the question.
The Epcot overhaul has likewise had its timeline stretched out, and isn’t expected to be done until 2023, at the earliest. It’s also entirely possible that will extend into 2024. Realistically, that means the next major addition at Walt Disney World after these projects probably won’t debut until 2024-2025.
With that being the likely time frame, there’s no need to announce at the lower-profile Destination D23 event focused on the history of Walt Disney World. The company can wait until the bigger 2022 D23 Expo in California to make any splashy announcements.
Second, there are a ton of unknown details about projects that are already underway. The aforementioned Epcot overhaul, in particular, contains a ton of unknowns. Disney hasn’t said anything about the Play Pavilion, Moana’s Journey of Water, DuckTales Adventure, Spaceship Earth Reimagining, festival center, fast casual restaurant, or other aspects of the central spine redesign. It would be fantastic if new concept art were unveiled for the Big Epcot Dirt Pit™️–maybe the third time will be the charm there!
And those are just the Epcot projects that have been put on hold, changed, or been cancelled outright (we won’t hear about any cancelled projects–they just won’t happen). There were other previously-announced plans for Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris that now may or may not be happening. The company could provide clarity with regard to those. Walt Disney World could also offer a specific opening date–or at least a season–for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind.
Finally, there’s still a lot of entertainment and nighttime spectaculars that haven’t returned to Walt Disney World and Disneyland. We’re expecting a handful of announcements on this front, including the potential for more details about the reimagined Finding Nemo – The Musical and Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, plus perhaps another show for Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Nighttime spectaculars could account for the splashier announcements at this event, and it’s anticipated that fans of night parades might be in store for some exciting news on both coasts. What else gets announced on the entertainment front is less clear, but there are plenty of productions at Walt Disney World and Disneyland that could be discussed–potentially as “reimagined” offerings to make them sound exciting and new…rather than overdue returns of normal offerings, pre-closure.
Ultimately, that’s more or less what we’re expecting from Destination D23. Basically, look to this as an event that provides more clarity about what was announced 2 years ago at the last D23 Expo, with concept art and new details that offers insight into how those plans have changed and when they might come to fruition. It’s also likely that ambitious projects will be hyped–like Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser–and recent additions will be promoted.
If you’re expecting to an announcement of Zootopia Land at Animal Kingdom or another dark ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios…you might be in for disappointment. If you’re curious about what’s replacing Electric Umbrella, whether the Spaceship Earth reimagining will still happen, or what the inside of Toy Story Roundup Rodeo BBQ looks like…that’s probably more the speed and style of this smaller scale event. Either way, we’ll document it all here as it happens, with snippets about what’s announced above all this commentary–so you can see how our predictions stacked up to what actually happens!
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Have any announcement predictions for Destination D23 at Walt Disney World? Think there will be some splashy news, or mostly details clarifying existing projects, new concept art, opening dates, and that sort of thing? Expecting the biggest news for Disneyland, Walt Disney World, or Disneyland Paris? If you’re late to the party and see this after the event is over, any thoughts on what was revealed? Do you agree or disagree with our assessments? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!