Sifting Through the D23 Expo Announcements: Walt Disney World

Walt the Dreamer statue

The first D23 Expo in three years has wrapped up, and there were plenty of announcements made! Many were made during the Disney Parks and Experiences Panel on Sunday. It was hosted by Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products Chairman Josh D’Amaro. I chose to watch the panel from the D23 Expo Live Stage instead of trying to get a seat in the main theater. I’m glad I did, from what others have told me it was insane in there, and many people were turned away.

Hatbox Ghost is coming to Walt Disney World!

There has been a lot of confusion about what was actually announced at the panel, especially regarding Walt Disney World. If you’d like to hear the official word, you can read it here. I’m going to share what has been confirmed, and what was hinted at. The hints are causing all of the confusion.

Happily Ever After is returning!

I’ll start with what was confirmed for the Magic Kingdom. Happily Ever After is going to return next year! While no date was given, I think it could be April 1, because March 31 is the final day of The World’s Most Magical Celebration. We also know that Tron Lightcycle / Run will open in the spring of 2023. Also in 2023, the Hatbox Ghost will be added to the Haunted Mansion. Finally, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will open late in 2024. There was no announcement on when Splash Mountain will close for the makeover.

Tron Lightcycle / Run

We also got some information about Epcot. World Celebration will open late in 2023. Dreamer’s Point will be part of the neighborhood, and that is where the Walt the Dreamer statue will be located. The statue is finished and was on display, it is gorgeous! Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana will be part of the World Nature neighborhood. That will open late in 2023. A new nighttime show will debut late in 2023 as part of the Walt Disney Company’s 100th Anniversary celebration. There’s one more thing to look forward to at Epcot late next year, but you’ll need to use your imagination. There will be a meet and greet with Figment! Aside from “late next year” no dates were given for any of this, but I have a feeling that October 1 might be the goal. Not only is October 1 the anniversary of the Magic Kingdom, it’s also Epcot’s anniversary.

alt the Dreamer with a photobomb by Dumbo

Those are the things that we know for sure. If you’d like more information, you can find it on Disney Parks Blog. It’s the rest of what Josh D’Amaro said about the future at Walt Disney World that has everyone scratching their heads or jumping to conclusions.

DinoLand upgrade concept drawing

D’Amaro stated that DinoLand U.S.A. at Disney’s Animal Kingdom needs an upgrade. He and some Imagineers shared some thoughts on what that upgrade could look like. Zootopia and Moana were both mentioned, and concept drawings were shown. That does not mean that either or both will be at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (remember Epcot’s Cherry Tree Lane announcement from 2019?) but D’Amaro showed obvious enthusiasm for the possible development.

Magic Kingdom concept drawing

The other park mentioned was the Magic Kingdom, with an expansion that would take place behind Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. D’Amaro stressed the words “what if”. Three different examples of “what could be” were mentioned; Coco, Encanto, and Disney Villains. Whether there would be three different lands or only one will be chosen was not clear. What was clear was that this will not happen anytime soon.

Sift through all the D23 Expo announcements here: Walt Disney World, Disneyland Resort, Disney Cruise Line, and the International Parks.