Hello January! We’ve now been in 2016 for an entire week and with a new year, comes resolutions, reflections on the past, and general looking forward-ness.
I’d thought we’d take a look back at what we learned about Disney in 2015, whether it be about park trends, movie releases, or fan expectations. Let’s take a look now at 5 things we learned in 2015 and what we can look forward to in 2016.
1.Everyone Loves Star Wars
At the D-23 Expo last summer, Bob Iger took the stageto announce that a brand-new, 14-acre land themed to Star Wars will be added to Disneyland in California and to Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida.
And cue the *FREAK OUT!*
However, the Disney Parks Star Wars-a-Palooza didn’t stop there. In anticipation of the December 2015 release of the 7th Star Wars film, the Force Awakens, Disney threw the biggest Star Wars party we’ve seen on this galaxy with its Star Wars Launch Bay and release of Star Tours: The Adventures Continue on both coasts. Specialty merchandise, character meet and greets, food items and entertainment were added to the parks, and it’s only going to expand once the fully immersive SW Lands are revealed. The lands on both coasts are set to open in 2018.
It should be noted that at the time of the publishing of this post, SWTFA broke the box office record, grossing over $750m in its first three weeks.
2. Nostalgia isn’t dead
Again at the D23 Expo this year, we saw everything from original Mousketeers to Figment reincarnations and let’s not forget that *little* thing called the 60th Diamond Celebration.
2015 was a year of remembrance and Disney celebrated past milestones in a big way. This was perhaps most seen at the expo. The original Mousketeers came onstage to reminisce about the past 60 years of memories including the original show, and Walt himself.
Disney legends were honored, most notably Johnny Depp for his work as the illustrious Captain Jack Sparrow, and Disney Legend Richard Sherman revealed his newest work “A Kiss Goodnight” to commemorate the 60th Diamond Celebration of Disneyland.
Dick Van Dyke celebrated his 90th birthday at Disneyland Park and was met with huge regalia as fans greeted him with a flash mob of media, fan mail, Instagram photos and lots of love 🙂
3. Frozen is here to stay
In 2015, we saw the controversial, if not sad closure of the World Showcase staple Maelstrom. In its place, the attraction Frozen Ever After is slated to open later this year in the Norway pavilion in the World Showcase at Epcot. It’s said to take guests through the land of Arendelle during its Winter in Summer Celebration. It will highlight iconic moments from the film while introducing beautiful and advanced new ride technology for a stunning and magical payoff at the end when Queen Elsa reveals her giant ice castle.
Also celebrated was the Frozen music at the D23 Expo with a surprise visit from stars Josh Gad and Kristen Bell.
4. Themed Dining Is a Beautiful Thing
This year, we saw a huge expansion of themed dining come our way, with Jock Lindsay’s Hangar Bar leading the pack.
The 1940’s hangar-bar-turned-dive-bar, Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar was once home to Indiana Jones’ ex-pilot and sidekick, Jock. The Hangar Bar proves to be a huge hit among movie buffs and foodies alike, and Indy fans will love “Shorty’s Singapore Sling” and “Cool Headed Monkey” cocktails.
Like many of the other themed dining locations, this restaurant is more than a place to eat. It’s entertainment in and of itself and is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. Be sure to keep an eye out for Easter Eggs such as the Jurassic Park tooth, R2-D2, multiple Indy references and (for those in the know) images and artifacts from the Society of Explorers and Adventurers!
Other notable themed dining locations are Be Our Guest, the Beauty and the Beast themed restaurant modeled after the Beast’s castle in the animated film. This restaurant remains difficult to get into, despite the addition of breakfast seating times. It’s fully immersive, and truly feels like you are in the movie!
The Jungle Cruise Skipper’s Canteen also opened in late 2015, and though the cat’s still out of the bag as far as official reviews go, it’s been a huge fan favorite. In the same vein of Hangar Bar, JCSC has that awesome, Adventurer’s Club feel that so many Disney fans adore. It’s definitely one I’m looking forward to trying, and I can’t wait to see the classic JC Skipper spiel translate to a restaurant.
