In case you missed it, this weekend brought a rush of news for Disney World fans at D23, the official Disney fan club in Anaheim, Calif., and visitors to the four theme parks in Florida can look forward to more attractions for teens and roller coaster fans.
Coming soon will be a Guardians of the Galaxy ride at Epcot, as well as a much-hailed ride based on the Tron series at the Magic Kingdom. And an elite Star Wars-themed resort will make you feel like you are spending the night at a space station.
D23 is named in honor of the year 1923, when Walt Disney left Kansas City and headed for Hollywood. The notoriously secretive company has often saved its biggest announcements for the biennial D23 Expo, and this year was no exception.
Here's the news broken down by the parks in central Florida:
The biggest changes are coming to Epcot, which this fall will celebrate its 35th anniversary, said Bob Chapek, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, said at a session of D23 on Saturday.
A new Guardians of the Galaxy ride in the Future World section of the park would be "rooted in an Epcot story, Chapek said. A new Ratatouille-themed ride will open in the park's France area by 2021. A similar Ratatouille ride is currently at Disneyland Paris.
There will also be new films in China and within Mission: Space. And a space-themed table-service restaurant will be added near Mission: Space.
The Guardians are taking over the space now occupied by Ellen's Energy Adventure, closing Aug. 13. It debuted in Epcot in 1996, replacing the Universe of Energy attraction that was one of the park's original attractions when it opened in 1982.
The most anticipated news was for Star Wars fans. Chapek announced that the name for Disney's new themed land will be Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. And he confirmed the company plans to build an immersive Star Wars-themed resort that takes a page from Westworld and puts guests in the Star Wars universe.
The hotel will be a multi-day experience, Disney's "most experiential concept ever," Chapek said. Every window will make guests feel like they are looking into space. Each guest will have a storyline to live out and will be dressed in Star Wars-themed attire.
The Star War land coming to Hollywood Studios in 2019 will let you fly Han Solo's Millennium Falcon and drop by the Cantina for a drink with a droid. Many characters from the films will be featured in Galaxy's Edge, the D23 announcement said, including BB-8, Chewbacca and Kylo Ren.
The park's Great Movie Ride will close Aug. 13 to be replaced by Runaway Railway, a ride inspired by Mickey Mouse shorts. Chapek said it will have state-of-the-art 3-D effects without the need for special glasses. Guests will feel like they are moving on a train.
Toy Story Land, now under construction at Hollywood Studios, will open in summer 2018, though an exact opening date wasn't announced. Toy Story Land is designed to make the visitor feel like they have been shrunk to the size of a toy as they explore the world of Andy's backyard with Toy Story characters, including Woody and Buzz. Slinky Dog Dash will be a family coaster attraction and the Alien Swirling Saucers attraction inspired by the first Toy Story film. Aliens are flying around in their toy flying saucers and trying to capture your rocket toy vehicle with "The Claw."
Traditionalists and coaster fans both got something from the announcement that the Tron ride will be at Magic Kingdom. The Tomorrowland Speedway, heavily rumored to be on the chopping block in favor of the wiz-bang coaster, is still in the picture, though it may be getting some updates and a remodeled track.
TRON Lightcycle Power Run is a semi-enclosed roller coaster attraction that has been a huge hit at the newly opened Shanghai Disneyland. It takes riders through the Grid on their own light cycle on a track that travels both inside and outside the attraction's building, reaching speeds of more than 60 mph — the fastest for any Disney roller coaster.
It will be set up in a new space adjacent to Space Mountain, Chapek said. The company said it will open in time for the park's 50th anniversary in 2021.
Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland Speedway which was rumored to be closed in favor of Tron, will remain in place, a Disney World spokesman said Monday, though it is still unclear if its configuration will change. One of the original attractions when the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971 near Orlando, the track has gas-powered cars that putter around at less than 10 mph. Some have called for Disney to switch to environmentally friendly electric cars like a similar ride at Hong Kong Disneyland.
Also coming to Magic Kingdom will be a new 1920s-style theater constructed near the park's entrance. Modeled after the famous Willis Wood theater in Kansas City, where Walt Disney once lived, company officials said the theater will fit well off Main Street, U.S.A.
Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at [email protected] Follow @SharonKWn.