The world’s first Zootopia land will open in late 2023 in Shanghai Disneyland, featuring the new trackless ride dark ride, Zootopia: Hot Pursuit, as well as entertainment, dining, and shopping. Here’s everything we know about the blockbuster area featuring Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde, plus commentary about this expansion potentially coming to Animal Kingdom. (So pay attention, Walt Disney World fans!)
The new Zootopia themed land will also invite guests to fully immerse themselves in the mammalian metropolis of Zootopia, “where anyone can be anything,” and come along on an adventure with Judy and Nick, the lead characters from the hit animated movie. When it opens later this year, the Zootopia-themed area will become the eighth themed land at the world’s newest Disney theme park, and the first-ever (but probably not last-ever…) Zootopia land at any Disney park worldwide.
Originally, the Zootopia land modeled after Savanna Central was intended to open by the end of 2021. Like so much else, it was significantly delayed due to the pandemic. That also caused Shanghai Disneyland to close and reopen multiple times in the last three years. However, park operations have stabilized at this point and the Zootopia land will finally be able to debut in late 2023.
As a significant milestone before the new land officially welcomes its first guests, Shanghai Disney Resort just held its Creative Preview for the new land, during which leadership unveiled highlights of the Zootopia-themed land. With Disney’s legendary creativity and state-of-the-art technology, the team showcased just what’s in store for guests of Shanghai Disneyland later this year.
Zootopia at Shanghai Disneyland was co-created by hundreds of creative minds from across the globe, including a deep collaboration with the filmmakers at Walt Disney Animation Studios. Some of the talent behind the land came to the Creative Preview stage to share some of its highlights, including the imaginative developments using Disney’s legendary storytelling and creativity that went into this land and introducing how the guiding principle behind Shanghai Disneyland of “Authentically Disney, Distinctly Chinese” extends throughout it.
Upon entering the Zootopia land, guests will be immediately immersed in the movie as they stroll down Mane Street, the main street lined with “storefronts” in a variety of sizes, big and small, leading to its civic plaza – Savannah Central – where Judy Hopps herself first stepped foot into the optimistic metropolis of Zootopia.
Standing at the center of Savannah Central is a large office building boasting an oversized digital billboard and an assortment of billboards advertising Zootopia’s biggest brands. Fun, colorful and animated advertisements are played on the digital billboard, showcasing the energy and vitality of this modern city. Behind this is the skyline of Zootopia, which was originally inspired by a variety of city skylines in the animated film.
In addition to all the custom-made business signs and billboards catering to the diverse animal population of Zootopia, the land uses a wide variety of innovative new technologies that bring its citizens to life. For example, at Zootopia Central Station, a large metro train can be seen passing behind an upper-level decorative stained-glass window. The train comes and goes as it picks up and drops off animal commuters, just as it did in the film.
In the second-story windows of the Tiger Dance Club, Gazelle’s famed tiger dancers can be seen celebrating Zootopia Day alongside a wide variety of animals. Powered by advanced media effects, these fun and vivid elements help showcase the diverse residents of Zootopia.
Walt Disney Imagineering’s Audio-Animatronics technology is another thing that brings the land to life. The Zootopia Transit Authority has just completed the new state-of-the-art “hyper-tube” used by Lemmings on their way to and from work at the Lemming Brothers Bank and other businesses. In a scene pulled straight from the movie, a series of drop-off points showcase how Zootopia’s smallest citizens deboard the system.
On the other side of the street, a full-sized giraffe can be spotted running on a treadmill in Zootopia Fitness, a modern gym in Zootopia. The treadmill belt itself makes a gym for mice, who are running on the hamster wheel-like gears. This state-of-the-art Audio-Animatronics technology is also put to full use inside the attraction, where some of the most famous characters from Zootopia appear to have stepped right off the movie screen and into the real world.
Plenty of details can be spotted throughout the land for an authentic Zootopia experience. The architecture incorporates animal motifs such as patterns, zebra stripes, cheetah spots and sloth claw shapes; the landscape design takes inspiration from the distinctive and individual geography of the different districts, such as succulents and palms in Sahara Square. The land also features city fixtures and facilities that are scaled to accommodate animals large and small, such as the drinking fountains of different heights and benches of various sizes.
Zootopia has grown into a city designed by animals, for animals–large and small. Predator and prey have long set aside their differences and now live together in harmony. Inside Shanghai Disneyland’s Zootopia land, not only will guests be able to step foot into the world from the film, but they will do so on the biggest day of the year: Zootopia Day.
Zootopia Day is the day where predator and prey unite to celebrate the harmony of their beloved city. Headlining the big Zootopia Concert is the celebration’s very own ambassador and the metropolis’ biggest star, Gazelle, known for her hit song “Try Everything!” Guests will find themselves in a city alive with optimism and celebration.
