Disney unveiled new details about its multi-year transformation of Epcot, its upcoming innovative Star Wars hotel, and several other attractions coming to its parks across the globe during a two-hour panel at the company’s D23 Expo in Anaheim over the weekend.
Details included updates on a Spider-Man ride coming to Disney California Adventure Park, a Moana attraction and an overhaul of the Epcot theme park in Florida.
Here’s a breakdown of the major announcements:
A Starcruiser with fabulous views
Visitors to Disney’s “Star Wars”-themed land in Orlando can stay immersed in a galaxy far, far away by spending two nights in a themed hotel that will be called “Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser.”
In the “Star Wars” hotel concept in Orlando, guests will board the Halcyon, a “legendary ship with an unparalleled level of service,” said Ann Morrow Johnson, creative director at Walt Disney Imagineering.
Resembling the experience of taking a cruise, guests check in at a terminal at Walt Disney World and enter a launch pod for a simulated trip into space to board the Starcruiser.
Once there, visitors interact with an alien crew, learn about the ship’s navigation and defense systems and train with a lightsaber. They’ll also enjoy a “port day” at Batuu, the fictional planet of Disney’s “Galaxy’s Edge” land opening at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando this week. (Disneyland’s “Star Wars” land is already open.)
Disney has emphasized the interactivity of the new “Star Wars” land, and the hotel extends that idea. The choices made on the Halcyon “affect how your ‘Star Wars’ story unfolds,” Johnson said.
Many details about the hotel have yet to be announced: Disney did not reveal when it would open, how many rooms it will have or its galactic prices. The company did note that every room will have a stellar view — a digital screen that looks out into the cosmos).
Epcot transformation: Mary Poppins, Moana, fireworks and more
Beyond “Star Wars,” Disney outlined major developments to Epcot, which opened in 1982 as a futuristic World’s Fair. To revitalize the aging park, Disney revealed a slew of plans: a Moana attraction called “Journey of Water,” a Mary Poppins attraction in the United Kingdom pavilion, and an overhaul of the 37-year-old “Spaceship Earth” ride, housed inside the park’s iconic geodesic centerpiece.
“Journey of Water, Inspired by “Moana” will be the first experience inspired by the hit Walt Disney Animation Studios film. This lush exploration trail will invite guests to meet and play with magical, living water. The water will have a life of its own – just like Moana’s friend, the ocean – and guests will learn about the importance of the natural water cycle.”
Epcot will also debut two new nighttime fireworks shows — “Epcot Forever” and “HarmonioUS,” the latter described as “the largest nighttime spectacular ever created for a Disney park.”
The park is also being reorganized into four neighborhoods: World Discover, World Nature, World Celebration and the existing World Showcase.
“Epcot will be unified with four neighborhoods that each speak to important aspects of the world and its people: World Showcase, World Celebration, World Nature and World Discovery. These neighborhoods will be filled with new experiences rooted in authenticity and innovation that take guests to new destinations, where the real is made fantastic in a celebration of curiosity, hands-on wonder and the magic of possibility.”
Epcot, which some fans think has lost its direction in recent years, is undergoing “the biggest transformation of any park we’ve ever accomplished,” according to Bob Chapek, Disney’s chairman of parks, experiences and products.
The new Epcot will be “more Disney, more family, more timely and more relevant,” he said.
“Guests will be able to visualize these exciting plans for Epcot when doors open Oct. 1, 2019, for Walt Disney Imagineering presents the Epcot Experience in the Odyssey Events Pavilion. They will discover engaging and interactive exhibits that showcase the relentless innovation, energy and excitement driving the park’s future throughout this unprecedented period of transformation.”
Marvel to play a starring role
Marvel is going to play a bigger part in Disney theme parks, connected by a single-story arc across several international properties.
Previously-announced Marvel lands in Disney’s California Adventure park and Disneyland Paris will be called “Avengers Campus” and “become part of an interconnected, global story” that also involves a third Marvel location at Hong Kong Disneyland.
But don’t expect an “Avengers Campus” to open a location at the flagship Walt Disney World resort in Florida: a 1994 agreement gave Universal Studios exclusive rights to operate a Marvel-themed land east of the Mississippi River.
In another awkward intellectual property dispute, Disney revealed a Spider-Man ride coming to “Avengers Campus,” despite the recent news that the Disney’s talks with Sony to renew film rights to Spider-Man fell through. In the ride, guests “sling webs to help Spider-Man collect Spider-Bots that have run amok.”
A new Disney Cruise Line ship and private island
Chapek announced the first of the three ships – the Disney Wish – will be delivered in late 2021 and will set sail in January 2022. Rapunzel will grace the stern of the new vessel.
“With three new ships joining our fleet, we thought this would be an incredible opportunity to add another unique destination to our ports of call. We looked all over The Bahamas and Caribbean for an ideal location that would enable us to create new experiences, while celebrating the culture of this amazing region,” Chapek said.
“The three new ships will be powered by liquefied natural gas and, at approximately 144,000 gross tons and 1,250 guest staterooms, will be slightly larger than the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy.”
Disney also unveiled details about a new island experience in The Bahamas at a new Disney port on the island of Eleuthera called Lighthouse Point.
Disney Cruise Line completed its purchase of Lighthouse Point earlier this year. Construction could begin in 2020 with completion in late 2022 or 2023.
Disney Genie to show you the way
The modernizing of Disney Parks didn’t stop at new rides and lands. The company unveiled a new digital product called Disney Genie that recommends custom itineraries for “princesses, thrill seekers and foodies,” automatically making dining reservations and securing Fast Passes.
“Disney Genie will make planning easier and more fun by providing guests customized itineraries geared to princesses, thrill seekers, foodies, families and more. Guests will even be able to tell Disney Genie what they want to experience, and it will quickly evaluate millions of options to present them with an optimal day.”