July 22, 2024

Disney Parks Opening Timelines vs. Predictions

Disney recently reiterated opening dates and timeframes for new rides, lands, restaurants, resorts, and more at Walt Disney World and Disneyland, as well as the Disney Cruise Line fleet expansion and the parks in Paris, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Shanghai. This details the official timeline, plus our commentary and predictions about what opening dates are actually realistic based upon on-the-ground observations this week in both Orlando and Anaheim.

Normally, this is something we track in our regularly updated What’s New & Next guides:

  • What’s New & Next for Walt Disney World in 2023 & 2024
  • What’s New & Next for Disneyland
  • What’s New & Next for Tokyo Disney Resort
  • What’s New & Next for Disneyland Paris

During the third quarter earnings call, offered updates on a bunch of projects coming to the Parks & Resorts late this year and in 2024. Most of this reiterated previous announcements and public timelines, and thus did not seem particularly noteworthy. However, this is precisely why it’s notable…

For one thing, there were some conspicuous omissions from the earnings call slide sharing upcoming Parks & Resorts openings and events. It’s often a sign when a major project just quietly stops being mentioned by the company, and there are a few instances of that now that raise some red flags.

Additionally, it’s curious that the company is sharing some of these timelines once again, since on-the-ground evidence (e.g. construction progress) suggests otherwise. So either our expectations are off, or Disney plans on kicking projects into high gear in the very near future. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Here’s a look at the slide in question from the earnings call:

It’s also notable that there’s less than a month until the big Destination D23 event at Contemporary Resort in Walt Disney World. This has transformed from an event largely about history to an off-year mini-D23 Expo, and the expectation is that news for Walt Disney World and Disneyland will be revealed at Destination D23.

While we’ve expressed skepticism that bombshell announcements will be made given the company’s current position with streaming services and debt, it’s something will be shared. Probably a safe bet that when D’Amaro takes the stage, he’ll be celebrating more than just the return of churros, like last time. Official opening dates for projects that currently only have timelines are the lowest-hanging fruit.

As such, we wanted to share the consolidated official timeline for Parks & Resorts projects, followed by our predictions of when some of these will actually open at Walt Disney World. (Anything with an asterisk is official, but not listed on the slide.)

Walt Disney World – Official Timeline

  • Late Summer 2023 – Figment Meet & Greet at EPCOT*
  • September 15, 2023 – Mirabel Meet & Greet at Magic Kingdom*
  • September 22, 2023 – Disney100 at EPCOT*
  • Fall 2023 – Moana’s Journey of Water
  • Late 2023 – World Celebration at EPCOT
  • Late 2023 – CommuniCore Hall & Plaza*
  • Late 2023 – Minnie & Mickey Mouse Meet & Greet at EPCOT*
  • Late 2023 – New Unnamed EPCOT Nighttime Spectacular*
  • 2023 – Cake Bake Shop by Gwendolyn Rogers at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn*
  • 2023 – Summer House on the Lake at Disney Springs*
  • 2024 – Tiana’s Bayou Adventure at Magic Kingdom
  • 2024 – Disney Vacation Club at Polynesian Resort
  • 2024 – Disney Vacation Club at Fort Wilderness*

Disneyland Resort – Official Timeline

  • August 31, 2023 – San Fransokyo Square (Big Hero 6 Land) at Disney California Adventure
  • Mid-September 2023 – Avengers Vault at Disney California Adventure*
  • September 28, 2023 – The Villas at Disneyland Hotel, New Disney Vacation Club Tower
  • 2023 – Tiana’s Palace Restaurant*
  • 2023 – Adventureland Treehouse at Disneyland
  • 2023 – Pixar Place Hotel
  • 2024 – Tiana’s Bayou Adventure at Disneyland
  • TBD – Avatar Experience at ???*
  • TBD – King Thanos Multiverse Attraction at Disney California Adventure*

Disney Cruise Line

  • October 28, 2023 – Australia and New Zealand Sailings
  • June 2024 – Lighthouse Point Private Island
  • Fiscal Year 2025 – Disney Treasure Ship
  • Fiscal Year 2025 – Acquisition Ship (Global Dream)
  • Fiscal Year 2026 – Third Wish-class Ship

Disneyland Paris

  • 2024 – Disneyland Hotel Royal Transformation
  • TBD – World of Frozen: Kingdom of Arendelle*

Tokyo Disney Resort

  • Spring 2024 – Fantasy Springs Port-of-Call at Tokyo DisneySea
  • 2027 – New Space Mountain at Tokyo Disneyland*

Hong Kong Disneyland

  • November 2023 – World of Frozen Arendelle Land

Shanghai Disneyland

  • Late 2023 – Zootopia Land

Walt Disney World – Our Predictions

Figment Meet & Greet at EPCOT (Late Summer 2023) – It’s been nearly a year since Disney announced the Figment meet & greet, which is a tremendous amount of lead time for a character addition in an existing space. It seems likely that the Figment meet & greet was originally slated for the Mickey & Friends space in CommuniCore Hall, but the plan is changing now.

