D23 Expo: What’s Next for the Walt Disney World Resort

Bob Chapek, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, took to the D23 Expo stage in Anaheim on Saturday to share what can be expected in the coming years with 7,000 fans. He unveiled plans for new experiences and sneak peeks at projects that are already in the works.

“On the heels of many new and incredibly popular experiences that just debuted this year, the best is yet to come,” Chapek says. “We have ambitious plans for our parks and resorts around the world. We’re investing in the guest experience like never before, and we’re doing it all in a way that is only possible at Disney.”

Here is a look at what’s to come:

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Chapek revealed the name for the much-anticipated Star Wars land, which will open in Orlando in 2019. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will feature two anchor attractions: one that puts guests in the middle of a battle between the First Order and the Resistance on a Star Destroyer and another that gives guests the chance to fly the Millennium Falcon. Expect meet and greets with characters like BB-8, Chewbacca, Rex and Kylo Ren.

The Great Movie Ride will close on Aug. 13 to make way for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, the first-ever ride based on the classic characters. An original story will take guests on a journey inside the world of cartoon shorts, using new technologies to turn the flat cartoon world into a dimensional display. Chapek says the attraction will have “more hidden Mickeys than any other attraction in the universe.” The opening will be announced at a later date.

Chapek also gave fans a glimpse at the new Toy Story Land, which is scheduled to open next summer.


Chapek announced several plans for Epcot that will stay true to the park’s original vision while making it more timeless and relevant. Tom Fitzgerald, an Imagineer from the original team, is on board to bring the new vision to life.

A brand new e-ticket attraction based on Guardians of the Galaxy will replace Ellen’s Energy Adventure inside Universe of Energy. Ellen’s Energy Adventure will close on Aug. 13, and the new attraction will open by the 50th anniversary of the Walt Disney World Resort in 2021.

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Chapek announced a Ratatouille-themed ride, which will be located in an all-new space just past the Eiffel Tower in the France pavilion and will also open by the resort’s 50th anniversary in 2021. Just like the attraction in Disneyland Paris, it will take guests on a chase across a kitchen with the sights, sounds and smells of Gusteau’s Parisian restaurant. Also, an updated film will be added to the China pavilion and will be created in Circle-Vision to show the splendor and majesty of the country.

Mission: SPACE will re-open this August with an updated Orange Mission and a brand new Green Mission that will take guests on a tour around the Earth. It will allow younger cadets to join the adventure for the first time. A new table-service restaurant that offers guests the experience to travel high above the Earth will be opened adjacent to Mission: SPACE. Its opening will be announced at a later date.

Magic Kingdom Park

A Tron-themed attraction – the same popular ride from Shanghai Disneyland – will be coming to a new area near Space Mountain in Magic Kingdom. And Main Street U.S.A. will be home to a new live entertainment theater based on the iconic Willis Theater in Kansas City where Walt Disney previously lived. The opening of these Magic Kingdom additions will be announced at a later date.

Resorts and Transportation

The Disney Vacation Club has proposed a 15th property. Located near Epcot, it will feature a rooftop restaurant with views of the nighttime spectaculars at Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. An immersive Star Wars-themed hotel is also in the works. Described as “the most experiential concept ever,” it will be completely dedicated to the franchise, offering guests a one-of-a-kind experience where a luxury resort meets a multi-day adventure. The opening of both resorts will be announced at a later date.

As far as transportation goes, the Minnie Van Service is a private, point-to-point transportation service that will shuttle guests in a red car with white polka dots – a classic Minnie Mouse look. Later this month, guests can schedule the service from their smartphone and a Disney Cast Member will drive them wherever they want to go around the resort. A future transportation option is the Disney Skyliner, which will connect Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios to Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, Disney’s Pop Century Resort, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort and Disney Riviera Resort. Guests will be transported in gondolas high above the Walt Disney World Resort. An opening date has not yet been announced.

Disney Cruise Line

Chapek surprised the crowd by announcing that Disney Cruise Line will add one more ship to its current expansion. All three ships will be built at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany and will be powered by one of the cleanest-burning fuels available: liquefied natural gas. The two ships that were announced last year have scheduled completion dates of 2021 and 2023, and the newly announced seventh ship is scheduled to be completed in 2022. When they are completed, Disney Cruise Line will have nearly doubled the size of its fleet.

Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Chairman Bob Chapek surprised the crowd at D23 Expo 2017 by announcing that Disney Cruise Line will add one more ship in its expansion to take family cruise vacations to a whole new level. Joining the other two new ships that were announced just last year, all three ships will be powered by one of the cleanest-burning fuels available, liquefied natural gas.

Finally, a stage version of Beauty and the Beast will be coming to the Disney Dream this November. The story unfolds inside one of Maurice’s music boxes using projection technology in addition to theatrical elements to tell the story and puppetry to bring the enchanted objects to life. Guests will enjoy a mix of classic songs and new songs from the live-action film.


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Written by Lyndsay Fogarty

Lyndsay Fogarty has had many roles at Central Florida Lifestyle, working her way from intern to contributing writer to managing editor. She is a graduate of the University of Central Florida’s Nicholson School of Communication where she earned her degree in journalism. Along the way, she has learned that teamwork and dedication to your craft will get you far, and a positive outlook on the present will get you even farther.

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