In years between Disney’s biennial D23 Expo, the Destination D23 event typically serves up some smaller announcements for Disney theme parks. This year’s edition surprised the fan community’s low expectations with some unexpected reveals of opening dates and overhauls to existing rides.
Those surprises include a transformation of longtime Magic Kingdom attraction, the Country Bear Jamboree. The animatronic show will be renamed The Country Bear Musical Jamboree and replace the current song selections with country versions of Disney classics, such as “The Bear Necessities” from 1967’s “The Jungle Book.”
— MousePlanet (@MousePlanet) September 9, 2023
Country Bear Jamboree was last the subject of retheming rumors in 2019, when WDW News Today reported the show would be replaced with a “Toy Story”-oriented marionette performance. Disney took the unusual step of publicly denying the rumors, while WDWNT claimed it had “saved” the original attraction.
In Epcot, the surprise announcement was that Test Track would be overhauled yet again. Disney said the next iteration of the ride — its third since its 1998 debut — would take inspiration from its predecessor, World of Motion, an opening day ride at Epcot.
Disney did not provide any details about when this overhaul would take place, displaying only one piece of concept art showing a forest-like scene inside Test Track.
The other Epcot announcements confirmed opening dates for two previously-revealed additions. The “Moana”-inspired Journey of Water walkthrough will open on Oct. 16, alongside a Moana character greeting.
The next permanent nighttime show for Epcot, now dubbed “Luminous: The Symphony of Us,” will debut on Dec. 5.
Lastly, the final piece of Epcot’s yearslong overhaul, World Celebration, will open in December, restoring the middle section of the theme park to guests.
Beyond concrete announcements, the Destination D23 presentation also dangled a few possible additions to Disney World without confirming they’ll actually happen. In a follow-up to last year’s D23 Expo talk, Disney said that Animal Kingdom’s Dinoland U.S.A. may be replaced by experiences themed around “Indiana Jones” and “Encanto.”
While Disney is changing Dinoland into a section themed around the “tropical Americas,” note the hedging in Disney’s announcement regarding the two film franchises.
🚨JUST IN🚨New experiences inspired by “Encanto” – the Academy Award winning Walt Disney Animation Studios film – and the fan-favorite adventurer Indiana Jones are being considered for the reimagined land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom! 👀#DestinationD23 pic.twitter.com/OH9HCCxuFw
— Disney Parks (@DisneyParks) September 9, 2023
Disney had previously floated the idea of bringing “Moana” and “Zootopia” to that section of Animal Kingdom. The latter film will be represented in the park, replacing the existing “It’s Tough to Be a Bug” show located inside the Tree of Life.
In the Magic Kingdom, the only confirmed addition was the addition of a Pirates of the Caribbean-themed lounge in Adventureland. No opening date was announced, but Disney said the lounge would expand upon the story of the attraction.
Otherwise, Disney World’s largest park got the same treatment as Animal Kingdom, with promises that concepts under consideration — called “Beyond Big Thunder” — would be similar in scale to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Pandora — The World of Avatar.
“There’s still a long way to go,” said Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products CEO Josh D’Amaro, “but I just want all of our fans to know that we are about to go into overdrive at the Magic Kingdom, and I am looking forward to spending more time with your team as we keep refining these ideas to create something really special that every single person in here is going to love.”
Star Tours will also seeing some changes in 2024, as Disney confirmed that scenes from the “Ahsoka” Disney+ series will be added to the ride in Disney World, Disneyland Paris, and the Disneyland Resort.
Otherwise, the only significant news for Disneyland at Destination D23 was a short glimpse of a ride vehicle for the planned Avengers attraction at Disney California Adventure’s Avengers Campus.
More Disneyland reveals could be possible next year at the Anaheim-based D23 Expo. Its next edition will be held Aug. 9-11, 2024. The event will be expanded to include the Honda Center, home of the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks, for larger presentations and shows.