Walt Disney World Resort Update for September 13 - 19, 2022

by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, staff writer

Walt Disney World Resort Update for September 13 - 19, 2022

 Writer's Note, News & Views

The 2022 D23 Expo took place in Anaheim this weekend, with three days of panel presentations, previews and announcements from nearly every division of the Disney company.

For many theme park fans, the most-anticipated event was Sunday's presentation by Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Chairman Josh D'Amaro, who was on hand to share updates about the Disney theme parks around the world, as well as the Disney Cruise Line. Alan Dalinka couldn't attend the event due to a prior commitment, so I'm stepping in to unpack details of the Walt Disney World portion of the presentation, and I'm sure Alan will share his impressions of what all this means for future visits in the coming weeks.

So much Blue Sky

We detail below all of the official announcements made during the D23 Expo, but what really set Disney social media alight was when Jennifer Lee, Chief Creative Office for Walt Disney Animation Studios, and Chris Beatty, Creative Portfolio Executive for Walt Disney Imagineering, joined D'Amaro onstage to talk about projects that are in the extremely early development stage.

Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Chairman Josh D'Amaro presents future plans for the company at the D23 Expo in Anaheim. Photo courtesy Disney.

This so-called "blue sky" process begins with lots of what-if discussions, and hundreds and thousands of sketches and renderings of possible projects. It's really important to stress that just because there's concept art for a new ride, land or attraction, that doesn't mean that it will ever get approved, funded, or built.

That said, here are some of the ideas that were presented as maybe, possibly coming to the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom. None of this may ever pan out, and my personal philosophy is that I'll believe it when I ride it.

Animal Kingdom

D'Amaro, Lee, and Beatty spoke about possible new themes for Dino Land in Animal Kingdom. They shared concept art that showed a Zootopia expansion, as is currently under construction at Shanghai Disneyland. Another image showed an area based on Moana. No attraction details were teased for these projects.

Zootopia could provide the inspiration for one Animal Kingdom project. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

A rendering of a possible Moana-themed area seems to show a spinner ride, possibly based on the kakamora from the film, and a boat ride with a drop. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

Magic Kingdom

"What lies beyond Big Thunder Mountain?" That was the question beyond one proposed project described as the largest expansion of Magic Kingdom since New Fantasyland.

As depicted in concept art shared during the presentation, Beyond Big Thunder could be a series of three themed areas. The first might be based on Coco and set in the town of Santa Cecilia, where the residents are celebrating Dia de los Muertos. D'Amaro wondered about a ride where you could ride an alebrije.

The town of Santa Cecilia could set the scene for a Coco-inspired land. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

A second area could be based on Encanto, and use technology to create an opportunity to walk into the film's magical casita.

Visitors could fly with Miguel and his alebrije in a new Coco attraction. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

A third area teased in the presentation could be the home of the Disney villains. There were no ride ideas tossed around for this land.

This rendering shows how the Coco and Encanto areas could be arranged, with the villains in the shadow land beyond. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

D’Amaro wrapped up this portion of the presentation saying “we’re constantly thinking of what’s next." Sure, it's fun to take a peek into the blue sky process, but this was all definitely a fan service exercise. This was all completely speculative, and we may never see any of it actually built.

I find it interesting that D'Amaro would use time during these remarks to talk about blue sky designs, rather than give more details about projects that had already been confirmed. We love to hear that Imagineers are chatting about the land Beyond Big Thunder, but would also like additional details about the next phase of the transformation of EPCOT, or an updated time line for the refurbishment of Spaceship Earth.

Disney 100 Years of Wonder celebration begins in January

The entire Walt Disney company will commemorate its 100th anniversary starting in January 2023. With Walt Disney World still celebrating its 50th anniversary with The World's Most Magical Celebration, Disneyland Resort will serve as the "heart" of the Disney 100 Years of Wonder celebration. We expect Walt Disney World will quietly segue from one celebration to the next when the 50th ends in spring 2023.

