For those not in the know, D23 is the ultimate Disney fan event, a three-day expo celebrating Disney’s past and revealing new glimpses into the future. During past D23 Expos, fans learned of Magic Kingdom’s New Fantasyland, the coming of new Star Wars lands, and the then-baffling reveal of Avatar Land, aka Pandora. With the next D23 Event just around the corner, I thought we’d look into our Mickey-shaped crystal ball and try to determine what might be in store for the near future of Disney.
10. Zootopia in America – Shanghai Disneyland is running full speed ahead on their Zootopia land, but the thought of it coming to America has sparked some heated online debate. I mean, the movie was huge and we all want a Clawhauser meet-and-greet, but if it was to come here, where would Disney put it? The consensus seems to be that it would come to Animal Kingdom, which would be a Very Large Tragedy that goes against everything Animal Kingdom is all about, presumably. The initial thrust of Animal Kingdom was both the celebration of animals – real, extinct, and fantastical – and the business of conservation and saving the earth. So far, the park has scored pretty well with that, even with Pandora … but would Zootopia Land, which is sort of set in an alternate Earth where anthropomorphic animals live and work and wear people clothes, work against those concepts? Despite the presence of anthropomorphic animals from films like Lion King and The Jungle Book already in the park, it might seem like a bridge too far. And speaking of working against the original concept of Animal Kingdom…
9. Wakanda – Look, Black Panther is one of the most popular superhero movies of all time. It’s one of the most popular movies of all time. And we’re basically ready to give Angela Bassett an Oscar or a monarchy for her speech in the Wakanda Forever trailer. A while back, Disney announced that Wakanda was going to be part of the parks in some way, but like a lot of announcements, it seems to have quietly faded into the background. With the fervor for Wakanda Forever already reaching a fever pitch, it would be a no-brainer to announce Wakanda in the parks. But should it go in Animal Kingdom? Despite the fact that 1. There’s a Panther in the name of the movie and 2. There’s already an Africa land in Animal Kingdom, it might not make sense there. But where should it go? Epcot? That’d be a way to expand the weird “bridge” area that stands for the whole continent, but that might feel like an even more egregious use of representation than Arendelle is in Norway. I think whatever happens, we are ready for more Wakanda in our lives. You could say we are adamant (ium) about it.
8. Mary Poppins and Cherry Tree Lane – Is this just a me thing? When Disney announced that a vague Mary Poppins attraction was coming to Epcot, I was thrilled. I’ll go on record as saying I’m not the hugest fan of the first movie … okay, strike that before you take my gay card. I just think the ending drags, like a lot of Disney movies from the 60’s. But I love the character, and I’m hoping that this idea, which was supposed to feature Poppins’ Cherry Tree Lane in some way, quietly faded and disappeared from Disney’s collective consciousness, returns. Like Emily Blunt did. AND SLAYED.
7. Spaceship Earth – Remember all those Epcot announcements about new lands and Play Pavilions and the new mid-century modern tower that is apparently never going to be built because Disney looks into my googie-loving heart and laughs? Well, one of those announcements was a whole refurb of Spaceship Earth. The concepts might have seemed a little weird – the notion of the ride as “Our Shared Story” and a light that guides us through the world of storytelling-as-communication, I think? – but the ride really needs a refurb, and now might be the time to do it. Now that Cosmic Rewind is a hit and Moana’s Journey of Water is nearing completion, time to turn back to the park’s symbol and one of the best things that humans have ever created. No, that is NOT hyperbole, EDITORS.
6. Spider-Man movies – recently, Disney unveiled much of (but not all of) the plans for Phase 5 and 6 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, what they’re collectively calling the Multiverse Saga. One thing conspicuously absent? Spider-Man movies. Of course Disney+ is releasing Spider-Man: Freshman Year and Sony has two new Miles Morales Spider-Verse films upcoming, but what about live-action Spidey? With the various Spider-Men more versed in the multiverse than most characters, what with Far From Home and the Spider-Verse movies, shouldn’t Spidey feature prominently in these next phases? I think we’ll find out.
