Dinner in Haunted Mansion, revisiting extinct attractions and Fantasy Faire announced as future Disneyland experiences at 2011 D23 Expo

in Disney, Entertainment, Theme Parks

The highly-anticipated Disney Parks and Resorts presentation 2011 D23 Expo disappointed many fans in attendance offering no major attraction announcements. It was, after all, at the 2009 D23 Expo that the New Fantasyland expansion and Star Tours 3D were confirmed. But the presentation wasn’t completely without something new, even if only in the form of a teaser for the future.

Near the end of the show in the D23 Expo Arena on Friday, Aug. 19, 2011, Disney Parks chairman Tom Staggs welcomed Disneyland Resort President George Kalogridis to the stage to offer a few thoughts on what’s on the way for the Anaheim parks. Though they did not have firm announcements to make, Kalogridis and Staggs did propose a series of “what ifs” to the audience, as a hint for things to come. Watch the moment that left many fans perplexed in the video below.

Video: New Disneyland experiences teased at the 2011 D23 Expo

Dinner in the Haunted Mansion with Imagineers? Yes, please. Tea party with favorite Disney Princesses? My niece would love that. Revisiting extinct attractions? A fan’s dream. Expansion of Club 33 or another similar private club? Sign me up. But what does it all really mean?

Those in attendance were left baffled by the rapid-fire succession of these “imagine if…” thoughts. Are these experiences truly in development at Walt Disney Imagineering, to be rolled out in the future at the Disneyland Resort? Or are they simply “blue sky” notions that they felt obligated to mention, just to add some element of surprise to the presentation? That much is not clear. Unlike in 2009, no press conference was scheduled after the presentation. No interviews were granted. No further comments were given.

Staggs referred to them as a response to fans wanting a “deeper and more personal experience with the resort.” Surely having one-on-one time with Imagineers or Disney Princesses is a more personal experience, as is having the ability to relive favorite attractions from the past. But without a true announcement, fans are left simply in a hopeful state that these casually mentioned experiences will indeed exist some day.

The only concrete notion of something new taken from this presentation was the final topic in the video clip above, the new Fantasy Faire on its way to Disneyland. Carnation Plaza Gardens will become a “storybook village square” offering meet-and-greet homes for Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast and Rapunzel. Activities will include a Royal Ribbon Festival with Belle, Rapunzel and royal court attendants with dancing.

Here’s a better look at some of the artwork shown at the Expo:

But you might notice in the video above that during the Fantasy Faire announcement, the biggest applause came when Staggs confirmed that the new Fantasy Faire stage “will stay play host to the classic music and dance-off offerings our guests continue to love.” In other words, Disney fans in attendance at the presentation were more excited about something not leaving the theme park rather than what was announced to be new. It’s a similar reaction to when the Fantasyland expansion was announced in 2009, which was at the time far more heavily focused on the concept of Disney Princess meet-and-greets. It seems those concepts, which have since been largely shed from the Magic Kingdom expansion project, are now working their way into Disneyland instead, which has never had an official Princess meet-and-greet home.

Addressing the lack of big announcements, the only response offered to the Disney Parks and Resorts presentation was posted on the official Disney Parks Blog in a writen statement by Tom Staggs:

I know many of you were hoping for announcements regarding new projects from Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, especially at Walt Disney World Resort, so I wanted to take a moment to address those comments.

The projects we’ve already announced represent the largest period of growth ever in Disney Parks’ history. We’re working hard to create new and exciting experiences for our guests around the world and while the timing isn’t always right to announce another big project, we like to use opportunities like the D23 Expo to update fans like you on the great progress we’re making. We have several incredible projects currently in the works and look forward to sharing more information with all of you in the weeks and months ahead, including new details regarding Downtown Disney in Florida.

And Staggs is correct. Between the Fantasyland expansion, $1+ billion “fix-it” project at Disney California Adventure including the addition of Cars Land, two new Disney Cruise Line ships, and a first-ever Hawaiian Disney resort opening in 5 days, there is no shortage of major ongoing projects for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. To announce something completely new and unexpected, while welcome for Expo attendees, would have added to this list of “big projects.” There are, of course, more of these projects on the way. But for the moment, those projects remain in the rumor mill, leaving guests at the 2011 D23 Expo to return from their trips only wondering what is truly next for the Disney Parks.

In addition to the pseudo-announcements, the Disney Parks and Resorts presentation also featured other entertainment and updates on ongoing projects. Here’s a quick rundown…

Mickey Mouse played drums alongside the D23 orchestra:

Tom Staggs introduced his more comedic side with a hilarious video starring him in other cast member roles:

An update on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train coaster coming to the Magic Kingdom was revealed, including ride vehicle testing and a virtual ride-through:

And a closer look at Shanghai Disney Resort’s Storybook Castle was offered, announcing there will be a boat ride inside, along with shops, restaurants, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique“>Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, and more:

So while many walked away from the Disney Parks and Resorts presentation underwhelmed at the lack of surprises, there was not a lack of exciting updates that on any other day would have been welcomed by fans. But at the 2011 D23 Expo, fans were expecting more and despite these expectations not being met, these big projects, along with the possible future concepts, should succeed in entertaining all who experience them.

Photos from the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts presentation at the 2011 D23 Expo:

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