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Disney's Imagineers tease Star Wars, Avatar projects at D23 convention

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Published: August 9, 2013 at 3:37 PM

Disney's putting on its biennial D23 convention in Anaheim, but there's no big Disney Parks presentation this time, so don't expect any official confirmation of new projects during the three-day event.

But that doesn't mean that Disney's Imagineers can't drop some hints. The Disney Parks pavilion at this year's D23 is completely devoted to celebrating the 60th anniversary of Walt Disney Imagineering, and the first displays you see after going through the pavilion's preshow spotlight three of Imagineering's biggest upcoming projects.

Disney Springs model

The first is a model of the Downtown Disney Orlando re-do, Disney Springs. But, let's face it, that's not the one you care about. What's this to the right, with those big crates labeled "Project Orange Harvest"?

R2D2

It's R2D2, chirping and rolling around the floor, while fans queue for a photo. (I loved the WDI nametag: Artoo, hometown "Naboo.") But these are not the droids we're looking for. What we want is up there, in that crate to the right.

Top secret Star Wars Land plans

Yep, it's the "top secret plans" to Walt Disney World's Star Wars Land. What's in 'em? Well, I told you this was a tease. That's as close as we're getting to them, for now.

On the other side of the Disney Springs model lies the other tease: The desk of an Imagineer working on Disney's Animal Kingdom's Avatar Land.

Avatar Land design

The host guarding the desk told me that the Imagineer "is just back from a research trip to Pandora." See? There's his backpack, complete with a luggage tag from the Burbank airport to Pandora station.

Pandora backpack

And the host even let me try it on for size. (It's heavy! Maybe the Avatar Land plans are in there, too?)

Ready for my trip to Avatar Land

Disney's prepared a quick video tour of other highlights from the pavilion, which includes a "Hatbox Ghost" animatronic, though without the elusive disappearing head effect.

D23 is sold out for tomorrow, and concludes Sunday. Later tonight, we'll bring you coverage of this morning's Imagineering presentation about Hong Kong Disneyland's Theme Park Insider Award-winning new attraction, Mystic Manor.

Readers' Opinions

From TH Creative on August 9, 2013 at 5:40 PM
Sure seems like Avatar is a done deal. So that would mean in the next three years Avatar, Carsland and Star Wars will dramatically expand their respective footprints at WDW. At the same time there are expansion plans for a Marvel presence in HKDL and the opening of the massive Disney parlk/resort in Shanghai.

Who was it that claimed the company is slow to develop projects?

From Dan Heaton on August 9, 2013 at 6:42 PM
Good points, TH. The big question is how long it will take for them to actually build the projects. They'll do them in phases, but it wouldn't be a surprise for these to take at least five years given the current track record.
From O T on August 9, 2013 at 6:48 PM
So the Na'vi will be wearing boots, that's a new one.
I was hoping Disney would do something with the massive car parking they are building. Something green like Universal has done but it looks they just leave it like that.
Also wouldn't there be a raised train track on the side of the pineapple building? Just can't find it.
Well to round it up, a lot of nothing to get exited about.
From TH Creative on August 9, 2013 at 7:18 PM
At Dan Heaton: I have posted this time and time again. The deadlines for WDW are not based upon "how fast can we build it?" They are based upon the 2021 model. 2021 is the 50th anniversary of WDW. The marketing campaign will be enormous and aggressive. The company (that is the largest and most prosperous communications/entertainment entity on the planet) has no need to "do it now."

Regardless of the "when" the Disney theme parks will maintain their (VERY healthy) marketshare. And there is absolutely zero competition that will draw significant (impact) business away from their models.

From James Trexen on August 9, 2013 at 10:03 PM
I thought Avatar was still 5 years away and won't be finished until 2018.
From Eddie Rudolph on August 10, 2013 at 5:57 AM
The Na'vi wont be wearing boots. The boots were for the avatars. I for one cannot wait to go to Pandora. Disney and Cameron together will be the ultimate them park experience. Also, DAK at night? Should be great.
From TH Creative on August 10, 2013 at 6:19 AM
Construction on Avatar is slated to begin in June 2014.
From Json Son on August 10, 2013 at 6:29 AM
at this point i don't care if it's Avatar, Star Wars, or Marvel, I just hope the attraction is good. i don't even care if it comes out in 2020. Despite Disney and all of their problems, i still believe in them.

IMO if it's an attraction that beats the Harry Potters FJ, then its a win.

From 184.91.152.216 on August 10, 2013 at 11:57 AM
Hey NIles ... What if the first TPI confab were to coincide with D23 2014 in So Cal?
From Jorge Arnoldson on August 10, 2013 at 12:26 PM
Disney made the biggest mistake by purchasing Marvel. Should have sold it to a different company.
From Gabriel Schroll on August 10, 2013 at 1:22 PM
Pretty exciting stuff, even if it is just a tease.

I will never understand how Disney decided to develop Hollywood Studios in the manner they did on the land they chose. I can't fathom much worse use of the acreage, with the parking lot sitting right in the middle of it. Had it been thought out better, the park could have been at least twice as big, but from the start, it was about as poorly planned as could be imagined.

So I look forward to Star Wars and CarsLand East, but until or unless the park is actually expanded, I can't say I'm ever going to truly be happy.

Expand the park out into the parking lot (which would require a complete rearranging of the bus area [and hey - an opportunity to finally get a monorail to the park!] and moving of the entrance). If parking garages can exist at Disneyland and Disney Springs, I don't see why HS can't have one or more. It's too small of a park, and no matter how many new attractions or lands they develop within its borders, it's still going to suffer.

From Phil B. on August 10, 2013 at 1:26 PM
Wait a minute, Disney is actually building an Avatar land? I thought they killed that project because nobody who likes Disney likes that movie and WDI hasn't updated the public at least once a week on the progress they are making. I read this on the internets so I thought it was true.
From Thomas Caselli on August 11, 2013 at 7:29 AM
Jorge, why was purchasing Marvel a big mistake? Gabriel, oh well, nobody can make everybody happy.
From Anon Mouse on August 12, 2013 at 2:58 PM
Fast is what Universal is doing. Disney is doing things very slowly. At least they know how to do a tease. Yay, tease.

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