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'Frozen' land is just the beginning: What to know about Disney's worldwide expansion

It’s been 10 years since “Frozen” debuted.

“It goes without saying that Frozen is probably one of our most successful franchises ever,” Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger told USA TODAY in an interview alongside Frozen’s creator and co-director and Walt Disney Animation Studios Chief Creative Officer Jennifer Lee, Disney Experiences Chairman Josh D’Amaro and Disney Entertainment Co-chairman Alan Bergman.

The franchise has already spawned a Broadway show, multiple spin-offs and sequels, including a recently announced fourth film, endless merchandise, numerous experiences across Disney parks, and now its own themed land at Hong Kong Disneyland, World of Frozen.

Disney executives Josh D'Amaro, Jennifer Lee, Bob Iger and Alan Bergman celebrated the grand opening of World of Frozen at Hong Kong Disneyland together.
Disney executives Josh D'Amaro, Jennifer Lee, Bob Iger and Alan Bergman celebrated the grand opening of World of Frozen at Hong Kong Disneyland together.

“I think that says so much about the story, the characters and the place that Jenn created for something to be so evergreen, so lasting,” Iger said. “And for me, to see that come to life in a physical place just reminds me not just of the legacy of our founder Walt, but of just the power of how we turn storytelling that could be on a big screen or a small screen into basically a real place … I still get the chills when I see our guests experiencing the stories that we create come to life in the parks.”

And World of Frozen is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Disney’s expansion plans. Here’s what that means for Disney guests.

Is Disney going to expand?

In September, Disney announced plans to double capital investments to $60 billion over the next decade to enhance and expand its parks, cruise line and other experiences.

“Our ambitions here are clear. These two have given us amazing stories. And I plan to tell those stories,” D’Amaro said, looking at Lee and Bergman. At the Disneyland Resort, we've talked about the project called DisneylandForward. Essentially, we have enough space there to build a new Disneyland if we’d like. Walt Disney World was always designed to be expanding. You know what we've done at EPCOT … Our international parks are doing so well for us, and we have space and ambition to continue to go on that front.”

The company has already announced several major projects in recent years. Some have concrete dates, like the first Zootopia land opening in Shanghai next month. Others remain in “blue sky” phases of development, like the evolving plans for a new land at Magic Kingdom, the world's most visited theme park.

While fans are eager for details on the latter, D’Amaro said, “Rest assured, we have Imagineers running very quickly in the background.”

This isn't the EPCOT you remember: Top Imagineer explains why the park 'will never be completed'

Journey of Water Inspired by Moana opened in October as part of a multiyear transformation of EPCOT.
Journey of Water Inspired by Moana opened in October as part of a multiyear transformation of EPCOT.

What’s next for Frozen?

World of Frozen just opened on Nov. 20, and Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disney are also building Frozen-inspired areas. But there could be even more Frozen in store for Hong Kong.

“I heard a rumor there's more room to expand here,” Lee said, looking at D’Amaro. “Why I say that's exciting is because, as we've talked about, there is more Frozen to come. And I'm so excited about where the story is going, and so you're going to need more space to expand.”

D’Amaro confirmed Disney has no shortage of space or stories, crediting Lee and Bergman for continuing to create new ones.

“Expanding in (the) parks makes total sense because I think for generations, young kids and families and adults are going to love the movies, the merchandise, the rides, what they see on Disney+, the music, the stage play,” Bergman said, vividly remembering the magic of the first Frozen film. “We knew we had it. It's not always the case in the movie business, but we certainly knew we had it.”

What’s coming to Walt Disney World?

◾ World Celebration gardens and Dreamer’s Point statue will open this December at EPCOT. Also, EPCOT’s new ‘Luminous: The Symphony of Us’ nighttime spectacular debuts Dec. 5.

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is expected to open at Magic Kingdom in 2024.

◾ EPCOT will reimagine Test Track with “inspiration from the original World of Motion,” Scott Mallwitz, executive creative director at Walt Disney Imagineering, announced at Disney’s Destination D23 fan event in September.

