Slinky Dog Dash ride at Toy Story Land in Disney World; photo by Matt Stroshane
Alien Swirling Saucers ride at Disney World; concept art courtesy Disney
The new Together Forver Fireworks show opens in April at Disneyland; courtesy Disney.
Exciting concept for new Star Wars themed hotel at Disneyworld; c. Disney/LucasFilm
New Marvel attraction coming to Hong Kong Disneyland; c. Disney

At the annual fan-con #D23, organized by Disney’s most loyal fans in Tokyo this month, the company’s top executives revealed that characters from Pixar, Marvel and classic Disney franchises would power new developments and expansions at properties worldwide. Here are some of the most exciting announcements for family travelers, who will also have lots of special summer-only events to look forward to at all the parks.

Walt Disney World, Orlando News

As Disneyworld prepares for its 50th anniversary in 2021, a lot of investment is flowing into the 40-square-mile park. Fans got updates on Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge and the Star Wars-themed resort hotel from Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Bob Chapek. Here’s our take from his media team.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Hollywood Studios

This highly anticipated new land is set to open in 2019, both at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disneyland Park – including the creation of a full-sized fleet of X-wing star fighters and a life-size Millennium Falcon starship. The immersive land set on the planet of Batuu will include two attractions that allow guests to have control of their experiences, likely using the same spectacular technology innovated for “Pandora: World of Avatar” last year at Animal Kingdom. One attraction will put guests inside a Star Destroyer during a battle between the First Order and the Resistance; another gives them the chance to fly the Millennium Falcon. Expect character interactions with Chewie, BB8 and members of the First Order, plus wander through a toy shop with some handcrafted toys in the funky street market run by a Toydarian, from “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.”

Star Wars-Themed Hotel at Hollywood Studios

Fans can live out their Star Wars adventures, and will be encouraged to dress the part, with an immersive (here’s that word again!) experience at a groundbreaking new Star Wars–themed hotel going to Orlando. From the concept art, this could be LED screen ‘windows’ with views of an extraterrestrial environment, or interactive décor. The hotel experience will be “seamlessly connected” to the Star Wars land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and, on arrival, guests will board a starship and depart on a multi-day Star Wars adventure. An opening date for the new hotel has not been announced.

Guardians of the Galaxy at Epcot Future World

Larger-than-life super heroes will descend upon Epcot with the opening of a “Guardians of the Galaxy” attraction. Based on the millennial favorite, 80’s themed comedy sci-fi movies, this family attraction will feature a brand-new, innovative ride system – one of the longest enclosed roller coasters in the world – opening by 2021.

Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

The first ever ride-through attraction themed to Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, it takes guests on a journey inside the wacky and unpredictable world of Disney Channel’s Emmy Award-winning Mickey Mouse cartoon shorts, with an as yet unspecified “multi-dimensional experience.” Coming in 2019.

New Pixar Show at Animal Kingdom

This new, family-friendly live show features Russell and Dug from Disney•Pixar’s “Up” as they discover bird species from around the world. Premieres April 22, 2018.

Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios

The long-awaited, 11-acre Toy Story Land will transport guests feeling like tiny creatures into Andy’s backyard, where he’s forgotten to pick up 400 building blocks and other familiar toys. Why should you feel tiny? Well, the Woody and Buzz figures that greet you are said to be as tall as a school bus! The new zone will have two new rides. “Slinky Dog Dash” is a family-friendly coaster (for riders 38″ and up) that we previewed with VR headsets at a Disney media lunch. It’s great fun with lots of camel hump moves — like a Slinky going down shallow stairs — that little coaster fans just love. Spin around with little green aliens aboard the other ride, “Alien Swirling Saucers,” instead of in tea cups. Opens June 30, 2018.

