D23 Parks Announcements - Reactions, Thoughts and Feelings

Image of Epcot Expansion
I meant to write this yesterday but my brain was still trying to process all of the parks related news that came out of this weekend's D23 announcements. If you follow me on Twitter you'll be aware of me having a bit of a...moment reacting to everything live as each announcement came through. What can I say, I get excited about Disney shit! Every year D23 delivers on the spine-tingling news that is developments to our beloved Disney Parks and this year was no exception. I know with the internet and such we already tend to know a lot about the stuff that's announced at these things but there's a certain touch of magic to having an Imagineer tell us about it officially on stage. But enough of me blabbing on, here's my reactions, thoughts and feelings on all of the major Parks news that came out of this year's D23!

Finally we received a new, more detailed piece of concept art for the Frozen themed coaster coming to the Arendelle expansion at Hong Kong Disneyland. Disney had previously released some concept art of the land in which a coaster could be seen, but very little other detail was shared of the attraction. As we can see from this image, the coaster will essentially be an adaptation of the existing Seven Dwarfs Mine Train concept with the 'swinging' coaster trains. Disney revealed that the coaster will start in Wandering Oaken's store before sending guests on an adventure with Sven, Olaf and Oaken! Interesting it was also announced that the Frozen Ever After boat ride will also appear in the expansion.

Image of Frozen Land Roller Coaster Hong Kong
I do love this - there's no denying how beloved Frozen is globally and lord knows Hong Kong Disneyland needs more attractions. I'm glad that in this expansion Disney have opted for more 'old school' style attractions with a rollercoaster and boat ride with animatronics and physical theming as opposed to something more screen/tech based. It adds that extra level of classic Disney magic to the park and I'm very excited to see how the landscape in the area will continue to develop and expand - I can only imagine how magical a glittering, snow covered Arendelle is going to look in the flesh!

Speaking of things Hong Kong Disneyland was crying out for, Disney also revealed more details about the castle development for the centre of the park. I'm guessing it was due to budgets that the original design of the park included a clone of the slightly...miniature Disneyland castle. Always felt like an odd choice in my opinion - especially against that dramatic natural mountain range backdrop! The Castle of Magical Dreams will house a Bibbidi Bobbity Boutique and will act as a blank canvas for both daytime shows and a night time spectacular similar to those seen at the other Disney parks around the world.

Image of Hong Kong Disneyland Castle
I was super excited to hear that the castle will be inspired by 13 different Disney stories, all centring around Disney princesses and heroines! For some reason I expected this castle to house an attraction as the other two most recent Disney castles do with the Paris dragon lair and Snow White thing in the Shanghai castle. I'll be interested to see what I make of this in real life as one of the things I actually really enjoyed about Hong Kong Disneyland was how cute and small everything was, and there's no denying this thing is an absolute beast!

It was also announced that the next new land to open at Shanghai Disneyland will be a Zootopia themed affair including entertainment, merchandise options, dining experiences and of course, a new E-ticket attraction for the park! It's the obvious next step for Shanghai Disneyland in my opinion - from what we saw when we visited last year, the Chinese guests are absolutely nuts for the Zootopia characters so it feels like the perfect place for the newer Disney IP to find a home in the parks. I will be excited to see what the attraction is, I imagine it's something to do with the train journey into Zootopia but with little-to-no details about what the ride actually entails the possibilities really are endless!

The thing that irks me slightly about this one is the fact that this is once again a whole movie IP as opposed to a more open concept. I'm absolutely not a Disney purist and actually really love the integration of the beloved movie IPs into the parks, but I do feel that theming whole lands to one IP can be a little restrictive. Especially somewhere like Shanghai Disneyland that does such an excellent job of steering away from the classic Disney land concepts as we know them in the other parks. It seems a shame to me that Disney Imagineering couldn't think of a broader concept for a land that Zootopia could form a natural part of, as they have done with Adventure Island and Tomorrowland.

