Everything Disney will likely announce at this weekend's D23

click to enlarge Everything Disney will likely announce at this weekend's D23
Photo via Disney
Disney’s massive every-other-year convention, D23, takes place in Anaheim this weekend, and the rumors are swirling.

There are plenty of guesses regarding announcements focused on Star Wars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and upcoming Pixar films but Saturday’s Parks and Resorts panel might have the biggest announcements for us here in Orlando.

The 90-minute Parks and Resorts panel is usually filled with mega-announcements for the parks worldwide, but this year it looks to be more domestically focused.

There are plenty of wild surmises that have been around for years, like Australia being added to Animal Kingdom or the monorails finally getting an update. Sadly, many of these rumors are no stronger today than they were in the past few years. Some other rumors have only grown in strength the closer we get to D23. Here are a few of the most likely announcements we’ll hear at this year’s D23 Parks and Resorts panel.

The most obvious is the gondola system, which is already under construction linking Epcot, Caribbean Beach, Pop Century and Art of Animation, and Hollywood Studios. While we already know the route of the gondola system, Disney will likely share official renderings, opening timelines, and possibly even have a gondola on display.

click to enlarge Star Wars land coming to Disney's Hollywood Studios - Photo via Disney
Photo via Disney
Star Wars land coming to Disney's Hollywood Studios
Unlike in California, where Star Wars Land will more than likely open in spring of 2019, Star Wars Land in Hollywood Studios will probably open a few months after the 2019 D23, so Disney may wait until then to announce specifics regarding the hotel. This week we’re at least likely to get confirmation that the Star Wars boutique hotel and its immersive multi-day Star Wars Land-based role-playing upcharges are happening.

Disney has already confirmed that a Star Wars Land model will be on display at the convention, though this will likely be the Disneyland version. The two Star Wars Lands currently being constructed simultaneously at Disneyland in California and Hollywood Studios here in Orlando will be extremely similar in scale and attractions. The one here will likely have a few more retail or dining options. The biggest difference is the rumored hotel that will be linked to the one here.

A scale model of the Orlando version of Star Wars Land has been made (Disney rarely does any type of construction with such a model) and is believed to be coming to Star Wars Launch Bay in the coming months. The opening of the new model may coincide with the closure of One Man’s Dream, a walk-through exhibit that celebrated Walt Disney and the history of the Disney company. Large models were regularly featured toward the end of the attraction. Hollywood Studios will soon have new guest pathways that bypass the area near One Man’s Dream; with these new pathways in place, Disney will likely close the attraction, but a preview area for updates coming to the park has proven popular so that aspect will probably stay but move to Launch Bay. None of these details are expected to be shared at this year’s D23 and won’t happen until at least the end of the year.

click to enlarge Everything Disney will likely announce at this weekend's D23
Photo via Disney Parks Blog
Also at Hollywood Studios, we have Toy Story Land, which is slated to open within the next nine months or so. We’re likely to get a specific opening date, more details on the retail and dining options, and possibly an updated rendering of the land. In recent weeks, the Toy Story Land logo on the construction walls has been updated to reflect better what will be the final design.

There is an older rumor that now seems extremely likely to be confirmed at this year’s event or soon after: that the Great Movie Ride at Hollywood Studios will close sometime within the next year and be replaced by a ride based around Mickey Mouse. The ride, currently known as ‘The Great Mickey Ride,’ will be built in both Orlando and in Disney California Adventure. Current speculations call for the ride to use trackless ride technology, next-generation animatronics and projection mapping. The closure of Sci-Fi Dine-In and ABC Commissary also be tied to the ride update. At D23 we’re likely only to get the announcement of the ride with specifics on what it will entail and its impact on the park not being shared until much later.

Finally, the last significant bit of Hollywood Studios news rumored for D23 is the reveal for the new park name. A strong candidate for the new name is "Disney’s Movie Adventure." With so much other news at this year’s event, the name reveal could wait until the 2019 D23, but that would mean Star Wars Land marketing would have to include both the old and new name for the park.

Hopping over to the Animal Kingdom, there are the usual rumors of Australia and giant pandas, but the only one that seems to be legitimate at this time regards a Zootopia update to Rafiki’s Planet Watch. This area, which offers guests backstage views and a petting zoo, is one of the last areas of the park not to get a significant update since park opening in 1998. There is a small Zootopia display in the area, but rumors shared by Disney insider Jim Hill points to a major overhaul that would include meet-and-greets, a possible new ride and, of course, a large gift shop. The train ride that is currently used to access this area may receive a Zootopia update. A new footpath may also be built to help alleviate demand on the train.

Magic Kingdom will be the central focus of the WDW 50th Anniversary celebration in 2021. While some expect Disney to share details of the 50th Anniversary at this year’s D23 that likely won’t happen until 2019. This year we may get new details on the rumored Tomorrowland and Adventureland updates. Those rumors include a new Moana- themed attraction and a new Tron-themed one.