EPCOT announcements

Farewell, Harmonious

D'Amaro announced that a brand-new nighttime spectacular is already in development for EPCOT park to replace Harmonious in the World Showcase Lagoon for the Disney100 celebration. The new show will debut in late 2023. No title was given for the show. Harmonious debuted in October, 2021 at the start of the 50th anniversary celebration for Magic Kingdom.

The Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana

The Walt Disney Imagineering pavilion at the D23 Expo included a beautiful scale model of the 15-foot-tall Te Fiti sculpture, which will be part of The Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana in EPCOT. As shared in the last update, Disney says the attraction aims at "capturing the beauty of the natural water cycle," and is "inspired by Moana's fierce determination to protect her environment–her bond with water is unique. The rock work being sculpted and the waterways will feature familiar shapes and characters from the Walt Disney Animation Studios film Moana. Moana herself will appear positioned "celebrating water's arrival to our ocean." The new area is expected to open in late 2023.

A scale model of the Te Fiti sculpture planned for EPCOT on display at the D23 Expo. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

The finished sculpture of Te Fiti will stand 15' tall. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

Walt the Dreamer

Also on display was the finished "Walt the Dreamer" statue, which will be installed at Dreamers Point in the center of EPCOT. Dreamers Point is in the World Celebration neighborhood, scheduled to open in late 2023. The D23 Expo gave fans the opportunity to see, touch and pose with the sculpture before it is sent to Florida for eventual placement.

Walt the Dreamer will be installed in EPCOT in 2023. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

Figment returns

During the Boundless Future presentation on Sunday, D'Amaro delighted fans with news that Figment will "appear live to park guests by the end of 2023." No details were given for the return of the popular purple dragon.

Magic Kingdom announcements

TRON / Lightcycle Run

Josh D'Amaro confirmed that TRON / Lightcycle Run will open in spring 2023, and shared video of himself on the new attraction.

Happily Ever After

Once the 50th anniversary celebration ends in 2023, an updated fireworks show will return to the Magic Kingdom with the Happily Ever After soundtrack.

The Happily Ever After fireworks will return to Magic Kingdom in 2023. Photo courtesy Disney.

Hatbox Ghost

Haunted Mansion fans were thrilled to hear that the Hatbox Ghost will make an appearance sometime in 2023. The character was added back to the Disneyland version of the attraction in 2015.

The Hatbox Ghost will take up residence in the Haunted Mansion in 2023. Photo courtesy Disney.

Splash Mountain

Splash Mountain will close at some point in the not-too-distant future so Imagineers can start working to transform the ride into Tiana's Bayou Adventure. The D23 Expo was the first opportunity for fans to see a new model of the attraction, and get a closer look at some of the exterior changes. We compiled a quick video of the model and hope you enjoy it.


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D'Amaro confirmed that several of the actors from The Princess and the Frog will lend their voices to the new attraction, including Anika Noni Rose (Tiana), Bruno Campos (Naveen), Michael-Leon Wooley (Louis) and Jenifer Lewis (Mama Odie). The ride is slated to open in late 2024.

Disney+ Deal on Disney Cruise Line Sailings

Our partners at Get Away Today shared the details of a special Disney Cruise Line deal available only to Disney+ subscribers. This is possibly the best discount Disney Cruise Line has offered since 2013, and it's a perfect time to plan a getaway at a substantial savings.

Disney+ members can save on select sailings aboard the Disney Dream. Photo courtesy Disney.

Disney+ subscribers can bring a third and fourth guest FREE when they book two full-fare passengers in the same stateroom on select sailings.

The offer applies to sailings on the Disney Magic, Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy from January through April 2023, and includes some of the Marvel Day at Sea or the new Pixar Day at Sea cruises. 