◾ At the same event, Disney announced that DinoLand U.S.A. is being reimagined as a “tropical Americas” inspired land with possible “Encanto” or Indiana Jones experiences at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and a new “Zootopia” short is in the works for the park’s Tree of Life.

◾ A new Pirates of the Caribbean-inspired lounge was also announced at Destination D23, for Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland.

◾ Imagineers continue exploring various possibilities for a new land, “Beyond Big Thunder Mountain,” at Magic Kingdom.

New "Encanto" and "Indiana Jones" experiences are being considered for a new "tropical Americas" inspired land at Disney's Animal Kingdom, in place of DinoLand U.S.A.
New "Encanto" and "Indiana Jones" experiences are being considered for a new "tropical Americas" inspired land at Disney's Animal Kingdom, in place of DinoLand U.S.A.

What's planned for Disneyland?

◾ The reimagined Pixar Place Hotel will open on Jan. 30.

◾ Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will open at Disneyland in 2024.

◾ A new Marvel multiverse attraction is planned for Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure.

◾ An Avatar attraction is also planned at the California resort.

Downtown Disney District will open several new restaurants with loyal followings, including Din Tai Fung and Porto’s Bakery & Cafe. A new lawn space that can be used for festivals opened earlier in November.

Brand new characters will join Tiana and Louis on Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.
Brand new characters will join Tiana and Louis on Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.

What's coming to Disney's parks abroad?

◾ Shanghai Disney’s new Zootopia land opens on Dec. 20.

◾ Disneyland Paris will debut a new nighttime drone show, Disney Electrical Sky Parade, on Jan. 8 and a new daytime show, A Million Splashes of Colour, on Feb. 10. A new Alice in Wonderland-inspired show will open in the spring.

◾ Disneyland Paris’ reimagined Disneyland Hotel will open on Jan. 25 with a royal theme.

◾ A Frozen-inspired land is under construction at Disneyland Paris’ Walt Disney Studios Park.

Fantasy Springs will open at Tokyo DisneySea on June 6 with new areas inspired by Frozen, Tangled and Peter Pan.

◾ Next year, Tokyo Disneyland will begin renovating its Space Mountain and Tomorrowland, which will reopen in 2027.

Shanghai Disney will welcome guests into the world's first Zootopia-inspired land in late December.
Shanghai Disney will welcome guests into the world's first Zootopia-inspired land in late December.

Will the technology being used abroad come to Disney’s domestic parks?

Lee said the technology in Shanghai’s Zootopia land is incredible.

“It truly is going to blow people away how they do things – some technology that in some ways goes back to decades ago, reimagined in a way that you're literally going to see characters almost seem to function on their own, so it truly does feel like you're immersed in Zootopia," she said.

Walt Disney himself was a pioneer in audio-animatronics, and fans have already noticed a big difference in Hong Kong Disneyland’s new Frozen Ever After compared to the original attraction at EPCOT.

Elsa waves her magic on Frozen Ever After at World of Frozen.
Elsa waves her magic on Frozen Ever After at World of Frozen.

“Every time we make an advancement in the way that we bring a ride to life or the way that we bring animatronics to life, all of that gets then used to make every single place that we make even better than the last one,” D’Amaro said. “And so absolutely, yes, we will continue to evolve animatronics, ride systems, interactivity, making that experience even better and pulling people deeper into the stories.”

That includes domestically, as some Disneyland guests saw recently when Disney “playtested” new free-roaming robots at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress wowed audiences with its audio-animatronics when it debuted at the 1964-65 New York World's Fair. The attraction later moved to Disneyland before settling in at Disney World's Magic Kingdom in 1975.
Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress wowed audiences with its audio-animatronics when it debuted at the 1964-65 New York World's Fair. The attraction later moved to Disneyland before settling in at Disney World's Magic Kingdom in 1975.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Disney not letting go of 'Frozen' as it expands its parks: What's next