At the D23 Expo, Disney announced that Zootopia is “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 about the rumored concepts for an Excavator roller coaster and Indiana Jones that this beat out.
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.
This was one of many announcements at the 2022 D23 Expo. Others include the opening season for TRON Lightcycle Run, return of a Figment meet & greet, new nighttime spectaculars for EPCOT & Magic Kingdom for Disney100. And that’s just what has been announced so far for Walt Disney World. We’ll have a recap of every announcement very soon.
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.
Instead of those concepts, what’s being announced is a Zootopia expansion, which is likely at least a partial clone of the Zootopia Land that’s being built at Shanghai Disneyland.
Imagineer Chris Beatty and fillmmaker Jennifer Lee and chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios didn’t provide any additional details, just noting that the area will replace Dino-Rama. They were also careful to use language crouching the announcement, indicating that Zootopia is an “early concept exploration” and one of the “potential expansion opportunities.”
However, they flashed pretty detailed concept art on-screen for an area featuring both Moana and Zootopia, so it seems like this is more than just a blue sky idea. Totally speculating here, but my suspicion is that the Zootopia expansion is more concrete than Moana–and this is despite the Moana portion of the art being more detailed.
It wouldn’t surprise me if more details can’t be revealed until the attraction and area debuts at Shanghai Disneyland. This would not be the first time that Disney’s contract with its Chinese partners gave that park the right to reveal and debut an addition first. This is why Soarin’ Around the World at EPCOT and DCA opened one day after the grand opening of Shanghai Disneyland.
It’s also not uncommon for exclusivity windows in contracts with the operators in Hong Kong, China, and Japan. To my knowledge, that has only been applicable to the other parks in Asia. Meaning that Zootopia land couldn’t be cloned to Tokyo Disneyland (if OLC even wanted it) until 5 years after it debuted at Shanghai Disneyland. It’s possible the same arrangement exists here with Zootopia land and Walt Disney World. I guess we’ll find out if the land opens at Animal Kingdom 5 years and a day after debuting at Shanghai Disneyland.
The reason I think Zootopia land is more likely at Animal Kingdom than Moana is precisely because it’s being built at Shanghai Disneyland. Research and development costs are a big part of any Imagineering endeavor, and building this once in China means not having to reinvent the wheel–and incur all of those R&D costs all over again.
Cloning attractions is more economical, and that might be desired if Walt Disney World is simultaneously developing original lands at Magic Kingdom. Here’s hoping this time, Disney at least spends the money translating the ride into English. The “cultural authenticity” excuse doesn’t work here in the same way it did for the Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure clone from the Walt Disney Studios Park at Disneyland Paris.
An expansion of Animal Kingdom featuring Zootopia doesn’t adhere to Joe Rohde’s “no pants” rule, and is likely to catch criticism from some Walt Disney World fans and Animal Kingdom purists as a result.
That’s understandable, and we can’t really “refute” it. In fairness, that same criticism also existed when Pandora – World of Avatar was announced, and I think the end result silenced all (or at least most) critics of that addition. The key difference is that Joe Rohde and his deft touch have since left Imagineering, so he won’t be around to spearhead the Zootopia addition.
With all of that said, we are looking forward to a Zootopia expansion at Walt Disney World…if it happens. One of the great strengths of the original Zootopia was the way it created a living, breathing city inhabited by an eclectic cast of critters. The metropolis seems like it’ll lend itself well to an explorable theme park land–and those critters would make for great Audio Animatronics in a dark ride.
Beyond that, an addition to Animal Kingdom just makes sense. This 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.
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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!