More recently, Walt Disney World indicated that Figment would appear “later this summer.” The clock is ticking on summer, which would normally conclude Labor Day weekend on the Walt Disney World calendar. They might be going by the actual seasonal calendar for this one, as summer officially ends–very conveniently–on September 22, 2023.

Walt Disney World has also indicated that a meet & greet with Minnie & Mickey Mouse in their platinum outfits for Disney100 is coming to the Imagination pavilion. Summer ends and the 100 Years of Wonder starts on September 22, so that would strongly suggest to us that these meet & greets will both debut on or around that date.

Moana’s Journey of Water (Fall 2023) – This has been a weird one. As documented in our updates on Moana’s Journey of Water, work appeared to be nearly-finished back around spring break, leading us to believe at the time that Moana’s Journey of Water might open during the summer season (a sensible timeframe for a water-based attraction).

Not much happened for several months, then Cast Member playtesting began late last month. Cherry pickers have been spotted in Moana’s Journey of Water since, leading to the logical conclusion that test & adjust is occurring based on feedback receiving from Cast Members participating in the playtesting. In a few days, broader Cast Member previews will open for registration.

Walt Disney World has bounced back and forth with the opening timeframe for Moana’s Journey of Water. The above earnings call slide from last week still indicates “Fall 2023.” However, the official DisneyWorld.com page that just launched for the attraction says “Late 2023.)

That might seem like the same timeframe. After all, if we go by the astronomical autumn dates, Journey of Water has until December 20, 2023 to technically make a “Fall 2023” opening. But that’s not how seasons are typically observed by Walt Disney World, the place that starts Halloween in early August. In Disney parlance, Fall 2023 is roughly Labor Day through mid-November. Once the Christmas festivities start, that’s considered “Holidays 2023” or “Late 2023.”

Honestly, I don’t even know what to predict anymore when it comes to Moana’s Journey of Water. Previously, I figured the delays were deliberate, with the goal of opening everything in the Giant EPCOT Dirt Pit™️ at the same time to increase the impact and avoid “that’s it?!” reactions from fans. It’s also been possible that Disney didn’t want to open during the summer due to concerns about where to put the queue. Both of those are plausible for why Moana’s Journey of Water has been delayed.

I’m now skeptical that’ll Disney will wait for CommuniCore to be completed for reasons discussed below, so maybe they’ll open Moana’s Journey of Water once previews and test & adjust wrap up. With all of that said, I’m no longer inclined to believe Moana’s Journey of Water will open in time for the start of Disney100. There have just been a bunch of little things suggesting it may not arrive until later, but October or November still feel realistic with AP and DVC previews beforehand.

World Celebration at EPCOT (Late 2023) – This is given its own line-item on the earnings call slide, with the implication being that the Giant EPCOT Dirt Pit™️ will be filled in and the construction walls will come down. That’s the assumption being made by fans, which makes sense.

However, there’s nothing to say that Disney won’t shrink the size of the construction area, open a planter and some trees, and dub that the debut of World Celebration. Which leads us to the next distinct entry on the list…

CommuniCore Hall & Plaza (Late 2023) – After a lot of visible progress earlier this year, the pace of this project has slowed to a crawl. Back when the first flurry of announcements were made about Disney100 at EPCOT, the timeframe for CommuniCore Hall was “later this year” and the implication seemed to be that the completed transformation of EPCOT would be central to the celebration.

There is absolutely no chance whatsoever that CommuniCore Hall will debut by September 22, 2023. There has been some speculation that the 4 new food booths will be located in the plaza, but we highly doubt even that will be ready. (The Culinary Corridor behind Imagination–also behind construction walls and moving at snail’s speed–seems much more likely.)

There’s a lot of time between now and the end of the year, and the pace of construction could always speed up (again). A new fiscal year is on the horizon, starting October 1; it’s possible Disney is in a holding pattern for now, trying to shift costs into that. Maybe construction kicks into high gear as crews and resources are reallocated, getting CommuniCore open by Thanksgiving or Christmas. I wouldn’t bet against that, but I think it’s equally likely that CommuniCore Hall slips into 2024. There’s no way this is open by EPCOT’s anniversary, though.

New Unnamed EPCOT Nighttime Spectacular (Late 2023) – The last update that Walt Disney World provided about the new nighttime spectacular coming to EPCOT was back in March. That was prior to the return of EPCOT Forever or demolition of Harmonious beginning.

At that time, Disney indicated the new nighttime spectacular would be coming “later in 2023” (different than Late 2023) and the implication was that it’d debut for Disney100 at EPCOT. Since then, it’s been radio silence. Given its presumed scale, the new EPCOT nighttime spectacular was also a conspicuous omission from the earnings call slide.

Normally, a slow trickle of information is released in the lead-up to new entertainment debuting. It’s easy to contrast this with the approaches to Harmonious, Disney Enchantment, or even the return of Fantasmic. If the new EPCOT nighttime spectacular were debuting in time for the start of Disney100, we’d have a lot more info. For one, we’d know at least the name of the nighttime spectacular. There’d probably be more concept art, maybe a teaser video of an orchestra recording the soundtrack, a synopsis, and tech showcase.

