Jen Juneau
December 24, 2015 8:43 am

It’s tempting to start this by saying, “2015 has been quite the year for Disney,” but really, what year hasn’t? Every year, Disney outdoes itself in the news between its live-action and animated movies, business ventures, theme parks, and more. It’s safe to say 2015 has been no exception, and the more Disney takes over the world, the more there is to report on and get excited about.

The following are just a few of our favorite Disney moments from 2015 – things that we’re still thinking about while simultaneously waiting patiently for everything 2016 and beyond will bring.

All the amazing expansions at Walt Disney World

As sad as some of the changes at Walt Disney World Resort in my ’hood of Orlando, Fla. have been (e.g., closing the classic Norway pavilion ride Maelstrom in Epcot to make way for a new Frozen attraction and discontinuing the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios after this year),  lots of really exciting new additions are coming to the parks that kind of make the bad stuff OK. For example, Downtown Disney is now called Disney Springs, and includes tons of new restaurants and shops (as well as insanely improved parking situation). A cool new restaurant just opened in Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland, specializing in cuisine from Asia, Africa, and South America.

That’s not even touching on all the new Star Wars expansions, both already implemented and soon-to-be added, and the Avatar-themed land in Animal Kingdom that’s set to open in early 2017. runDisney has also added two new races to their lineup: the Star Wars Half Marathon – The Dark Side in Orlando this April, and the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon (which I may already be signed up for) in September.

Live-action Disney Princess film releases and announcements

Aside from the gorgeous live-action Cinderella film premiering in theatres in March, we got a lot of amazing news about more live-action Disney Princess movies. Beauty and the Beast was announced with Emma Watson in the title role (!!!); big-name costars including Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson, Ian McKellen, and Kevin Kline; and a release date of March 17, 2017 (which happens to be my birthday; COINCIDENCE!?). We also learned that a live-action Mulan was in development. Say it with me: YAS.

Shanghai Disneyland

This past summer, we learned lots of exciting new details about Disney’s newest vacation spot: Shanghai Disneyland Park. Set to open in June of next year (which will be here before we know it), the park will include some of our favorites like Pirates of the Caribbean and Soarin’, but also some amazing new additions like an entire pirate-themed area called Treasure Cove, beautiful Chinese gardens in the center of the park, and a TRON-themed roller coaster. Who needs Space Mountain when you have that!?

Pixar releases and announcements

Pixar has been quite the busy bee this year, which is understandable since they keep having to one-up themselves. Not an easy feat when you continually crank out the Best Animated Film Oscar winner pretty much every year. And aside from releasing our collective new favorite tear-jerker Inside Out and the more recent The Good Dinosaur, we’ve gotten a sneak peek at next summer’s Finding Dory and learned about some of what the future has in store for Pixar – details about and release dates for more sequels to some of our favorites like Toy Story 4, Cars 3, and the one I’m fangirling the most over, The Incredibles 2. I don’t care if I have to wait four years for the latter. I’m there, in costume, opening night.

MOANA!

Because the world can never have too many Disney Princesses – especially ones who push the envelope of what constitutes the look and attitude of a Disney Princess. Enter Moana, the story of a Polynesian teenage girl who evokes the tough, feisty nature of Merida from Brave and Elsa from Frozen. The title role has been cast, too: Moana will be voiced by 14-year-old Auli’i Cravalho, from Oahu, Hawaii.

Moana will hit theatres next November, and we seriously cannot wait.

Michael Eisner’s major verbal misstep

In a move that made every kid who grew up in the Renaissance era of ’90s Disney flip a table in anger, former Walt Disney Company CEO Michael Eisner said to Goldie Hawn, “From my position, the hardest artist to find is a beautiful, funny woman. By far. They usually — boy am I going to get in trouble, I know this goes online — but usually, unbelievably beautiful women, you being an exception, are not funny.” If you know something is going to make you look bad, maybe it’s better left unsaid? Just a hunch. Eisner broke our hearts a little with this, but we know his short-sightedness is his problem and his alone.

Banksy’s Dismaland

In August, the renowned graffiti artist known only by the name of Banksy collaborated with a team of other artists to open an alternative theme park in England called Dismaland. The attraction, which was open for six weeks, drew visitors from all over who were able to view creepy takes on Disney favorites like Cinderella Castle and a macabre version of her coach, which was meant to depict Princess Diana’s tragic, fatal car crash. While most of us never got to visit Dismaland, the disturbing photos are certainly enough to secure the fact that we won’t be forgetting this “bemusement park” anytime soon.

All the Disney Princess artwork re-imaginings

2015 was, without a doubt, The Year of the Disney Princess Re-Imaginings. The Internet exploded this year with some amazing artists conjuring up versions of our favorite Disney ladies as tattooed pin-ups, in Halloween costumes, as regular teens, in back-to-school fashions, as Da Vinci paintings, with short hair, and tons more. Some artists have even gone a little too far for our liking, but one thing’s for sure: Love it or hate it, this trend has given us a lot of beautiful new aesthetics to feast our eyes upon as we patiently await more Disney animation.

Marvel basically owning everything

Listing all of Disney’s Marvel-related accomplishments would take a whole other article or five, so we’ll just go with some of the biggies. To start, Avengers: Age of Ultron raked in $1.4 billion – yes, billion – worldwide. We got to experience the glory of Paul Rudd’s abs (I mean…acting) in Ant-Man. In February, Spider-Man was finally added to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the result of a deal between Sony and Disney’s Marvel Studios; relative newcomer Tom Holland will portray the famed web-slinger, making his first appearance in Captain America: Civil War this upcoming May. We also got lots of release dates for future Marvel films, ensuring we’ll be counting down to something for the foreseeable future.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Ten years after the last installment of the Star Wars saga hit theatres, Star Wars: The Force Awakens (AKA Episode VII) graced us with its presence this past Dec. 18 (like you’ve forgotten already). We were introduced to a bevy of new characters (as well as our new BFFs, Daisy Ridley and John Boyega) and reunited with many of our favorites, including Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia Organa, and Han Solo.

Many touching stories also came from the new movie, including a sweet fan who was shown an advance screening of The Force Awakens before tragically passing away after a battle with cancer five days later.

Thanks for the impact you made on 2015, Disney (and Disney fans!). We can’t wait to see the tricks you have up your magical sleeve for 2016.

(Images via Walt Disney Pictures, iStock, Pixar Animation Studios, Shutterstock, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm)

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