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Theme Park News: Lots of Disney World updates and check out the new Star Wars hotel experience

Disney World drops tons of news at Destination D23 as we walk you through the new Star Wars hotel experience.

By Carlye Wisel
Star Wars Theme Park News PRESS



Hello and welcome back to a post-holiday round-up of Theme Park News! Plenty has happened since we sat down to turkey-based festivities, and we're going to bring you up to date about all of it. From new Disney park entertainment to a California remodel to a tour guide's POV through Disney's forthcoming Star Wars hotel experience, here's this week's bounty of theme park news:


You'd think late November would be a sleepy time for Disney theme park news considering the holidays are already in full swing, but oh no, you'd be quite wrong. Like a blizzard dumping joyful, informative snow down upon us, there was an avalanche of updates from the pre-holiday weekend that we, like the last dregs of turkey meat, simply must get through.

These updates and confirmations came out of late November's Destination D23 event, a Florida celebration held by Disney's official fan club that's well attended by the most dedicated of Disney die-hards, selling out almost instantly when tickets went on sale. (If you're familiar with D23 Expo in Anaheim, this is an interim event in Florida which packs its own punch with news, special guest appearances and highly specialized panels.)

From parade news and show debuts to... kite exclusivity (!), here's a summary of the most important bombshells out of Florida's pre-Thanksgiving festivities:


The Festival of Fantasy Parade and its massive Maleficent float will return to Magic Kingdom in 2022, along with a new twist on the Mickey's Magical Friendship Faire stage show. While it will include some scenes from the previous iteration, Friendship Faire will receive new opening and closing numbers, as Mickey and friends sport their new outfits honoring Disney World 50th Anniversary. A new song, "Where the Magic Feels Like Home," will also debut with the daily performance when it begins in early 2022. A new Disney Adventure Friends Cavalcade featuring characters from The Three Caballeros, Coco, The Jungle Book, and more, will debut at Magic Kingdom this winter as well — which, if we're guessing, will also be at the top of 2022.

Fantasmic! is confirmed to return to Disney's Hollywood Studios next year as well, and will include a new scene said to contain "live performers, stunts, special effects and more."

Disney also, at long last, confirmed that Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind will open Summer 2022 at Epcot. Personally, I'm more excited for this ride than almost anything else, and after seeing the track firsthand, I can't wait to give it a spin. (No date was given for TRON Lightcycle Power Run, Disney World's other forthcoming coaster that is currently under construction at Disney's Magic Kingdom.) Imagery was also revealed for the new quick-service Connections Cafe and Eatery, coming to Epcot at an undetermined date.

At Disney's Animal Kingdom, a replacement for Finding Nemo: The Musical called Finding Nemo: The Big Blue... and Beyond!, will also debut in 2022. The show is set in the timeline of Finding Dory, and is said to contain many of the songs and production numbers from its previous iteration. And, in more current news, Disney KiteTails now has an Annual Passholder-exclusive seating area? Okay!!

Disney D23 Guest Entrance Theme Park News PRESS


Disneyland Resort's Downtown Disney district will also be seeing some improvements and changes as part of a newly announced multi-year expansion. Construction will begin in January to remove the former AMC movie theatre space to build an entirely new area with additional dining, shopping and, according to the early renderings, green space — something Downtown Disney desperately lacks.

In rather surprising news, Destination D23 also brought the news that MagicBand+ will be integrated into Disneyland Resort come 2022 — a theme park resort that has, until now, not used MagicBands. This new version of Disney wearable is noteworthy because it doesn't just allow guests to do functional tasks like open their hotel room and scan their park admission, but is promised to provide more enhancements and built-in magic than before.


As you'll recall from when I went aboard Disney's Star Wars-themed 2-night hotel experience, there was plenty to discuss about intergalactic game play and unbelievably good space food, but there was no...proof we'd stepped inside.

As part of The Wonderful World of Disney: Magical Holiday Celebration, however, The Goldbergs' Sean Giambrone got a peek inside with Walt Disney Imagineering's own Ann Morrow Johnson, giving the public their real first look from multiple spaces inside the ship.

Considering we weren't allowed to share any photo or video from our visit inside the Halcyon, I'll break Disney's video down scene-by-scene so you can more easily envision what this space vacation is truly like:

:30 - That console Ann Morrow and Sean are standing in front of is one of many on THE BRIDGE, where some of the most significant show scenes will occur on board. Guests work in tandem at each station to practice defense skills and other tasks that may or may not be required later on in their journey. Each of the four sections has their own highlights, but this console in particular is the most fun to play around with, utilizing its many buttons and switches in a kind of memory game that increases in difficulty and speed. (Oh, and that view out onto space? That's the largest display on the ship, and it's huge.)

:50 - Heads up: that clip was definitely filmed within Galaxy's Edge and is not what the LIGHTSABER TRAINING space looks like!

1:00 - That clip of JUMPING INTO HYPERSPACE, however, is exactly what it looks like while at Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser!

1:04 - They're walking through one of the main corridors on a lower "level" of the ship. Behind Ann Morrow, I believe, would be THE BRIG, or the ship's jail cell, and those gilded doors to the left are, if memory serves me correctly, the elevators.

1:25 - Movie magic at work! Sean is now back upstairs in the SUBLIGHT LOUNGE, which is located just off the main atrium. (If you're standing at The Bridge and turn around, the entrance would be out and to your left.)

1:40: - Say hello to GAYA, an interplanetary pop star who performs aboard the ship. In reality, this showcase would very likely be in the CROWN OF CORELLIA DINING ROOM at the first night's dinner, but who cares because this song slaps. No clue if Gaya will be playing a full set of pop bangers like this or just a small smattering of space covers, but this song and its performance are a hit, and make good on one of my main concerns regarding a lack of alienesque characters aboard. (Shoutout to @acrobaticfrog who tipped me that Gaya is a featured singer on the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge Oga's Cantina R3X's Playlist #1 soundtrack — fingers crossed there's more music in languages beyond English!)