The highly-anticipated D23 Expo 2022 presentation on Disney Parks, Experiences and Products has wrapped up. While the dust is still settling on Disney’s announced plans for the future, it’s time to quickly look at the highlights and lowlights from the presentation.
The presentation was a bit all over the place, but it contained some new things coming to Disneyland, Walt Disney World and Disney Cruise Line. We’ll focus on those announcements and present our thoughts on the best and worst of what’s to come – and what’s missing.
BEST: Happily Ever After Is Sort of Returning
Happily Ever After is coming back to the Magic Kingdom! Well, the theme song is at least. Disney announced the anthem will play during an “updated nighttime spectacular.”
JUST ANNOUNCED! Next year, the popular anthem “Happily Ever After” will play again when an updated nighttime spectacular returns to light up the skies over Cinderella Castle at @WaltDisneyWorld Resort in 2023. #D23Expo
— Disney Parks (@DisneyParks) September 11, 2022
The announcement was a bit confusing. At first it looked like Happily Ever After in its entirety would be returning, but in reality the song will lend itself into a new show. As happy as we are to see Disney Enchantment going away, it’ll be interesting to see how the theme of Happily Ever After fits into a different show.
WORST: That Figment Tease
A Figment character meet-and-greet is coming to EPCOT. That’s perfectly good news on its own, but it’s bizarre how Disney continues to ignore the Journey Into Imagination attraction. The build up to the meet-and-greet felt like it was ripe for an overhaul to the dated, aging Pavilion … but no such luck. Send some love to the Imagination Pavilion.
BEST: So Long, Harmonious
It says a lot that the two newest nighttime spectaculars at Walt Disney World are already being replaced. EPCOT’s nighttime spectacular, Harmonious, will be replaced next year during Disney’s 100th anniversary celebration.
Unfortunately, Disney didn’t offer any specifics on EPCOT’s new show. We imagine the infrastructure for Harmonious will be reused with new content, but we’ll have to wait and see.
WORST: No Specific Dates on Upcoming Projects
While Disney touched on several ongoing projects, they didn’t offer any specific opening dates. TRON Lightcycle Run will open in Spring 2023 at the Magic Kingdom. The Journey of Water walkthrough attraction at EPCOT will open in late 2023. Fantasmic! apparently reopens this year, but you’d only know that if you studied the jumbled slide on timelines.
Sidenote: TRON Lightcycle Run is operating with riders right now. Surely it’s a marketing play to delay its opening until Spring 2023, right? It could easily open this year.
BEST: The Disney Treasure
OK, so we might’ve called this one. As soon as it was revealed that the Disney Wish was themed to fantasy, or Fantasyland, we predicted the next Disney Cruise Line ship would be themed to Adventureland. The next ship in Disney Cruise Line’s fleet will be themed to adventure, though details on what that really means are vague.
The Disney Treasure is an interesting name we’re not totally in love with, but we imagine the Disney Adventure was a no-go when Adventure of the Seas is the name of a competing ship.
We are fans of the Grand Hall and its darker color scheme compared to the Disney Wish. However, we’re concerned the Disney Treasure will repeat many of the mistakes found on the Disney Wish – a poor layout, confined spaces, and areas for adults that feel like an afterthought.
WORST: Did We Forget About Disney’s Hollywood Studios?
Nothing was announced for Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Nothing. The park that’s hurting for capacity the most in Walt Disney World was ignored. That’s a wild thought given the expansion possibilities available from the area occupied by Star Wars Launch Bay and the Animation Courtyard.
Guests will need to be satisfied with the minimal attraction lineup and insane lines for the foreseeable future.
BEST: Lighthouse Point
New concept art was revealed for Lighthouse Point, Disney Cruise Line’s next destination in the Bahamas. The video of the site shows that almost no work has started, so it’ll be a bit before guests get to visit. That said, the concept art is promising and offers a different feel compared to Castaway Cay.
There’s still very few facts about Lighthouse Point at this time. But, at least judging by the concept art, it won’t just be a cheap clone of the beloved Castaway Cay.
WORST: No Mary Poppins? No PLAY! Pavilion? Spaceship Earth?
Our of our predictions for D23 Expo 2022 was Disney resurrecting paused projects. We were sort of right as the E-ticket for Avengers Campus in Disneyland is back on. That said, EPCOT’s paused projects weren’t mentioned. No Mary Poppins. No PLAY! Pavilion. What about the refurbishment of Spaceship Earth? Multiple previously-announced projects for EPCOT were glossed over entirely.
It’s wild that the World Celebration construction and the opening of the Journey of Water walk-through attraction in “late 2023” is all EPCOT guests have to look forward to. No new country pavilion (Brazil?) and no new attractions.
BEST: runDisney Returning to Disneyland
It feels a bit awkward applauding Disney for bringing something back they removed, but here we are. runDisney has a passionate following and its great to see the events returning to the west coast in 2024.
Like all announcements at the D23 Expo 2022, there’s a major lack of details here. Still, it’s great to see runDisney come back to California.
WORST: Lack of Urgency, Details or Plans for New Attractions at Walt Disney World
Disney unveiled some rather vague concept art for possible expansions in the Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It was stated multiple times that this was blue sky, subject to change, and just an idea. Maybe there could be a Villains area in the Magic Kingdom. Maybe a Zootopia area in place of Dinoland U.S.A. at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
We won’t even dive into the lack of logic or foresight that many of these proposed projects presents.
Listening to this portion of the presentation felt like sitting in on a brainstorming session. There was a lot of “we could do this” and no “we are doing this.” That’s a big concern given how long it takes modern Disney to build a new attraction. What’s the next headliner after TRON Lightcycle Run opens? There’s nothing on the schedule.
Meanwhile, Universal’s new theme park Epic Universe is speeding along just up the road. Disney must not be concerned about Epic Universe because none of their ideas discussed today will be ready within the next five plus years.
Walt Disney World is about to enter a period of stagnation as Disney’s leaders refuse to reinvest money while profits are high. We fear for a future when those profits start to dry up and the real budget cuts begin.