Given that we have nothing at all, it’s highly unlikely that the new nighttime spectacular will debut for the start of Disney100. This is literally the only component of that for which fans would get excited, and potentially book trips. But the window for that has now closed.

We’d actually go a step further, and bet that the new nighttime spectacular at EPCOT won’t debut until 2024. I’d put the odds of EPCOT Forever having a year or longer run this go-round at about 50-50. At this point, I’m kind of expecting next year’s marketing to revolve around this nighttime spectacular and other new summer entertainment, especially if the next entry gets delayed to 2025…

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure (2024) – To the company’s credit, Disney keeps reiterating that 2024 opening date for both versions of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. As covered in our post that covers Everything You Need to Know About Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, we were skeptical of this tight timeline even before the project began.

Honestly, our hope is that Tiana’s Bayou Adventure slips into 2025. Have the big draw for next year be new entertainment, and push this into 2025. There is literally nothing else on the horizon, and even if more were announced at Destination D23, it’d be hard-pressed to debut in 2026. Given Imagineers time to cook and make something special with Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, rather than rushing the project to completion in order to make a tight timeline.

Cake Bake Shop (2023) – Another entry that’s missing from the earnings call slide, but that’s not really indicative of anything. This is a smaller scale addition and one that’s from a third party operating participant. It wouldn’t warrant an earnings call mention even if it were on schedule.

But it isn’t–not even close. Construction has moved incredibly slowly on this, and there’s almost no chance the Cake Bake Shop debuts before 2024. Our guess based on watching the pace of the project would be Summer 2024 for Cake Bake Shop, but the speed could always pick up.

Summer House on the Lake (2023) – Almost the exact same story with the new restaurant coming to Disney Springs. Admittedly, we haven’t watched progress on this as closely, but I was quite surprised at the lack of it with my most recent visit to Disney Springs this month. I’d put Summer House on the Lake on track for a Spring or Summer 2024 opening.

Disney Vacation Club Projects (2024) – There are two upcoming Disney Vacation Club projects at Walt Disney World, the new Polynesian Tower and the Cabins at Fort Wilderness. The former is moving fast and the latter has yet to start.

However, work has been happening around Fort Wilderness to give the campground appeal to a more upmarket audience, so the groundwork is already being laid. Not only that, but the cabins are prefabbed, so it’s not like a tremendous amount of lead-time is necessary.

Nevertheless, this will likely be more a matter of advantageous timing than anything else. Disney Vacation Club is not going to flood the market with points–whether both of these actually open in 2024 depends on the sales status of Riviera, Disneyland Hotel, and (to a lesser extent since it’s selling well) Grand Floridian. The cabins slipping to 2025 seems plausible.

Disneyland – Our Predictions

Tiana’s Palace Restaurant (2023)Disneyland has yet to narrow the timeline for the transformation of French Market into Tiana’s Palace Restaurant, but we have a pretty good idea that it’ll open soon based on construction progress.

Our guess is early September 2023. Probably not in time for the kickoff of the Halloween season, but it shouldn’t be too long after Labor Day. UPDATE: Disneyland just announced that Tiana’s Palace Restaurant will officially open on September 7, 2023.

Avatar Experience (???) – This is a weird one. Despite zero details whatsoever, including what the “experience” will entail or where it’ll go, Bob Iger has teased this on multiple occasions. Just last week, he said during the earnings call that “later down the road, we will be bringing an Avatar experience to Disneyland, reinforcing the unrivaled worldwide appeal of our brands and franchises.”

Oddly enough, this isn’t the first time this has happened with Avatar. The original announcement for Pandora at Animal Kingdom contained zero details, and it wasn’t until years later that the specifics were shared. (Ironically, this fulfills a promise made then of Avatar expansion happening elsewhere after Animal Kingdom.) I’m starting to think that maybe Bob Iger is a diehard Avatar fan, speaking fluent Na’vi, getting his face painted when he visits Pandora, wearing one of those tails, etc. Perhaps he pulled this idea out of thin air and blurted it out, and now Imagineering is scrambling to come up with a suitable concept for an Avatar “experience” at Disneyland.

As for when this happens, my bet is between 2025 and 2028. Very concise timeframe, I know.

King Thanos Multiverse E-Ticket (???) – As we’ve discussed elsewhere, this was a Bob Chapek project. It has not been mentioned even once since his ouster by Bob Iger or Josh D’Amaro, and it doesn’t appear on any timelines.

It’s not happening. Iger wouldn’t be going on and on about an undefined Avatar “experience” while never mentioning an actually-announced Marvel attraction if it were. Given that the Avengers HQ facade has been built and there’s an expansion pad behind it, something will be built here eventually. It probably won’t be the King Thanos Multiverse ride, though.

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YOUR THOUGHTS

What are your thoughts on the upcoming slate of additions at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and beyond? Predictions as to what, if anything, will deviate from the official timeline? What has you most and least excited? Anything you’re hoping does not end up coming to fruition? Do you agree or disagree with our assessments? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!