Over the weekend, Disney fans converged at Disney’s Destination D23 in Florida to learn what’s new and what’s next for all things Disney. Topics up for discussion at the event included new film releases, Disney+ series and new attractions in the theme parks.
Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Chairman, Josh D’Amaro, took the stage on Sept. 8 to share a closer look at what’s headed to Disney Parks, Disney Resorts and Disney Cruise Line. Here are some of the event’s biggest announcements, including a long-awaited opening date for Walt Disney World’s new Moana-themed attraction and a Pirates of the Caribbean-themed lounge coming to Magic Kingdom.
EPCOT’s Moana Attraction Sets an Opening Date
This fall, EPCOT guests will get their chance to make waves — literally — when “Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana” officially opens in World Nature on Oct. 16.
A self-guided exploration trail, the attraction invites guests to follow and better understand the water cycle’s journey through a series of interactive water experiences. An additional surprise announcement revealed that a new Moana meet-and-greet will also debut on Oct. 16. Moana will greet guests in a dedicated space across from Journey of Water.
That’s not all EPCOT has in store for guests in the coming months. Fans of the classic Soarin’ Over California attraction will be happy to know it will make its return to EPCOT on Sept. 22 for a limited time as part of the Disney 100 celebration. And beginning Dec. 5, the skies over EPCOT will light up with a brand-new nighttime spectacular, “Luminous The Symphony of Us.” December 2023 will also mark another milestone for EPCOT’s transformation with the completion of the World Celebration neighborhood.
And finally, the Test Track is gearing up for a revamp. The ride, which is a collaboration between Walt Disney Imagineering and Chevrolet, will be reimagined to include inspiration from World of Motion.
New ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ Bar Is in the Works
If it’s a pirate’s life for you, then wake up me hearties because a “Pirates of the Caribbean”-themed lounge is coming to Adventureland at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Park. The lounge will extend the story of the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction and will feature a treat for nostalgic fans: the Barker Bird, or Peg-Leg Pete as he’s also known, who used to greet Adventureland visitors from his perch outside the attraction, will be featured in the new lounge.
While a timeline wasn’t shared for the new space, on the more immediate horizon another iconic Disney Parks character will be arriving at Magic Kingdom. The infamous Hatbox Ghost featured in Disneyland’s version of Haunted Mansion will materialize in Walt Disney World’s version of the ride in late November 2023.
Lastly, another iconic Disney World attraction will also get a major update when a new version of Country Bear Jamboree debuts in 2024. In the new show, the iconic bears will reinterpret classic Disney songs through a country music lens, taking inspiration from Nashville’s musical revue legacy.
New Character Interactions—A New Disney Princess and a Nostalgic Favorite
EPCOT, Disneyland and Disneyland Paris are all gearing up to welcome Asha, the central character from the upcoming animated film “Wish,” for meet-and-greets with guests. The exact date of her in-park debut has yet to be revealed, but the film opens in U.S. theaters on Nov. 22. Fans got a first look at Asha on stage during Destination D23.
— Brooke Geiger McDonald (@BrookeGMcDonald) September 10, 2023
In addition to Asha, EPCOT just brought back a fan-favorite character for meet-and-greets. On Sept. 10, beloved purple dragon, Figment, the star of the attraction Journey Into Imagination With Figment, began greeting visitors daily in the Imagination Pavilion.
New Ahsoka Adventures Coming to Star Tours
This coming spring, adventures from the television series Ahsoka will be integrated into the Star Tours attractions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida, Disneyland Park in California and Disneyland Paris. Fans can currently watch Ahsoka on Disney+ and the show’s main character, Ahsoka, has recently started greeting guests at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyland Park.
The announcement was teased by Walt Disney Imagineer Scott Trowbridge earlier this year at Star Wars Celebration in London when he confirmed the attraction would soon be traveling to new destinations rooted in upcoming storytelling.
“Because our storytelling is so integrated, we’re actually going to be going to some places that haven’t been seen yet,” Trowbridge said on April 9. “There’s a lot of Star Wars storytelling that we announced this weekend — a lot of new destinations — so you can assume that 3PO and our Starspeeder are going to get caught up right in the middle of a lot of that action right alongside some characters and some situations that I can’t wait to share.”
Additional Highlights From Destination D23
The Disney news just kept on coming, so here’s a quick summary of the other big announcements:
A total overhaul of Disney’s Animal Kingdom has been announced for Dinoland U.S.A. The land will be re-themed to represent a region known as “the tropical Americas”, potentially integrating elements from “Encanto” and “Indiana Jones.” Nearby, the Tree of Life theater will also be debuting a new “Zootopia”-themed show, replacing “It’s Tough to Be a Bug.”
Disney Cruise Line shared the names of its upcoming seventh ship, Disney Adventure, and the new island destination, Disney Lookout Cay at Lighthouse Point.
Updates from the international parks highlighted upcoming new lands: Fantasy Springs at Tokyo Disney Resort, World of Frozen at Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, a Zootopia-themed land at Shanghai Disney Resort and a “Frozen”-themed land at Disneyland Paris.
And finally, D23, the official Disney fan club that presents Destination D23, announced big changes to its major biennial event, D23 Expo. In 2024, it will evolve into “D23 — The Ultimate Disney Fan Event.” The revamped event is expected to be a week-long celebration, with all D23 presentations finding a new home at the Honda Center, allowing for almost double the attendee capacity.