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The Year That Was: Disney’s 2022 in Review

The Year That Was: Disney's 2022 in Review jayme-mccolgan-IP1rSwr8R6o-unsplash 3 Photo by Jayme McColgan on Unsplash Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@jayme?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Jayme McColgan</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/photos/IP1rSwr8R6o?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a>

When I say it’s been a year, what I mean is, oh-my-Disney, that was 365 days of what-just-happened?! I feel like it should be covered in a highlights reel that features a loudly played Boom! by P.O.D. (Boom! Here comes the Boom! Ready or not, How you like me now?), or anything from Rage Against the Machine. If either of these pound through your head as you read along, then you get where I’m coming from.

Disney Highlights from January 2022

The first month of 2022 seems so long ago as we look back at the year that was. January saw many of the traditional aspects of Disney finally return after the pandemic had stripped them away over the two years prior. Character appearances began popping up with more frequency, shows like the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular reopened their action-packed doors, and fans got their first decent look at what would become Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser.

Bob Chapek, then Disney C.E.O., made a splash in January as well (though he managed to do that in every month of 2022), releasing a staff memo expressing his gratitude and stating that Disney had emerged “stronger than ever” from the years of COVID beforehand. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t remain true in the months that lie ahead. This memo was the beginning of the end for Chapek as he preached the importance of storytelling while leading the company in a way that was far more focused on current creative sacrifice for future financial gain.

Sadly, January also marked the loss of entertainment legend and eternal Golden Girl, Betty White. Even though I tried, there is no adequate series of words that can describe the enormity of this woman’s light; and even though she is gone, it will continue to shine. All that is left to say is, thank you for being a friend.

The first in the annual lineup of EPCOT festivals made its way back to the park: the Epcot International Festival of the Arts is one of the newer festivals, only debuting at the park in 2017 and experiencing disruption during the 2020 and 2021 years. Finally, we decided to launch a little project I had kept in mind for a while, A Brief History of Disney, beginning with King Arthur’s Carrousel in Disneyland.

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Betty White and Bob Iger

Disney Highlights from February 2022

Move over Chapek, this month’s first headline was made by Minnie when Disneyland Paris released art of her Stella McCartney pantsuit in celebration of the upcoming 30th Anniversary in April. Some were impressed; others outraged; it was a mixed bag of unnecessary emotions. Black History Month kicked off with wonderful opportunities to learn about culture and tradition, as well as celebrate extraordinary food, arts, and more.

Lunar New Year festivities were in full swing in Disneyland’s California Adventure park, and Valentine’s Day introduced a new level of extraordinary, limited-edition treats, each willed with a little extra love. Adding to the air’s electricity, some long-awaited Walt Disney World entertainment was welcomed home, including Festival of Fantasy, Mickey’s Magical Friendship Faire, and Disney Adventure Friends Cavalcade.

From there, the shortest month of the year packed a lot of news. Disney launched Storyliving, a division to begin developing residential communities in a call back to the original EPCOT idea. We also saw the ease of face coverings in the parks for certain guests and, of course, the return of the Figment Popcorn bucket!

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Disneyland Paris 30th Anniversary

Disney Highlights from March 2022

Early March was all action from a look inside the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind ride queue to a heated discussion about hypothetically adding an age suggestion to a ride’s height requirement. We looked at St Patrick’s Day celebration options; Magic Kingdom’s TRON got a kick-(re)start; The Festival of Fantasy Parade returned to magic Kingdom; The EPCOT Experience, located in the Odyssey pavilion, closed for good on March 14th; and we tackled the messy beginnings of Disney’s P.R. problem.

The fast-paced news didn’t end there. The Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show permanently closed its doors, Th Epcot Flower and Garden Festival hit the ground running, Disney H20 Glow After Hours returned to Typhoon Lagoon, Walt Disney World transport from MCO became confusing, and Saturday Snacks 100th (and Last) Recipe ended the series with the Disney Villains’ Unbirthday Cake!

