Disney Themeparks Going Where They Haven't Gone Before
A Rendering of Star Wars Land to open in Florida & California in the future.
See Animal Kingdom Illuminate your Imagination with Rivers of Light
The familiar and the new mingle in this Artists Concept for the new Star Wars Land at Disney parks.

Wondering what’s up and coming for the 2017 season at the Disney theme parks? Whether you’re heading to Orlando, Hong Kong or a galaxy far, far away, there’s a lot new in store. 

Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Orlando

This popular Florida park has eagerly been awaiting a reboot for the past few years. They couldn’t extend park hours or host Disney’s signature spectacle of fireworks without disturbing the wild animals’ natural need for time off from humans. The other need was for Animal Kingdom to launch more interactive high-tech rides as promised by its film franchise, “Avatar.”

But the entire park has transformed itself after dark with new nighttime entertainment experiences. The newly opened “Rivers of Light,” offers an evening show combining live music, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery projected on the Discovery River. The park’s Tree of Life also springs to life with animation and lights to capture the imagination. 

The Kilimanjaro Safaris ride also extended for a new after dark adventure. By the light of sunset, African wild dogs and hyenas join the Noah’s Ark of other animals now seen by visitors from moving vehicles on a safari adventure. Read more about night experiences at Animal Kingdom here.

Avatar Comes to Animal Kingdom

Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger joined the Imagineers working on the new land, plus filmmakers James Cameron and Jon Landau, to talk about Pandora – The World of AVATAR, and its E-ticket attraction, AVATAR Flight of Passage opening in May 2017.

As part of the largest expansion in the park’s history, Avatar’s new land will look like the film’s Pandora: floating mountains, a bioluminescent forest and winged creatures known as Banshees. They announced that the new ride, AVATAR Flight of Passage, “allows guests to soar on a Banshee [for] a birds-eye view of the beauty and grandeur of the world of Pandora on an aerial rite of passage.” It will be interesting to see how environmental themes, so key to the film’s story, are played out here.

Star Wars Brings the Force to Both U.S. Parks

Both major U.S. parks, Disney Hollywood Studio in Orlando and Disneyland in Anaheim plan to welcome “Star Wars”-themed lands. Each 14-acre land will transport guests to a “new” planet with two new attractions, a customized mission on the Millennium Falcon and an epic Star Wars adventure that puts guests in the middle of a climactic battle.

Star Wars Thrills Guests

The very successful Stars Wars attractions dating to 1987, and some perks from the popular themed fan Star Wars Weekends held each spring, are now part of what’s called “Star Wars Land” available year round — and it’s 30 years later. This is not be to be confused with the eventual, fully immersive new parks slated to open on both coasts.

Star Tours – The Adventures Continue now includes a new adventure featuring locations and characters from the upcoming film, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Star Wars Launch Bay showcases meet n’ greets with stars of the film, new alien characters, merchandise, and behind-the-scenes exhibits. Check out Launch Bay located in the Animation Courtyard at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. At Tomorrowland at Disneyland park, join a reimagined Super Hero HQ featuring photo and autograph opportunities with Captain America and Thor, as well as a new Iron Man Tech Presented by Stark Industries.

The Jedi Training Academy designed for kids will get new characters and a new villain from the Disney XD series “Star Wars Rebels.”

Both the east and western parks offer a seasonal event, “Season of the Force,” that opened early 2016. For Tomorrowland, an expansion of Stars Wars Land includes more entertainment, food outlets and — hold onto your light sabres — a reimagined Space Mountain called “Hyperspace Mountain.” In Orlando, “Season of the Force” features a brililant new fireworks show set to the iconic score of the “Star Wars” movies.

Star Wars Land of the Future

Of that development, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Bob Chapek told the Orlando Sentinel in May, “It’s going to bring even more of the Star Wars story to life with an entirely new planet on the outer rim, a frontier town that’s one of the last stops before wild space.” Let us remind you that the Star Wars action is already a lot of fun in both parks. Chapek added, “It will be full of characters both familiar and not-so-familiar. Everything will be in story from the food to the entertainment to the attractions.” Love the sound of it!

Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Florida

The new 11-acre Toy Story Land embodies the charm of Honey I Shrunk the Kids” to transport guests — now the size of toys — into Andy’s backyard. This premise is at the heart of two new attractions and one expanded favorite.

Climb aboard the new family-friendly roller coaster themed to Slinky Dog, and a new Alien saucers spinning to special effects lighting and music. The midway ride Toy Story Mania! was also recently upgraded so that guests can take aim at 3D objects in a variety of fast-paced games, with an expansion that adds a third track to this popular attraction. The entire park should be complete by mid 2018.

Soarin’ Ride Comes to Orlando, Gets Reboot in Anaheim

Soarin’ Around the World, the popular sit back and enjoy a bird’s eye cinematic view of the world ride at Epcot in Orlando . 

The ride which launched Disney California Adventure in Anaheim by being themed to the state of California, features new programming showcasing the manmade and natural wonders of the entire world.

Iron Man Unveiled for Hong Kong Disneyland

In exciting news for the Hong Kong Disneyland park, Iron Man becomes a meet n’ greet character as part of the Iron Man Experience. Featuring the first Marvel attraction at any Disney park, the company acquired the powerhouse comic book company in 2009.

Hong Kong guests can board the Iron Wing, flying above the streets and skyline of Hong Kong, to take flight and battle Hydra alongside fan-favorite Avenger, Iron Man.

News from Shanghai

The Walt Disney company has opened Shanghai Disneyland, China’s second Disney theme park. The buzz promised a lot of focus on classic Mickey Mouse stories, Tarzan, Pirates of Caribbean lore, and “Beauty and the Beast” along with plenty of Chinese mythology, of course, to give it a local coating of pixie dust.

Shanghai is Much More than a Themepark

Different than the other global resorts, Shanghai Disney Resort unveiled a full-size Broadway style theatre called the Walt Disney Grand. The first production to premiere there is an all-Mandarin version of the hit, “The Lion King,” which requires a separate ticket.

Shops and restaurants are large areas of focus, too. According to the company, the development is designed for multiple-day visits and will include Shanghai Disneyland; two richly themed hotels; Disneytown, an international shopping, dining and entertainment district; the 98-acre Wishing Star Park, a recreational area with peaceful gardens and a glittering lake. The resort’s hotels are, according to their news release, the “elegant” 420- room Shanghai Disneyland Hotel and the “playful” 800-room Toy Story Hotel. Shanghai Disney Resort features a newly designed Magic Kingdom-style theme park, Shanghai Disneyland, with six themed lands filled with immersive attractions, including Adventure Isle, Gardens of Imagination, Mickey Avenue, Tomorrowland, Treasure Cove and Fantasyland. These lands are located around the iconic Enchanted Storybook Castle, the tallest, largest and most interactive castle at any Disney park.

The Shanghai Disney Resort is a joint venture between The Walt Disney Company and Shanghai Shendi Group, which holds 57% of the shares of the owner companies. Disney, however, has a 70% stake in the joint venture management company which is responsible for creating, developing and operating the resort on behalf of the owner companies.

Check out this post about the June 2016 Shanghai Disneyland opening for more details and stay tuned for more news in late 2017, as we hear about the latest in Disney fun.

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