Disney (NYSE:DIS) has created a Comicon-like event, D23 Expo, where it unveils new movies, updates to its theme parks, and other news to a swooning crowd of its biggest fans.
This year's event continued that tradition, and those in attendance were rewarded with huge news regarding the company's theme parks and its plans for some of its most iconic brands. Some of the announcements were complete surprises, and others provided hard news where previously rumors had run rampant.
It was a very busy D23, and some of the news that came out of the show had fans of various Disney properties wondering exactly when they should get in line both at theaters and at the company's theme parks.
Star Wars is coming
Perhaps the biggest news out of D23 was that the company plans a massive expansion of both its Disney World and Disney Land theme parks, with each getting a land themed to Star Wars. This has long been rumored -- especially for the Florida property, where the Disney's Hollywood Studios park has long been overdue for an overhaul -- but the scale of what the company has planned was a bit shocking.
The new Star Wars-themed lands will be the biggest ever single-theme expansion, at over 14 acres each. DHS will get the Florida version, while the Disneyland Park will be home to the California take on the "galaxy far, far away." The parks will include a revamped version of the current Star Tours attraction, with new experiences incorporated from the upcoming Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens as well as other signature rides and experiences the company detailed in a press release.
- Star Wars Launch Bay -- This interactive experience will take guests into the upcoming film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, with special exhibits and peeks behind the scenes, including opportunities to visit with new and favorite Star Wars characters, special merchandise, and food offerings.
- Jedi Training Academy -- A favorite of younger fans is reimagined with a new experience that includes new characters and a new villain to battle from the popular Disney XD series "Star Wars Rebels."
- Season of the Force -- This seasonal event, beginning early 2016, brings new experiences to both coasts. In Tomorrowland at Disneyland park, guests will explore the Star Wars galaxy with special entertainment throughout the land, themed food locations, and more. Guests also will be thrilled to climb aboard Hyperspace Mountain, a reimagining of the classic Space Mountain attraction, in which guests will join an X-wing Starfighter battle. At Disney's Hollywood Studios, guests will close out weekend nights with a new fireworks spectacular set to the iconic score of the Star Wars movies.
There will also be a ride at each park that lets users take control of the Millennium Falcon, and one that involves characters from The Force Awakens.
More park changes are coming
In addition to the Star Wars lands coming to both the Florida and California parks, Disney announced a number of other theme park additions.
- Toy Story Land: Building off the success of its Toy Story Mania! attraction, DHS will be getting an entire 11-acre land devoted to the film. "Guests will think they've been shrunk to the size of Woody and Buzz as they are surrounded by oversized toys that Andy has assembled using his vivid imagination," the company said in the press release. The new land will feature a family-friendly roller coaster as well as a ride based on the little green aliens from the film.
- Pandora: The World of Avatar: It had been previously announced that the James Cameron film was coming to Disney's Animal Kingdom, but the D23 event added details. The new land will launch along with the park adding nighttime hours. It will feature "a world that includes floating mountains, a bioluminescent forest and the winged creatures known as Banshees." The key ride will be Avatar Flight of Passage, which allows guests to soar on a Banshee over a vast alien world.
- Iron Man Experience: While rights issues prevent Disney from creating Marvel-themed rides at its U.S parks, Hong Kong Disneyland will get Iron Man Experience, the first Marvel attraction at any Disney park. The ride will take "guests on an epic adventure over the streets and in the sky above Hong Kong."
Big movie news, too
Though the theme park changes were front and center at D23, the company did make a number of major announcements regarding upcoming movies.
- Colin Trevorrow was named as the director of Star Wars: Episode IX. His previous credit of note is current megahit Jurassic World.
- Paul Rudd as Ant Man appears in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War.
- The company is planning live action versions of Pete's Dragon, The Jungle Book, and Sleeping Beauty.
- Orlando Bloom is returning in his role as Will Turner in Pirates of The Carribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.