With all of that commotion, the month’s biggest news had to be the opening of the controversial Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, as Disney embarked on a themed resort experience like no other. Mixed reactions clouded forums and chat rooms as every little detail was dissected. The month concluded with the return of Minnie Vans, Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue reopening news, and the sweet return of Character Meet & Greets.

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Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser

It’s not even April yet, and I am already getting tired!

Disney Highlights from April 2022

April moved only a fraction slower than March, though news included one of my favorites for the year, the Main Street Electrical Parade was making a return to Disneyland! In other post-pandemic-peak news, the Starlight Safari tour at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge made a comeback too. In a massive leap into housing, Disney announces a new 80-acre central Florida affordable housing development; Narcoossee’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is declared to be undergoing refurbishment later in the year; and Walt Disney World announced that Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at EPCOT will begin welcoming guests on May 27th, 2022!

Easter was celebrated in the parks and Disney Springs, with nearly every restaurant in the resorts having something special on offer, and in the same month, Halloween snacks arrived in the parks too. Yes, you read that correctly; we are still in April. And, of course, we report that Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party will return to Magic Kingdom in the fall, complete with the Sanderson Sisters from Hocus Pocus casting their wicked spells across the park! Hearing about all these amazing things returning to the parks this year, it was time to work out how to balance our Disney Days with the work we need to do to pay for them.

Alas, the biggest news of this month was split between two headlines. The first was the long-awaited removal of all face mask covering requirements in Walt Disney World, which was huge news for Disney fans visiting over the upcoming summer months. You can still wear a mask by choice, though at this point, one is no longer a requirement of entry. The second was the bill to dissolve Reedy Creek Improvement District and its passing in the F.L. senate, later signed off by the governor.

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Halloween Treats in Disney Parks from April

Disney Highlights from May 2022

It’s May, and straight away, guests are divided on Disney’s announcement: Guardians of the Galaxy Coaster to Use Virtual Queue – No Standby. The same day we find out that the long-awaited return of Disney’s Hollywood Studios Nighttime Spectacular, Fastasmic! is set to be on its way by year’s end! Not impressed? Shortly after hits, Disney Confirms MagicBand Plus to Debut This Summer, and all before we get a sneak peek inside the just-about-to-open Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. I need a nap.

Throughout the month, my attention is caught by the new wheelchair and cochlear implant mannequins at Connections which makes me wonder if Disney’s Inclusion Key is Hitting the Mark – let’s face it, I am always wondering about something or other. And in great news for those hanging out for Baby’s First Haircut appointments, Magic Kingdom’s Harmony Barber Shop is also expected to reopen by the coming summer.

While there isn’t a single news story that overwhelmed the month this time round but there was no shortage of more minor
updates along the way, like plant-based menu items that were delightfully added to the menu at California Grill in the Contemporary Resort and the Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage in Disney’s Hollywood Studios would finally be returning to its former glory, doing away with the newer, smaller, all-around less impressive version.

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Beauty and the Beast Show

Disney Highlights from June 2022

Are you ready for the BOOMs? Whatever small break we had in May is being made up for in June with more news that you can even keep up with; luckily, we can do that for you. Welcome to Pride month at Disney, where merch and festivities are abundant! News this month started with COVID testing requirements to enter the U.S.A. being removed. Then it was on to a Sneak Peek of Finding Nemo: The Big Blue, Disney delayed their corporate move to Lake Nona, now pushing back to 2026, Hollywood & Vine’s Buffet set to make a return, and Captain Buzz Lightyear Becomes “Face Character” at Disneyland.

Before we knew it, it was Half Way to the Holidays, and we were being spoilt with all of the fancy treats and entertainment that was coming in the months ahead; though we wouldn’t see any of it until the eight
months of Halloween celebration had concluded. Late in the month, Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue officially welcomed guests once more.

