WOW.

I am blown away by everything I saw and heard. BIG changes coming, and lots of them, too!

So, here is a brief recap of the highlights. I’m sure more details about each of these will become available as their opening dates draw closer, but for now. . .

At both Disneyland and Walt Disney World:

*The new Star Wars-themed lands will be called “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge,” and will take immersive experiences to the next level. 2 new rides are expected, including a chance to fly the Millennium Falcon and impact the outcome of your mission by playing key roles! Someone will actually be jumping the ship to hyperspace, someone will actually be shooting. . .the images look just like the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon. Several Star Wars residents will be found at Galaxy’s Edge, including BB-8, Chewie, members of the First Order, Kylo Ren, and more. And there will be a cantina you can pop into for a farm-fresh blue milk, or other drink concoction. Disneyland is set to open its galactic gates first, with Walt Disney World to follow, but no dates have been announced yet. All we know: 2019.

At Walt Disney World:

*Walt Disney World will be having its 50th Anniversary in 2021, and no one throws a party like Disney! Many of the things unveiled today are set to be completed in time for this major milestone celebration.

*The Magic Kingdom will be welcoming a Tron ride, similar to the Tron Coaster, Shanghai Disney’s highest rated attraction! It will be set next to Space Mountain, and aiming to open in time for Walt Disney World’s 50th. And, according to the artist renderings, it looks like the People Mover will remain intact. (Thank goodness!)

*The Magic Kingdom will also be adding a new theater on Main Street, to house a to-be-announced live action show. No details were given, but I’m sure it will be on par with Finding Nemo: The Musical and Festival of the Lion King. You know, fabulous.

*Epcot will be adding a Ratatouille ride in the France Pavilion, behind the Eiffel Tower. Guests will be shrunk down to the size of a mouse, and go on a big adventure! This ride will be similar to the Ratatouille ride at Disneyland Paris, where it enjoys the status of #1 attraction.

*Also at Epcot, Walt Disney invented Circle Vision 360 to film movies for several of the pavilions in World Showcase. Now, Disney is at it again, upgrading their technological capabilities to the next generation of digital filming. Look for a new Seamless Circle Vision movie coming to the China Pavilion (and I’m sure more to follow).

*Epcot isn’t leaving out Future World, either! A new Guardians of the Galaxy ride is coming- and it will not be the same as Disneyland’s Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout! Same characters, all-new ride- and they are aiming to have it open for Walt Disney World’s 50th.

*Also in Future World, Mission: Space has been under refurbishment, and is set to re-open next month with an all-new Green Mission. While the more intense Orange Mission is still out of this world, guests looking for a less intense ride will be able to enjoy an orbit around the Earth. Described “like Soarin’ Around the Earth,” it is a more family-friendly mission for all to enjoy.

*And continuing the space theme, a new table service restaurant is in the works behind Mission: Space. It will feature panoramic views of outer space for diners to enjoy!

*Mickey Mouse is getting his own ride! Over at Hollywood Studios, “Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway” will be a ride-through story with its own theme music, and a look to mirror the Mickey Mouse shorts currently on the Disney Channel. The highlight of this ride will be some breakthrough technology being developed dubbed “2-1/2D”. Not the same as 3D- no glasses required- 2-1/2D will allow flat images to become 3D, and rides will step directly into a Mickey Mouse cartoon. This ride will also feature more Hidden Mickeys than any other Disney attraction on Earth.

*Also currently underway at Hollywood Studios is Toy Story Land. With new tracks already laid for the Slinky Dog coaster, Disney announced that this new land will open next summer!

*And a more mysterious announcement, confirming a new Star Wars-themed luxury resort. . .but much more than just a hotel. An experience. You will travel by starship to a galaxy far, far away. For the entire length of your stay, you will be immersed in this other universe. Over multiple days, you will eat, sleep, dress and experience Star Wars as one of its citizens. Each day will offer different experiences all within this universe, and at the end of your stay, you will return to Earth. 100% immersion, every minute. Each hotel room will have a view into space. No details given about its location or opening date, but intriguing to say the least! And Disney is excited about this new level of immersive experience, and sees this as a whole new horizon of where vacationing can take guests.

*Walt Disney World is also upping its transportation game, with 2 new options for getting around Disney property: the Disney Skyliner and “Minnie” Vans! The Skyliner resembles the old Skyway ride, and will link Epcot and Hollywood Studios to several resorts. You can enjoy birds-eye views as you sail in a gondola towards your destinations. And Minnie Vans are a new point-to-point direct transportation service, that will allow you to customize when and how you get around the resort! (Think Uber with polka-dots.)

At Disneyland:

*Fantasmic returns Monday night! It has been missed during its refurbishment, and a deafening roar went up from the crowd when Bob Chapek announced that everyone in the audience of this panel was getting a sneak peek performance tonight and tomorrow night! (Lucky ducks.)

*Coming this fall, the residents of Radiator Springs will get into the spirit of the season with a new “Haul-O-Ween” overlay. With decor throughout the land, and favorite Cars characters in costume, this is a frightfully welcome addition to Mickey’s Halloween Party.

*New for 2018: Pixar Fest! With new fireworks, and new character interactions throughout the park, Pixar’s presence will certainly be felt more at Disneyland!

*As part of Pixar Fest, the Pixar Play Parade will be moving to Disneyland Park, to make way for the return of the Paint the Night Parade! YEAH! With possibly the most infectious parade music (except for Boo to You, of course), Paint the Night will be returning with an all-new float! No dates available yet, though.

*And next summer, Paradise Pier will become Pixar Pier! Disney California Adventure Park will have a new, bigger home for the Pixar characters, and John Lasseter spoke with great affection for the opportunity for these characters to live on beyond the end of movie credits. Some new rides were hinted at as well, but no details were given.

*Also in the future for Disneyland, Spider-Man and the Avengers will join the Guardians of the Galaxy in a new immersive Super Hero Universe at Disney’s California Adventure Park. Disney Imagineers are working hand-in-hand with Marvel to create authentic experiences for guests. . .but details will not be revealed just yet.

On board Disney Cruise Line:

*The Disney Dream will be debuting an all-new Beauty and the Beast stage show this November! It’s based on the live-action film released earlier this year, and is set inside one of Maurice’s music boxes. We got to watch a sneak peek of dress rehearsals, and I had goosebumps, it was so good! An absolute must-do for anyone cruising on the Disney Dream!

*And Disney Cruise Line is expanding its fleet to 7 ships by 2023!

And at other Disney destinations:

Disneyland Paris will open a new Hotel New York- the Art of Marvel, aimed at being more immersive than any other hotel theme so far.

Shanghai Disney is also creating a Toy Story Land at the same time as Walt Disney World, and they should both be completed next year!

Disney is also expanding the Marvel presence at Hong Kong Disneyland.

With Copper Creek Villas set to open soon at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Disney Vacation Club announced its newest location coming to Walt Disney World- Riviera Resort! The renderings are stunning! It will make the 15th DVC property, and I’m sure the nicest one yet. It will feature a rooftop restaurant with panoramic views of the nighttime spectaculars at Epcot and Hollywood Studios (awesome!)

By Sara Mahjoub

You can contact Sara at sara@middleofthemagictravel.com for your next magical vacation!