This Week in Theme Park News: Disney Annual Passes Sell Out, Disney’s D23 News, and MoreTravel Features theme parks
Before logging off the internet for Thanksgiving, let’s dive into the flood of theme park news that Disney has released over the last week. It revealed a lot of details about upcoming parks projects at last week’s Destination D23 event, and also released some surprising news about its new annual pass programs this week. Let’s get to it!
When Disney relaunched its annual pass programs for Disneyland and Walt Disney World, they warned that not every pass would be available at all times. We’ve finally seen that happen this week, with some of the annual pass tiers no longer available at both parks.
On Monday Disney announced that the three top tiers of Disney World’s annual passes were temporarily unavailable. The only annual pass that can still be purchased for Disney World, known as the Pixie Dust Pass, is exclusive to Florida residents and has the most blackout dates of any tier—including all weekends throughout the year, and many weekdays during the upcoming holiday season. And then earlier today it was announced that a second tier of Disneyland’s Magic Key annual passes has sold out. The Believe Key, the second most expensive Magic Key level, is now unavailable, joining the most expensive tier, the Dream Key, which sold out back in October. That leaves the two lowest levels of Disneyland annual passes, the Enchant Key and the Imagine Key, as the only ones currently on sale; both have numerous blackout dates, and the latter is only available to residents of Southern California.
Again, Disney announced from the start of the new programs that they could become temporarily unavailable at any time. If you were planning on giving a Disney parks annual pass as a holiday gift this year, hopefully you planned ahead and got that taken care of before this week. I don’t make it out to Disneyland enough to notice for myself, but I know for years people have talked about how the annual pass situation out there was making the park too crowded; if this is Disney’s way to better control the size of their crowds, especially as Covid hasn’t gone away, then more power to ‘em. Still, it has to be a bummer to anybody who was planning on buying a pass soon. Many believed that the warning about limited annual passes was geared more towards Disneyland, and that Disney World guests didn’t need to worry much about those passes becoming unavailable; clearly we need to start taking Disney at their word when they say something that used to be taken for granted won’t necessarily be available at all times going forward.
The timing was especially surprising, as Disney just announced more info on a slew of upcoming projects during last weekend’s Destination D23 convention. From opening timelines for major new rides, to updates on live entertaining in the parks, D23 gave us an idea of what to expect from the Disney parks throughout 2022—and no doubt made many want to pick up one of those annual passes.
Let’s start with what might be the most anticipated upcoming ride at any Disney park right now, the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind roller coaster coming to EPCOT. The story-based coaster, which will star the actors from the movies (including, as revealed at D23, Glenn Close returning as Nova Prime), will be opening at some point in the Summer of 2022. That could mean in May, by Memorial Day, or at some point during the actual summer months. Cosmic Rewind is one of the biggest ride projects Disney has ever undertaken, and will feature the first backwards launch of any Disney coaster. If you’ve been to EPCOT over the last few years, you’ve probably noticed the massive new building behind the old Universe of Energy pavilion; that’s the building Cosmic Rewind will rocket you through once the ride is up and running. We’ve got that to look forward to in six or seven months or so.
Much of the live entertainment that Disney guests have loved for decades has been paused during the recovery from the pandemic. The parks will slowly start reintroducing nighttime shows and live shows, bringing back crowd favorites over the next few months, sometimes with a few tweaks. The ever-popular Fantasmic nighttime show will be returning to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, where it’s been silent since the parks closed for the pandemic in 2020; it’ll feature a new scene with live performers and a variety of new effects. That park’s Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, one of the few original attractions left there, will also be reopening, and in just a few weeks, on Dec. 19. Meanwhile, Animal Kingdom’s Finding Nemo stage show will return with a new name, Finding Nemo: The Big Blue… and Beyond, and a new storyline based on Finding Dory. The Magic Kingdom’s Festival of Fantasy character parade will be relaunching soon, along with the new Disney Adventure Friends Cavalcade, featuring characters from Zootopia, Coco, and more. (That cavalcade will also star the Three Caballeros, for all of us old-timers out there.) And a new show called Mickey’s Magical Friendship Faire is coming to the stage before Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom, with Mickey, his friends, and various princesses showing up in their special 50th anniversary clothes. If you’ve found the Disney parks to feel a little less active than usual during the pandemic, this expansion of live entertainment should help out.
Meanwhile, out west, the most iconic of all Disney nighttime shows returns once again, as the Main Street Electrical Parade will ride throughout Disneyland next year to celebrate the show’s 50th anniversary. Expect the same light-drenched baroque hoedown you’ve known and loved since you were a kid. The MSEP has already had at least two official farewells at Disneyland, but you can’t keep a good parade—or the most early ‘70s-sounding synthesizer music ever made—down. I’ll definitely be making it out to Anaheim to catch this again during its latest run. It was also confirmed that Disney’s next-gen wearable tech, the MagicBand+, which was previously announced as coming to Disney World in 2022, will also roll out at Disneyland at some point next year, as well.
The U.S. parks aren’t the only ones getting tricked out with new (or old) biz. Disneyland Paris celebrates its 30th anniversary next year with the opening of its own version of Avengers Campus. The upcoming Walt Disney Studios Park expansion will feature Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure, the same new ride found at California Adventure’s Avengers Campus, along with an Iron Man themed rebrand of the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. This area is taking over the space that used to be occupied by the most gleefully baffling attractions I’ve ever seen in a Disney park, the special effects show based around Michael Bay’s Armageddon that somehow lasted all the way up to the year 2019.
Disney announced a lot more at D23, from a new book series based on The Society of Explorers and Adventurers, to new details on the Disneyland Hotel’s new Disney Vacation Club tower, to concept art for a retouched Downtown Disney (Disneyland’s shopping district). You can check out a quick recap of almost everything revealed at D23 over at the Disney Parks blog.
D23 also gave us our best look yet at what guests can expect from the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser resort coming to Disney World in 2022. There’s so much news on that front that we’ll be saving it for its own post; that won’t be that far or long away, so look for it here at Paste soon.
In the meantime, have a great Thanksgiving. I’ll finally be checking out Disney World’s 50th anniversary celebration next week, so keep an eye out for some on-the-ground coverage and hands (or at least eyes)-on impressions after that. If you’re also headed to any amusement parks this week, stay safe and have fun! And as always, if you work at a theme or amusement park and want to keep me and our readers updated on your latest news, feel free to reach out to me via email or on Twitter.
Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s also on Twitter @grmartin.