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Disney Moves to Beef Up Its Theme Parks

By Rick Munarriz - Aug 23, 2019 at 2:53PM

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Changes are coming to Disney's theme parks -- and just in time, given the recently languishing attendance at its stateside attractions.

The D23 Expo 2019 kicks off today in California, giving hardcore Disney (DIS 2.48%) fans a full weekend slate of announcements and unveilings across its widening media empire. Disney has been making waves for all the wrong reasons this week -- Spider-Man's departure from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and a former accountant's claim that revenue recognition at its theme parks division was inflated through at least fiscal 2017 -- and it can use the opportunity to dictate the narrative for a change. 

The big day for theme park news will be Sunday, but Disney offered up some juicy nuggets on Thursday ahead of that segment's presentation. We now have names for the Star Wars-themed hotel currently going vertical at Disney World and for the Marvel-inspired areas being worked on at Disneyland Paris and Disney California Adventure. We also now have more artwork and models of upcoming changes and attractions at Disney World, including a Moana-based water feature that will be the focal point of the massive multiyear makeover of its meandering Epcot park.

An artist's rendering of a family checking out a suite at Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser hotel.

Image source: Disney.

We're going inn

It's been two years since Disney announced plans for a Star Wars hotel within a droid's throw of Disney World's Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge expansion. Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser will be the name of the new upscale lodging experience, which will be similar to a cruise ship experience with an exotic port of call. Each stay will be booked as a two-night immersive journey in which guests become participants in story lines that will play out when they're not being shuttled over to the adjacent Galaxy's Edge. It won't be cheap, but there's no official word on pricing until we get closer to an actual opening date. 

We also now know that the superhero-themed expansions at Disneyland Paris and Disney California Adventure will be called Avengers Campus, themed as a recruiting outpost for the superhero collective. More details on the actual attractions that will debut at Avengers Campus will come on Sunday during the D23 theme parks presentation. 

Disney also showed off more artwork for Epcot, which is going through a massive transformation ahead of Disney World's turning 50 come late 2021. Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana is the only new attraction that was unveiled on Thursday, seemingly an interactive walk-through experience through a tropical water display. Epcot figures to be a major component of Sunday's presentation.

None of the news unveiled this week will help lift Disney attendance in the near term. The media giant's theme park segment posted a surprising year-over-year drop in attendance at its domestic theme parks for its latest quarter, and the additions unveiled on Thursday won't be available for another year or more.

Disney can still use a confidence boost after a rough week on the news front, though. It also doesn't help that investors are getting nervous about owning consumer goods stocks with recessionary fears percolating. Let's see how investors feel at the other end of this important weekend for the House of Mouse.  

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