D23 Expo Coverage: Parks and Resorts Panel
Disney wants you to be... their... guest!
Yesterday afternoon, Disney Chairman of Parks and Resorts Tom Staggs (along with a slew of other fellow corporate pals, like Bruce Vaughn, Bob Weis, Kathy Mangum and George Kalogridis) made their anticipated D23 announcement of what changes and new additions fans can look forward to at Disney's six parks (yes, there are six now) around the world.
Learn more of what's coming after the jump.
First, I just wanted to point out that the presentation opened with Mickey Mouse beating the living hell out of a set of drums.
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Tom Staggs and Mickey then tossed some witty banter back and forth before getting down to business.
I have to admit, I was excited because I had heard there might be something big getting announced. Would it be a fifth park in Florida? A third park in Anaheim? What could it be?!? TELL ME!
Unfortunately, it was nothing like that. In my opinion, there were no real big announcements. Of course, that isn't to say that there aren't a bunch of cool things going on in the parks. Here are the breakdowns.
Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom: Orlando, Florida
The continuing Fantasyland overhaul is moving right along. Included in the completely revamped land will be Florida's own version of Ariel's Undersea Adventure (as seen already in California Adventure) and Belle's Cottage which will feature one of Disney's tiniest and most intricate audio animatronics yet: Lumiere. But the crown jewel (no pun intended) of the new Fantasyland will be the Seven Dwarfs Train Mine Coaster, which mixes the coaster aspects of rides like Big Thunder Mountain with the dark ride aspects of attractions like Snow White's Scary Adventures. The coolest aspect of the ride is the cart itself, which swings back and forth on a hinge. Here's a prototype of the cart they had on display--and a video.
Aulani: Ko Olina, Oahu, Hawaii
The new resort on Oahu's north shore is almost complete (it better be, seeing as how it opens on August 29th), and when it comes to style and aesthetics it appears to blow the Animal Kingdom Lodge in Florida and the Grand Californian in Anaheim completely out of the water. Even if you were to take the building off the shores of Hawaii and just look at it as a structure, it's pretty damn amazing. They showed footage of final details including a wall that "lava" runs down, as well as subtle sculpture elements carved into the "stone" surrounding the resort. Aulani will also feature hangout spots for all ages including a children's club called Aunty's Beach House, a teenaged hangout area with Internet access, and, of course, numerous adult "hangout" areas, also known as "spas" and "bars."
If you've been to the park in the past year or two, you know what's coming: Cars Land. They showed some progress photos of Luigi's Flying Tires and Radiator Springs Racers. Here's an example of the Lightning McQueen car that will be flying around the track.
Here are a few other photos of vehicles that you find on (and around) the ride as well.
They also announced that the ride would have a cool nod to Pixar's John Lasseter: Cast Member outfits will include a Lasseter-esque Hawaiian shirt. They also showed some artwork from Tail Light Caverns, a cave-like end section of Radiator Springs Racers. Instead of stalactites and stalagmites, cars will zoom around huge, glowing tail lights of vintage cars. Pretty bad ass.
The park's new entrance, which will be called Buena Vista Street when it opens next year, also got a bit of a mention. Here are a few photos of models they had on display (notice the red trolley cars that will run all the way from the front gate to Tower of Terror)...
...and the Carthay Circle Theater that will lie at the end of the street.
They also had this crazy fortune teller machine on display, though I'm not sure where in the parks it will go. The character's name is Destini; he looks a bit like Pepe from the Muppets. Destini is an amazing new piece of technology that blends audio animatronics with face recognition. He's completely automated, but by the way he interacts with people you would seriously think there is someone hidden behind a wall watching you. It was very cool to see kids (and adults, actually) interact with him.
Disneyland: Anaheim, California
Unfortunately, there isn't a whole lot to see here, folks. Disney seems to be putting a lot of their efforts and cash into the California Adventure overhaul (and rightfully so), so Disneyland appears as if it will remain mostly untouched for awhile. There are plans to install a new show/structure in Fantasyland called Fantasy Faire, and they also hinted at some new exclusive, Club 33-type opportunities in the future, like "...sitting down for dinner in the Haunted Mansion with Imagineers," but the information they gave was rather vague.
Shanghai Disney Resort: Pudong, Shanghai, China
Disney just broke ground on their sixth theme park resort this past April, and it isn't even slated to open until 2016, but vertical construction on the park is set to begin next spring. They showed a bunch of concept art of what they envision the park being, the most notable being the enormous castle that will stand at the park's center. Unlike many other Disney castles, the Shanghai castle will have four floors and include a sit-down restaurant, a Bibbity Bobbity Boutique, live shows, and more. It will also be the first Disney castle to have a ride travel through it. There will be a boat ride that begins somewhere in Fantasyland, then travels through and ends at the castle. Pretty sweet.
Now you just have to get to China.
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