Top 5 Disney Parks Stories of 2023

We’re breaking down our top five Disney Parks stories of 2023 – from the 100th anniversary of The Walt Disney Company to the addition of more character meet-and-greet opportunities, EPCOT developments to the return of the Disney Dining Plan, we’ve got a lot to reflect on from this past year! 

5) Disney Theme Parks Add Character(s)

Throughout the past year, Disney has listened to Guest feedback and delivered more character meet-and-greet opportunities. 

If you enjoy character interactions, you’ll definitely get your fill during your next park visit!  

As part of Disney California Adventure’s brand-new San Fransokyo Square, Guests can now find a permanent character spot for Baymax.

At Disneyland Park, new characters moved to a recently rebuilt themed land that we’ll discuss in a bit.

Walt Disney World outdid Disneyland Resort, though. Disney’s Hollywood Studios added new interactions with various characters from The Incredibles franchise, and at EPCOT, Moana took a spot near her new walk-through attraction, , and Figment returned to the Imagination! pavilion.

Mirabel is also greeting guests at Magic Kingdom, and we’re merely scratching the surface here. 

4) Dining and Trip-Planning Changes

Disney officials have announced several changes throughout 2023 and 2024. Some have already happened, while others will begin in early January.

Over recent years, Guests have struggled to purchase Annual Passesand handled changes to Park Hopping, the absence of the Disney Dining Plan, and “That Other Thing.”

Let’s start with “That Other Thing,” or, as we bitterly call it, Park Reservations, which were introduced in July 2020.

As of January 9th, 2024, as long as you have a date-based ticket, you will no longer need Park Reservations.

During Bob Chapek’s tenure as CEO, these passes went on sale at random intervals and were sold once or twice a year. Then, Guests scrambled to purchase, overwhelming the ticketing system and selling out. Much to the chagrin of DVC Members, Annual Passes are now consistently available, making visiting the Parks more seamless during DVC stays.

Some versions of the Annual Pass sell out occasionally, but the option has remained available throughout 2023.

As for Park Hopping, it will return to its original policy on January 9, 2024.  Also, on this date, Guests can now access the Disney Dining Plan!

Overall, Disney has primarily returned to its pre-pandemic ways. As DVC Members, we’re all thankful for that touch of normalcy. 

3) TRON Lightcycle / Run Comes to the U.S.

 TRON Lightcycle / Run finally opened at Magic Kingdom after years of construction on April 4, 2023

The Shanghai Disneyland roller coaster had become the envy of American Guests when it debuted in 2016, and we were giddy with anticipation when Disney announced that Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom would receive its own version..

Alas, the pandemic threw a wrench in construction plans, andGuests twiddled their thumbs from September 2017 until April 2023 for this attraction… but itwas worth the wait!

2) EPCOT Is New Again

EPCOT has opened World Celebration Gardens

This change is so comprehensive that it’s challenging to encapsulate.

Several years ago, Disney executives plotted a new course for Walt Disney World’s most culturally and historically significant park.

While EPCOT didn’t quite live up to Walt Disney’s vision, the park has thrilled Guests since its opening in 1982.

However, the former Future World’s very name had grown ironic. As The Simpsons once joked, it was how the 21st century looked in the early 1980s.(In other words, people got most of it wrong, and the “future” seemed oddly quaint.)

So, Disney rebooted several aspects of the park, starting with decimating the former Future World.

What’s new is an attraction, Journey of Water | Inspired by Moana and Harmonious’ replacement, Luminous The Symphony of Us

Also, Disney introduced a new hangout spot that is truly majestic in scope: World Celebration Gardens. Throughout the day, Guests can spend time here and at  its signature “Walt the Dreamer” statue at Dreamers Point, which has quickly becomethe must-do photo spot at EPCOT. Guests have stood in line for an hour or more, waiting their turns to pose with Walt.

While they do, their friends can charge their phones at one of the conveniently located USB ports at the tables and chairs.

Then, at night, the ground here lights up, glowing in sync with the Beacons of Light at Spaceship Earth. 

The entire implementation exemplifies Disney’s new philosophy of “Neighborhoods.” 

During Walt Disney World’s development, a driving force was to keep Guests in motion rather than staying in one place.

In alignment with this philosophy, Disney has split the former Future World into three unique Neighborhoods.

Guests have fallen in love with all the unique amenities at World Celebration, World Discovery, and World Nature.

This strategy has brought EPCOT closer to Walt’s vision, as it’s a more communal experience, much like the 1964 New York World’s Fair he had adored.

1) The Walt Disney Company Turns 100 

Sign at Disney Springs for Disney’s 100 years.

This year, we witnessed a rare once-in-a-lifetime moment as The Walt Disney Company turned 100 years old!

Only a few companies survive for this long, and Disney executives understandably wanted to highlight the achievement and have provided Guests with a way to partake in the celebrations.

Disneyland Resort has functioned as the hub of the Disney100 celebration event. 

As part of these plans, Disney modernized the former Mickey’s Toontown into a more family-friendly interactive space.

One of the reasons why Guests stopped visiting here often was that it skewed extraordinarily young. 

So, Disney updated the themed land to make it more accessible for everyone, and I mean that literally.

Many Imagineering elements here are friendly to all park Guests, including those who prefer calmer settings. 

Disney also refreshed the existing attractions and added a new one: Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway This new attraction opened in tandem with the Disney100 celebration kickoff.

The (While Disney’s Hollywood Studios had already operated its version, the West Coast crowd had never seen Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway until 2023.)

Park officials didn’t stop there, either. The former Tarzan’s Treehouse closed to be converted into something more retro –the Adventureland Treehouse!

Similarly, Disney California Adventure rebooted Paradise Pier into an entirely new entity, San Fransokyo, inspired by the film Big Hero 6. 

In short, Disney made sure that its centennial anniversary would include plenty of new entertainment at its American theme parks. 

We’ll be reaping the benefits for many years to come and look forward to the excitement of the year ahead

Please let us know if you have any questions or if you’d like any additional information. If you’d like to rent a DVC Villa for your next Vacation or purchase a Disney Vacation Club property at a reduced price, our agents will be happy to assist you with any questions or information.

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