What news do you most want to hear from Disney's D23 Expo?

August 20, 2019, 12:43 PM · Disney's biennial D23 Expo kicks off this weekend, and we are expecting the usual flood of news about upcoming projects at the Disney theme parks around the world. But what news are you most hoping to hear this weekend?

The highlight of the expo for theme park fans should be Disney Parks chairman Bob Chapek's presentation at 10:30am on Sunday. I will be covering the presentation live from inside the hall, so please check Theme Park Insider on Sunday morning for all the news and our reactions to it. But theme park news can drop at any time during the event, which makes the D23 Expo weekend one of the most exciting of the year for Disney and theme park fans. (Remember that Disney officially announced Star Wars land four years ago during the Disney Studios presentation, not the Disney Parks one.)

I suspect that many of us are hoping that Disney blows us away with some surprise, but there are four big milestones looming for the parks — any one of which could merit fresh reveals at the expo. And there's that big, secret company project that Disney has teased on the D23 Expo schedule, too.

Disney California Adventure's "Marvel" land

This satellite campus for Stark Industries is slated to open next summer in the old A Bug's Land space, so it would seem natural that Chapek would give us a fresh batch of concept art for the land, including the name for its Spider-Man ride. This is the next big project to open at a Disney park, so it's time for Disney to start managing fan expectations here. Does Disney go all-in on the hype machine for this one... or does it lay up and try to shift our attention to other projects, thus suggesting that this superhero-themed land might not be the big deal that some fans were hoping for?

Walt Disney World's 50th anniversary

The world's most popular theme park resort celebrates its 50th birthday on October 1, 2021. We know that the Magic Kingdom is getting an installation of Shanghai Disneyland's Tron Lightcycle Power Run coaster, almost assuredly in time for that anniversary. And Epcot is getting that new Play pavilion by then, too. How much detail will Chapek give us about what everyone expects will be the biggest celebration in Disney World's history? And will Disney move the D23 Expo to Orlando for a year to celebrate in 2021, as well?

Epcot's 40th anniversary

One year after Disney World turns 50, its second gate, Epcot, celebrates its 40th birthday. We expect that Epcot will be welcoming the opening of both its new Ratatouille dark ride and Guardians of the Galaxy coaster by then, but will Chapek give us more details about those experiences... specifically, their opening dates? And what about that reimagined park entrance that Disney has announced?

The Walt Disney Company's 100th anniversary

Remember that the "23" in D23 stands for 1923, the year that Walt and his brother Roy founded what is now The Walt Disney Company. That means the company will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2023, just four years from now. There's a chance that the 100th anniversary is the secret company project that Disney promised to announce at D23. But if that is something else, what might Disney announce as a celebration at its theme parks? After the relatively mediocre 100 Years of Magic celebration of Walt's 100th birthday in 2001, fans will be looking for something much, much bigger for the company's centennial.

The secret project

We've speculated on this one before, with the knowledge that this is something that will not duplicate announcements coming during the Disney Parks or Disney Studios presentations. But that does not mean that the secret project will not involve the parks (or the studio) in some way. Could Disney be staring its own social network or getting into the ISP business, as we've envisioned, or this just be the kick-off for the centennial celebrations? We will find out later this week... but is this going to be the biggest news of the expo for theme park fans or not?

Replies (15)

August 20, 2019 at 1:20 PM

I want some real details about the Star Wars Hotel at WDW (price, required length of stay, lead time for reservations, and level of immersion). WDW has been pretty mum on the whole thing as construction progress has picked up steam with a structure that appears over halfway complete. Even if Disney is over a year from allowing guests to book rooms here, the opening of Galaxy's Edge at DHS and the upcoming conclusion to Disney's first SW Trilogy releasing at the end of the year should be reason enough to piggyback on the excitement surrounding Star Wars - In other words, it's not going to get much higher, especially with an uncertain future for the IP that appears brighter for the TV prospects than any future movie project.

All of the other tangible projects listed are pretty well known already with only the Guardians coaster missing crucial details. Ratatouille and Tron are both clones of existing rides from other parks, while I think we all know what WDW50 is going to be as well as the EPCOT refresh. Because of the missing e-ticket attraction (Guardians will essentially become the e-ticket for the land), the Marvel Land sounds like it will be underwhelming, so any announcements will go over like a lead balloon for most fans.

I didn't really think about the company's 100th Anniversary, but really what are they going to do that's so groundbreaking other than find ways to get people to open their wallets? Anything aside from unearthing Song of the South from the back corner of the Disney Vault would just be categorized as rampant commercialism disguised as nostalgia.

August 20, 2019 at 1:00 PM

BTMR and Jungle Cruise are both getting refurbs next year as well, so plenty going on for the lead up to WDW's 50th.

August 20, 2019 at 1:04 PM

Did you see this Russell .......