Finally - more details on the first ever Mickey & Minnie themed attractions coming to Disney Hollywood Studios, Disneyland park and Disneyland Paris! It was revealed that the attraction will include an original storyline playing on the humour and styling found in the new Mickey & Minnie shorts, as well as a new song composed specifically for the ride! It's said that the ride will incorporate state of the art technology and visual effects to transport to cartoon world found in the shorts into a hilarious and fantastical immersive multi-dimensional experience.

I'm very, very excited for this attraction. As much as I was super bummed that the installation of this new ride meant the closure of my beloved Great Movie Ride, the new Mickey & Minnie shorts are bloody brilliant and hilarious and it'll be fab to bring some of that energy to the parks. There was always something a bit dated about the 'Toon Town' style of bringing the toons to the parks in the 90s so it's nice to see the parks updating this. Also, can we talk about that Disney Hollywood Studio version facade? One thing I was gutted to be losing from the Great Movie Ride was the amazing neon signage as you enter the first scene of the attraction so I'm relieved to see there's some sort of homage to this here.

Ohhhhh EPCOT, the updates for this park basically made me weep. I ADORE EPCOT. I love it with all my heart. It's just so weird, everything about it points to the fact that it shouldn't exist and yet, there it is. It's long been overdue an update and Disney definitely didn't do this one by halves! In what they've identified as the biggest park overhaul project they've ever undertaken, I'm absolutely blown away by the detail, imagination and passion that has clearly been poured into this project. Stand by as I gush about this some more, because I am absolutely in love.

Image of Cherry Tree Lane Expansion Epcot
First off let's talk about the Mary Poppins attraction coming to the UK. OK, so it's not the Tony Baxter dark ride that was once rumoured to be in the pipeline but from what details have been revealed so far I'm not mad at it. They're building Cherry Tree Lane! You'll actually get to venture inside the Banks family house and I'll be very shocked if all of the magic inside that place seen in the movie doesn't show up here for guests to enjoy. And apparently that's just where the adventure begins! If you ask me we'll be asked to jump into a street chalk drawing and enter the animated world seen in the Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (fuck yes I spelled that right first go!) but as to what the attraction will actually entail in terms of ride vehicles, who the fuck knows. Carousel horses maybe?

I ADORE the new branding. The way the pavilions have been reimagined is genius and pulled off in only the way Disney could. Replacing the likes of the Living Seas and Land pavilions we now have World Celebration, World Nature and World Discovery to compliment the already existing World Showcase. I love that the Imagineers have been sure to keep EPCOT's 'educational' roots at the core of each new land whilst bringing that touch of Disney magic and IPs to bring everything to life!

Image of EPCOT New Lands
I'm pretty obsessed with the new elevated outdoor platform that will sit at the back of Spaceship Earth. It feels very much like everything the Millennium Dome wanted to be but pulled off expertly instead of feeling dated and weird. It seems that after years of tried and failed Tomorrowland concepts Disney Imagineering have finally pulled off that futuristic vibe that hopefully won't feel dated after just a few years. I guess time will tell with that one. Oh, and we're getting a Walt statue in the park, which given how much passion we're all told he had for the EPCOT project brought a tear to my eye. I love every inch of that idea.

Ohhh my god Space 220 sounds absolutely incredible! A restaurant that really feels like you're dining in space! I really believe that this is an idea Disney have had on the table for years but have been waiting for the technology to catch up with their idea to be able to pull it off authentically. Guests will board an elevator that will transport them 220 miles above EPCOT itself, with "glass bottom" floors that will allow guests to glance down at the Florida landscape below. Honestly, this concept absolutely blows my mind and I can't wait for the menu details to be revealed!

I'll be here all day if I go ahead and discuss every aspect of the parks updates that were revealed this weekend, but that's my 'most excited' bits covered off. Suffice to say we're living in extremely exciting times for Disney Parks and as this behemoth of the theme park world continues to take huge strides in the possibilities of the themed entertainment landscape one can only dream of what next year's expo will bring!

Talk later xoxo,