01 Feb Walt Disney World News and Updates February 2023
This year started off with quite a confetti drop of news from Disney! Since the big executive shakeup late last year, there have only been a few publicly announced changes. Even those mostly surrounded corporate restructuring and other behind the scenes business moves. Things really started to pick up the second week of January with quite a few announcements on the same day that will directly affect guests. We have all of that in detail below. As for expected offerings, The EPCOT International Festival of the Arts is happening now through February 20th. This park-wide celebration of the arts is included with regular admission. The Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary Celebration is winding down and officially ends March 31st, 2023. The train is back in operation at Magic Kingdom and The American Adventure attraction is open again at Epcot!
With continued reopenings, regular refurbishments and new rides and restaurants, there’s so much more to know! We’ve got it all for you here each month. Whether you’re planning your next vacation or hoping to be inspired to book one, we hope this Walt Disney World news and updates roundup helps to keep you in the know. Here on the blog, we aim to keep DVC Members and Disney fans up to date with information that can enhance their next Disney World vacation. So what else is going on these days at the most magical place on earth? The following is a list of Walt Disney World news and updates February 2023 brings us. If you’re planning one, have a magical trip!
Walt Disney World News February 2023
The Walt Disney Company Investor Webcast
Disney has shared the following regarding the next shareholder call: “The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) will discuss fiscal first quarter 2023 financial results via a live audio webcast beginning at 4:30 p.m. ET / 1:30 p.m. PT on Wednesday, February 8, 2023.” If you’re unfamiliar, this is basically a live meeting typically lead by the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer of the company. Topics discussed include how the business is doing in every area of the corporation including the parks and resorts. We’ve gotten little important tidbits out of these meetings over the last pivotal few years and occasionally an interesting announcement.
This meeting is particularly important because it’s the first since Bob Iger has returned as CEO. The last webcast of this kind was ultimately what got former CEO Bob Chapek fired. After years of missteps, one could gather that his lack of vision is ultimately what lead to his firing. Remember that The Walt Disney Company has a fiscal year that starts in October. This webcast meeting will discuss all things pertaining to October, November and December of 2022 and how things went on the business side. On these, listeners sometimes hear news and updates the CEO or CFO want stockholders to consider for the future as well. At the end, investors are able to ask questions. This part can reveal plans or intentions that may be of interest to Disney fans, Disney Vacation Club Members and average vacationers too.
Anyone can watch the Disney fiscal first quarter 2023 financial results webcast live online. There have been additional, recent developments that will make this even more interesting. Disney picked a new chairman of the board in January. From Disney, Mark Parker, ” a seven-year member of the Disney Board and Executive Chairman of NIKE, Inc., will succeed Susan E. Arnold, who will not stand for re-election pursuant to the 15-year term limit under Disney’s Board Tenure Policy. As a result, the size of the Board will be reduced to 11 members.” In the same breath, Disney discouraged shareholders from voting for Nelson Peltz, a hedge fund investor who recently purchased a large amount of Disney shares and is vying for a seat on the board. Mr. Peltz has been hypercritical of The Walt Disney Company and is seeking the opportunity to make major change happen within the company.
TRON Lightcycle / Run Will Open April 4th at Magic Kingdom
It’s an exciting time at Walt Disney World Resort as another major attraction now has an opening date! Guests will be able to go in the grid starting April 4th as TRON Lightcycle / Run opens in Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom. The ride will be located just beyond Space Mountain and possibly share a gift shop with it. This thrill ride seems to be a copy of TRON Lightcycle Power Run at Shanghai Disneyland.
Steven Miller of the Disney Parks Blog shared these details: “When you enter the queue at Magic Kingdom, you’ll feel as if you’re digitized and transported to the Grid for a special Lightcycle race. It’s your Team Blue against the Grid’s menacing Programs, Team Orange. Your goal is to be the first to race through eight Energy Gates and secure victory. The attraction will be one of the fastest coasters at any Disney theme park in the world.”
TRON Lightcycle / Run has a unique ride vehicle system that resembles a motorcycle of sorts. An alternative ride vehicle that is closer to a traditional seated position with regular restraints is also expected. We now also know the attraction will have a 48 inch height requirement. Guests can also expect to check their bags in complementary, double sided lockers. There is a small ride vehicle storage compartment for a phone or glasses.