As the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade in a landmark case that sent the women’s rights movement into overdrive around the world, Disney backed their women, vowing to cover travel expenses for cast members needing the procedure in question in states where it is illegal. Speaking of travel expenses, Brightline’s high-speed passenger rail from Miami to Orlando was intended to include a stop at Disney Springs in Walt Disney World, but those plans were officially canceled. Naw, sad face. The hits kept coming with Chapek’s contract renewed for another three years, and a change to annual passes sees some of our favorites no longer available.

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Hoop Dee Doo Revue

Disney Highlights from July 2022

It’s the month we recognize events like the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival, which just thinking about makes me hungry. July had a little bit of everything in store for us; as the warmer, more unstable weather came in, so did the unstable park guests with news of a fight in magic Kingdom that saw three people arrested. But I am getting ahead of myself there. Let’s jump back to the beginning. July 1st brought the release of the new Splash Mountian replacement attraction name and arrival expectation. It would be known as Tiana’s Bayou Adventure and open in both locations in 2024.

This month it was the Festival of the Lion King’s turn to be restored to its full rendition, which delighted Animal Kingdom parkgoers. MagicBand+ hit the Walt Disney World Parks in late July, launching new band designs and additional interactive features throughout the parks themselves. And in more great news, park-to-park buses were reinstated as well.

A fully reimagined Victoria & Albert’s reopened at the Grand Floridian, and new details on the Moana attraction in EPCOT finally came through the grapevine. Another huge headline saw Reedy Creek Improvement District Will Likely Be Reestablished, in a complete backflip from the F.L. government.

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Disney Highlights from August 2022

The first headline of August read: Pat Carroll, Voice of Ursula in Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid,’ Has Passed Away, another Disney great had left the building. The Walt Disney Company Q3 2022 Earnings emerged with promising results; little did we know the fall they would take in the following months.

This month, after what seems like forever in the lead-up to Halloween, I started thinking about if Disney should take Halloween a step further for an older crowd. Meanwhile, the BIG Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique Update included news of the location being reinstated in both Disneyland and Magic Kingdom. H2O+, Disney’s bath products provider, announced that after 33 years of business, their products would no longer be available after the end of this year.

I was lucky enough to spend some time in Disney’s Aulani Resort and Spa in O’ahu, and from that came the seventh installment of the series People You Don’t Want to Be.

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Q3 Earnings DIS

Disney Highlights from September 2022

I couldn’t think of a good chant for D23, but if there were one, millions of Disney fans around the world would have been chanting it in September when so much news dropped that it was hard to keep up. I love D23; the innovation and creativity swirling in the air have a feeling about it that I can’t explain, though some weren’t happy with what was on offer, always wishing there was more.

A-list presenters from all areas of Disney came together to bring us the latest and greatest news, including Avenger’s Campus Expansion in Disneyland, Tiana’s Place Restaurant and Eudora’s Chic Boutique Featuring Tiana’s Gourmet Secrets coming to Disneyland, Happily Ever After Nighttime Fireworks Return to Magic Kingdom In 2023, New Nighttime Spectacular Coming to EPCOT in 2023, Opening Date for TRON, Figment Meet & Greet Returning to EPCOT, New Pixar Place Hotel for Disneyland, Disneyland California Adventure’s Pacific Wharf to be Reimagined, and so much more.

In other news, Josh D’Amaro hit s a nerve with the term “Legacy Fans,” Bob Paycheck; I mean, Chapek’s nickname is set in the history books as a CNBC reporter accidentally let the dig loose on air. What else? The first date to sell out for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas party turns out to be November 10th, EPCOT celebrates its 40th anniversary, and there was something about a little storm. Oh yes, Hurricane Ian blew into town, causing the parks, airports, and surrounding areas to brace for impact.

