Are you ready to Awaken Summer? – A Weekly Roundup of WDW Park News

Did you hear the oohs and ahhs across the interwebs earlier this week? What you were hearing was a giant nerdgasm as news to excite the nerd in all of us was released during this week’s Awaken Summer Media Event at Walt Disney World Resort. There was so much news, covering so many things, that it is easy to miss things. Don’t worry though, I am here to give you a weekly round-up of all the park news that was released during this event. Let’s get going!

First, let’s start with Magic Kingdom news.

ELENA OF AVALOR – “Elena and the Secret of Avalor” – (Disney Channel)

This summer, we have a few royal beauties departing to go to their new home in Epcot (more on that later) and we have a new princess coming to the Magic Kingdom, but not just a princess, a princesa! The first Disney Princess inspired by Latin cultures, Elena of Avalor is bold and adventurous and loves her familia. While it is not known yet if she will take up residence in Fairtytale Hall with her princess counterparts, she is sure to be a welcome addition to the royal lineup. I can’t wait to meet her!

Also set to begin this summer in the Magic Kingdom is a new castle stage show, Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire, a lively production with music, dancing, amazing costumes and special effects. From the Disney Parks Blog,

“In the show, Mickey and his troupe of Merry Makers have been preparing to host a joyous festival and have ventured far and wide to invite friends from other lands to join their celebration. From the Land of the Bewitching Bayous, Goofy has invited Tiana, Naveen and Louis to add a little spice of New Orleans jazz to the party. From the Land of the Enchanted Woods, Donald Duck brings some new friends he met at the Snuggly Duckling, and Daisy introduces us to her special guests, Rapunzel and Flynn. Finally, Mickey shares a surprise with Minnie, as he has traveled to the Land of the Mystic Mountains to invite Olaf, Anna and Elsa, who contributes a blast of her icy magic. It all culminates in a grand dance, as the Merry Makers invite all their new friends to join in the fun on this special day in Magic Kingdom Park.”

Mickey's Royal Friendship Fare
Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire, a new castle stageshow

That sounds so fun, I am really looking forward to this new show!

Park-hopping to EPCOT now, where the news really heated up when some big attractions and their opening dates were announced.

First up, Soarin’ will be back and better than ever starting JUNE 17th, the day after its premiere at Shanghai Disneyland. You can book your Fastpasses now! With the new opening, you can expect a new 3rd theater, a new interactive queue, and the biggest part – the new film, Soarin’ Around the World! As Soarin’ has been one of my and my families’ favorite rides since we first rode it, we are all doubly excited for the new film. I know we are going to miss the smell of orange groves, but I am sure we will find new favorites in this updated film. Are you as excited about this as I am?!

Hopping from The Land Pavilion in EPCOT over to The Seas, where we have learned that Dory and friends from the upcoming movie, Finding Dory, will be swimming into Turtle Talk with Crush this May. “Whoa!”

Dory Crush
Dory and friends join Crush in Turtle Talk this summer!

Finding Dory will be released nationwide June 17th (Disney sure likes the 17th this year, huh?) and kids and adults alike will enjoy seeing Dory and friends in this always fun attraction. “Dude!”

After leaving The Sea Pavilion, let’s wander back to the World Showcase, where the
new attraction, FROZEN EVER AFTER has a non-specific opening date of ‘June.’ The royal beauties I mentioned leaving the Magic Kingdom earlier are obviously Elsa and Anna as they make their new home in the Norway Pavilion at the Royal Sommerhus, the sisters’ summer home inspired by a Norwegian countryside cabin. Of course, you must take a journey through the kingdom of Arendelle in the new ride, Frozen Ever After, which replaced the iconic ride, Maelstrom. Frozen Ever After takes guests through Arendelle as Elsa has embraced her icy powers and made a “Winter in Summer” Celebration for all to enjoy.