The addition of TRON will surely mix up the attendance draws at Walt Disney World’s four theme parks. In recent years, the additions of E ticket attractions Avatar Flight of Passage at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at Epcot have helped spread out demand. TRON puts a new level of excitement back in Disney’s Magic Kingdom.
Continued Reopenings At Walt Disney World Resort
We’ve been covering reopenings in depth for a long time now. When Disney originally opened after the 2020 closure, people were just happy to walk down Main Street U.S.A. again and see the castle. Now, as years have passed and many parts of the experience have still not returned to normal, it’s good to know what to expect on your visit. Albeit slowly, things do continue to improve and look more hopeful than ever for Disney Parks getting back to offering the full experience again at some point.
Josh D’Amaro Says All Entertainment is Coming Back!
During the past year, leaders at The Walt Disney Company have been meeting with Disney and travel writers and content creators. Some of these conversations have been off the record like those with former Chief Executive Officer Bob Chapek. More recently, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Chairman Josh D’Amaro met with journalists at Walt Disney World Resort. Some incredibly positive news came out of this group interview.
Josh D’Amaro said that the company is working on bringing back all of the entertainment! From Matt Roseboom of Attractions Magazine: “D’Amaro said their objective is have all the entertainment that used to be at the parks return (plus more), although he did say not every act will necessarily return as it was before.” This is massive news for Disney fans and Disney Vacation Club owners. Anyone who visited Disney websites the last few years knows the term “temporarily unavailable.” Nearly all of the entertainment, character meet and greets and many other park offerings were listed in this category. While prices went up on everything across the board at Disney Parks, many of the offerings that were promised to be temporarily unavailable vanished from the site without mention. Now with Josh D’Amaro confirming that Disney knows and understands that guests are wanting this important piece of the magic restored, I think we have good things to look forward to. This is so promising and more than we’ve heard Disney share officially on the subject.
And Ariel’s Grotto & Enchanted Tales with Belle Opening Dates Announced!
We’ve been reporting here on things Disney has promised and then fallen short on since reopening. For example, character meet and greets were supposed to return to normal by early summer 2022. While that didn’t happen, things have picked up speed again in early 2023. You can meet Ariel in her grotto again! This Fantasyland came back on January 22nd, 2023. We now also at least have confirmation that Enchanted Tales with Belle will return on February 19th, 2023. All of these things really add up, add to your day and enhance the entire park going experience for all visitors. As Disney approaches the 100 year anniversary of the company, let’s stay hopeful Disney Parks will finally move out of the pandemic Disney phase they’ve been stuck in for years and back into flourishing again.
A Big Character Meet and Greet Finally Returns to Magic Kingdom
Pete’s Silly Sideshow, in the Storybook Circus area of Magic Kingdom, returned on January 15th! This character meet and greet features some of the most popular Disney names in circus style. Meet Minnie Magnifique, Daisy Fortuna, The Astounding Donaldo, and The Great Goofini under the big top once again. The characters are not in their typical attire and Mickey does not appear in this location but in his own meet and greet in the front of the park instead. However, the colorful settings in this circus themed space tell a story and offer a chance to meet more than one favorite at a time.
With this reopening and attractions like the train back at Magic Kingdom and TRON opening soon, Magic Kingdom has a lot more to do in the park. Even if this isn’t of interest to you and your travel party in particular, remember anything reopening or being brought back is a win for everyone. It helps spread the park flow of guests more evenly! With more to do in the parks, guests are happier and the overall experience is more enjoyable as you can potentially do more with your day at the park.
Fireworks Shakeup: Happily Ever After and Epcot Forever Return April 3rd
What a ride we’ve all been on with Disney Parks these last few years! At the D23 Expo, Disney executive Josh D’Amaro announced that Happily Ever After fireworks would return and Harmonious would leave after the 50th anniversary celebration was over. Fans were absolutely delighted at the announcement of the popular Magic Kingdom firework show returning. And now we have our dates! April 3rd will usher Happily Ever After back to Magic Kingdom and Epcot Forever back to Epcot.