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Tianas Place

Disney Highlights from October 2022

An unfortunate beginning to the month started with Dis Con being postponed due to the effects of Hurricane Ian, and yet another golden Disney star, Angela Lansbury, passes away at 96. From there, much of the Disney news came from international parks, including Aulani’s ‘AMA’AMA Signature Dining Experience finally reopening, Tokyo Disney: Eighth Port Inspired by ‘Frozen,’ ‘Tangled’ and ‘Peter Pan,’ and Shanghai Disney in Lockdown/Lockin. We also had the chance to look at Disney Parks around the world celebrating Halloween.

Most of the parks had their own news this month. Genie+ saw its first price increase, moving to a tiered system based on more popular calendar days and demand. Fantasmic! set to return to Hollywood Studios park, Animal Kingdom welcomed baby Okapi, Ben, EPCOT gets a holiday overlay for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, MagicBand+ debuts at Disneyland, and Miguel Arribas Celebrates 50 Years of Glass-Blowing Artistry at Walt Disney World.

Bob Weis retired, Disneyland gets a makeover for the Disney100, Chapek’s Disney Moves to “Lifestyle Brand,” Annual Passholders Sue Disney Over Availability Due to Park Reservation Policy, and I went out on a limb, again, to ask, Has Disney’s D.A.S. Pass Become A DASaster? The month ended with Halloween celebrations that were actually somewhere near Halloween; what a concept…

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Angela Lansbury Passes Away

Disney Highlights from November 2022

Halloween is over, and the Holidays are officially here. Almost overnight, the parks and Disney Springs were converted into a Winter Wonderland of Holiday cheer. November is known as Native American Heritage Month, though it quickly became the Tale of two Bobs after a horror Q4 earnings report unexpectedly left many Disney execs gobsmacked. The fallout included the worst single-day loss in D.I.S. stock since 2001, a leaked memo that revealed a hiring freeze and budget cuts, and other things we will get to in a moment.

Meanwhile, the “Magic Happens” Parade returns to Disneyland in February, and a Disney Designer Legend, Alice Davis, is farewelled at age 93. Hurricane Nicole gave us a scare for the second time this year, though, in the end, her bark was worse than her bite. Malaysian officials came out with what is easily the weirdest story of the year, declaring a new Disney park would be built locally and then (sort-if) retracting the statement in a series of confusing words in the days after.

And we’ve now arrived at the clincher. Bob Chapek’ steps down’, aka gets snaked by Disney C.F.O. gunning against him in the background. Bob Iger returns for two years to guide the company back to the safe zone while trolling for a new replacement. Kareem Daniel is the next in line to say goodbye as things at Disney begin to change. In the last week of November, Disney trials “Hey, Disney!” at the Polynesian, a mannequin with a Hijab is introduced in Downtown Disney, and the Festival of the Holidays at EPCOT kicks off for the season.

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Disney Highlights from December 2022

Almost there, everyone; we’ve almost made it! December began with a tweet from Michael Eisner reminding us of Walt’s words about learning to walk. Handheld phones and cameras were banned on rides like Space Mountain, now considered a safety hazard. Heather Hust Rivera steps down in the Walt Disney Company, and C.F.O. Christine McCarthy could become Disney’s first female C.E.O.

Disney100 merch begins to emerge as more high-end brands sign on for collab product lines. Splash Mountain will officially say goodbye in late January, and we will start a discussion about who will be making one last trip to say Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah. A new rule has been added to the Disney Parks guidelines, which embarrassingly needs to ask guests to be kind to one another without fighting.

To round out the year, D.I.S. stock hits its lowest price in 2022, the Walt Disney World Railroad is Officially Open in time for the holidays, and we break down the issue around ‘Steamboat Willie’ becoming public domain as the character stares down the barrel of 95 years old.

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That’s the condensed wrap-up of the 2022 year at Disney Parks. What comes next? Only 2023 will tell. I’ll let you know how it looks when I get there.

Zoë Wood is a travel writer from Sydney, Australia. Since her first visit to Disneyland at the age of 6, she has spent her years frequently visiting Disney Parks and traveling around the world.

Join Zoë as she lets you in on all the tips, tricks, anecdotes, and embarrassments that arise from her family adventures.


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