The theme park industry’s biggest trade show, the annual IAAPA Expo, went virtual for 2020, opening with a keynote presentation from Disney Parks, Experiences and Products chairman Josh D’Amaro. 

Like his predecessor did with an IAAPA keynote in 2018, D’Amaro used the platform to reveal new details about upcoming additions to Disney World and Disneyland parks. Given the 

Splash Mountain retheme being fast tracked 

Despite the demands of online petitions, D’Amaro made it clear the company will not go back on its decision to retheme Splash Mountain at Disneyland and Disney World to 2009’s “Princess and the Frog.” In fact, he said the project is being “expedited.” 

“We want to make sure that we’re focusing on inclusivity for our guests as well, so we’ve chosen to speed up some of the work that we had been developing to make sure that our parks remain relevant and welcoming to all of our guests,” D’Amaro said. 

The retheme was announced in June, but without any timeline attached for its completion. Splash Mountain is currently themed to the animated sequences of the film “Song of the South.” It was considered racist even at the time of its 1946 release, with the NAACP saying that it “unfortunately gives the impression of an idyllic master-slave relationship which is a distortion of the facts.”

Live entertainment isn’t dead at Disney parks 

D’Amaro repeatedly talked up the company’s resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to 28,000 people in his division being laid off in recent months. Those cutbacks included the vast majority of live performers in Disney parks, including shows such as “Festival of the Lion King” in Disney’s Animal Kingdom and “Mickey and the Magical Map” at Disneyland. 

But D’Amaro said those cuts may not be permanent. 

“We’ve heard from many of our guests that they’re looking forward to us bringing back some of the entertainment that we recently had to discontinue. And we plan to do that,” he said. 

Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure opening in 2021 

The exterior of Disney World’s latest trackless dark ride looks ready to go at Epcot’s France pavilion, but D’Amaro confirmed the attraction will not open until 2021.


That would leave Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway as Disney World’s only new attraction for 2020, having opened just ahead of the mid-March shutdown of theme parks. Other parks, such as the SeaWorld chain, also delayed scheduled 2020 additions into next year. 

Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind sneak peek

The other new attraction under construction at Epcot doesn’t have an opening date, but Disney fans can now get an idea of the roller coaster system. 

D’Amaro showed off video of the rotating coaster cars for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. “The Omnicoaster is a first- of-its-kind programmable roller coaster ride system, where guests can be rotated along the ride track in any direction while traveling at high speeds,” Disney said on its official Parks Blog. “The Omnicoaster name builds upon the tradition of the Omnimover ride system in which Walt Disney Imagineers are able to turn guests in any direction and focus their attention on a specific scene or element.” 

No opening date or timeframe has been announced for the attraction. It’s been under construction so long that now-Disney CEO Bob Chapek revealed the ride’s ride vehicles his own IAAPA keynote two years ago.

What rooms look like at Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser 

One Disney World construction project that hasn’t been halted by the pandemic is “Star Wars”-themed hotel, Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser.

D’Amaro’s presentation included the first real look at the cabins being offered at the high-end, immersive resort. The regular-sized cabins include a queen bed and two bunk bed-style “pods” embedded in the wall. 


The cabin won’t have any real windows, but a screen will simulate a view of space to enhance the feeling that you’re aboard a starship.