During the Zootopia Creative Preview, Imagineers discussed how cutting-edge technology was used to create a fully immersive experience, along with the unveiling of a number of land and attraction renderings and the latest development photos.
Additionally, the name of the E-Ticket attraction – Zootopia: Hot Pursuit – and its storyline were introduced for the first time to the public. Zootopia: Hot Pursuit utilizes a trackless ride system as well as a number of Audio-Animatronics figures, projection mapping, screens, and other effects.
In video footage we saw shared at the Creative Preview, Zootopia: Hot Pursuit reminded us a lot of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Not only is the ride system pretty similar, but Zootopia: Hot Pursuit sounds like it’ll be a multi-phase attraction experience like. There will obviously be a number of differences, and Hot Pursuit will likely be significantly simpler. (If “cloned” to Walt Disney World, it’s unlikely that Zootopia: Hot Pursuit would use this ride system. It’s widely expected to be a retrofit of Dinosaur.)
“The beloved Disney Animation film Zootopia has fostered a strong connection with its audience since its debut. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to bring that very connection to life right here in Shanghai with this one-of-a-kind themed land,” said Joe Schott, President and General Manager, Shanghai Disney Resort.
“Over years of development, diverse minds and talent around the globe from more than 140 disciplines worked tirelessly to create a unique ‘mammalian’ experience for our guests, immersing them in this metropolis’ vibrant animal world. We are extremely proud of what they’ve created and confident that everyone will be amazed from their very first step into Zootopia.”
Zootopia: Hot Pursuit will invite guests to become rookie police officers alongside Officer Judy Hopps and her partner Nick Wilde, who is now officially a police officer in the Zootopia Police Department. Set after the film’s timeline, guests enter the lobby of the Zootopia Police Department for their first-day orientation, greeted by Officer Clawhauser, who cannot stop gushing about Gazelle’s big Zootopia Concert tonight.
The alarm sounds, sending guests to an emergency briefing with Chief Bogo about a jailbreak. The briefing is quickly interrupted by a video message from Bellwether that she and her gang have escaped from jail and kidnapped Gazelle in order to destroy the concert of the year, which is supposed to open tonight!
Reluctantly, Chief Bogo assigns guests as rookies to join Judy and Nick in an action-filled police chase. They will slide across the ice of Tundra Town, prowl for fugitives through the streets of Sahara Square, have a too-close-for-comfort encounter at Mystic Springs Oasis, and plummet from the canopies of the Rainforest District.
Along the way, guests will encounter their favorite Zootopia characters. While leading the “rookies” on the chase, Judy and Nick will also encourage them to keep trying and never give up their dreams, embodying the spirit of Zootopia. Along the chase, rookies will encounter a number of Zootopia citizens, many of whom are powered by advanced Audio-Animatronics technology.
Zootopia: Hot Pursuit leverages leading technologies, all synced in time with a trackless ride system. As a result of constantly pushing the boundaries of the latest technology, Imagineers can design and convey complex environments, enhancing the ability to immerse guests in the stories of Zootopia. As a result of constantly pushing the boundaries of the latest technology, Imagineers have created an experience that will surprise, delight and thrill guests of all ages.
In addition to the technologies behind the Zootopia: Hot Pursuit attraction, Imagineers also used the latest advancements in the way they designed and developed the Zootopia land. Building Information Modeling (BIM), the process of generating and managing digital representations of structures and facilities, was widely used by Imagineers for many of Shanghai Disney Resort’s attractions. For Zootopia, they also utilized technology that features real-time testing and feedback cycles to help solve challenges throughout the design process in realizing highly complex structures and facilities.
Characters will come to life not only through Audio-Animatronics technology but also through cutting-edge projection effects. Walt Disney Imagineering has pushed the boundaries of how media-based characters can be brought to life in the physical world. To bring the fast-paced chase story of Zootopia: Hot Pursuit to life, Imagineers had to invent new methods to employ original animation media custom-created at Walt Disney Animation Studios, enabling digitized characters to run and chase right through the middle of dimensional scenes.
Throughout the land, from Zootopia Central Station, a metro station with assorted doors for travelers of all sizes, to the Tiger Dance Club, where dancing tigers and other animals can be seen dancing in the upper windows in celebration of Zootopia Day, guests will be immersed in the colorful and vivid world of Zootopia, full of hidden details and surprises.
In addition to a major new attraction, Zootopia will also feature unique entertainment, dining and shopping experiences inspired by the hit film, evoking guest memories of the beloved stories and characters and inviting them to immerse themselves in the cityscape as if they were one of its residents.
