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7 Unexpected Developments Just Confirmed for Walt Disney World

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. 

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There are 18 comments.

Personally, I'm happy and not-so-happy at the same time about these announcements. For one thing, it's a good thing that these developments are coming to DHS, which has sorely been in need of change for some time. BUT.....adding two new lands, but only putting in TWO new attractions in them (and I don't include stores or restaurants in that) is very disappointing, and makes the overall announcement underwhelming. I don't really care about a Star Wars Launch Bay (it just sounds stupid), and including a 3rd track for TSMM is good but already well-known.

I'd assumed Star Wars land would be by the Star Wars attraction, possibly taking over Muppets. So why is the Star Wars loading bay all the way at Animation?! Guests would have to cross over Hollywood Blvd to get to another part of Star Wars land?? That makes no sense.

I feel sad that they didn't confirm the new name. Word is that it is Disney's Hollywood Adventure... why did Bob Iger tease a name change, and not just commit to it. Perhaps they are focusing on the Disney Springs name change first, then deal with DHS after? And... they NEED to announce a new icon for the park, for all the new theme park merch... is it the water tower?

by the time they get avatar land open no one will remember what it is, and star wars land should have been started 20 yrs ago . My boys are in their 40s and this is something they would have enjoyed a long time ago. By the time it gets done they will be too old to enjoy it

My thoughts exactly! I don't think a lot of people are going to remember Avatar at all and if they do, may not even care. My oldest son is 18, is an avid Star Wars fan and probably won't get to see the new "Star Wars Land" until he's in his 40's...What's the fun in that?? Maybe Disney should just slow down a bit and complete a few attractions before going ahead and starting new ones as it appears there are so many half-done and unfinished projects throughout all of the Disney theme parks

I thought the same thing about the Avatar Land, but when on IMDB yesterday,I found that they are making three new Avatar movies in the next few years. But I feel the same. Star Wars wasn't owned by Disney until a few years ago, but it should be getting priority.

Disney hasnt had full rights to Star Wars for that long so starting it 20yrs ago, it would have just been able to get completed now or in a few years because of copyright stuff they would have to go through. Since they now own the rights to Star Wars they can do whatever they want

Personally, I am happy the name is staying the same at Disney's Hollywood Studios. I think it's still a fitting title, and I like it. I am an old school MGM girl, so I could not deal with another change!

Thank you!!! I still call it MGM!

Just a correction.

The Art of Animation is a Resort/Hotel.

The attraction which closed recently was called The Magic of Disney Animation.......

Disney taking their time to build / roll out these new additions under slower than we may want time frames should come at no surprise. They are looking at long term investments, long term additions which how a corporation with such a history and culture should approach any change. By doing so they will insure that Disney Land and Disney World and other international Disney parks are here for many generations to come. Not just us... I like that thinking. I hope by doing so my great and great great grandchildren will have the Disney magic to look forward to when its their time!

I don't know why everyone thinks Disney Hollywood studios needs a new name! Star Wars and Toy Story are film franchises, so adding those lands does not create a need for a name change. I would find announcements about names to be underwhelming. Do you go to a park based on its name, or the contents within the park?

i'm happy to hear that Hollywood Studios is getting a facelift and new lands/adventures. I am fearful that it will be another decade before any of this gets finished and everyone will be wanting another park updated. Honestly, Avatar is not very exciting to me because it is so far behind the movie many will not even remember the movie when it finally opens.

I would like to see Disney close Hollywood Studios for a year and do refurbishments and new builds and then reopen the park. The builds would go quicker and the crowds would be huge and more than make up for the lost revenues. We recently went to Disney and the only park my kids wanted to visit was Magic Kingdom. In there words, "the other parks don't have anything and are boring. All the rides are at the Magic Kingdom". That is from a 6 and 14 yr old.

Great steps to improve Disney and I can't wait to see and interact with all the new lands just get them built before 2025!

In the presentation on DHS I thought it was interesting that the comments made were about the park transitioning a park that "takes you behind the scenes making of story" to "being IN their favorite movies."

It's true no one will remember Avatar by the time the rides actually open, but on the other hand, no one remembered Avatar two years after the movie either, so the delay doesn't really make a difference there. It was a supremely forgettable movie, and making a big deal of it is a misstep by Disney. And not even a Disney movie, at that. It's the type of thing that usually Universal does.

I find it amusing that even in the drawing the Star Wars: Launch Bay is sparsely attended.

I think Avatar Land will opening the the release or shortly after Avatar 2 comes out in 2017. As far as people's kids in their 40's now and the thought that Disney should have converted large portions of DHS to Star Wars years ago, they only purchased the rights a couple of years ago, and that's besides the point, I've been a star wars fan since the original movie, and I don't care if I turn 50 before they complete it, I will enjoy it as will my kids and possibly my grand children if I have them by that time. I would much rather them take their time and build this stuff right than put a hurry on it and muff it up.

Has no-one done any research? Avatar has 3 sequels in place for 2017, 2018 and 2019. Considering Pandora will open in 2017, I think they'll get plenty of Avatar awareness. I still prefer how Universal go about their business, but Disney, in conjunction with their upcoming movies (Toy Story 4, Avatar, future Star Wars films...), are releasing new lands that will be well advertised and if they go well (which they usually do). People will always want to step into a film if they enjoy it, and, there at Disney will be 3 different kinds of brand new opportunities. They will do just fine, I'd say.

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