April 24, 2024

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Disney is revealing more about its massive Magic Kingdom expansion, part of a $60 billion investment

Disney is revealing more about its massive Magic Kingdom expansion, part of a $60 billion investment


Glendale, California
CNN

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, “the wildest ride in the wild,” is located on one end of Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, the most visited theme park in the world.

But one day park visitors can expect to see beyond that wilderness at the iconic Central Florida park — something more ambitious than a simple vehicle overhaul or redesign.

“This is probably the largest expansion ever at the Magic Kingdom,” Michael Hundgen, Walt Disney World's portfolio executive, said Tuesday during a rare media event that previewed new Disney attraction designs and technology at the Walt Disney Imagineering facility in California.

The expansion will be about the size of Star Wars Galaxy's Edge, occupying about 14 acres, he said. The Disney team is currently conducting research trips and designing a concept for this expansion area.

Hundgen did not say what themes or stories would be there – or when this project would be completed.

The Magic Kingdom expansion is just one part of Investing $60 billion Disney said it is planning its parks, cruises and experiences over the next decade.

To show how the investment is being used, Disney invited CNN, along with a group of about a dozen other media outlets, on Tuesday to see the projects in action at Walt Disney Imagineincluding new technology in the research and development stage.

disney CEO Bob Iger, Who returned to his role “When I looked at the returns on invested capital that we had achieved in this business over the 15 years prior to my coming back, it was very compelling,” he said on Tuesday in November 2022, just two and a half years after leaving the company. We should allocate the direction in which we have achieved great returns.

Courtesy Disney

Bob Iger and Josh D'Amaro in Walt Disney Imagineering

While Iger said the company has a fairly good idea of ​​what it will be building in the near future, he said it's “really silly” to allocate every dollar of the $60 billion right now, since they don't know what content might be a hit in the coming years. .

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They don't know what the next “Frozen” will be, for example, so Iger said the company has to remain flexible about what they choose to build in subsequent years.

As Universal Orlando Resort prepares to open a third theme park, Epic Universe, in 2025, the lack of information about what might come in subsequent years at Disney has been the subject of criticism.

At a virtual Disney shareholders meeting on Wednesday, a pre-selected question was asked: “Why hasn't Disney prepared anything, or put more than just a few attractions in place to be ready for that in 2025 at Walt Disney World?”

“That couldn't be further from the truth,” Iger replied. He said Disney had known about Universal's plans for more than a decade, and that Disney had a way of analyzing all of its needs to deploy its capital strategically.

After naming the new lands and attractions developed at Disney's Florida Resort over the past decade, Iger said, “Through these major launches, we've been able to optimize our new offerings commercially and operationally over time, rather than having to do it all.” Once.”

However, these projects, including the most recent announcement of what Disney calls Magic Kingdom's “Beyond Big Thunder” project, are at best expansions of existing theme parks; The project from Universal, which is owned by Comcast, will be a brand-new theme park.

Iger said Legal settlement The agreement reached last week between Disney and the state of Florida “will actually enable us to pursue the kind of significant investment that you're talking about in our parks in Florida,” he said, calling it a “win-win.”

A potential new destination at Disneyland

During the same shareholder meeting, Iger showed off a new sketch of an area based on the “Avatar” films that he described as a “potential new destination” for the original Disneyland Resort in California.

But any plans to expand the theme park at the Disneyland Resort will need approval from the city of Anaheim due to zoning issues.

A decision to rezone existing Disney property into more theme park space, a project dubbed “Disneyland Forward,” will come before the Anaheim City Council in the coming weeks.

Mike Boucher/Walt Disney Imagine

The patented technology called “HoloTile” was demonstrated on Tuesday.

Iger said 70% of the $60 billion investment will focus on new attractions that increase the capacity of Disney's theme parks and cruise ships. The remaining 30% is focused on technology and maintenance to achieve this expansion, he said.

One of those patented technologies, called HoloTile, was demonstrated to reporters on Tuesday. Although this has not been assigned to any specific theme park project yet, Imagineers have demonstrated how one can move a box or chair, just like Darth Vader using the Force, with the motion of a hand.

Invented by visionary Lanny Smoot, who was recently inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, HoloTile allows multiple small tiles to be pushed together to create a floor that can allow people to walk in any direction or any distance, without actually descending the tiled area.

“There are beams of light or pools of light bouncing off my legs…telling the ground where I am,” Smoot said.

Multiple people can walk on it in any direction without bumping into each other, Smoot said. If someone ran at full speed on this floor, he would never run on tiles. HoloTile can be used in a virtual reality environment, for example, to allow movement – Click here to check out the demonstration.

This took years of work, Smoot said: “As one of my friends says, long fuse, big bang.”

Mike Boucher/Walt Disney Imagine

Research and development teams showed off the “Star Wars” BD-X robots at an event on Tuesday.

Research and development teams also displayed BD-X robots from the “Star Wars” film series, which are “moved” by engineers using what resembles video game controllers.

The robots, which were tested at Star Wars Galaxy's Edge at Disneyland last October, will reappear there for two months, starting April 5.

Far from a regular robot, “reinforcement learning” helps robots give the incredible illusion of “communicating” with humans, using highly advanced movements, and they are even able to balance themselves when bumping into unstable surfaces or objects.

Along one wall in Imagineering's machine shop, this quote was seen written on a white board: “Progress has nothing to do with speed, but more to do with direction” – Unknown

What started out as primitive robots with pre-recorded speech and sounds, as seen in Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room in 1963, Disney's voice animation techniques became advanced with fluid movements and human expressions.

Christian Thompson/Disneyland Resort

Tiana's Bayou Adventure characters were on display during the media tour.

At the media tour, Disney showed its full numbers for Tiana's Bayou Adventure — a new ride coming to California and Florida resorts — replacing Splash Mountain. The opening date has not been announced for that.

Based on the movie “The Princess and the Frog,” characters wave, talk and sing to guests as they ride along a wooden stream.

This level of advanced audio-animatronic technology has so far only been seen at Disney's international theme parks.

Stella Reese Chase, whose mother Leah Chase was a New Orleans celebrity chef and television personality, was invited to California to see these characters after a Disney team visited her hometown to research how to create the authenticity of the attraction.

As Chase watched Princess Tiana wave and speak for the first time in 3D, she said, “I'm completely amazed, you know. What can I say? I've never seen anything like it. It's really a wild experience.”

Charita Carter, executive creative producer at Walt Disney Imagineering, has worked on the project since its inception about four years ago.

It takes Disney up to six years to go from a new concept to a finished attraction. Carter recently got to experience the journey she worked on from A to Z.

Asked if this was what she expected, Carter said: “Yes, it is really coming. There are a lot of beautiful things happening, so I was really happy.”