While the 50th Anniversary Celebration technically ends March 31st, 2023, the firework shows will stay the way they are for just a few days longer. The last day to see Enchantment and Harmonious will be April 2nd.
Harmonious Barges are Floating Away Forever
Wow! What a delight to type that. Whether you enjoyed Epcot’s Harmonious nighttime show or not, I think we can all agree that the barges that took over World Showcase Lagoon are not appealing to the eye.
Harmonious was undoubtedly a large investment. The fact that Disney is replacing the show already after not pleasing the masses is a huge deal and gives me hope for the future of Disney Parks. Fireworks and nighttime spectaculars are a really special part of a guest’s day. It’s the big finale of a time filled with memory making. Surely Disney wants guests to end on a good note if not a great one. There seemed to be a lot of feedback about Harmonious and the larger than life hardware that came with it. Taking risks in themed entertainment is a must. Accepting when those risks don’t equate to greatness is even more of a must. We can all look forward to those beautiful sunsets over the World Showcase skyline again.
Roundup Rodeo BBQ Opens March 23rd
Construction in general has been tricky the last few years and it’s no different at Walt Disney World. The newest restaurant opening in Andy’s backyard was announced many years ago at this point. We finally have an opening date for Roundup Rodeo BBQ! Starting March 23rd, 2023 guests can enjoy barbecue served family style in this new dining option in Toy Story Land. This is a welcome addition as indoor dining is much needed during the hot summer months and rainy season. Anyone who has eaten potato barrels at Woody’s Lunch Box on a rainy day can agree.
I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a soft opening before that date. This is pretty common at Disney World. Roundup Rodeo BBQ is themed like the rest of Toy Story Land. All of the land is in Andy’s backyard and the rodeo is another play pretend moment from his imagination. If you like Whispering Canyon it sounds like this will be another restaurant to add to your plans. Cheddar biscuits, beef brisket and BBQ chicken are on the menu. Barbecue is commonly a meat heavy food category but Roundup Rodeo BBQ will have many veggie options too. Vegetarian, vegan and non-dairy seeking diners can choose from items like slow smoked cauliflower and Impossible brand rib chop. See more menu items on the Disney Parks Blog article about Roundup Rodeo BBQ opening March 23rd.
Epcot International Festival of the Arts Overview
It’s that magical time again where Epcot becomes a little more colorful. Let’s go over some highlights and things you won’t want to miss. If you haven’t been, the Epcot International Festival of the Arts is similar to other Epcot festivals. Imagine the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival but with less booths and more art. What’s neat about the art aspect of this is all kinds are present from fine arts to performing arts. And, it’s all included with regular admission!
Each season, Spaceship Earth gets a glimmering new nighttime light sequence. This time around you can catch one themed to everyone’s favorite purple dragon, Figment! This festival in general is very Figment oriented. It’s where the Figment popcorn bucket made its debut originally. The Figment popcorn bucket is back this year and with the ability to mobile order instead of standing in a massive line. Festival of the Arts also has opportunities to participate in group and individual arts projects and see live performances around the park like acrobatics.
The food at the Epcot International Festival of the Arts is also inspired by art whether it be displayed on an artist’s palette or like a sculpture of sorts. You may notice this level of creative comes with a higher price. There’s a fancy beet dish at one of the booths that comes in at over $12. The food stations, as they’re called for this festival, open at 11:00 a.m. each day. You surely won’t want to miss shopping at this festival as many new pieces of Disney art debut at it each year. You can splurge on a large framed piece or pick up a cute 5 by 7 inch post card for fun. Many artists appear to meet fans.
