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It’s time once again for Disney’s biennial announcement extravaganza, otherwise known as the D23 Expo. During the summers of odd numbered years Disney uses the D23 Expo to reveal new and exciting things to come to the Disney fandom in the future.
This post takes a look at all of the D23 announcements for Disney World for 2019. It is chock full of details and concept art released by Disney.
If you are planning a Disney vacation in the next few years, many of the announcements made today will become a part of your trip.
Table of Contents
The fun started off on Thursday night with Disney releasing some teaser announcements of what to expect later in the weekend. Sunday was the day full of the biggest Disney Parks news.
In the end, there were some pretty big announcements made, though some remained pretty darn vague. Just enough information to whet our appetites yet not enough to actually tell us much of anything.
Star Wars Hotel – Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser
The eagerly anticipated Star Wars hotel finally has a name! It will officially be called Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser.
A Cruise Ship-like Experience
Disney confirmed the rumors that a stay at Galactic Starcruiser will be a set duration vacation package. Guests will board the Galactic Starcruiser for a 3 day/2 night fully immersive Star Wars Experience. Think along the lines of a cruise on steroids.
Also like a cruise, guests board and depart together on the same day. I imagine this will allow a more structured and coordinated experience for everyone. The name of the ship that guests board is the Halcyon.
A Totally Immersive Experience
Disney is billing Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser as the most immersive experience around. Guests become active participants in story lines and experiences going on around them.
From the time that guests arrive at the Halcyon, they are immediately completely immersed in the world of Star Wars.
With the exception of a trip to Black Spire Outpost on the Planet Baatu (Galaxy’s Edge in Hollywood Studios) guests remain within the confines of the Halcyon.
Every guest is a character in the drama. They will interact with other guests, crew members, and also Star Wars characters.
Experiences Aboard the Star Wars Hotel
Even though you barely set foot outside the Star Wars Hotel, guest will have no shortage of interesting experiences.
- Use a training remote to learn how to use your lightsaber
- Visit the bridge to learn about the operating systems to pilot such a vessel. Because you never know when these skills might come in handy…
- Explore the Halcyon’s nooks and crannies, you never know when you might find some hidden meeting places
- Choices you make during your trip will factor into your story and experience
Rumors of the cost of this immersive Star Wars adventure are quite high (think to the tune of around $1100 per person per day). Of course, Disney has not released pricing information or an opening date yet.
Epcot D23 Announcements
Heading into D23, everyone expected more details on the big Epcot reimagining that has already begun. Disney didn’t disappoint and gave us a look at what to expect in the near future. The reimagining of Epcot is the largest Disney Park transformation in history.
Right off the bat, Disney uses the wording that they want to make Epcot “more Disney”. This will likely be a mixed bag for Epcot traditionalists who wish to keep Disney characters from taking over Epcot.
New World Neighborhoods
The first significant change is the reimagining of Future World into 3 different neighborhoods, making 4 total with World Showcase. The three new neighborhoods are World Celebration, World Discovery, and World Nature.
Each of the neighborhoods will be filled with new and authentic experiences that speak to the authenticity and innovation of the world.
Though there were no announcements of a new country being added to World Showcase, there are some changes coming in the future.
Canada and China
Both Canada and China are upgrading the movie for their pavilions. “Canada Far and Wide in Circlevision 360” is set to debut in January 2020 with new scenes and a new story.
China’s new movie is titled “Wondrous China”. The movie takes guests all around the country to see it’s beauty and culture. It will be presented in a 360 degree format.
There are definitely some exciting things coming to France pavilion. We’ve known about Remy’s Ratatoullie Adventure for quite some time. However, they revealed the expected opening date in Summer of 2020.
Also coming in the summer of 2020 is the new Le Creperie de Paris. This restaurant will offer both Quick Service and Table Service options.
Finally, starting in January 2020, guest will be able to experience Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along.
However, the biggest news in World Showcase was saved for United Kingdom Pavilion. Disney confirmed a new Mary Poppins attraction, though details are scant.
