What the D23 Expo meant for the future of Disneyland

The American theme park panorama has modified drastically during the last decade. An period of name licensing and acquisitions, ushered in additional than a decade in the past when Common first created a “Harry Potter”-themed land in its Florida park, has reworked our trip locations into locations full of large-scale, movie-based enclaves.

This weekend, Disney’s biennial fan conference, the D23 Expo — a type of state of the union for all issues branded Disney — previewed some adjustments that may outline the last decade to return, together with nonetheless extra film branding. Leaders supplied updates on Disney California Journey’s Avengers Campus in addition to “Frozen”-themed areas coming to 3 of Disney’s worldwide resorts. The makeover of a dining-focused space of Disney California Journey into “Huge Hero 6″ was additionally unveiled, and new particulars have been supplied on a rethink of Disneyland’s fashionable Splash Mountain right into a “Princess and the Frog”-focused attraction.

The D23 Expo additionally launched a brand new phrase into the theme park lexicon: “thought starters.”

Josh D’Amaro, chairperson of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, pivoted from previous D23 Expos to showcase potential initiatives in early improvement. No guarantees have been made, however early idea artwork confirmed how elements of Florida’s Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom may in the future be re-envisioned. Walt Disney Imagineering, the division of the corporate answerable for theme park design, revealed that it was pondering of including animated movies similar to “Zootopia” and “Moana” to Animal Kingdom, in addition to bringing “Encanto,” “Coco” and a Disney villains space to the Magic Kingdom.


“I can’t wait to speak extra about these concepts and begin locking a few of this in,” D’Amaro mentioned, indicating that nothing had been inexperienced lighted simply but. Whereas meant to encourage optimism amongst followers, it additionally struck a cautious word for the Expo. This yr’s fan occasion typically seemed inward by celebrating anniversaries — the seventieth of Walt Disney Imagineering, the thirtieth of “The Muppets Christmas Carol” — and set a nostalgic tone even in looking forward to the corporate’s 2023 centennial celebration. When it got here to theme parks, D’Amaro spoke overtly of the COVID-19 pandemic having modified, postponed or altered plans.

Over three days on the Anaheim Conference Middle, Disney’s legacy and its near-future have been twin focal factors.

“We don’t know but the place a few of these ideas could take us,” D’Amaro mentioned of theme park pitches. “As a result of there are completely no boundaries once you’re dreaming of an enormous future like this. We’ve been like a practice simply barreling down the tracks for greater than six a long time since we opened Disneyland Park. Then COVID introduced that practice to a cease. Nevertheless it additionally allowed us to spend a while tinkering round, and it was a uncommon alternative to cease and take into consideration the place we wished to go.”

Nonetheless, the corporate’s first theme park will likely be receiving some not insignificant adjustments within the subsequent two years, initiatives that may add an attraction — Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, already open in Walt Disney World, will launch early subsequent yr in a reworked Toontown — in addition to enhance the range of the park’s choices. A theme park pavilion on the D23 Expo ground addressed the latter initiative: Particulars have been revealed for Tiana’s Bayou Journey, which is changing Splash Mountain, a journey whose imagery is rooted within the dated and racist 1946 movie “Music of the South.”

Tiana’s Bayou Journey will likely be set following the occasions of “Princess and the Frog,” with the movie’s lead, Princess Tiana, now a preferred entrepreneur, taking visitors on a journey via the bayou to discover a lacking ingredient wanted to throw a Mardi Gras-level feast. Within the course of, Splash Mountain will likely be reworked to evoke a number of Louisiana areas. The emphasis will likely be on making visitors fall in love with town of New Orleans.

Pacific Wharf in Disney California Adventure park will be reimaged as San Fransokyo from “Big Hero 6."

Pacific Wharf in Disney California Journey park will likely be reimaged as San Fransokyo from “Huge Hero 6.”

(Walt Disney Imagineering)

Extra vital for the park, although, is that Tiana’s Bayou Journey will flip a visitor favourite attraction over to the corporate’s first Black princess. It’s a big evolution for Disneyland, says Imagineering’s Carmen Smith, one of many creatives overseeing the journey.

“As we have a look at who’s in our parks,” says Smith, the query the corporate is asking is “how can we be sure that we’re telling tales the place if you happen to’re a little bit woman who occurs to be of African descent, or Indigenous, or Latino or Asian,” you may see your self in considered one of Disneyland’s points of interest.

She provides, “I feel that this can be a character that so many younger women — and boys — really feel like they’ll establish with. This is a chance to increase our attain and showcase that each one tales matter — everybody’s tales matter. I have a look at this as just the start of extra tales we’ll inform that characterize the world we reside in. That is so vital.”

Longtime Splash Mountain followers shouldn’t be apprehensive. The journey will nonetheless function a big drop that may soak visitors, and Imagineering guarantees there will likely be 16 re-imagined critters for visitors to come across. Just one was proven at D23 Expo: an otter that’s common a musical instrument out of discovered objects like typewriter keys and a fishing line. Idea artwork additionally hinted that the journey would have a little bit of a magical, otherworldly really feel, as elements glowed purple and fauna within the water had a superb, pink luminescence.

The most important shock associated to Disneyland was revealed early on the D23 Expo, when firm Chief Government Bob Chapek introduced Friday {that a} journey that includes the Avengers would certainly be making its solution to the Avengers Campus in Disney California Journey. A mission was initially introduced in 2019, however placed on maintain due to the pandemic. Not many particulars have been revealed Sunday, however the addition to the park seems to be considerably altered from what was initially pitched as a journey into Wakanda. The journey will now deal with bringing visitors in touch with an assortment of characters from the Marvel multiverse.

D’Amaro mentioned a 3rd attraction for the land, at the moment house to Internet Slingers: A Spider-Man Journey and Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout!, was all the time deliberate. Imagineering, nonetheless, “went again to the drafting board,” he mentioned, when Marvel introduced plans to deal with a number of realities.

“On this new attraction, you’re going to have the ability to battle alongside all of the Avengers towards all of the foes from wherever … that you could presumably think about,” mentioned Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige. However no timetable was given for launching the attraction.

Different D23 Expo bulletins centered on additions and tweaks exterior the parks, similar to SoCal mainstay Porto’s Bakery making its solution to the Downtown Disney district — visitors have been despatched house with free pastries — and a Pixar retheme of Paradise Pier Lodge. The instant future additionally guarantees a complete lot of one thing Disney followers know properly: nostalgia. New nighttime reveals on the resort, together with an replace to California Journey’s World of Coloration, will deal with the Walt Disney Co.’s 100-year anniversary.

It’s an earned celebration, as Walt Disney narratives have helped outline the final century of American popular culture. And with a few of these tales, similar to “Princess and the Frog,” simply now making it into its parks, we’ll give the corporate a break for revealing that its most formidable new theme park concepts are nonetheless within the thought-starting section. For now.

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