Zootopia Expansion Revealed for Animal Kingdom
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!
I definitely hope Animal Kingdom gets a Zootopia and not a Moana area. It fits better in my opinion. And Moana has the Living Water walk through coming to EPCOT.
Honestly, if they go through with this, I think it’ll be the final straw for me. Animal Kingdom, despites its name, is not about animals. It’s about conservation and living together with nature. Zootopia is about neither of those. There should never be a bustling metropolis in AK, even one populated by animals. It is honestly incredible how Disney leadership does not understand the theme of a single Disney park these days
To be fair, Dinoland isn’t exactly about conservation or living with nature either.
It’s amazing to me how few people know that the theme of AK is not nature and conservation. It is animals: past, present, and mythological. The current Disney management will likely want to change the theming to match their own woke agenda and promote their IP, but people should at least learn the history of the park.
Zootopia at Animal Kingdom is the most likely decision. The ride vehicles for the Shanghai version look like the same vehicles used in Dinosaurs, meaning the same show building and track. An easy retheme of the attraction. Duplication of the other Shanghai Zootopia elements would be easy. As for Moana, it makes no senses. Why wouldn’t they add the additional Moana attractions to EPCOT alongside the Journey of Water. There is plenty of unused space between The Land and Nemo and Friends.
I agree with everyone else that Zootopia does not belong here. I feel like they’re being lazy and they are completely out of touch with what people want (or, more likely, they just don’t care). It feels like “this is what we’re doing and you WILL like it” but as you’ve said, over and over, until people start speaking with their wallets and not just their mouths, nothing will change. I am excited about the Moana area at EPCOT but they could have done so much more and done it so much better at AK. I have yet to see a single person excited about the Zootopia concept. It is something Shanghai would really want and we’re just made to do with leftovers? My family also loves the Dinsosaur ride and would be devastated if they took it away. Like others have said Pandora at least fits the conservation theme at AK. Zootopia is just people dressed up as animals, which makes AK the last place it should be. I tire of the Disney/Universal comparison like everyone else…we visit both, most often with separate trips. But Disney is more and more losing its appeal and that not just because my kids are young adults now. I’m not going to spend $200/day to be force fed attractions that I don’t really want to see if the first place forever. One of these days people will actually walk away from Disney and then maybe they’ll start paying attention to guests again. Maybe.
Zootopia has not been announced as per your title. They said it’s blue sky thinking as to what could go there.
Tom – it’s certainly reasonable to report what they discussed, but it would be prudent to change the title of this post
Disney needs to keep a dino themed area in AK. The theming for AK is animals: past, present and imaginary. Pandora fits the theming because it has banshees. Although the characters in Zootopia are animals, Zootopia does not fit the theming for AK. Disney needs a dino themed coaster to replace Primeval Whirl, but Disney would have a hard time competing with Universal. The imagineers at Disney are losing their creativity and innovation. All Disney wants to do now is promote their IP from their so-so movies. I don’t consider Encanto (without “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” people would not even care about this move), Coco, Princess and the Frog, or Zootopia classics. I saw them once, and while they were cute, they are not memorable. I don’t really care if I ever see them again.
I hate DinoLand as much as the next person but I don’t think this is the way to go, at all. For all Pandora is fictional, it is at least rooted in the idea of a place/people, their relationship with nature, and the conservation message of the park. I really hope we get an Oceania land instead, anchored by Moana (no pun intended). It’s a no brainer, continuing the conservation message and cultural representation themes of the rest of the park. Much more fitting for AK imo than shoehorning in a city of furries from a film with horrifically, laughably clumsy message at odds with the care that was taken in the rest of AK.
Eh. Would rather have seen Moana or Encanto here instead per the other comments. Zootopia is a perfectly fine movie, but it doesn’t feel like it fits stylistically with Animal Kingdom except in name.
Animal Kingdom needs something- that’s for sure. Its kind of a skippable Disney park sadly
It was all BS. They had a “what if” discussion of what could possibly be in the future for Animal Kingdom and MK. So basically them saying things the crowd was excited about, but they’re just spitballing. It was pathetic and offensive.
