Disney (NYSE:DIS) is hosting its D23 fan expo this weekend, and theme park buffs already know that the big presentation will take place on Saturday afternoon when Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Bob Chapek takes the stage. His presentation will feature a glimpse into upcoming attractions at Disney's global network of theme parks.
Disney World remains Disney's largest resort, home to four of the country's five most visited theme parks. Disney's theme parks business represents just 31% of Disney's revenue and 21% of its segment operating income, but as the larger cable business continues to languish it's going to have to step up and carry the growth baton. Upgrades at all four of its Disney World parks is important, especially after attendance declined last year.
We know that Toy Story Land is coming in 2018 and Star Wars Land in 2019. Chapek is likely to peel back the curtain of new attractions that Disney has to officially announce. The internet's alive with chatter, but most of it will never happen. Let's go park by park, handicapping the chances of the rumored additions being announced Saturday afternoon.
Chapek announced late last year that Epcot will be going through a major transformation. It's been Disney's slowest growing park in recent years, and the addition of Frozen Ever After and a globally inspired Soarin' update failed to drum up guest visits. Epcot needs to turn things up a notch, and Disney knows it.
- Guardians of the Galaxy ride (3-to-1 odds) -- Disney is limited in the Marvel properties that it can incorporate into its Florida parks given the licensing deal that Marvel struck with Comcast's (NASDAQ:CMCS.A) Universal Orlando before it was acquired. Thankfully for Disney, Guardians of the Galaxy is fair game. Disney's California Adventure recently transformed its Twilight Zone Tower of Terror attraction into a Guardians of the Galaxy-themed drop ride. Epcot is rumored to get something different, more along the lines of a family friendly indoor coaster as a replacement for the Universe of Energy and Wonders of Life pavilions. Disney has already filed permit applications to move facilities around in that section of the park to make a change possible.
- Ratatouille (4-to-1) -- Disney's World Showcase has become a popular place for folks seeking international cuisine and libations, but there's not a lack of rides for folks interested in a more traditional Disney experience. A trackless dark ride themed to Pixar's Ratatouille starring the French rodent chef opened in Disneyland Paris in 2014. There's also some permit filing that suggests it may be coming to the World Showcase adjacent to the France pavilion.
Disney's Hollywood Studios
Disney World's least visited park is finally getting the TLC it's been needing for years. One would think that Toy Story Land and more importantly Star Wars Land will be enough, but that may not be all that's in store for the park.
- The Great Mickey Ride (8-to-1) -- One of the few original remaining attractions at Disney's Hollywood Studios is The Great Movie Ride, a tribute to Hollywood classics over the decades. The attraction is housed behind the facade of the iconic Grauman's Chinese Theater. Its contract with TCM supposedly expires next year, freeing Disney to give the space a long overdue Mickey Mouse-themed ride. Recent permit requests suggest that changes may be coming to The Great Movie Ride, breathing new life into this earlier rumor.
- Disney's Hollywood Adventure (10-to-1) -- Disney CEO Bob Iger revealed two years ago -- at the company's shareholder meeting -- that Disney's Hollywood Studios was considering a name change. The park has been shuttering its studio-centric attractions including a backlot tram tour and its animation clinics. A popular replacement name that's been bandied about for a couple of years is Disney's Hollywood Adventure. A name change will come, but it may wait until after Star Wars Land opens as the mother of all exclamation points.
Disney World's Magic Kingdom is the most visited theme park on the planet, but even it isn't immune to needle-moving expansions. It's been a few years since New Fantasyland opened, making it a prime candidate for something new.
- Wreck-It Ralph attraction (4-to-1) -- A Wreck-It Ralph themed update to the offbeat Stitch Encounter attraction is being mentioned in several online circles. It's an odd suggestion since it doesn't make sense in Tomorrowland. Disney also just closed DisneyQuest, its haven for gamers that included a proprietary Wreck-It Ralph video game. However, Stitch Encounter is due for a makeover, and more importantly there's a Wreck-It Ralph sequel hitting theaters come March 2018.
- Tron Lightcycle Power Run (12-to-1) -- A Tron-themed coaster where guests board glowing motorbikes is a big hit at Shanghai Disneyland, and WDW News Today "confirmed" earlier this month that the thrill ride will replace the Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland Speedway. It doesn't seem like a big enough footprint to duplicate the Shanghai attraction, and it may be too soon to announce unless the speedway will be closing soon.
Disney's Animal Kingdom
Announcing a major addition to Disney's animal-centric park is unlikely. The park is still basking from May's debut of Pandora -- The World of Avatar. However, fans can always dream about Disneyland's Indiana Jones ride coming over. The only realistic thing that may be announced for Disney's Animal Kingdom is the Club 33 high-end membership lounge expansion that Disney revealed earlier this year would be coming to all four Disney World parks.
Saturday afternoon is going to be interesting for both Disney theme park fans as well as investors who realize how much of the heavy lifting will have to come from this segment.