No prices, but things are moving right along

August 20, 2019 at 1:16 PM

Yeah - I saw those transports that remind me of the goofy "mobile lounges" used at one of my local airports (IAD). However, I want to hear these details from Disney, not some leak site that often reports on things before they get the official green light - Don't even get me started on some of the leaks that have come out about what executives cut from Galaxy's Edge because of increased labor costs and other budget cuts. I also think Disney needs to prepare guests for the cost of this experience. It's slowly coming out that virtually everything in DHS's Galaxy's Edge is more expensive than similar items elsewhere at WDW - what could be called a "Star Wars Tax". That wasn't really the case at DL's version since pretty much everything is more expensive in California. The Florida crowds may not be as receptive to what may be perceived as price gouging, so it's important for Disney to get ahead of the game, especially if they want to charge $2,000+ for 2 nights/3 days in this hotel. It's essential that they lay out what guests are getting for what would be one of the most expensive standard-sized hotel rooms in the world.

August 20, 2019 at 1:38 PM

I’m a Disneyland Paris Annual Pass holder, so I’m hoping to hear much more about the expansion coming to Walt Disney Studios Park. I would also like an announcement or two for the park next door - Parc Disneyland is calling out for a new ride. A clone of Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway could be just what the doctor ordered ????

August 20, 2019 at 1:53 PM

For sure, Disney will push up the price of all SWGE souvenirs at DHS as time goes by. That's a given. I can't see the Savi light saber staying at $200 for long, unless they keep increasing the cost of the add-ons.

Odd how things go thru our minds, but I've wondered a few times how the WDW tourist will get on taking a light saber home with them on the plane ... :) It looks to be an unwieldly piece of hardware ?

It's blogs like WDWNT that will be our source to the price increases. For me, going in 2 or 3 times a month, I'm unlikely to see those little increases, but for them going in almost daily, they spot it straight away.

I also wonder if the new hotel will be open to non-guests? Maybe it will be so exclusive you have to be staying there to even be allowed into the reception area.

I still think they missed the boat with the Star Wars thing. Just imagine if was all in a new land (gate 5) and under a dome with a projected universe and flying spacecraft et-al. Just amazing for sure.

August 20, 2019 at 2:13 PM

I have a feeling this year isn't going to contain any new announcements for the parks and only additional details on things that have already been announced. A majority of the projects planned between now and the mid-2020s were announced at the last D23 or have been announced since then, so unless something comes completely out of left field there likely won't be any surprises this time. The biggest things I'd like to know are opening dates for Tron and Guardians in Florida since those will dictate the timing of my next trip, but I'm sure this isn't the event where those things will be revealed.

As a whole, the secret project is the only thing likely to be revealed this weekend that I'm particularly curious about, but even that is more curiosity than excitement. Across the board, a lot of Disney's recent projects have been somewhat lackluster, which makes it hard to get hyped up for what is likely to be more of the same.

August 20, 2019 at 2:39 PM

I think Disney has done an amazing job executing the overall look at feel of Galaxy's Edge. There's no way they were going to please everyone out there, and I have no doubt that some amazing pie-in-the-sky ideas got cut when the rubber meets the road. I'm more annoyed about the concepts that Imagineers actually built into the land only to see bean counters cut because they didn't want to pay the people needed to operate it properly - the empty space next to Oga's was reportedly designed to be a dinner theater with Oga's serving as the pre-show lounge ala the Tiki Room, yet accountants didn't want to pay for the actors needed to pull off the show so it was cut and the neighboring empty space that could conceivably be used to double Oga's capacity sits vacant. Imagineering was working on drones that could fly in and out of the land, but I do have to say that the sound effects replicating these arrivals/departures are pretty convincing without the visual of an actual ship flying overhead. There are also reports that Imagineers wanted the interactive elements of the land to be more character driven with actors playing roles wandering throughout the land working with guests on "missions". Instead, Disney reportedly slashed all of the high-wage actors from the land, leaving a handful of costumed characters that don't do much other than take photos, the glitchy Disney Parks Play App, and the standard CMs to pick up the slack. In fact, the GE CMs were asked to develop their own backstory and are expected to interact with guests as if they were actors even though they don't get paid a dime more than a similar CM assigned to another park of the park. As a result, the guest experience with the immersiveness of the land is very uneven with some CMs really stepping up, some going too far to the point of being off-putting, and others that you couldn't get to say "Bright Suns" if it were 110 degrees outside. You can see the potential in the land, and having spent more than a couple hours interacting in Ghost Town Alive at Knott's just a few days after visiting Galaxy's Edge, it's clear that Disney dropped the ball on what was promised in terms of the land being fully immersive and interactive.

I don't think there's any way that Disney would build a theme park dedicated to a single IP unless it were deliberately aimed at the luxury market (and priced as such). They would really alienate fans and limit their audience for such a project. I think that's why the Star Wars hotel only has 100 rooms and will be so expensive.

I didn't have any issues getting my lightsaber home from California as my "carry on item". I kept the blade attached to the hilt in its carrying bag, and it fit easily lengthwise in the overhead bin on our Southwest plane. I was understandably paranoid when other passengers eyeballed the bin above my seat for their bags, but did not have to make a scene to prevent any oblivious guests from shoving their oversized rolling bag into the bin. If you have a really large suitcase, you could probably even stash the lightsaber (hilt detached from the blade) in your checked luggage since the padded bag and clothing in the suitcase would be more than enough to protect it from even the most careless baggage handlers.

