Dinoland USA’s extinction, ‘Bug’s Life’ replacement among new ideas at Destination D23

New additions planned for Walt Disney World parks

BAY LAKE, Fla. – Hundreds of Disney’s biggest fans were surprised with a handful of new theme park announcements at Destination D23.

The sold out event this weekend brings in Disney fans from all over the country to one place, Disney’s Contemporary Resort.

On Saturday morning, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Chairman Josh D’Amaro presented, “A Celebration of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.”

The presentation featured new characters coming to Disney parks, opening dates for new attractions and experiences and ideas being considered for Walt Disney World’s theme parks.

“We’re looking to the future — out beyond the horizon where dreams are being made. We are daring to dream bigger than ever before,” D’Amaro said. “It might be impossible to believe this, but your best Disney memories are yet to come, and listen, our great big beautiful tomorrow starts today.”

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Chairman, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, Josh D'Amaro (WKMG)

Starting off at Magic Kingdom, following the opening of TRON Lightcycle / Run this year, Imagineers are “on track” and looking toward the future of Disney Parks. Over at the Haunted Mansion, foolish mortals will see the famed Hatbox Ghost materialize and make his debut at the attraction in late November.

The Hatbox Ghost is coming to the Haunted Mansion attraction in Magic Kingdom Park in late November 2023. (Disney)

Next year, another fan favorite, the Country Bear Musical Jamboree, will bring new tunes to Frontierland.

“The bears will reinterpret their favorite Disney songs in different genres of country music — think rockabilly, bluegrass, pop country and a lot more,” said Chris Beatty, Disney Imagineer. “We’re bringing some fantastic Nashville musicians to get the authentic sound just right.”

Disney Imagineers also shared that a new Pirates of the Caribbean-themed lounge is coming to Adventureland. The first-of-its-kind experience will extend the story of Pirates of the Caribbean, according to Disney. Leaders said inside, guests will see the intelligent green parrot, Barker Bird, who has made residence in the pirate tavern.

A new Pirates of the Caribbean-themed lounge is coming to Adventureland at Magic Kingdom Park in Walt Disney World (Disney)

Looking deeper into previously announced blue sky ideas, Disney Imagineers said they’re still considering other themed lands that may lay beyond Big Thunder Mountain.

Last year, D’Amaro alongside Chris Beatty and Walt Disney Animation Studios Chief Creative Officer Jennifer Lee said their teams were dreaming up new possibilities that included a Villain’s land and even an area that showcases the film “Coco.” Disney said these areas would be similar in scale to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Pandora – The World of Avatar – adding new attractions, restaurants, shows and more.

World Celebration neighborhood in EPCOT will begin welcoming guests in December 2023. (Disney)

Over at neighboring EPCOT, the theme park’s historic transformation will take a giant step forward when World Celebration opens to guests this December. The area will offer a beautiful hub divided into several different gardens, with a central planter based on the five-ring EPCOT logo. It will also be home to Dreamers Point.

Beginning Sunday, Sept. 10, fans of Figment will get to the chance to finally meet the popular dragon character at his home at the Imagination Pavilion. Figment is not the only character coming to EPCOT, however; Asha, from the new Disney animated film “Wish,” will also be coming soon.

Figment will greet guests in the Imagination! pavilion at EPCOT starting Sept. 10. (Disney)

Starting Sept. 22, Soarin’ Over California, the original attraction film, will return to EPCOT for a limited time as part of the Disney100 celebration.

On Oct. 16, all guests will get to explore the lush self-guided attraction, “Journey of Water, Journey of Water,” in World Nature. On the same day, Moana will make her first appearance in her own dedicated space near the attraction.

Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana will open at EPCOT on Oct. 16 (WKMG)

Following the departure of Harmonious earlier this year, EPCOT is set to debut to audiences its new nighttime spectacular, “Luminous The Symphony of Us,” on Dec. 5. The brand-new show will feature fireworks, fountains, lasers, lighting effects and music.

“Luminous: The Symphony of Us” will debut at EPCOT on Dec. 5, 2023. (WKMG)

Looking farther into the future, Disney will once again team up with Chevrolet to reimagine the popular attraction, Test Track. Disney shared a new rendering, saying more details will be announced in the future. The current version of Test Track opened in Dec. 2012. Imagineers along with teams from Chevrolet are reaching back into history for inspiration – from the original World of Motion – and bringing that spirit of optimism to the next iteration of the Test Track attraction, Disney said on its blog.

Test Track will be reimagined at EPCOT in Walt Disney World Resort (Disney)

At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, fans of Star Wars got a small update. Ahsoka, from the new Disney+ original series, will become part of the popular Star Tours attraction beginning next spring.

One of the biggest announcements was at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park.

Following some ideas mentioned at the D23 Expo last year, Disney Imagineers revealed some new ideas now being considered.

“We’re looking at reimagining Dinoland into something completely different,” said Bruce Vaughn, Chief Creative Officer at Walt Disney Imagineering. “We’re focusing on a region of the world sometimes referred to as the tropical Americas. This is the area around the equator and the Western Hemisphere — basically the northern part of South America stretching out into Central America — and we talked about how that was part of it Animal Kingdom.”

At Destination D23 2023, it was announced that Walt Disney Imagineering is planning to reimagine Dinoland U.S.A. at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park (© 2023 Disney. All Rights Reserved )

In newly-released renderings, Disney Imagineers said they’re exploring new worlds that bring the worlds of “Encanto” and “Indiana Jones” to this area of the park.

“What I can talk about is that we’re diving deep into our research and honestly, we could not be more excited about bringing this to life,” Vaughn said.

New "Zootopia" show coming to Disney's Animal Kingdom (WKMG)

In addition to these new plans, Disney Imagineering announced it wants to bring a brand-new show based on “Zootopia” to the Tree of Life Theater. Replacing “It’s Tough to be a Bug,” current concepts have guests visiting the different biomes you only see in the film, traveling along with Judy Hopps, Nick Wilde and other characters.

During Saturday’s presentation, D’Amaro also shared plans about new additions coming to Disney parks around the world, including a “Frozen” themed land in Paris and Hong Kong, a “Zootopia” land in Shanghai and the next Marvel attraction coming to Disney California Adventure Park.

Leaders also announced the Disney Adventure, a new Disney Cruise Line ship coming to Asia. They also announced the cruise line’s newest island destination will be called, “Disney Lookout Cay at Lighthouse Point.” Earlier this week, Disney Cruise Line announced exciting details about what will be on its newest ship, the Disney Treasure.

Click here to learn more about D23.

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About the Author:

Landon joined News 6 in 2017. He grew up in Southern Illinois and graduated from Southern Illinois University with a bachelors degree in TV and digital media. When he is not at work you can catch him at one of Orlando's theme parks or the beach. Before working at News 6 he worked for stations in Miami and Fort Myers.