It has been two years in the making, but after an action-packed weekend filled with some thrilling announcements, another D23 event has come to a close. While we anticipated many of the developments revealed at this year's event (the announcement of Star Wars Land, the confirmation that Soarin' Over the Horizon is coming to Epcot and Disney California Adventure, etc.) we were really surprised by some of the announcements that came out of this year's D23 Expo. Here's everything that shocked, confused or otherwise caught us off guard at this year's event.
1. Toy Story Land will have all-new rides
We’ve been reporting for nearly a year that Toy Story Land would be coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and this weekend Disney finally made it official, announcing the existence of this new land (but with not an opening window in sight). While we were certainly expecting this announcement at this event, what caught us off guard was the revelation that this new land would feature all new rides (instead of just re-purposed attractions from other versions of Toy Story Land at Hong Kong Disneyland and Disneyland Paris).
First up is a brand new roller coaster that will be forming the backbone of this land. Described as a family-friendly roller coaster (so expect low speeds and small height restrictions), this new unnamed attraction will see guests boarding vehicles shaped like Slinky Dog and then zooming around a winding track, passing through tunnels and other landmarks.
The second attraction is a spinning flat ride that will feature the famous little green aliens from the Toy Story series and will take guests around in flying saucer-shaped vehicles while The Claw (oooohhh!) dangles above.
Although it was unannounced, a look at the concept art above also seems to indicate that Toy Story Midway Mania is getting a new entrance as well as part of this new land expansion.
2. Kilimanjaro Sunset Safaris will simply feature a lighted track
When we first heard that Kilimanjaro Safaris would be getting a nighttime version, we originally envisioned a separate track that featured different animals and would offer a vastly different experience from the daytime version of this ride. However, it looks like the new evening attraction, which is now being called Kilimanjaro Sunset Safaris, won’t actually be that different after all. Disney announced this weekend that they have found a way to “magically extend the orange glow of the setting sun” (which means, essentially, they’ll be installing some fancy lights) and the only real difference confirmed to be a part of this new(ish) nighttime experience will be the addition of two new species to the ride: hyenas and African wild dogs.
Though we actually didn’t expect to hear anything about this attraction at D23 this year, new information about the evening edition of Kilimanjaro Safaris was long overdue, even if it's a bit underwhelming. Looking back on it, shuffling this news in between Star Wars Land and other, more pressing developments does make a certain amount of sense.
However, even with this new information there’s still one big question that Disney has yet to answer: when exactly this ride will debut. Based on permits and other publicly-available documents, it looks like this ride may be ready by early 2016, but Disney may hold off on opening this nighttime attraction until the Rivers of Light show is ready to go, which is now projected to be sometime in Spring 2016.
3. Star Wars Land is going to be built…somewhere…at some point…
Though we are undeniably excited about our first look at Star Wars Land, Disney’s announcement of this new expansion was purposefully vague, which is a little frustrating considering how long fans have been waiting on information about this long-rumored land. Though we now have some idea about the attractions and setup of this location, we have no idea where this new land is being built, and perhaps more importantly, when it will be built.
We certainly didn’t expect Disney to give us an official opening date during this new land's announcement, but it seems very curious that they are remaining silent on when construction is projected to get underway, especially since Disney’s Hollywood Studios is in such poor shape at the moment. Considering the magnitude of this new land, many fans are afraid of another 8-year wait (like that we are experiencing now with Pandora: The World of Avatar) and it looks like Disney is doing nothing to allay those feats.