Not only will there be a Mary Poppins attraction, but Cherry Tree Lane itself will be constructed within the UK pavilion. Guests can walk down Cherry Tree Lane and enter into the Banks’ house where their adventure will begin.
Unfortunately, they provided no actual details for the Mary Poppins ride itself.
HarmoniUS is the name given to the new nighttime spectacular coming to Epcot after the limited time run of Epcot Forever. This is described as the largest nighttime spectacular at any Disney park.
The score will be comprised of familiar Disney favorites as interpreted by musicians around the world. There will be massive moving set pieces, custom built LED panels, choreographed fountains, lasers, pyrotechnics and more.
HarmoniUS debuts in 2020.
This neighborhood is comprised of Spaceship Earth and the Central strip of present day Future World. This entire section will receive a pretty massive face lift and complete reimagining.
Based on concept art, it appears the design will transition from the current wide open expanse of concrete to one full of lush nature. Truly, it looks stunning.
The entire entrance area to Epcot is being reimagined to give a different Epcot experience. This will include a redesigned fountain, sweeping green spaces, and new pathways to meander. Jokingly, Bob Chapek reassures everyone that there will be more shade.
In line with rumors which have been floating around for a while now, Spaceship Earth will undergo a complete refurbishment on the inside. The ride is being redesigned around the theme of how storytelling has united people through history.
There will be new narration and a new musical score to accompany the “story light” which guides us on the journey. Many of the first scenes will remain the same theme but will receive enhancements from the story light. The later scenes will be completely redone.
A New Pavilion
A new, and as yet unnamed, pavilion will be another major feature in World Celebration. The building will be home base for the various Epcot festivals that occur throughout the year.
However, the biggest impact is in the design of the pavilion itself. Disney bills it as totally unique architecture, and it sure does look like it. My favorite features of it are the park located on the top level and what will surely be some stunning views of the park.
I can only imagine the upcharge events Disney will have there for fireworks viewing…
More World Celebration D23 Announcements
Dreamers Point is a new area at the exit of Spaceship Earth. It is designed to give guests an unparalleled view of the beauty of Epcot.
There is a new Walt Disney statue, the ultimate dreamer, for guests to visit with.
In the end, there aren’t a ton of details, but there will be a wishing tree in an enchanted forest and a story fountain designed to celebrate the power of Disney storytelling.
The neighborhood known as World Nature will focus on understanding and preserving the beauty and inspiration of nature. Included in this space are The Land and The Seas with Nemo & Friends.
The Land pavilion will have a new film, titled “Awesome Planet” which begins showing in January 2020. However, the biggest addition to World Nature is the new Journey of Water.
Journey of Water
Moana is finally getting her place at Disney World! This highly popular character has noticeably only had small parts to play in Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Until now!
Journey of Water is a Moana inspired area will be located on the way leading towards The Seas with Nemo and Friends.
So far, Journey of Water is described as a water maze which will allow guest to interact with “magical, living water” in a fun and beautiful setting. Here, the water will have a life and a mind like it’s own, just like the Ocean in “Moana”.
One can only assume that Moana will meet guests somewhere in this space as well!
World Discovery is a place where science, technology, and intergalactic exploration are at the helm. Of course, the biggest addition to World Discovery is the new Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind attraction.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind
Words cannot describe how excited I am for this attraction. The concept is that you are in a Galaxarium (think planetarium type setting) learning about the differences between Earth and Xandar.
After the presentation in the Galaxarium, guests are invited to board a Nova spaceship to have the opportunity to see Earth from space. All goes according to plan until the Guardians of the Galaxy show up. Then you are off on an adventure!
This ride is described by Disney Imagineering as a storytelling coaster. The car rotates a full 360 degrees, pointing your attention to the action. It will also have the first reverse launch in a Disney park.
The other significant addition to World Discovery is the long anticipated “Space Restaurant”. This restaurant will be located in an expanded Mission: Space pavilion.
We were officially told the name of the restaurant: Space 220. The 220 indicates how many miles you are from earth when dining at the restaurant.
The restaurant will showcase both daytime and nighttime views of space and earth. To enter the restaurant, you board a special elevator which will bring you to a space station for this one of a kind dining experience.
