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Star Wars, Encanto, Indiana Jones, and More Are Coming to Disney Parks Expansions

Big news for theme park fans out of Disney Imagineering: Disneyland and Walt Disney World are expanding with attractions and more inspired by Star Wars, James Cameron’s Avatar, Encanto, and Indiana Jones.

At a recent Imagineering press event, io9 was in the room when Disney CEO Bob Iger crashed a tour of much-anticipated new attraction Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, intent on discussing the importance and future of the theme parks division of the Walt Disney Company. To Iger, it comes down to Imagineering’s marriage of technology and storytelling. “Often the technology side creates technology that, when they show it to the artists, inspires the artist to tell these great stories,” he said. “It’s this unbelievable balance in this relationship between art and technology [that] when I think about a lot of different places at Disney—[but] very specifically Imagineering—that’s exactly what happens: artists constantly turning to technology side saying, ‘give me the technology solutions to tell this great story’”

Iger continued. “Also, often it’s the technology side that’s just Blue Sky without a story in mind—just creating technology. [When] they show our storytellers, it inspires our storytellers to come up with stories ultimately that manifest themselves in parades, restaurants, hotels, attractions, and shows across all of our properties.” 

The Chairperson of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Josh D’Amaro, was also on hand to excitedly share more about what’s coming up next at Disney Parks. “About a year ago or so [ago] I found myself in Bob’s office, and we were talking about the last 100 years and everything that’s happened at Disney experiences, and our products around the world. And we talked about the number of stories that we have to tell,” he said, noting that recent hits like Encanto were creating a growing excitement from fans to experience more of Disney’s legacy across the company’s theme parks. “Bob kind of looked at me and said, ‘Go.’ Which is essentially now what we call ‘turbocharge.’ We’ve said we’ll be spending $60 billion over the next 10 years. You’re going to see some glimpses of that today. But I want you all to know that there is so much work already behind that $60 billion come to life behind the scenes here.”

Iger jumped in. “In addition to what Josh said, we have the property—meaning land—and the property—meaning intellectual property—to basically take advantage of the resources that we have to [in turn] to create shareholder value.” He explained how the company wants to allow space for not just past Disney hits, but also potential ones in projects coming up. “We actually have a fairly good idea of near-term. But we’re purposely not allocating [the entire budget now] because [in] five years we can end up with a giant hit movie—think Frozen some years back—and we may want to mine [that title] as an attraction or hotel or restaurant in our parks. So you want to maintain some flexibility.”

What is coming to Disneyland?

Droids in Training: Imagineers Conduct Playtest at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

During our Imagineering tour we found out that things will kick off as soon as this week—not only with the new Star Tours destinations previously announced, but also the confirmation that the BD-X droids will be coming back to Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge starting this Friday, and making appearances during the Season of the Force (alas, only at Disneyland). During a shareholder’s call this week, Iger stirred up excitement by giving an update on more of James Cameron’s Avatar coming to Disneyland; you can see the concept imagery released by Disney Parks below. It looks like a water ride that could quite possibly take over Grizzly River Run.

Image for article titled Star Wars, Encanto, Indiana Jones, and More Are Coming to Disney Parks Expansions

Image: Disney Parks, Experiences and Consumer Products

What’s coming to Walt Disney World?

As for Walt Disney World, we got confirmation that Beyond Big Thunder Mountain permits have been filed to expand the Magic Kingdom, with the rumored attractions based on intellectual property which can be recognized as Coco and the Disney Villains based on concept drawings. But definitely happening sooner is the transformation of the soon to be extinct DinoLand USA into the Tropical Americas area, as seen below in concept art presented at Destination D23 last year.

Image for article titled Star Wars, Encanto, Indiana Jones, and More Are Coming to Disney Parks Expansions

Image: Disney Parks, Experiences and Consumer Products

Joan Alexander, a project lead with Walt Disney World’s Imagineering, gave this update: “This work is underway. You’re familiar with Animal Kingdom, this very authentic placemaking. It’s a great privilege for team members. We traveled to Mexico, [where] we photograph, we sketch, we meet with local artists to learn about the area. That’s how important it is to create that experience and bring it to the land.” She described Disney’s plans for Tropical Americas as “rich and immersive experiences [based on hits] like Encanto and Indiana Jones.”

We’ll have more news from Disney Imagineering and Tiana’s Bayou Adventure coming soon on io9.


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.

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