Again they’re just buying time as Chepak doesn’t know what to do with the parks. With Universal Epic arrounf the corner there are a lot of nervous suits at the Mouse House. Also given Bob’s comments about die hard fans, things don’t look so roses for the American parks.
Zootopia created an interesting, expansive, brilliantly animated world filled with diverse characters. It’s also (spoiler alert!) a DARK story featuring psychotically drugged homicidal animals and dealing with mature themes like criminality, harassment, racial supremacy, sexism, political corruption, etc. in fairly raw, unfiltered ways. It’s kind of like the Gotham City of “Batman Begins” but with cute animated critters.
Sure, on close inspection most “classic” Disney fairy tales are chock-full of scary villains, mortal peril, and dark magic — but there’s a whimsical innocence implied in places like Arandelle or Corona or “Far, Far Away” that makes me want to inhabit those fairytale realms/kingdoms which are implicitly separated from our modern world. On the other hand, Zootopia feels more current and relatable in uneasy ways – this is part of what makes the film effective, but based on the movie I don’t really want to experience the world of Zootopia firsthand.
Now, of course Animal Kingdom desperately needs SOMETHING new on the horizon and Zootopia is better than nothing. I just think there are so many other opportunities that could have been explored (like South America Land featuring Encanto, Up, maybe Indiana Jones?). And while Zootopia is inherently animal-filled, something about it doesn’t feel like a fit in Animal Kingdom — its gritty universe exists in an unsettling middle ground between the “natural kingdom” and “fantasy kingdom” modalities celebrated at AK.
“It has animals” – that is the only tie you can make to Animal Kingdom. I know thematic purity went away with Pandora, but the conservation theme, even if a stretch, is better than this,
maybe not for the reasons you laited, but I agree Zootopia feels like a bad fit for AK. Why would you put a heavily urban environment in the middle of a park that centers specifically around the majesty of nature? Beastly Kingdom would still fit really well–then you’d have extraterrestrial wildlife, Earth wildlife, and imaginary wildlife. You could tie in with almost any Disney IP, even if you wanted to focus on creatures in actual folklore and legends (creatures from Hercules, Moana, Coco, etc.). Great cultural learning tie in and a more cohesive theme.
I get that Zootopia is animals…..but I think Moana makes more sense or even Encanto……
Zootopia is a city. I don’t think of a city in Animal Kingdom.
Animal Kingdom has this laid back vibe. Not a city vibe.
Encanto they go through a jungle and found this town. Moana is a lush Island.
Do Zootopia as an expansion in Magic Kingdom.
The way the Parks Blog soft-pedals this and the Coco/Encanto Magic Kingdom stuff makes it hard for me to get excited that this will actually happen. Almost feels like they realized they didn’t have much of the way of substantive new WDW announcements and threw together the concept art in order to avoid backlash.
Love this news!! Zootopia will be a very fun addition!
What a weird announcement/brainstorming session that was… “What “could” be, one day, maybe , who knows, that’s possible…” If you still don’t know , don’t announce it, if you’re doing it, announce it with confidence and gusto! They really were all over the place during the segment and left us with more questions than excitement.
Beyond Big Thunder is genuinely exciting but with all that tip toeing, it could end up being a light and sound show in 2028, for all we know…
My thoughts exactly. I’m a recent WDW fan, so this was my first time watching a D23 parks panel, but I found both new lands announcements to be incredibly vague and underwhelming. Not because I wanted something different to go there, but because it’s like they’re not even sure that they want to do these things, yet they’re still announcing them. It’s almost like they’re trying to gauge public opinion before deciding to proceed any further with planning. Feels like we shouldn’t be expecting either land to open until 2030 though.
no no no no no.
I cringed when they brought Jennifer Lee out to the zootopia music. Moana would be appropriate. Indiana Jones better. Zootopia…?
It is just blue sky though. And if the new IJ movie does well, things may change
I just watched. Why was there no mention of DHS or the return of Fantastmic? Or did I just miss it
I’m amazed at how long Disney waits to bring their films to the parks. Zootopia came out over 6 years ago.
Was pretty disappointed that none of the concepts have anything to do with dinosaurs. Who doesn’t love dinosaurs? RIP Dinoland.
Universal owns the dino franchise now…