The biggest news at Disney World for 2019 – really, the biggest theme park news in years – will be the debut of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. But wigged-out Obi-Wannabes will need to heed Yoda’s advice: Patience you must have. The land isn’t expected to open until the fall, after the prime summer season. But there are many other cool things on the way to Mickey’s Florida mega-resort in the coming year.
The Mouse has been doling out details about the Star Wars lands it has been developing at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disneyland (the California Galaxy’s Edge is scheduled to open in the summer) in dribs and drabs, and the full picture has yet to come into full focus. At the Destination D event held for members of Disney’s D23 fan club in November at Disney World, Bob Chapek, chairman of Disney parks, experiences and consumer products, nearly broke the Internet when he revealed the names of the two Star Wars attractions.
Find your inner Chewbacca
First up: Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run (Disney sure loves to use colons for the names of its lands and rides). The Imagineers will turn the controls of the legendary starship over to visitors. Each flight crew will include six members, including pilots, engineers and gunners. They will be able to make like Chewbacca and fiddle with the cockpit’s switches and dials as they engage on a mission to collect a bounty while evading TIE fighters. The story and the interactive experience, which will take place in a ride vehicle that will be able to rotate 360 degrees, will vary depending on the passengers’ actions.
More: Sneak peek: The new Millennium Falcon at Disney’s Star Wars land
With Disney largely remaining silent about the exact nature of Galaxy’s Edge, it had been assumed that the Millennium Falcon attraction would be the headliner. As more is unveiled about the land’s second ride, which we now know will be named Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, it appears that the E-ticket attraction will at least share top billing.
Passengers will board eight-person trackless ride vehicles, themed as hijacked fleet transport pods. Droid pilots will navigate the vehicles through the hangar bay of a Star Destroyer, and hapless guests will be front and center as a battle goes down between the First Order and the Resistance. As typically happens in the narrative for theme park rides, things will go hideously wrong. There is strong speculation (but no confirmation from Disney) that passengers will have to disembark the fleet transport vehicle in the middle of the attraction and hightail it to another location. They may then load onto a second vehicle that will blast them into hyperspace and away from danger.
Chapek also announced at Destination D that celebrated composer John Williams, whose “Star Wars” scores are part of film iconography, is creating the music for Galaxy’s Edge. Williams’ signature sounds will help to heighten the drama and add to the multisensory experiences of the attractions and the overall land.
Mickey still has star power
Walt Disney once famously said, “I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.” The focus may be on intergalactic adventures at Disney World in 2019, but Mickey Mouse, who recently celebrated his 90th birthday, will help bring things down to Earth with a number of developments dedicated to him across the resort.
In mid-January, Mickey & Minnie’s Surprise Celebration will kick off at the Magic Kingdom. The festivities will include the Move It! Shake It! MousekeDance It! Street Party (in addition to colons, Disney has a thing for long names and exclamation points). Besides the honorary celebrants, the show will include three-fingered pals such as Donald Duck, who will surely do his darnedest to get guests to shake their tail feathers with him.
The beloved mice will also be featured in Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, the new attraction that is replacing The Great Movie Ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Set to open in fall 2019, the ride will transport guests into the animated world of the Disney Channel’s Mickey Mouse cartoon shorts and feature its retro, stylized characters and look and feel.
Imagineer Kevin Rafferty, who is leading the attraction’s design, has said that passengers will experience a sense of spatial dimension in the media-based ride, but will not need 3D glasses. He has dubbed the effect “2 1/2 D.” It is likely that there will be practical sets, and, to help make the imagery pop, some of it will be screened on actual props using projection mapping. (Think the “Grim Grinning Ghosts” singing busts in the Haunted Mansion, but more sophisticated.)
Mickey will be among the cavalcade of stars who will be lionized in “The Wonderful World of Animation,” a new nighttime show that will honor the company’s impressive, expansive legacy. It will kick off May 1 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. As with other presentations that use the park’s Chinese Theater as a backdrop, it will incorporate projection mapping along with pyrotechnics, lasers and other effects.
“The Wonderful World of Animation” will be part of the 30th anniversary celebration of the Studios park, which is set to commence on Jan. 18. Starting then, visitors will be able to hobnob with characters from “Monsters, Inc.” and “The Incredibles” as well as get their groove on with Doc McStuffins and other video celebs at the Disney Junior Dance Party! Energized visitors could also head to Disney’s Animal Kingdom for that park’s new Hakuna Matata Time Dance Party.
Illuminating shows coming to Epcot
The “IllumiNations” fireworks spectacle that caps each evening at Epcot has been running for years, and there has been talk about replacing it for some time. Chapek confirmed that the show will end in summer of 2019 and that a new nighttime presentation will take its place in 2020. Using the enormous World Showcase Lagoon, it will include moving fountains and floating set pieces (both of which are featured in the “Rivers of Light” show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom) along with other elements.
In the interim, a short-term presentation, “Epcot Forever,” will kick off in the fall of 2019. Using fireworks, lasers and what the park is calling “choreographed, special effects kites,” it will focus on Epcot attractions of the past and present and incorporate their music. Reportedly, the characters Dreamfinder and Figment as well as the song “One Little Spark” will be among “Epcot Forever’s” highlights. Here’s hoping that Michael Jackson’s “Captain EO” gets a shoutout as well.
Epcot is abuzz with lots of other developments. At the front of the park, a gargantuan show building that is under construction will house a “Guardians of the Galaxy” attraction that Disney is promising will be one of the world’s biggest indoor roller coasters. At the back of the park, a new dark ride is coming to the France pavilion, which Chapek announced will be called Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure.
The Disney parks chairman also said that a “Beauty and the Beast” sing-along presentation would be another addition to Epcot’s France pavilion, although he did not specify an opening date. Chapek announced that the park’s “O Canada!” Circlevision show would be updated as well, but that did not have a debut date either.
New places to stay
There will be a new way to get to Epcot along with Disney’s Hollywood Studios next year when the resort opens its new Skyliner transportation system in the fall. Chapek revealed one of the gondolas at Destination D. The Skyliner will connect the two parks with the existing Art of Animation, Caribbean Beach and Pop Century resorts as well as the new Riviera Resort. Themed to the famed Mediterranean coastline, the 300-room hotel will be part of the Disney Vacation Club.
Another resort, Disney’s Coronado Springs, will add 545 guest rooms to its portfolio when the 15-story Gran Destino Tower expansion opens in July. Interestingly, the Mouse released the animated short film “Destino” in 2003, which was based on an earlier animated film concept developed together by Walt Disney and Surrealist painter Salvador Dali. There is no word whether the hotel would include nods to either project.
Coronado Springs will welcome two new restaurants that will feature Spanish cuisine. One will be a themed table-service eatery at the top of the new tower, and the second, Villa del Lago, will be situated on an island in the resort’s lake. Contemporary Spanish dishes will also be on the menu at Jaleo, a new multi-level restaurant coming in early 2019 to Disney Springs.
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