The gateway into the Grid opens in April
Finally! We have a Tron debut date–plus a slew of other Disney news
If you are a paid subscriber (and you really should be! So upgrade your subscription fer cryin’ out loud), be on the lookout tomorrow (Friday, January 13) for this month’s What’s the Attraction? discussion thread in your inbox. Now that I’ve completed my 2023 parks and attractions preview series of articles, it’s time for you, dear readers, to let us know your park plans for this year. Will you be checking out any of the new rides in the coming months? Or otherwise visiting parks? Will you be traveling far? Nearby? We just gotta know! Log on tomorrow starting around 10 a.m. ET and join the conversation.
For some reason (it’s a new year? a new regime?, a great, big, beautiful tomorrow?), Disney’s floodgates opened this week. No, I’m not referring to the epic rainstorms plaguing Disneyland and the entire state of California. There is a torrent of new announcements, news, and updates about the parks to report. So, let’s get to it.
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After a looooong delay, Disney has finally revealed an opening date for TRON Lightcycle/Run. The highly anticipated coaster will officially rev up on April 4 at the Magic Kingdom. (After it soft opens for cast members, annual passholders, and Disney Vacation Club members.) I got to ride the original TRON at the grand opening of Shanghai Disneyland, and, as I’ve shared before, it’s one heckuva coaster. The show elements and design aesthetic, especially in the queue, are mighty impressive. I anticipate the stateside version of TRON will be essentially similar, if not virtually identical to the one in China. And I suspect it will quickly become one of Disney World’s most popular attractions.
But that’s not all that Disney World revealed this week. The park resort is making a couple of major changes to its lineup of nighttime spectaculars. Disney Enchantment, which is currently showing at the Magic Kingdom, will end on April 2 and will be replaced with the return of the much-admired Happily Ever After starting on April 3. The reprised show will be enhanced with projections that will extend down the facades that line Main Street U.S.A. Meanwhile, Harmonious will go dark at EPCOT on April 2, and the stand-in show that preceded it, EPCOT Forever, will resume on April 3. As during its previous run, the temporary show will serve as a placeholder while Disney’s fireworks fanatics develop a new lagoon show that will debut later this year.
I am not a fan of Harmonious, and, as evidenced by the turn of events, a lot of other folks share my feelings. In addition to being eyesores during the day, I thought the show’s hulking barges, with their strange mechanical arms, were weird and added little, if anything, to the production. Thankfully, Disney says it will be removing the godawful, intrusive platforms after Harmonious ends. I suspect a bunch of WDW diehards will gather for a rousing chorus of “Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye” when they are floated out of the World Showcase Lagoon in early April.
Along with the relatively short tenure of the failed Rivers of Light at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney World has not had a great track record with its nighttime shows lately. While I think the long-running Happily Ever After was great, and I welcome its return, Disney Enchantment is, in my opinion, quite good as well. Still, the latter show had its detractors. Here’s hoping that the resort’s Entertainment division has learned some lessons (costly ones, no doubt) and delivers great new nighttime shows.
In other Disney-after-dark news, Walt Disney Studios Park at Disneyland Paris resort will be debuting Avengers: Power the Night on January 28. In addition to pyrotechnics, projections on the The Hollywood Tower Hotel, a rousing score featuring music from the Marvel franchise, and all of the other trappings of a nighttime spectacular, the show will also incorporate 500 drones. The adjacent Disneyland Paris park has its own Disney D-Light show with drones that fill the night sky above Sleeping Beauty Castle. Apparently the rules and restrictions governing the use of drones for entertainment purposes are more forgiving in France than they are here in the U.S.
Changes to park reservations, parking fees, and more
You know those pesky park reservations? They are not going away–at least not for now–but Disney is making some tweaks to its reservations requirements and other much-maligned policies it recently introduced.
In the coming months at Disney World, annual passholders will no longer be required to make reservations to visit the resort’s four theme parks after 2 p.m. The only exception will be the Magic Kingdom, the resort’s most popular park (and the park with the highest attendance in the world), which will still require reservations for passholders after 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Unfortunately, folks using single- and multi-day tickets will still need to make park reservations. California’s Disneyland, which has far more passholders, will still require reservations for all guests.
The Disneyland resort, however, will greatly increase the number of days it will offer its lowest-priced one-day park tickets, which currently go for $104. Starting February 4, guests with Hopper passes that allow them to access both Disney California Adventure and Disneyland will be able to switch parks starting at 11 a.m. instead of the more restrictive 1 p.m. time now in place. Also starting February 4, all Disneyland visitors will be able to download free digital Disney PhotoPass attraction photos. The date has not been announced yet, but at some point soon, Disney World guests will get the Disney PhotoPass attraction photos deal as well, but only if they purchase the Disney Genie+ service.
Finally, Disney World immediately rescinded the overnight parking fees it had been charging its hotel guests since 2018. Prices had been as high as $25 for its higher-end accommodations. Now, those staying on property will receive complimentary self-parking.
"As we step into this bright future it is important that we continuously evolve to help deliver the best guest experience possible," said Josh D'Amaro, chairman of Disney parks, experiences and products in an email to cast members in which he shared the updates. “And while this doesn’t address everyone’s feedback, these changes will increase flexibility and add value to our guests’ experience.”
That’s a tacit acknowledgment of the frustration many park guests have been feeling (and some guests have been loudly proclaiming). This is surely a step in the right direction. But more needs to be done to address the company’s many missteps. From the tone and wording of D'Amaro’s statement, I’m inferring he gets that and that more changes are on the way. Stay tuned.
Whew! That‘s a lot of news. So, whaddya think ATPers? Chime in on any, many, or all of the announcements. As a reminder, anybody can join the conversation.