The Pixar and Disney Animation panel at D23 will include never-before-seen footage from Wreck-It Ralph 2, which could tie in with an announcement of the long-rumored Wreck-It Ralph augmented reality attraction rumored for Tomorrowland. But with rumors flying of Disney looking to more or less giving the land a full makeover, announcing a small segment of that makeover seems odd and unlikely to happen.

Pirates of the Caribbean is getting its own panel, at which new details on the updated auction scene will likely be shared along with new stories of the history of the attraction and the films it spawned.

A large indoor performance venue, a new nighttime parade, updates to the steam train that circles the park, and updates to various classic attractions are all likely in the works at the Magic Kingdom but this week’s convention may be too soon in the process to allow for any type of major announcements regarding any of these projects. At this week’s D23, Magic Kingdom may get the least amount of time of any WDW park.

That leaves the park that Disney fans are most anxious to hear about. Disney already confirmed a major update is coming to Epcot and many believe this year’s D23 is where we’ll start getting specifics on what that update will look like. With construction soon to begin on the new Ratatouille ride in France and the strongly rumored Guardians of the Galaxy mini-land likely to break ground in the coming months in Future World, those two attractions are the most likely of the Epcot updates to be discussed at D23.

We also have rumors of a major update coming to the entrance area. The security checkpoints and entrance "tapstiles" area are believed to be getting a complete update. The entire plaza in front of Spaceship Earth and many of the nearby buildings are also thought to be getting a complete redo. Many of the buildings in this area date back to the opening of the park in 1982, and are in desperate need of remodeling. The entrance update will wrap around Spaceship Earth, which itself will be getting a small update, and stretch all the way to the entrance of World Showcase. The Innoventions buildings will be getting updated, as will the plazas in this area. According to Hill, Imagineers are calling this entrance area "the spine." With record-breaking crowds expected in 2021, this area will need to be finished by then, meaning any construction on it will need to begin soon. With that in mind, many fans are hoping we at least get renderings of the entrance and "spine" at this year’s D23.

Other updates believed to be heading to Epcot include an update to the boat ride in Mexico based on the upcoming Pixar film Coco. This movie that celebrates Mexican culture is slated to come out in November, and we’re getting a new preview at D23. Disney rarely commits to a new attraction before seeing how the film it’s based on performs, so don’t expect any Coco at Epcot updates at D23.

Over in the Seas with Nemo and Friends rumors point to the area being rethemed as the Marine Life Institute from Finding Dory. This overlay won’t require any major changes to the pavilion and will likely be one of the first updates we see at Epcot in the coming years. We may receive confirmation of this at D23, but it could be pushed off and later announced via the Disney Parks Blog or other official company news outlet.

A new 3-D film in the Imagination pavilion, possibly based around Figment, who may also end up in the updated Tomorrowland, and a new 360 film in China are also rumored, but again we’ll likely not get many of those details at this year’s convention.

click to enlarge Everything Disney will likely announce at this weekend's D23
Image via WDWMagic.com
The wildest WDW rumor and one that seems to be growing stronger the closer we get to D23 is the announcement of Brazil being added to World Showcase. The country has long been rumored for the park with Brazilian government officials confirming talks years ago, but Disney has never commented on it. The new country pavilion is rumored to be heading to an expansion pad between Germany and Italy. It’ll include a new restaurant, with a possible dinner show element. One story even includes moving the Tiki Room birds to the new pavilion, very similar to an old unrealized concept that Disney had for another Epcot country pavilion.

Brazil is just one of two new nations supposedly headed to Epcot. Spain is the other, but that pavilion has supposedly been pushed back due to Gigantic, the film its ride is based on, being postponed.

Updates to Illuminations, the Imagination Pavilion, Test Track, Mission: Space, Living With the Land, the U.K. pavilion, Morocco, and more are all expected in the coming years, but most of those will likely not be announced anytime soon – possibly not until the 2021 D23, since the 2019 will mostly be focused on WDW’s 50th-anniversary celebration.

Outside of the parks we might receive new details on a few other projects, such as an expansion at Blizzard Beach and new details on the updates to Disney Springs West End, but with so many major announcements expected at this year’s convention, most of these smaller announcements will likely be pushed back and shared with the Disney Parks Blog in the coming months.

Outside of Orlando, we’re likely to get updates on Marvel at California Adventure, confirmation of new attractions at the Paris resort, and new details on construction projects in Tokyo and Hong Kong. The Toy Story Land in Shanghai may also be mentioned though the majority of the focus will likely be on the Orlando version.

D23 begins this Friday, July 14, and runs through Sunday, July 16. The Disney Parks and Resorts panel is on Saturday afternoon, though some of these details may happen to be shared via exhibits on the show floor or at other panels throughout the weekend.
Scroll to read more Arts Stories + Interviews articles


Join Orlando Weekly Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.