Disney On Broadway Concert Series 2023
The Disney On Broadway Concert Series happens in the America Gardens Theatre in the back of World Showcase. Unlike other festivals, artists alternate days for this one. You might be able to catch quite a few different Broadway stars on your trip! Aside from their roles in Disney Broadway shows, many of these artists have appeared in other titles like Hamilton and Wicked. Here’s the whole 2023 line up:
Kara Lindsay (Newsies) and Kevin Massey (Tarzan)
January 15 through 16
January 19 through 20
Arielle Jacobs (Aladdin) and Adam Jacobs (Aladdin)
January 17 through 18
January 21 through 22
Patti Murin (Frozen) and Robert Creighton (The Little Mermaid)
January 25 through 26
January 29 through 30
February 2 through 3
Mandy Gonzalez (Aida) and L. Steven Taylor (The Lion King)
January 27 through 28
January 31 through February 1
February 4 through 5
Ashley Brown (Mary Poppins) and Michael James Scott (Aladdin)
February 8 through 9
February 12 through 13
February 16 through 17
Kissy Simmons (The Lion King) and Josh Strickland (Tarzan)
February 10 through 11
February 14 through 15
February 18 through 19
Extended finale with Ashley Brown, Josh Strickland, Kissy Simmons and Michael James Scott
February 20, 2023
Disney Acknowledges Pricing Concerns and Takes Action
It was a tough few years to be a Disney fan for many reasons. One blatant theme was running wild throughout the company decisions for a while. It seemed at any chance possible Disney would raise prices while removing or devaluing offerings. A few examples being raising ticket prices while taking away much of the entertainment and numbers on menus going up while portion sizes go down. Disney fans have been vocal about the obvious changes. Many chose to take a break from magical vacations or to sell DVC altogether during the rocky time period.
Well in a New York Times article, Josh D’Amaro recently acknowledged he and the company are listening. What a refreshing approach compared to how things were under CEO Bob Chapek though he says in the article these changes are not directly tied to his absence. The same day this article came out, the next two changes were announced at Walt Disney World and are obviously connected.
Overnight Parking at Resorts is Complimentary Again
Out of nowhere, Disney has updated their overnight hotel parking policy. In a surprising turn of events, it is once again complimentary to park at your Disney resort hotel overnight. Parking used to be free at resorts but the policy was changed in 2018. Deluxe resorts were charging $25 per vehicle, per night for parking all this time. Moderates were $20 per night and Value resorts were $15. A one week stay at the Grand Floridian would cost you $175 in parking. Not anymore! The change was immediate so as of January 10th, 2023, Disney resort parking is complimentary again.
This is such fantastic news for a few reasons, Yes, it’s nice to save some money on your trip. However, this stands for something bigger and shows Disney is listening to guests and implementing change. This may not apply to you if you’re a Disney Vacation Club Member because you always park for free! But for those extra nights may you tack on to a points stay, this will be nice. Remember, guests of Disney hotels also park at the theme parks for free and there is no cost to park at Disney Springs.
Disney World Annual Passes Getting Closer to Full Benefits
Buying a Disney World annual pass with no blockout dates used to mean being able to visit the parks whenever you wanted! Then came the pandemic and the need to limit the number of people in the parks. While the reservation system originally served as a way to lower health risks for Cast Members and Guests, it became a money making tool for Disney Parks. Former CEO Bob Chapek shared the reservation system would stay because it allowed the company to staff strategically or something along those lines. This was investor talk for hire less people.
Well, pass holders are finally able to take a step in the right direction. In the article mentioned above, Josh D’Amaro shared that Disney World annual pass holders will soon be able to enter the parks any day after 2:00 p.m. without a reservation except for Magic Kingdom on the weekends. This makes a lot of sense considering there are times when dining reservations are available within the parks but park reservations are not available. Many pass holders enjoy spontaneous visits and visits mean spending money. Disney has been leaving that money on the table for years now. The best case scenario would be for Disney to properly staff their parks, add offerings and remove reservations. A reasonable exception would be to keep reservations for days when the parks are knowingly overwhelmed like the week of Christmas of the Fourth of July. Otherwise, as a guest, I’d love to be able to enjoy whatever park at whatever time I’d like once I’ve purchased my ticket.
Refurbishment Schedule And Disney World News And Updates
The beginning of the year can bring about some strategic refurbishments after the holiday rush. As mentioned in past updates, Splash Mountain closed starting January 23, 2023, to transform into a new attraction. This is reflected on the Disney World refurbishment calendar as well. Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will open in its place as an enchanting new experience some time in 2024.
To see refurbishments at the time of your visit, see Disney World calendars, look at the bottom of each park and click on Closed for Refurbishment. This is an excellent way to keep up with additional Walt Disney World news updates, closures and openings. For more Walt Disney World news and updates that might impact your trip take a look at our last post of this kind: Walt Disney World news and updates January 2023.
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