Disneyland Resort, Anaheim News

Executives shared updates on the previously announced Pixar Fest and Pixar Pier coming to the Disneyland Resort for a very Pixarish summer 2018. The most excitement is the refresh of Paradise Pier, which is becoming Pixar Pier at Disney California Adventure. The Pier will host four newly themed neighborhoods, new character interactions, shops and food outlets, as well as the new Incredicoaster inspired by the newest Disney•Pixar film, “Incredibles 2.” In addition to “The Incredibles” neighborhood, there’s a “Toy Story Mania!” one and, in coming years, an “Inside Out” attraction and a fourth new neighborhood themed to Pixar stories.

The popular Mickey’s Fun Ferris wheel will have a Pixar transformation, as will midway games inspired by characters from “A Bug’s Life,” “La Luna” and “WALL·E”. The first-ever Pixar Fest begins April 13 with a showing of Pixar short films, and areas around Paradise Gardens with crafts tables for the littlest guests. There’s also a promise of new nightly fun and eventually, a high-tech, light splashed Incredibles float at the “Paint the Night” parade. There’s a new fireworks show, “Together Forever – A Pixar Nighttime Spectacular,” coming soon too. Pixar Pier opens June 23, 2018.

Let’s not overlook the news that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, with its own full-sized fleet of X-wing star fighters and a life-size Millennium Falcon starship – but no hotel — will also rise in Disneyland by 2019. (For more details see above.)

Shanghai Disney Resort in the News

The company’s major Chinese park will get its own Disney•Pixar Toy Story Land on April 26, 2018. More details to come on that one.

Hong Kong Disneyland Goes More Marvel

Since its January 2017 opening, Iron Man Experience has become the park’s most popular attraction, so an entire Marvel-themed area is underway at the resort. At #D23, there was talk about another, second Marvel based attraction that will allow guests to join super heroes Ant-Man and The Wasp in their battle with Arnim Zola and his army of Hydra swarm bots. And yes, Hong Kong Disneyland has had its own Toy Story Land since 2011.

Tokyo Disney Resort Gets Super Heroes Too

As host to the #D23 convention, the Tokyo Disney Resort team was able to announce their own big news, and if these attractions are successful, we may see them roll out to other global parks in the future. First, Tokyo Disneyland’s Tomorrowland will be home to the first-ever “Big Hero 6” attraction, where guests will ride around with Baymax from the popular animated film about kid superheroes.

A new “Beauty and the Beast” inspired area will come to Tokyo Fantasyland, featuring an attraction set to the music of the film, as well as the park’s first full-scale live entertainment theater. At Toontown, expect to find a new design studio where guests can meet Minnie Mouse.

At Tokyo DisneySea, a sister park to Tokyo Disneyland with seven themed harbors with their own water-themed rides and adventures, visitors will find a new version of “Soarin’” the popular 360-movie attraction.

Adventures by Disney Welcomes Japan

Adventures by Disney also made an exciting announcement to the largely Japanese audience; that a new escorted Japan vacation will soon be available. The trip will offer “immersive, cultural experiences” according to the press department, such as visiting temples in Kyoto, learning sword techniques with a master samurai, exploring the bustling city of Tokyo and more. Booking opens later this spring for 2019 family adventures.

Disneyland Paris, France Turns 25 and Super

Oooo la la, the French are not impervious to Marvel super heroes, so they are being introduced to Walt Disney Studios Park with the characters Captain America, Spider-Man, Star-Lord, and Black Widow. As part of a reimagined, high speed “Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster,” guests will soon be able to team up with Iron Man and the Avengers for a wild ride. Marvel arrives in June 10, 2018 to celebrate the French park’s 25th anniversary. (Pixar has not been forgotten, however, since Disneyland Paris has had a Toy Story Land of its own since August, 2010.)

This year, from Sept. 20-23, you and the kids can join the Disneyland Paris Magic Run Weekend and be your own heroes. In addition to a half marathon, Sports Tours International is doing land arrangements so families can enjoy kids’ races, sorted for ages 1-12 years, all taking place within the park grounds. Disney characters are positioned along the course to cheer competitors on.

And looking forward, France visitors will find more “Marvels” — a new Hotel New York-The Art of Marvel — opening at the resort in 2020.

We’ll just have to wait for more news of that at the next #D23.

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