Sneak Peek: What’s New This Summer at Disney World

Rivers of Light
Rivers of Light at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Travel Agent’s Michelle Krol recently attended Walt Disney World’s “Awaken Summer Media Preview" event in Orlando, Florida, and got the scoop on what’s new and upcoming throughout the parks this summer. 

Walt Disney World, widely known as a popular destination for families with children, has been making changes in the past few years to appeal to a wider range of audiences, particularly after the purchase of Lucasfilm and the acquisition of the Star Wars franchise. 

This summer, Disney will be adding a new fireworks show to its collection of Star Wars-themed attractions called Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular. The nightly presentation at Disney’s Hollywood Studios will include fireworks, lasers, light projections and other special effects accompanied by the music of John Williams


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Kylo Ren

Also new is Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away, a live stage show that combines a mix of movie clips from each of the films with pyrotechnics and appearances from popular characters, including C-3PO, R2-D2, Chewbacca, Darth Maul, Darth Vader and Kylo Ren, among others. The show takes place multiple times each day at the Center Stage area near The Great Movie Ride. There is also a Stormtroopers March at the same location, beginning from Star Wars Launch Bay and looping around the stage. Costumed "stormtroopers" march in formation, led by Captain Phasma, to demonstrate to the audience the strength of the "First Order." 

Visitors who may have already experienced some of the Star Wars attractions at the park can still expect something new with the enhanced Star Tours – The Adventures Continue, a 3D motion simulator ride. The attraction now includes 50 different adventure scenarios, as well as new character appearances based on which "ship" is boarded. 

Also scheduled to be completed this summer is the Norway Pavilion at Epcot, set to house the new Frozen Ever After boat journey. During the animated tour, guests will explore the kingdom of Arendelle and meet Queen Elsa, Princess Anna, Kristoff and Olaf and travel through the frozen willow forest, past Troll Valley and up the North Mountain to the Ice Palace. The ride will include music and dialogue by the original cast of the movie, who were brought in by Disney to help create the new attraction. 

Anna and Elsa at Norway Pavilion

In addition, the Norway Pavilion will house the new Royal Sommerhus where visitors can meet Elsa and Anna in person at their new permanent meet and greet location at Disney. The building’s design was inspired by a traditional Norwegian countryside cabin, and will have artifacts and items seen in the original film. 

Fun fact: Large stones located at the center of the Norway Pavilion include carvings from the location’s previous attraction, Maelstrom

Walt Disney World Resort is slated to complete the transformation of its former Downtown Disney venue into the new Disney Springs with the completion of its Town Center this May. Once finished, the shopping and dining location will have nearly 150 shops, restaurants and attractions, including the reimagined La Nouba by Cirque du Soleil, which now includes two new acts. 

The show’s new opening focuses on three "B-Boys," Josh Ortiz (“Incredible Josh”), Jean Carlos Lloret (“Bebo”) and Dmytro Li (“Flying Buddha”). B-Boying is a form of dance in which performers combine acrobatic tricks and perform them to music. Also, performing their act for the first time in the United States, is Russian couple Alexander and Ekaterina Abramov. The act, titled Aerial Bamboo, involves the two performers hanging from a pole suspended from the ceiling, with attached loops used for a variety of tricks and stunts all performed high above the stage. 

Disney’s Animal Kingdom will also be launching some unique new offerings this summer, including several new experiences throughout the park that take place after dark. 

To coincide with the release of the new film, Discovery River will become the stage for the The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic show this summer. The performance will include music and special effects, as well as classic songs from the original animated movie, now infused with an Indian influence.

Tree of Life

After sunset, Discovery River will host another new attraction called Rivers of Light. The show will incorporate costumed performers, floating lanterns, theatrical animal imagery, water, colored lights and lasers and music into a performance meant to “celebrate the magic of animals, humans and the natural world.” The park’s Tree of Life will also be the backdrop to a collection of colorful stories played throughout the evening. High-tech projections of nature scenes will be cast onto the bark of the tree accompanied by music from several of Disney’s nature-themed films. 

Both new and returning visitors to Disney’s Animal Kingdom this summer will also have a chance to experience a safari expedition in a new way. Each evening, Kilimanjaro Safaris After Dark will take guests on a night tour to learn about the animals’ nighttime behavior. Lions, warthogs, hippos, elephants, giraffes, zebras and wildebeest are among some of the species guests will encounter on this nocturnal tour. There are also two new species; African wild dogs and hyenas.

Animal Kingdom WIldebeest

New offerings throughout the park this summer will also include nighttime rides on Kali River Rapids and the Expedition Everest rollercoaster, as well as new musical performers and dancers, stilt walkers, puppeteers and new culinary offerings. 

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