The following 2023 sailings are specifically excluded from the offer:
  • Disney Magic – January 2 and March 13 departures
  • Disney Dream – January 2 and April 10 departures
  • Disney Fantasy – March 11 & 25 departures

Disney+ subscribers can book up to two staterooms at this offer, as long as the subscriber is the primary passenger for one of the two rooms booked. The offer is valid for stateroom categories 4A through 11C. Taxes, fees, and port expenses are not included, and are due at the time of final payment. Subscribers must be residents of the U.S. or Canada.

Disney's private island Castaway Cay is one of the destinations you could visit on a Disney Cruise. Photo Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

This offer is good on new or existing reservations, which means those who are sitting on a placeholder reservation from a prior cruise can use that to book with this discount.

To book, call Get Away Today at (877) 510-2929, and please be sure to mention you saw them on MousePlanet. You'll just need to provide the account number and email associated with your Disney+ account. The offer is valid through March 1, 2023, but as we know, the best prices are always available to those who book early. The number of staterooms allocated to this offer are limited, so the earlier you call the better your chance of getting the cruise you want.

Save 50% on DIS Con tickets

As previously announced, DIS Con (formerly DIS Family Reunion) takes place at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort September 30 and October 1, with proceeds benefiting Give Kids the World Village, the not-for-profit Central Florida Resort that provides week-long cost-free stays to critically ill children and their families.

DIS Con will feature celebrity panels, meet and greets, unique vendors (with twice as many artisans as last year), photo ops, and a huge memorabilia silent auction.

With just a few weeks until the event begins, Give Kids the World Village has shared a special discount code DISCON50 for 50% off convention tickets. Click here for ticket options starting at $30.

In addition to all of the convention offerings, the event is hosting a separately ticketed After Hours Party in EPCOT on its 40th anniversary, with access to Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, Test Track, and Mission: SPACE, plus special desserts, entertainment, and character meet and greets. Full details are available at gktw.org/discon.

This & That & Reminders…

…REMINDER: The Annual Passholder merchandise discount will temporarily increase from 20% to 30% at Disney owned and operated locations at Walt Disney World from September 14 through October 14. As always, valid Passholder ID and matching photo ID are required.

…REMINDER: Disney Skyliner will be closed for refurbishment January 22-29, 2023. Disney bus service and FriendShip boats will operate (the latter, of course, weather permitting).

…REMINDER: Magical Dining is back across the Orlando area, where restaurants offer special prix-fixe menus for $40 per person plus tax and gratuity with $1 per meal going to charity (restaurants also offer their regular menus) through October 2. As in the past, several Disney Springs restaurants are participating, including Jaleo, which is featuring what it describes as the "ultimate tapas tour of Spain," available exclusively for Magical Dining. The list of the 2022 participating restaurants is available at MagicalDining.com.

…REMINDER: Give Kids the World Village is also hosting Gingerbread Run: Valentine’s Day Edition on Saturday, February 11, 2023. This event “will enable fundraisers of all ages to run, roll or stroll a 5K or family fun run through the 89-acre nonprofit resort - past snoring trees, an enchanting castle, the world’s largest game of Candy Land, and other whimsical attractions. For more information and to register visit gktw.org/gingerbreadrun.

…REMINDER: Planning for the holidays around Walt Disney World Resort? If you’re planning a gathering between November 28 and December 30 (though not on Christmas Day, December 25), Enzo’s Hideaway at Disney Springs is offering a “Mingle All the Way” promotion: if you use code HOLIDAY and book your event (signed contract and deposit) by September 30, you will receive a $50 digital bonus card for ever $1,000 spent on food and beverage. Bonus cards delivered after the event and are valid January 2 through March 31, 2023. More details and contact form available on this page of Patina Restaurant Group’s website.

The Usual Writer's Note

Face coverings remain optional across all of Walt Disney World Resort. Remember to check this page of DisneyWorld.com for the latest requirements.

