Theme parks are back, baby!
Okay, fine, theme parks have been back for a while. For some, they weren’t even away for that long. But I, personally, have made two trips to Disneyland in the last six months — the first two out-of-state trips I’ve made anywhere since 2019 — which means that theme parks are back FOR ME. And I’m ready to start talking about them again!
A lot has happened in the world of theme parks since the last edition of this column — like, a LOT a lot — and I hope to tackle all of it one subject at a time in the months to come. But for now, let’s start by talking about arguably the single biggest news dump of the last two years, Disney’s D23 Expo!
Held in Anaheim back in September, D23 is essentially Disney’s version of San Diego Comic Con, where the company rolls out all of its biggest exhibits and announcements. (Or at least, the ones they didn’t already roll out at San Diego Comic Con.) We got animation news. We got Marvel news. We got Indiana Jones news. But most importantly, we got Parks news. Much to the anticipation of Parks fans all over the world, Disney Parks chairman Josh D’Amaro would take the D23 stage for the first time since the pandemic to lay out a roadmap of what Walt Disney Imagineering had in the works. This particular Parks panel was seen as being especially significant, given the threat of Universal’s newest Orlando park, Epic Universe, looming ever larger on the horizon. To stand up to a project like that, Disney would really have to wow us.
And they did… in a way.
Among the announcements made at the panel:
TRON Lightcycle Power Run at Magic Kingdom, a screw-for-screw replica of an existing Shanghai attraction, and which broke ground all the way back in February 2018, would finally open… in Spring of 2023.
Moana’s Journey of Water at EPCOT, essentially a big fancy fountain, likewise announced and begun in 2019, would also, finally, be finished… in late 2023.
The rest of EPCOT, once again under construction since 2019, is… coming along, I guess.
You’ll be able to meet Figment without having to ride his bad ride.
There’s a new statue.
One (1) new animatronic is coming to the Haunted Mansion some time in the next calendar year.
And Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will replace (read: reskin) Splash Mountain on both coasts in 2024.
Now, you may be thinking that none of that sounds like enough to compete with an entirely new theme park just a little ways down the road, slated to open all at once in 2025. You may be right, but clearly Disney themselves aren’t worried — or if they are, they aren’t showing it. Their fans have stood by them through thick and thin in the past, though it remains to be seen how far that fidelity can be stretched.
Interestingly, over in California, where Universal isn’t breathing down Disney’s neck, the news looks a lot sunnier. In addition to Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, a new E-Ticket ride was announced for Avengers Campus in California Adventure that — *sigh* — sure looks like a motion simulator, and Disneyland’s Toontown, which just closed earlier this year, will reopen in January 2023, having been refreshed and given an entirely new ride in the form of Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. All told, that’s a much faster turnaround time than we’re used to seeing from WDI. Disneyland Resort being my preferred vacation destination, I’m hardly inclined to complain. But what say you?
Feel free to use this space to discuss all things theme- or amusement park!
Optional Discussion Question(s): Whose side are you taking in the Great Theme Park Wars of the 2020s? Will Epic Universe get you to defect? Were you underwhelmed by D23? Did you even know it happened?
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