Space 220 is slated to open this winter, though no exact date is given. I anticipate Space 220 will become a highly coveted dining reservation. I recommend you bone up on how to improve your chances of getting a difficult Disney dining reservations if you want to eat here.
Disney announced the addition of the Play! Pavilion several months ago but provided new details at D23 2019. This pavilion is designed to be highly interactive, allowing guests to interact with characters and other guests in new ways.
Guests can work with Edna Mode to rid the world of dubious fashion choices. They can also have a water balloon fight with Huey, Duey, Louie, and Webby.
It was specifically stated that Play! Pavilion will open in time for Disney World’s 50th Anniversary celebration in 2021.
Walt Disney Imagineering Presents The Epcot Experience
Beginning in October, Epcot guests can view models and concept art of the Epcot redesign up close and personal. This will include engaging and interactive exhibits which allow guests to join into the excitement of all the changes coming to Epcot.
This will be located in the Odyssey Events Pavilion.
Other Disney World D23 Announcements
While Epcot certainly had the most exciting D23 announcements, the rest of Disney World was not left out in the cold.
Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railroad
At present, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railroad is slated to open at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the spring of 2020. It was delayed from it’s original opening date of Fall 2019.
At D23, Disney revealed some concept art to show what the famous Chinese Theater will look like as the entrance to Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railroad.
Bob Chapek announced a new technology which will be released in late 2020. It is known as Disney Genie and will be a new app on your phone that gives advanced capabilities.
The general goal behind Disney Genie is to make planning a Disney vacation easier and more efficient. It will allow you to make customized itineraries of your plans.
Disney Genie allows you to dictate what you want to do and it will evaluate the best schedule for you to accomplish those goals. And you can change your mind about what you want to do at any time and it will re-optimize your plans.
Disney Parks Blog also states, “If you don’t want to worry about making reservations in multiple steps, Disney Genie will even take care of that for you.” They don’t clarify this statement at all, so I’m not sure exactly what they mean. But I am intrigued.
I’m not going to lie, I’m a little dubious about this one. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of anything that makes planning easier. However, I’m a bit concerned with Disney’s track record in having functioning apps. My Disney Experience, the current platform for Disney World planning, is notorious for crashing and having major glitches.
This does not bode well for Disney Genie, but time will tell.
Reflections: A Disney Lakeside Lodge
Disney previously announced this upcoming Disney Vacation Club resort. However, they provided more details with the D23 announcements.
They describe Reflections as a classic country lodge, reimagined. The accommodations will include A-frame houses as well as tree houses to go with the standard villas.
And what is a new resort without a new restaurant? This new Table Service restaurants will be situated along the shores of Bay Lake, evoking thoughts of the bayou. It will be themed to Princess and the Frog.
Not gonna lie, I’m pretty darn excited about this one…
Cirque du Soleil
Disney finally announced a replacement for the Cirque du Soliel show at Disney Springs which ended last year. For the first time, Cirque du Soleil is teaming up with Walt Disney Animations and the Disney Imagineers to create a show specifically tailored to Disney World.
It is said to combine the heart and soul of Disney storytelling with the beauty and artistry of Cirque du Soleil.
The show begins previews on March 20, 2020 and officially opens April 17, 2020.
Final Thoughts on the D23 Announcements
So, there you have it! All of the big Disney World D23 announcements! Needless to say, this is a lot to take in, especially regarding Epcot. I think there are a lot of exciting things coming to Disney World in the next few years.
I hope that as much as possible will be completed by the 50th anniversary in 2021, but that might be a pipe dream on my part.
The changes at Epcot look to be simply stunning. I can’t wait to take a walk through all of those green spaces. One of the reasons that Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival is my favorites has to do with the beauty of all the flowers. I can only imagine that an entire park full of flowers, trees, and nature will be amazing.
I’m not so sure about introducing all of these characters and intellectual property to Epcot, but I recognize that it’s a sign of the times.
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What are your thoughts on the D23 announcements? Are you excited for the future of Disney World or disappointed with the coming changes? Let me know in the comments below! And don’t forget to follow The Disney Journey on Pinterest and Facebook.