Disney CEO Bob Iger hints at possible theme park expansions

'We have learned that when we invest in increasing capacity … we can grow our business.'

Universal’s biggest expansion to build a new theme park in Orlando is no secret to theme park enthusiasts. Now, some Disney fans are posing the question: What’s next, Mouse?

Recently, Universal has revealed other new projects that made waves in the fan base. The company announced it is building a year-round Halloween Horror Nights experience in Las Vegas, a children’s theme park in Texas, and a new Minions interactive attraction in Universal Studios Florida this summer. All of this comes as Universal’s Epic Universe theme park is set to open by Summer 2025.

The Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger addressed the importance of theme park expansions during an earnings call, his first one since returning to lead Disney.

He didn’t provide details about future projects at Disney World although he revealed Disneyland is getting an “Avatar experience” following the box office success of the sequel.

“We’ll be sharing more details on that very soon. Avatar represents yet another core franchise for the company,” Iger said during the call.

Since reopening during the pandemic, Disney has operated an advance online reservation system to limit how many people can visit the theme parks. The system yielded complaints from fans — and lawsuits — but Disney leaders say the reservation requirements improve the guest experience, so the parks aren’t as crowded as before.

The company knows the importance of expanding capacity and investing in more attractions, Iger said.

“We have learned that when we invest in increasing capacity — the Star Wars lands would be a good example of that, Pandora was a great example of that — we can grow our business,” Iger said.

He again mentioned expanding Avatar to Disneyland and then teased, “We have other opportunities as well,” without mentioning more details.

“I’ve talked to (parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro) about this very recently — like this morning, again — to really look at all the great franchises of the company and see where we can invest them in the parks to increase capacity while preserving guest satisfaction,” Iger said during last week’s earning call.

D’Amaro and other Imagineers took the stage at the D23 Expo last year and teased its cast of movie villains and the characters from “Coco” and “Encanto” as possible future expansions for a new land in the Magic Kingdom exploring what’s behind Big Thunder Mountain. D’Amaro called them blue sky ideas — brainstorming concepts very early in the creative process. Disney did not release any open dates or give any commitments on what the expansion will look like.

The expo was held in September under former Disney CEO Bob Chapek’s tenure. Chapek was fired two months later and Iger was reinstated to lead the company.

Gabrielle Russon

Gabrielle Russon is an award-winning journalist based in Orlando. She covered the business of theme parks for the Orlando Sentinel. Her previous newspaper stops include the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Toledo Blade, Kalamazoo Gazette and Elkhart Truth as well as an internship covering the nation’s capital for the Chicago Tribune. For fun, she runs marathons. She gets her training from chasing a toddler around. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @GabrielleRusson .


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