The “shops” and “businesses” in Zootopia are run by residents of all different species, and Imagineers designed these “storefronts” to bring this mammalian metropolis and its residents to life. Some of the characters in the film also have a presence on this street, including Zootopia’s famous fashionista, Fru Fru, the daughter of Mr. Big. She is the owner of Fashions by Fru Fru, a fashion boutique nestled at the entrance of Mane Street. The store will offer a comprehensive collection of over 200 different themed products, with many designed exclusively for this land.
Just as the film Zootopia immerses moviegoers in storylines that keep them on the edge of their seats, this land features multiple stories and scenarios that allow guests to dive into memorable scenes from the film. Upon opening, guests can find a variety of deliciously Zootopified food and beverage offerings at Jumbeaux’s Cafe.
Jumbeaux’s Cafe is an ice cream kiosk directly inspired by the film, from its design concept to its food menu. A visit to Zootopia would not be complete without a Jumbo-pop, which takes the form of a Chocolate Marshmallow, and a fox paw-shaped Disney Zootopia Popsicle refreshingly flavored with sweet-and-tart hawthorn berry.
The beloved cheetah officer, Clawhauser, will see his favorite spot – The Big Donut – also come to life, which is sure to become a must-eat treat in the new Zootopia land! Guests can also find many other unique Zootopia-themed drinks, sweet treats, snacks and much more, merging storytelling with fun and delicious dining experiences at Jumbeaux’s Cafe.
The land will also see innovative live offerings that will bring Zootopia and its residents to life. Guests will be able to snap a fun photo with two of their favorite police officers, Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde, at the Zootopia Recruitment Station, where the beloved characters from the film will help the Zootopia Police Department recruit new officers.
In some of the windows of the Zootopia Park Apartments, many of the film’s well-known characters will appear throughout the day to interact with each other and with guests from time to time, including Fru Fru and her father, Mr. Big, along with Koslov the polar bear, Flash the sloth, Yax the yak, Duke Weaselton the weasel, and even the Hopps family.
Jointly developed in partnership with Walt Disney Imagineering, Disney Live Entertainment and the Entertainment team at Shanghai Disney Resort, this unique atmosphere show will further bring the beloved characters to life while centering compelling storylines from the film and the amazing attention to detail in this land.
At the Creative Preview, Fru Fru even made a surprise appearance on stage, as she just cannot wait to welcome guests to Zootopia, where she hopes they will try everything. (This was previously play-tested at last year’s D23 Expo in Anaheim, California. It looks like a fun little show with parallels to The Muppets Present… Great Moments in American History.)
From the stories and concepts found in each experience to design details and offerings, the principle of Authentically Disney, Distinctly Chinese is reflected and incorporated throughout the land. The blend creates a Zootopified guest experience themed to scenes from the film but with distinct local Chinese cultural influence, including some Shanghai-inspired surprises.
As a vibrant city made by mammals for mammals, Zootopia has extensive systems for housing, businesses, facilities, and of course, transportation. Guests will find numerous Zootopified city and traffic signs with local touches, creating a recognizable and uniquely Zootopian twist on everyday urban life.
Mane Street: The word “mane” in English shares the same pronunciation with “main,” reflecting a main street of a city in the real world. In Chinese, the street is named as “Ma Lu,” meaning “road,” but also incorporating the Chinese word for “horse.” The creation is perfectly in line with both Chinese and English names.
Nocturnal Alley: Designed as a street for nocturnal animals, the Chinese name “long tang” refers to a traditional Shanghainese-style alleyway, which will rekindle precious memories people have of Shanghai and is an homage to the unique heritage of the city.
Like any other metropolis in the world, Zootopia also designs and installs traffic signs for its residents. Animal-inspired signs in Zootopia give instructions and provide information in a fully Zootopified way.
The vehicle height clearance signs feature a giraffe in Zootopia, reminding them to be aware of their long necks protruding from their sunroofs as they drive through tunnels and underpasses;
All roads and streets in Zootopia are for use by vehicles of different sizes. To accommodate all mammals, traffic merge signs are designed featuring a large elephant and a small mouse to provide information about the rules of the road and driving etiquette;
The “Mind Your Horns” sign features a honking elephant, reminding animals of this important traffic rule when driving in the downtown area;
The “No Texting While Driving” sign features an animal paw holding a cell phone to remind animal drivers to follow this important road rule;
The “Cubs at Play” sign gives drivers advance warning when approaching Zootopia Park so they can slow down and know to watch for small cubs;
“No Grazing” reminds citizens not to graze on the greenbelts, with an image of a horse clearly conveying the message.
