Disney teases changes at Animal Kingdom, possible expansion of Magic Kingdom

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Big Thunder Mountain at Magic Kingdom

In a weird bit of the D23 Expo parks presentation, Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Josh D’Amaro presented some blue sky ideas featuring some potential dramatic changes to Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom. These ideas were presented in a way where they committed to nothing but presented ideas being considered for these parks.

It seems like they might be gauging interest in these ideas, or maybe that just didn’t have much to announce so they made the choice to present these blue sky ideas. Either way, here they are.

First at Animal Kingdom, it’s possible that the much-maligned DinoLand U.S.A.’s days could be numbered. D’Amaro brought out Walt Disney Animation Studios Chief Creative Officer Jennifer Lee and Imagineering Portfolio Creative Executive Chris Beatty out to tease a makeover for the land themed to Zootopia and Moana. With a Zootopia land slated to open at Shanghai Disneyland in 2023, they’ll save some money in design by bringing this concept to Florida.

Concept art for potential Moana and Zootopia themed areas at Animal Kingdom.

The concept art above was shown during the panel but not officially released by Disney. The Moana-themed area is prominently featured in the front with the Zootopia skyline seen in the distance. The one specific idea shown here is a Moana-themed spinner, replacing the current spinner, TriceraTop Spin. We’ll have to wait so see if this and what, if any, of the rest of these plans comes to fruition.

The other “announcement” was about a possible expansion of Magic Kingdom. Referred to multiple times as “Beyond Big Thunder,” a potential expansion beyond the iconic coaster could see the film worlds of Coco and Encanto come to life at the parks as well as a dedicated space for Disney villains.

Concept art for a potential Magic Kingdom expansion featuring Coco, Encanto, and Disney villains.

The art (or “thought starter” as they referred to it) shown for this area, seen above, is much more simplistic and less detailed that that for Animal Kingdom. The town of Santa Cecilia from Coco and the Casa Madrigal from Encanto can be seen behind the Big Thunder spire while in the shadows in the distance is what would be the Disney villains area.

Beatty teased the idea of Santa Cecilia celebrating Dia De Los Muertos and a possible attraction where guests would ride atop an alebrije, the fantastical creatures of the film, and visit the Land of the Dead. No other attraction ideas were floated.

While all of the concepts presented in this section are intriguing and would be amazing if built, only time will tell how much of it actually comes to fruition. It is exciting to know that Disney World’s flagship park will continue to evolve after the opening of Tron Lightcycle Run in spring 2023.