5. Tomorrowland refurb(s) – Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland is fine. It’s about to be even better with the addition of the Tron coaster and the return of the Walt Disney World Railroad. It might need some sprucing, but otherwise it’s fine. But man, does Disneyland’s Tomorrowland need something. The Peoplemover/Rocket Rods tracks that have been completely useless for decades are still up and doing nothing, the building that once housed Carousel of Progress (then Innoventions, now the Tomorrowland Expo Center) is too big a building for Marvel meet and greets. It deserves something grand. More accurately: great, big, and beautiful. Tomorrowland has long needed a fix, and this would be the perfect time to show Disney’s first park some needed love.
4. The Excavator?! – Now we’re just hoping against hope, especially given that this one is in no way tied into IP. One of the original ideas for Dinoland USA was a major new rollercoaster called The Excavator. It was supposed to be an extension of The Boneyard, the small-kids playplace where your little ones can burn off energy while you knock back a couple of frosty beers from Trilo-Bites. Originally designed as a wooden thrill coaster, the ride would have whipped you around dig sites and even through a dinosaur skeleton. Mounting costs convinced Disney to abandon the idea, but now that the land has lost its only traditional coaster, the tepid Primeval Whirl, maybe it’s time to dig this concept back up. I bet it still has some meat on its bones. You dig?
3. Encanto stuff – Now that we’re all talking about Bruno and Encanto is a far bigger hit than initial box office let on, it seems like an Encanto experience would be a no-brainer. Rumors are swirling that Disneyland is planning on refurbishing Tarzan’s Treehouse to make it into Antonio’s treehouse from the magical film, complete with animals who understand you, maybe? (And look, this isn’t an Animal Kingdom-only article, but I also think this could work somewhere in that park, given its history of animals and trees). I’d be into that. Tarzan only came to Adventureland because of SYNERGY, so why not Encanto? Also, we saw how successful the Coco segment in PhilharMagic was; why not replace all the Renaissance-era clunky CGI and give us some Encanto numbers (and Tangled, and Moana, and, yes, Frozen).
2. Disney Cruise Line’s sixth ship – If you’re as into cruising as I am (get your mind out of the gutter) (actually don’t, hi, my name’s Kevin, I work out), you have some idea how amazing the Disney Cruise Line ships are. From full decks dedicated to kids 0-18, immersive experiences, great food, not-bad musical numbers, and the ineffable Disney touch (I want to be cynical or snarky about saying that, but in this case, it’s legit), these ships knock it out of the park, every time. With the new Disney Wish basically confirming all this stuff, we await the announcement of the sixth ship in the fleet. My friend TurkeyLeg Jeff believes that, like the other ships (Magic, Wonder, Dream, Fantasy, and now Wish), it will be named for a Disney buzzword. Imagine it: the Disney Synergy. No, wait. The Disney Adventure. I love this idea because it could have a whole different feel than the other stately ships. More tropical. Maybe a floating Trader Sam’s on board? AN ENCHANTED TIKI ROOM!?!? Plus, this would fit in nicely with any announcement of Lighthouse Point, the new island Disney is busily working on to open as a port of call starting in 2024. I already have my captain’s hat packed.
1. Tiana’s Place – there’s already a Tiana’s Place restaurant on the Disney Wonder (I seriously love Cruise Ships, y’all; there’s also a Bayou Bar on the Wish and it is GIVING), but what about the parks? I’m not entirely sure how the reimagined Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is going to fit in Frontierland in Magic Kingdom, necessarily (then again, did Reconstruction-era funny animals fit in Frontierland?), but it’s going to fit right in in Disneyland’s New Orleans Square. The question is, will any of the classic New Orleans Square restaurants refurb to Tiana’s Place to give the area one of Disneyland’s mini-lands-within-lands (like Alice in Wonderland, or Storybook Land)? Or, even more radically, what about a whole new restaurant just featuring Tiana and her food? New Orleans Square, like actual New Orleans, is packed with places to eat – and all those places are packed – so why not bring in something slightly more modern? Just don’t mess with Blue Bayou, where I had my honeymoon dinner and I will cry large gay tears if anything there ever changes. I’m almost there already.
So there it is, our predictions for D23 this year. What do you think? Did I miss something? Is ignoring the worldwide parks smart? Am I just sad I still can’t go to Japan? Did I leave out my idea for a Duffy Land in California Adventure because I know it won’t work but I want it to work so bad so bad? These are all valid questions. D23 starts September 9th, 2022!