Disney goes full throttle with theme park upgrades

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AN immersive ‘Star Wars’ hotel, a new ‘Ratatouille’ attraction and the first ever Mickey Mouse ride are just some of the high-profile features coming soon to Walt Disney Co’s theme parks revealed on Saturday.

Walt Disney World Resort in Florida will house the hotel where guests can live out a multi-day adventure within the intergalactic universe of the ‘Star Wars’ film franchise, parks and resorts Chairman Bob Chapek told attendees gathered at Disney’s annual D23 fan convention in Southern California.

Two new ‘Star Wars’ themed lands coming to Disneyland in Anaheim, California and Orlando, Florida, will be called ‘Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge,’ he said.

A model concept of the expansive new lands was unveiled on Thursday, showing pavilions set in rough, rocky terrain and uneven buildings that will house attractions. The lands will include a Millennium Falcon ride.

Disney plans to open a ‘Star Wars’ land first in its California park and then in Florida in 2019. At 14 acres each, they will be the largest-ever single-themed land expansions, Disney said.

Theme parks, Disney’s second-largest division, posted $1.9 billion (€1.65 billion) in operating income for the six months ended April 1, according to its latest earnings report.

Disney has been investing in new attractions at its U.S. theme parks as it faces competition from Comcast Corp’s Universal Studios.

In May, Disney opened a land based on the movie ‘Avatar’ at the Animal Kingdom park in Orlando, Florida, and a ride based on Marvel’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ at California Adventure in Anaheim.

Ahead of Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary in 2021, Chapek announced new upgrades to Disney’s futuristic Epcot park in Florida that will include a new ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ attraction and a ‘Ratatouille’ ride, based on the popular one at Disneyland Paris. A new theme restaurant will offer views of outer space.

Florida’s Walt Disney World will introduce the first-ever ride starring company mascot, Mickey Mouse. ‘Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railroad’ will allow guests to enter an animated adventure with the characters.

A high-speed ‘Tron’ ride is coming to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, the world’s most popular theme park with about 20.4 million visitors in 2016, according to the Themed Entertainment Association.

Chapek also said a new ‘Pixar Pier’ attraction would replace ‘Paradise Pier’ at Disney’s California Adventure, a new home for Pixar’s animated characters.

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