5. We’ll All Miss the Osborne Lights
If you know the Osborne lights, then you get it. It’s not only been a Disney tradition for many, but a holiday staple for tons of families nationwide.
This classic Disney holiday feature takes Christmas lights to a whole new level. For those who are unfamiliar, it is a nightly light and music display set across the Streets of America in DHS.
Its roots are in Arkansas with the Osborne family when Mr. Osborne decorated his family home at the request of his young daughter. The display grew, eventually boasting upwards of 80,000 lights. The lights caught national attention and the eyes and ears of Disney World project director John Phelan, and the Disney company acquired the display in the winter of 1995.
The lights had their last run just a few days ago, on January 6, 2016. They will no longer run due to the expansion of Toy Story Land and Star Wars Land in DHS.
There’s a Great, Big, Beautiful Tomorrow
There are many things to be excited about in 2016!
I think this is a very exciting time for the Disney company and the Disney theme parks in particular. It seems that for the last few years, the parks have been at a crossroads. Certain areas or lands have been under construction, concepts have been in process or development, and much of it is now being realized. Disney Springs in particular has been a huge improvement to the confusing atmosphere of the Downtown Disney/Pleasure Island that once was. The new concept backed by a strong story has been a hit with guests and locals alike, proving once again that an immersive tale told through elements such as architecture, dining, theme and even location is what sets Disney apart from its counterparts.
The movie scene also looks to be exciting with new films slated for release in the coming year. I’m pretty excited for the onslaught of live action films, both originals and remakes of Disney classics such as Beauty and the Beast, The Jungle Book, and Pete’s Dragon. Pixar is still holding strong, and continues to instill confidence that it will deliver on its films. Zootopia (Walt Disney Studios, not Pixar) looks to be a fun, refreshing take on the whole talking animals trope. I’m really looking forward to a more humorous, less sachrine approach to this, and the trailer was pretty stinkin’ funny, to boot. Of course, we can’t talk about films without talking Finding Dory. Perhaps the thing I love the most about this prequel is that Dory herself, the fabulous Ellen Degeneres, seems more excited about this than any of the fans. Finding Nemo was a story with a lot of heart, and the beating drum of it was Dory. Just imagine the film that can come out of Pixar with E.D. 110% behind it. I have yet to see any trailers, but I have complete trust that it won’t be short of magical.
Going back theme park-side, I think one thing to be excited for is Soarin’ Around the World, the new expansion to Soarin’ in Epcot’s Future World. The beautiful thing about this attraction is that it doesn’t really need a renovation, but the addition of this “around the world” expansion is not only thematically relevant to Epcot, but will be a welcome change to an already amazing ride.
Also announced for 2016, were Shanghai Disney Resort and Pandora—The World of AVATAR. Set to open in 2016, both of these additions to the theme park world are going to push the envelope. There was some push back since Disney announced the opening of Pandora, but as Lou Mongello puts it, “You don’t have to be a fan of the movie to be a fan of the land.” I personally think Pandora looks amazing, and the nighttime spectacular is rumored to be the next Illuminations. Think Illuminations meets an animal theme and add 2015 technology plus Disney’s years of experience of pyrotechnical shows. I think that sounds like a winning combination, and regardless of your opinions of Avatar the film, this land is said to be as immersive as Cars Land and [possibly] more magical.
Shanghai Disney Resort also looks to be just, too cool. Boasting an interactive castle with a ride nestled inside, this resort is said to be an homage to the other Disney parks while pushing the envelope technologically and maintaining a respect to the Chinese culture. I’m really curious as to what that even means, and have heard some interesting thoughts on this. Check out The Disney Dish with Jim Hill podcast, Ep. 88 to learn more about the development and history of Shanghai Disney Resort.
Tell me in the comments below what you are excitied for in 2016! Are you happy about the recent changes and additions or do you miss the nostalgia of the parks that once were? (We’re lookin’ at you, Epcot).
If you are planning a trip to Disney be sure to download my FREE Disney Travel Planner. I promise, it makes planning your trip super easy, and it’s completely customizable. Follow me on Instagram for more updates and stay tuned in 2016!