LAKE BUENA VISTA — A splashy walk-through attraction called The Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana, will officially open at Epcot on Oct. 16, and the park will also have a new fireworks show that will debut Dec. 5, Walt Disney World executives announced at the Destination D23 fan convention on Saturday.
Also, there are big expansion plans for the Magic Kingdom — on par with the $1 billion Star Wars land, Disney parks chief Josh D’Amaro told the gathering of more than 2,000 super fans. And a new tropical rainforest land is in the works to replace DinoLand in Animal Kingdom. They are considering attractions themed for the hit movie “Encanto” or Indiana Jones for the tropical setting.
Both are likely years away and no details were given on a timeline, but D’Amaro promised that “over the next decade, we’re going to have more projects underway than at any point in our history.”
Walt Disney Imagineering’s Bruce Vaughn joined D’Amaro on stage and compared plans for the Magic Kingdom expansion in the area just beyond Big Thunder Mountain Railroad to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and the $425 million New Fantasyland that opened in 2012. It was, at the time, the largest expansion in the park’s history, nearly doubling the size of Fantasyland from 11 to 20 acres.
Visitors have long grumbled that the Magic Kingdom, the world’s most-visited theme park, was in need of more elbow room to combat its crowds and long lines. And Animal Kingdom, which is the least-attended of Disney’s four Florida theme parks, has been in the company’s sights for an upgrade.
DinoLand currently has a 50-foot dinosaur skeleton at its entrance, a playground called The Boneyard and a moving simulator ride called Dinosaur that bounces, bumps and careens its way through a primeval forest.
At Epcot, which is in the middle of a four-year overhaul, a new nighttime show called Luminous: The Symphony of Us, will debut Dec. 5. It will feature fireworks, fountains, lasers, lighting effects and music.
The Moana-themed Journey of Water attraction is already complete, and media and D23 members attending the weekend convention got a chance to preview the dewy attraction.
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It features interactive water play areas, such as streams of water that make musical notes like a harp when you run your hand through them. And just as water is a character in the film, it has a personality in the attraction, reacting with leapfrog fountains that rise and fall based on how frantically guests wave their arms.
Other bits of news dropped in the Saturday morning presentation included:
- Nashville, Tennessee, artists are at work on a new Country Bear Jamboree show that will open next year, incorporating different genres of country music.
- The Hatbox Ghost, a Haunted Mansion character that first appeared in 1969 but was withdrawn because of technical glitches, will return to the haunt in late November. The ghost was an elderly figure holding a cane in one hand and a hatbox in the other. The gag was that his head would vanish from atop his shoulders and reappear inside the hatbox.
- The restaurant across from Pirates of the Caribbean will be a new home for the old Barker Bird that once appeared at the ride’s entrance.
- A new show based on “Zootopia” is being created for the Tree of Life theater at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
- At Epcot, the park’s World Celebration neighborhood will be complete by December. World Celebration will unite the front of the park, tying together the other two new Epcot neighborhoods, World Discovery and World Nature. It will be the latest major milestone in the multiyear transformation of Epcot.
- Moana will appear as a character meet-and-greet next to the Journey of Water when it opens Oct. 16.
- Figment, the purple dragon that is the mascot of the Imagination pavilion at Epcot, will start doing meet-and-greets Sunday.
- Test Track will soon be reimagined at Epcot, working with teams from Chevrolet.
- At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the Star Wars-themed ride Star Tours is getting a refresh with Ahsoka, the character played by Rosario Dawson in “The Mandalorian” and now her own Disney+ series. She is joining the experience next year.