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Hello and welcome to this week’s rendition of Theme Park News! The holidays are mere days away — with New Year’s right behind them — which means it’s time to say goodbye to the old and hello to the new. 2022 is going to be jam-packed with new theme park experiences, and we’re rounding them up so you can start looking forward to the good times sooner than later.
From overhauls and animated pigs to Disney’s first Marvel attraction at Walt Disney World, get amped for the latest and greatest en route to the parks:
Downtown Disney Upgrades
Starting in January 2022, Downtown Disney will begin a multi-year project that will bring new shopping and dining as well as open green space into the Anaheim, California downtown district. These changes will occur in the section around the former AMC Theatre, but regulars need not worry — the secondary Starbucks location won’t be closed during construction.
Peppa Pig Theme Park
Yes, the first American park themed entirely to the animated children’s show will debut on Feb. 24, 2022. Located adjacent to Legoland Florida, the family-friendly park will feature plenty of experiences for little kids — without height requirements! — along with rides like Daddy Pig’s Roller Coaster, Peppa Pig’s Balloon Ride and Granddad Dog’s Pirate Boat Ride.
Magic Kingdom Entertainment
As part of Walt Disney World's 50th Anniversary celebration, plenty of live entertainment will be added to Magic Kingdom towards the start of 2022:
- Mickey’s Magical Friendship Faire will bring live entertainment back to Magic Kingdom’s Cinderella Castle stage when it debuts in early 2022. This reinterpretation of Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire stage show will combine scenes from the previous show with new opening and closing numbers, a brand new song, and special appearances by Mickey Mouse and friends in their 50th Anniversary outfits.
- Disney Adventure Friends Cavalcade will bring the most characters of any cavalcade to date, including familiar faces from Zootopia, Coco, and The Jungle Book, when it travels through the Florida park as well.
- And, perhaps most noteworthy, is that the Festival of Fantasy Parade at Magic Kingdom will bring its larger-than-life Maleficent dragon down Main Street, U.S.A. once again early next year.
RIP Disney’s Magical Express
Not exactly a new project to look forward to, but a friendly reminder to future travelers that Walt Disney World resort hotels’ complimentary bus service goes away at the top of the year. Multiple third-party services will be available in its place, in addition to rideshare offerings, but it’s noteworthy for being one of the more significant hotel perks to disappear in recent years.
Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser
Prepare to jump into hyperspace, because the two-night immersive experience at Walt Disney World welcomes its first guests on March 1, 2022. With a cruise-on-land ethos and activities like lightsaber training and real Holo-Sabacc games inside the onboard cantina, its interactive theatrical elements will make this the closest any Star Wars fan can get to (safely) existing inside the action of this beloved film franchise.
Having already taken a peek inside, I can say firsthand that this will be a game-changer when it debuts — and not just because it’s poised to potentially be the first of many experiences going forward.
Nighttime Entertainment at Disneyland Resort
From fan-favorite spectaculars to throwback favorites, Disneyland Resort will welcome a full slate of entertainment that had not yet returned post-pandemic throughout mid-2022.
- Fantasmic!, the rousing show performed on Disneyland’s Rivers of America that sees Mickey Mouse’s magic face off against Maleficent’s powers, will at long last return in Spring 2022.
- Disneyland Forever fireworks show, featuring projections, nods to classic Disney films and original music, will also bring its sparkling display back to the resort next spring.
- The sweet, sweet sounds of Baroque Hoedown will once again play throughout Disneyland Park when the delightfully retro Main Street Electrical Parade makes its surprise return.
- And, perhaps most exciting, is that World of Color, the iconic nighttime show held in Disney California Adventure’s Paradise Bay will return, infusing a much-needed nighttime highlight to the park.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind
Epcot’s forthcoming coaster, themed to the Guardians of the Galaxy films, isn’t just noteworthy for being the first Marvel attraction at Walt Disney World. With cast participation in show scenes helmed by director James Gunn, vehicles that spin 360 degrees and one of the longest indoor roller coaster tracks in the world, it’ll inject some much-needed new thrills into Epcot when it opens next summer.
While the exact date for this has not yet been announced, one good sign was dropped this week: according to Walt Disney World president Jeff Vahle, ride testing has begun, meaning it might not be long before the rest of us get to sit in this new coaster’s seats.
Super Nintendo World
The California outpost of the video game-themed land, which first debuted in Japan earlier this year, is currently under construction at Universal Studios Hollywood’s lower lot. The expanse will feature Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge, themed food and merchandise and, if Los Angelenos are lucky, the glorious meet-and-greet with Toad that’s been wowing Universal Studios Japan fans since it launched. No date has yet been announced, but construction has been moving along steadily.
The souped-up version of Walt Disney World’s RFID-enabled wearable will arrive at the Florida theme park resort — and, for the very first time, at California’s Disneyland Resort — in 2022. With enhancements by way of a dynamic watch face that light up in tandem with nighttime entertainment and allows for deeper interactions throughout the park, it’s bound to be a popular choice among guests.
Walt Disney World Entertainment
Walt Disney World welcomes back some and reinterpretations of former shows that have not returned since the pandemic closures back in 2020:
- “Finding Nemo: The Big Blue… and Beyond!”, a reimagining of the Finding Nemo musical at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, will return next year to wow audiences with its larger-than-life spectacles.
- Fantasmic! will return to Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 2022 as well, with an all-new sequence and stunts.
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