If you're traveling to or from overseas, be sure to check with the places you're visiting and traveling from or through for the latest rules. Though the United States government loosened international travel restrictions for entering the U.S.A. at the end of 2021, it remains important to check on and abide by the most up-to-date COVID-19 testing and vaccine requirements for entering the United States whether as a citizen, permanent resident, or visitor (and be aware of who needs a visa). The United States recently dropped the requirement for COVID-19 testing for entering the country.

As for visiting the Walt Disney World theme parks, Disney Park Pass reservations are required for admission in addition to a valid ticket. If your tickets have the Park Hopper option, Park Hopping only becomes available after 2 p.m. daily, and only after you have first visited the park for which you have made a reservation that day. There have been instances where Magic Kingdom has reached capacity and paused admission of Park Hoppers, and Disney reserves the right to do so at all the parks.

Sales of new Walt Disney World Annual Passes continue to be paused in all categories except the Florida Resident Pixie Dust Pass. Disney reserved the right to pause those sales when it reintroduced its new Annual Passes. Current Passholders may continue to purchase renewals in all tiers regardless of the pause in new sales. We have seen nothing further about when Disney plans to resume sales of new passes following their brief surfacing this summer.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to monitor the cases of the monkeypox virus in Florida and elsewhere. We will include more information here in future Updates should it relate to visiting Walt Disney World Resort.

Finally, as noted above, don't forget it's tropical storm season. It also rains a lot at this time of year at Walt Disney World Resort, often with dangerous cloud-to-ground lightning strikes. It gets hot and humid. Please be prepared!

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Resort Reservations, Ticket Advice & Special Offers

Note: MousePlanet does not edit past Updates to reflect price increases; for up-to-date prices, check the most recent Walt Disney World Resort Update.

This page of DisneyWorld.com features all the offers the Resort has publicly announced.

Disney+ subscribers that link their Disney+ account to their My Disney Experience account can also save up to 25% on select Disney Resort hotels for select night stays through September 30, 2022.

Walt Disney World Annual Passholders and Florida residents can save up to 30% off regular rates on their stays at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin. Seniors, 62 and older, can also save up to 25% on stays. Visit swandolphin.com/offers/ for more information and reservations.

NEW Walt Disney World Annual Passholders can save up to 25% on select Disney Resort Hotels during the holiday season, most nights from October 23 through December 25, 2022. More information and availability is available on this page of DisneyWorld.com.

Our travel partner Get Away Today is available to help you book rooms and packages. When you book a Walt Disney World Resort Package with Get Away Today with a minimum 3-night stay at a Disney Resort Hotel plus tickets, you receive its complimentary concierge service which includes:

  • Free Price Monitoring – if a special comes out after you book, we'll automatically apply it!
  • Dining Reservation Assistance – we wake up early and snag those hard to get dining reservations so you don't have to.
  • The GAT expert team is available to you! Contact them any time for extra assistance with your vacation planning; transportation, theme park recommendations, etc.

You can get a free Walt Disney World Resort vacation quote by calling 855-GET-AWAY (and tell them MousePlanet sent you) or, you can find sample prices and submit a free quote request here.

Looking to go beyond Walt Disney World Resort when visiting Central Florida? Check out Get Away Today's Universal Orlando Resort ticket offers too.

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Only purchase Disney theme park tickets directly from Disney, an authorized seller, or a travel agency like MousePlanet travel partner Get Away Today! As always, we remind our readers that Walt Disney World Resort theme park tickets are rarely offered at deep discounts unless you are a resident of Florida or eligible for U.S. Military Personnel benefits. Historically, non-Florida residents tend to benefit the most by purchasing tickets in advance (and, of course, being mindful of the rules relevant to those tickets). Don't get scammed! Never buy tickets from an unofficial or secondary outlet, such as through eBay or Craigslist. Never rent or purchase tickets from people approaching you outside Disney property stating they have remaining days or leftover tickets. This practice is against the terms of use for Walt Disney World Theme Park admissions, and may result in denial of entry. There is no way to determine if these tickets are valid until you try to use them to enter the parks.