Disney Parks, Experience and Products Chairman Josh D'Amaro kicked off the IAAPA Expo Virtual Education Conference with a keynote address that was both optimistic and defiant, while also providing an update on new Disney attractions around the world.
D'Amaro spoke from the Disneyland Resort in his pre-recorded presentation, giving fans a look at the upcoming Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure, among other sites.
You can see the recently installed Quinjet over D'Amaro's shoulder in the screen capture above. That was just one of several upcoming projects that D'Amaro previewed during his talk. He also provided fresh looks at the Worldwide Engineering Brigade headquarters that will be the home to the new interactive Spider-Man ride at DCA.
As well as the attraction's ride vehicles, on track.
D'Amaro also shared video of the "omnicoaster" cars in action on the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind coaster at Walt Disney World's Epcot.
We now can confirm that the ride will open with backward launch that will see the cars rotate 180 degrees as the reach the top of the ride's first hill.
D'Amaro also shared a photo of a physical mock-up if a cabin guest room inside the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser hotel now under construction at Walt Disney World.
Yet D'Amaro's presentation included no visual or verbal references to the TRON coaster at the Magic Kingdom, which should fuel rumors that the project is being mothballed and will not open for the resort's 50th anniversary next October 1, as had been expected. The projects that D'Amaro confirmed as going forward in his presentation were the Avengers Campuses at Disney California Adventure and Walt Disney Studios Paris, the Cars Route 66 makeover of the Studio Tour at WDSP, Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway and the Disneyland Hotel DVC tower at Disneyland, Zootopia at Shanghai Disneyland, Fantasy Springs at Tokyo DisneySea, The Art of Marvel Hotel at Disneyland Paris, Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind, Remy's Ratatouille Adventure, Harmonius, the Space 220 restaurant and the new entrance at Epcot, and the Star Wars hotel. And the "Princess and the Frog" makeover of Splash Mountain is still on, too.
D'Amaro only provided an opening date estimate for the Ratatouille attraction, which he said remained on schedule for a 2021 debut.
"Our properties have been likened into small cities," D'Amaro said, quoting California Governor Gavin Newsom's frequent explanation for why theme parks present a complex challenge for reopening during the pandemic.
"Walt Disney World property is nearly twice the size of Manhattan. We have a bus fleet the size of Atlanta. And if we counted all the boats at Walt Disney World, we'd have the seventh largest naval fleet in the world," D'Amaro said. "But unlike a real city, we can choreograph the procedures under which we actually operate. We can manage and control attendance, enforce protocols and adjust operations specifically to our business and our experience, and attractions can be modified to comply with safety recommendations."
D'Amaro again expressed the company's disappointment that it has not been able to reopen its California parks and that it has been forced to close its parks in France once again. But D'Amaro closed his presentation with a note of optimism and a challenge to the industry.
"When your foundation is rocked, but that foundation shows that it can withstand constant tremors, when your guests show their passion and yearning for your experiences, even when the gates are closed, when your cast members accomplish things in one week that would normally take a year, when you realize that the unthinkable or the impossible, or very much possible, then you have to ask yourself — what's next?," he said.
"Where can we go from here in the world that we find ourselves in today? Optimism, innovation, and courage — they will ultimately win the day. And at Disney, we aim high. At a recent town hall meeting, I had some Imagineers that I was speaking to, and I included my presentation with a simple call to action — I dare you. I dare you to dream bigger and differently. I dare you to say what you've always wanted to say. I dare you to throw out that dogma that has sometimes acting increments, rather than exponentially. I dare you to make yourself weak in the knees. I dare you to dare yourself.
"It's easy to get protective and defensive during a crisis. And while it's necessary to some extent. I believe that a crisis also creates opportunities for us to reinvent ourselves to think of our business and our industry in brand new ways. I dare us. I dare this industry — stand proudly on the foundation that we've built. Climb up on the shoulders of our legends. And then fly."
The IAAPA Virtual Education Conference this week replaces the annual IAAPA Attractions Expo in Orlando, which was canceled due to the ongoing pandemic.
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