You'd have to think that the hotel will be exclusive to guests ONLY, which would be a first for a WDW resort. If I was paying $2,000 to stay in the hotel, I would expect that exclusivity and not want riff-raff snooping around my starship.

It's not only price creep that worries me, it's the fact that food and beverage inside Galaxy's Edge at DHS is on average 5-10% higher than similar selections found at WDW parks. The prices for items at DHS's Galaxy's Edge are identical to what they're charging in California, but what Disney fails to recognize is that similar items in Florida typically carry lower prices. For instance, a custom draft beer in PtWoA is $10-12, while a draft beer in Galaxy's Edge is $12-14. Same thing with the food items that are a dollar or two more expensive than analogs from other in-park restaurants throughout WDW. In DL, food is generally more expensive, so the prices inside Galaxy's Edge are pretty much in line with those outside the new land, plus there's the exclusivity of drinking beer and alcohol inside Disneyland which carries some level of cache. I think Disney is in for an awakening when guests are not scooping up the food and beverage inside DHS at the same rate as in California, and it all comes down to the fact that WDW food and beverage prices are generally cheaper than in California, but the Galaxy's Edge prices are the same on both coasts.

August 20, 2019 at 6:42 PM

Still wish the "Secret Walt Disney Company Project" reveal Thursday involved bringing back Walt Disney himself! Oh well....

August 21, 2019 at 9:32 AM

I'm incredibly curious to see if Disney is forced to address the "whistle blower" controversy hitting social media this week. Knowing Disney, I bet they won't. But, will it hit a boiling point?

Admittedly, I'll eat up every little thing they announce, post, tweet, or otherwise release into the universe over the next few days. I can't wait!

August 21, 2019 at 11:54 AM

I hope the big news won`t be yet more social mediazzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

A new theme park? All the plans for the 50th? Now that`s exciting news!

August 21, 2019 at 1:53 PM

Things I want announced at D23:

New monorail trains; new Skyliner from Rivera Resort to Fr resorts, old River Country area, Wilderness Lodge, & TTC; new Skyliner from Saratoga Springs to EPCOT.

M.K.: new large theatre, new Beauty and Beast attraction, renovation of Buzz, @ new small attraction to replace Stitch.

EPCOT: new family friendly coaster, reimagination of Journey featuring Dreamweaver and of course Figment, & as others have said a new Mary Poppins themed carousel.

DHS: new Pixar Place featuring tethered RRC, new UP attraction, & new Toy Story themed carousel. Also new walkway from RRC to Toy Story land.

AK: rethemed Everest with working Yeti on independent framework.

DS: new great restaurants & more outstanding free entertainment.

PI: new rethemed PI West of Western Expressway featuring night clubs with ticketed admission. Reopened AC featuring the great cast members many of whom still work at WDW.

DCA: new family friendly roller coaster & new small theatre.

DL: reimagined TTA like at MK, new roller coaster behind speedway, & Rockets moved back to top of new TTA.

New Big Disney Project: new Disney Seas theme park at WDW to counter Universal ( always hope but probably not)

Disney has done great things recently in the theme parks .

August 21, 2019 at 11:18 PM

"I think Disney is in for an awakening when guests are not scooping up the food and beverage inside DHS at the same rate as in California"
I don't think that will be a problem - everyone I know (except for me) that gone to Star Wars Land has bought things in the land. People may not want to pay but they will because they traveled all the way there and already spent a ton of $$, they're not going to stop a couple bucks short of having the full experience. Heck I know lots of people that don't even want or care about the blue/green milks but they all buy it anyway!

August 22, 2019 at 7:00 PM

IMO Epcot needs the most love from Disney Brass.

However, the only things that would draw any excitement.

1.) A complete re-imagining of Disneyland, Tomorrowland (Save Space Mountain)

2.) Even investment in Epcot. The play pavilion and GotG as a whole, were underwhelming. I think I feel that way only because Epcot has been neglected far too long.
(Yes I know, were getting a pavilion back, GoTG, A new entrance and spine more fitting retro Epcot, a major Spaceship Earth referb, New ride and Show in France, A new China Circle Vision 360 in digital and seamless screens and possibly a new country.) All that was due to neglect. Other parks have received new attractions and re-imagining at a faster pace. (AK got a lot of love with new area for FLK (14), Nemo the Musical (06), Expedition Everest (06), and Pandora (17) Rivers of Light (17). In that time, Epcot saw a re-imagine of Test Track. To me, Epcot projects are too small. I am hoping for GotG to be a success, still don't know how Marvel fits in Epcot.

3.) The next phases of DHS

4.) Scraping Pirates at MK in favor of the Shanghai version (if you want nostalgia, go to DLR.)

August 22, 2019 at 9:39 PM

I expected to be underwhelmed by the "Secret Walt Disney Company Project" announcement and the One Day At Disney documentary series for Disney+ underwhelmed as planned. Almost as underwhelming as many of those Disney shifts are for many Cast Members company wide! Still plea for the fifth;)

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