Disney announced at the D23 Expo that Moana is another “potential expansion” opportunity and “early concept exploration” for Dinoland USA at Animal Kingdom. This post will share all of the details, concept art, and everything we know about the possible expansion, plus a bit of commentary.
The Animal Kingdom expansion news was announced during the “A Boundless Future: Disney Parks, Experiences and Products” presentation at D23 Expo 2022. Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Chairman Josh D’Amaro offered a sneak peek at concept art for the future in addition and teased what was to come in a few years.
Over the last couple of years, there have been a ton of rumors about Disney’s Animal Kingdom. My favorite has been the Indiana Jones Adventure and Dinoland Changes, and that’s mostly because Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama being replaced by something that is not an abomination is my ultimate dream.
Another rumor has been the revival of the Excavator, a classic unbuilt Walt Disney World attraction that still generates buzz in fan circles. Prior to the actual unveiling of the Zootopia expansion, my guess was that this would be announced at the D23 Expo 2022.
As for this quasi-announcement, Imagineer Chris Beatty and Jennifer Lee of Walt Disney Animation Studios shared a look at the Moana area after teasing a Zootopia expansion. They indicated that both are early concept explorations and one of the potential expansion opportunities.”
Here’s the art they shared on screen for the Moana area, which would replace Dino-Rama at Animal Kingdom:
When Josh D’Amaro kicked off this portion of the presentation, he prefaced it with a warning that it would make some people at the company very uncomfortable, but would be exciting to fans.
The Animal Kingdom portion of the presentation was presented with a bit more certainty than the follow-up about Disney Villains, Encanto & Coco Coming to Magic Kingdom. The concept art was also noticeably more detailed and less impressionistic. At least, the Moana area of the art. Zootopia is off in the clouds in the distance.
Zooming in on the concept art, we can see that one of the attractions would be a spinner ride featuring a bunch of sails.
Given the ambition level, I’d say it’s a near certainty that this ride will be built. With Walt Disney World fans’ luck, this will be the one thing from the 2022 D23 Expo that actually ends up coming to fruition.
The other attraction appears to be a log flume ride.
In the concept art, you can see boats going down a modest drop and then circling around Moana’s wa’a kaulua outrigger canoe before heading under waterfalls and into a show building.
While I’m not getting my hopes up too much about a land that will maybe be built, I’m also skeptical that Walt Disney World would release concept art with this level of detail for a land still in the early stages of development.
At least two of the attractions in this area are clearly defined, which was a deliberate choice. Disney knows that fans will zoom in on whatever art they release and scrutinize each brush stroke for clues about what’s actually intended. Here, not much speculation is required (except for the structures in the rear and to the right) because what these attractions are is pretty obvious.
Normally, if plans aren’t concrete, the concept art is much more vague and impressionistic–like what we saw for the EPCOT overhaul back in 2017 or for the original New Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom. Even this year’s large scale expansion behind Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Magic Kingdom contained far less detail.
Personally, I’m surprised that Walt Disney World is going back to Moana so soon after Journey of Water. While the movie is one of my favorites and I think it deserves more than a walk-through in EPCOT, I also think its presence should be confined to one park at Walt Disney World.
From my perspective, a full land with a flume ride makes infinitely more sense–but that ship sailed once Journey of Water went vertical. It’s too bad there wasn’t some 10-year master plan with all of these ideas decided upon at once, rather than piecemeal.
I feel like the best idea of all probably would’ve been Moana taking over Splash Mountain, Tiana getting a brand new ride in a New Orleans Square behind Big Thunder, a larger South America area (including Encanto) being built in Animal Kingdom, something else entirely at EPCOT behind Spaceship Earth, and Zootopia in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
It’s not that I dislike or disagree with the concept of Moana in Animal Kingdom. The setting and message of the film makes it a great fit, especially if there were environments and elements of Oceania included beyond what’s in the animated film. An expansion that contextualizes IP into a real world setting would be ideal.
My issue is that Moana is already getting a walk-through attraction in EPCOT and doesn’t need more. If it were already going to get more, why not annex Splash Mountain into Adventureland and make it Moana Mountain? Disney’s whole approach here just strikes me as weird, but perhaps I’m getting too hung up on the bigger picture of all four parks.
But who knows, maybe this won’t end up happening. Imagineering revealed several big ideas for Walt Disney World’s two kingdoms, and it seems highly unlikely that all of that gets built. Given the level of detail in the concept art for Moana as compared to everything else, this land appears the most likely to happen–but that art could simply be coincidence.
Nevertheless, an addition to Animal Kingdom just makes sense. Out of all the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom plans that were shared, something replacing Dino-Rama will almost certainly happen. Animal Kingdom is now the Walt Disney World park furthest removed from its last big expansion, it’s the park people spend the fewest hours in per day, and Disney already demolished Primeval Whirl. The picnic space that replaced it is an upgrade over the ride (addition by subtraction, baby!), but it won’t remain empty forever.
What do you think of the addition announced for Animal Kingdom at the 2022 D23 Expo? Excited or underwhelmed by the plan? Or, are you in wait and see mode with this? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!