Frozen ever after
Artist concept for Frozen Ever After

This is one attraction that has had a lot of negative talk surrounding it with the closing of Maelstom and the introduction of a fictional place in World Showcase, but I for one am looking forward to it. I would love if they were able to make it cold, maybe even have an area for ‘snow’ play like they had in Hollywood Studios for the Frozen Summer event a few years ago. That would be such a great way to unwind while you wait for either the ride or the meet and greet and could definitely provide a way to cool off during those hot Florida summers. What are your thoughts on this new experience in the World Showcase?

Ready for The Force? Let’s exit EPCOT through the International Gateway and head to Hollywood Studios, where just in time for summer, new details have emerged about the newer, grander Star Wars fireworks show, “Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular” set to begin in June (again, no specific dates announced yet). According to the Disney Parks Blog,

“This new nightly show is the next generation of the current Star Wars-inspired fireworks show. It will combine fireworks, pyrotechnics, special effects and video projections that will turn the nearby Chinese Theater and other buildings into the twin suns of Tatooine, a field of battle droids, the trench of the Death Star, Starkiller Base and other Star Warsdestinations. The show will be punctuated with a tower of fire and spotlight beams, creating massive lightsabers in the sky. This new show will be the most elaborate fireworks display to take place in the history of Disney’s Hollywood Studios.”

Captain Phasma and crew head out of Star Wars Launch Bay on their rounds

Ahh!!! WOW!!! Total nerdgasm on that news! In addition to this new fireworks show, a new stage show, Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away debuted earlier this month and guests are already loving the iconic moments with some of our favorite Star Wars characters like BB8, Darth Vader, Darth Maul and Chewbacca. Check your park Times Guide for more information on when to see this new show.

Moving along in Hollywood Studios, we get great new details about Toy Story Land and find out that this upcoming Memorial Day weekend, guests will be able to ride on the new third track for Toy Story Midway Mania. Yay! Just in time for the big summer crowds! The most exciting part of this segment of news though were the details for the Slinky Dog Dash – a family coaster, and the Alien Swirling Saucers. Both of these rides look great! Stay tuned for an in-depth report on the details for all the news in Toy Story Land, as there is so much to discuss and share, we want to dedicate an entire article to it alone, but here’s a sneak peak at the Slinky Dog Dash. Ready to ride yet?!

Our last stop in this weekly roundup for park news takes us to Animal Kingdom where members of the media were treated to a few very awesome sneak peaks this week during the Awaken Summer Media Event.

Tree of Life l
The Tree of Life awakens beginning Memorial Day weekend for Awaken Summer

Starting Memorial Day weekend, guests will have all new experiences when the sun goes down. For the first time in forever, Animal Kingdom will have hours that extend until 11 pm throughout the summer, making this favorite of mine a true all day park. From nightly safaris, the amazing Rivers of Light nighttime spectacular, new foods at the new restaurant, Tiffins, to night time street entertainment and an awakening of the Tree of Life, Animal Kingdom is going to come alive every night and you can be part of it all! As there is so much news to cover with all coming out of Animal Kingdom, look again for an upcoming article detailing it all. Please also note that at this time, the Rivers of Light show has been delayed and will not be starting the same time as the other new experiences in Animal Kingdom. We will let you know as soon as we know the opening dates for that, but until then, enjoy this fantastic media preview from the Orlando Informer.

Phew! Wow, that was a lot of news this week and this was just park news, for Walt Disney World Resort alone! Be sure to stay tuned for the in-depth articles regarding different aspects of all this news, and don’t forget to check out The Disney Nerds Podcast to get your Disney fix on. We hope to see you in the group, too, so join us there to discuss all this news and more.

Until next time,

Just Keep Swimming!

Disney Nerd Charlotte


Charlotte Cruce

Charlotte is an author, photographer and social media marketer living in the Atlanta suburbs with her husband in their nearly empty nest. Mother to three and grandma DeeDee to one princess, Charlotte spends her time traveling, gardening, reading and enjoying life with her family, friends and dogs.

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