The Walt Disney Company’s annual Destination D23 fan event took over Walt Disney World last weekend. Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products Chairman Josh D’Amaro was there to talk to fans, and changes hinted at just a few months ago are rapidly being transformed into new adventures at the Disney family of theme parks.
Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger this past May disclosed in an earnings call that Disney planned to invest $17 billion over the next 10 years in the state of Florida.
While the intimate details on where Disney executives would spend that money remained a mystery, many began to speculate on potential future theme park expansions.
Destination D23 culminated with a presentation led by D’Amaro, updating fans on current and future projects at Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, and the international Disney theme parks.
Here are the significant updates fans are most excited about.
Zootopia Show Coming To Animal Kingdom
A new show inspired by the Disney animated film Zootopia will make its way to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The show will be located at the current location of “It’s Tough to Be A Bug,” the theater found within the park’s Tree of Life. D’Amaro did not give an exact timeline for the show’s debut.
Some believe the current attraction is one of the best Animal Kingdom rides & attractions.
Country Bear Jamboree Gets A Refresh
Since 1971, Magic Kingdom visitors have had the chance to catch a performance of the Country Bear Jamboree, a stage show starring a cast of audio-animatronic bears. More than 50 years later, a new version of the show, the Country Bear Musical Jamboree, will replace the original, debuting in 2024.
Fans of the original are cautiously optimistic. Lindsay Brookshier, Content Director for MickeyVisit.com, says, “Like many Country Bear Musical Jamboree fans, I am relieved to see that this attraction is staying at Walt Disney World. Part of the appeal of the Country Bear Musical Jamboree music is the humor, so I hope that Disney keeps that emotion alive in this new rendition to keep the originality of the attraction intact.”
Pirate-Themed Tavern Arriving At Magic Kingdom
A new dining experience is on its way to Magic Kingdom. D’Amaro shared that a pirate-themed tavern would open in Adventureland. Details were sparse, including whether this would be an entirely new location or a reimagining of a current restaurant.
Epcot Thrill Ride Will Get An Update
One of Epcot’s most popular rides, Test Track, will undergo changes soon, though D’Amaro did not announce a timeline. A third iteration of this ride was a pleasant surprise to fans.
Theme park journalist Carly Terzigni explains, “The original Test Track was a favorite of mine growing up, so I’m excited to see what this new version will look like. I’m especially curious to see how Disney Imagineers intend to incorporate elements of World of Motion, the original transportation pavilion ride from Epcot’s opening day until 1996 when it closed to make way for Test Track.”
Epcot Welcomes Back Figment Meet And Greet
D’Amaro wasted no time rolling out the latest changes at Walt Disney World. The day following the presentation, fans welcomed back Figment, a purple dragon seen as an Epcot icon since 1982.
“Figment has had a fiercely loyal fan following for decades, and it was only a matter of time before he returned to greeting guests in the park,” Terzigni explains, “The demand for more Figment representation has risen recently, including a wildly popular popcorn bucket that debuted in 2022. Fans will gladly wait hours for a little piece of Figment!”
Journey Of Water Opens In October
Epcot’s next attraction, Journey Of Water, Inspired By Moana, will officially open to guests on October 16, following weeks of media and Annual Passholder previews. The walk-through attraction uses motion-sensor technology that allows guests to interact with their surrounding environment while learning about the water cycle.
Throughout the experience, guests can feel like they are controlling the water by moving their bodies. The water-centric area is a welcome environment for guests to cool off on a hot Florida day.
New Animatronic Arrives At Haunted Mansion
The Haunted Mansion at Magic Kingdom will look different starting in late November. D’Amaro announced that The Hatbox Ghost, a character original to the Haunted Mansion who’s featured in the new film and beloved by the ride’s biggest fans, will be installed later this fall.
Disney Imagineers added the audio-animatronic figure to the Disneyland Resort version of Haunted Mansion in 2015, but it has never appeared in Walt Disney World.
New Fireworks Show To Debut At Epcot
Epcot has cycled through a few different fireworks shows over the last few years since the long-running Illuminations: Reflections of Earth ended in 2019.
The name of the newest Epcot nighttime spectacular, revealed at Destination D23, will be “Luminous: A Symphony of Us.” The new fireworks show will debut on December 5, 2023, just in time for the busy holiday season.
New Avengers Ride Coming To Disneyland
Few updates were given on work happening at Disneyland Resort at Destination D23. This is largely due to the fact that the event is held in Florida, and there are more Walt Disney World-specific fans in attendance.
Disneyland news is typically more plentiful at the D23 Expo, which is held in Disneyland’s backyard. However, fans did learn about developments coming out of Avengers Campus at the Disneyland Resort, where work continues on the land’s next ride.
In addition to concept art revealing a first look at the ride vehicles, Disney Imagineers followed up with an update on Instagram stating that the ride will use “large-scale built environments.” Brookshier notes that this gives fans much to look forward to.
“I am hopeful this hint might instead point in the direction of this Avengers Campus attraction being larger in scale, similar to how we see large-scale environments and media used in popular rides like Rise of the Resistance.”
New Land Animal Kingdom Theme – “Tropical Americas”
Perhaps the most significant announcement from Destination D23, albeit one of the most vague, was when D’Amaro spoke about Animal Kingdom.
Walt Disney Imagineering is planning to reimagine Dinoland U.S.A. at Disney’s Animal Kingdom into a new land inspired by a region sometimes referred to as “tropical Americas.” According to the Disney Parks website, experiences inspired by both the adventures of Indiana Jones and the animated film Encanto are being considered.
While details surrounding this project are still emerging, the idea of updating the area is needed, according to Brookshier, who says Dinoland “has been in desperate need of transformation. The idea of Tropical Americas replacing this land, including the possible incorporation of Encanto and Indiana Jones, would be a welcome change. Some fans might be sad to see Dinoland and DINOSAUR go, but this is a welcome breath of fresh air that Animal Kingdom needs.”
Discussion Of Possible Magic Kingdom Expansion
Even more vague was the discussion of a potential expansion at Magic Kingdom. This is a conversation D’Amaro started with fans about a year ago, and this year provided no meaningful update other than the fact that it’s a conversation that’s still happening. If true, new rides and shows could expand the perimeter of Magic Kingdom beyond Adventureland.
Terzigni notes that any possible park expansion is an idea worth exploring. “Magic Kingdom is the most popular theme park on the planet, and it certainly feels that way when you visit. Expanding the park would allow for more elbow room, plus new rides and shows is always a welcome change in my book.”
According to D’Amaro, “Things are about to go into overdrive at Magic Kingdom,” and only time will tell to what extent that statement rings true.