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Disney World Has the Next Few Years on Lock

By Rick Munarriz – Nov 18, 2018 at 3:00PM

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Disney showed off its big spending plans last week at IAAPA, and then at Saturday's Destination D enthusiast expo.

Disney (DIS -0.76%) has spent the past few days touting its good fortune in Florida. It took advantage of the annual International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions' industry trade show in Disney World's backyard to show off the Skyliner aerial gondola system that will whisk guests from select resorts and a couple of its theme parks starting next year. It then released the hounds during this weekend's D23 Destination D enthusiast event. 

The media giant didn't introduce any new rides on Saturday morning, but it did shed some more light on the big investments it will be making at Disney World in the next couple of years. It also unveiled a few new shows. 

  • The two new rides that will anchor Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, Disney's most ambitious expansion project in 20 years, now have names. Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run will have people piloting Han Solo's signature spaceship, and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance will put users in the middle of a galactic battle.
  • A pair of nighttime shows will hit Epcot in 2019 and 2020. The park will also be getting a Beauty and the Beast singalong. The previously announced Ratatouille ride now has a name: Remy's Ratatouille Adventure.
  • Back at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Wonderful World of Animation will be the latest nighttime show that blends high-def projections, music, and pyrotechnics. It will makes its debut in May.
Mickey and Minnie in a daytime parade at Disney's Magic Kingdom.

Image source: Disney.

Raising the bar

Disney's theme-parks business is doing just fine. It was the only Disney segment to post an increase in revenue and operating income in fiscal 2017. The theme parks built on that performance with double-digit growth in revenue and segment operating income in fiscal 2018. 

Theme parks have been a bright spot for Disney, and they've earned Disney the right to earmark billions in capital expenditures to take its resort to the next level. Disney offered up some more concept art for the Star Wars-themed hotel that will essentially be a license to print money. It also revealed some more details on Reflections, a 900-room nature-inspired lodge that was recently announced.

Disney turned heads last month when it boosted prices for its annual passes for the second time this year. It costs as much as 15% more than it did a year ago to buy an annual pass to Disney's expanding Florida resort. It's now showing why it can afford to get aggressive with its price increases. Fans who are bellyaching now will inevitably keep paying the heftier ransoms, and shareholders won't mind at all. 

Rick Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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