Shanghai Disneyland’s Zootopia is a dynamic city where businesses are named with special animal touches and a zany sense of humor. “Storefronts” in a variety of sizes line the streets that lead to a civic plaza. Imagineers designed these “storefronts” to bring this mammalian metropolis and its residents to life.
Guests will notice that the “storefronts” cater to mammal residents of different species and sizes, reflecting the metropolitan economy and diverse population. The names of the “stores” are humorously designed, playing on puns and homophones in the Chinese language.
Gazelle’s big concert is about to start tonight. To warm up, Zootopians cannot wait to belt out classic tunes at Howl KTV, a KTV lounge endorsed by the biggest celebrity in Zootopia, Gazelle;
Since rodents may need to see dentists for frequent checkups, Beaver Dentist is built into the lower portion of one of the road’s busiest stores, Fashions by Fru Fru. Sounds of patients getting their incisors worked on can be heard through the window;
Hibernation Hotel is a modern “pod” style hotel where Zootopia’s bears and other residents hibernate and can even be heard snoring from their cavernous rooms;
Fog pours out of the Arctic Spa, a place specially designed for polar bears who are the Arctic Spa’s loyal customers. Guests who listen closely may even hear a few of Mr. Big’s henchmen humorously discussing their plans to attend tonight’s Zootopia Concert;
“Ling,” meaning “bell” in English, is a kind of musical instrument, which shares the same pronunciation as the first character of the translation of bongo in Chinese, making it a perfect name for a music shop. Bongo’s Music Shop has a Corten steel facade with bongo (the antelope) stripes;
Indoor climbing is a very popular sport. In the animal kingdom, pangolins are adept climbers. The Pangolin Climbing Gym is named after the pangolin, and its vertical structure features many themed elements, including concrete pangolin claws and painted palm frond motifs, which are a nod to the pangolin’s natural habitat;
Sheep Barber and Sweater Shop are conveniently next to each other as the sheep trimmings from the barbershop get turned into wool garments sold next door.
In terms of commentary, we’re mostly looking at this as Walt Disney World fans. Don’t get us wrong, it’s nice to see Disney’s newest theme park further built out. But the reality is that the vast majority of people reading this will never set foot in China. As much as we’d love to experience all of the additions to Shanghai Disneyland, I’m not even sure we’ll ever go back, either.
The good news is that Walt Disney World has already seen a lot cloned from Shanghai Disneyland…and the party probably isn’t over yet! The biggest and most recent addition is obviously TRON Lightcycle Run, but that’s not all. There’s a strong possibility that Magic Kingdom never would’ve gotten its second-newest roller coaster, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, were that not already in development for Shanghai. (If you’ve ever wondered why the seats are so tight on SDMT…there’s your answer!)
It’s a similar story with Soarin’ Around the World and Wondrous China (if that ever still happens) at EPCOT. Not only that, but a lot of the technology developed for Shanghai Disneyland has been applied at other parks around the world, including in some rides that are still being built in Disney’s other Asia parks.
More to the point, Disney teased Zootopia Expansion for Animal Kingdom that would be built beyond Dino-Rama at the last D23 Expo. There’s a reasonable probability that this will be officially confirmed at the upcoming Destination D23 event. If the concept art released at last year’s event is any indication, the Moana expansion was further along in development than the Zootopia land. Neither had been greenlit or funded at the time, but that could’ve changed since.
It’s entirely possible that this Zootopia land is being co-developed for multiple gates worldwide, which would explain the emphasis on world’s first, which appears multiple times in the press release when describing the land at Shanghai Disneyland. For what it’s worth, that has been the case since Zootopia land was first announced for Shanghai Disneyland several years ago.
In the past, when Walt Disney Imagineering has developed concepts for the international parks that are either co-owned (Hong Kong and Shanghai) or entirely owned by a third party (Tokyo), there have been periods of exclusivity for new attractions and lands. It’s our understanding that the most stringent contractual terms are territorial–which is reasonable given that those parks compete with one another to some degree.
For example, it’s entirely possible that a Zootopia land couldn’t open for 5 years at Hong Kong Disneyland after its debut at Shanghai Disneyland. (There’s almost no chance this is planned for Hong Kong, Tokyo, or Disneyland in Anaheim, so that’s not really relevant here.)
When it comes to the Asian vs. domestic parks, the terms usually aren’t as restrictive–it’s more about marketing. The best recent example of this is Soarin’ Around the World, which was totally finished and ready to open months earlier in Disney California Adventure and EPCOT, but contractually had to open first in Shanghai. And it did…by a single day. Before that, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train actually opened at Walt Disney World several years before it debuted at Shanghai Disneyland.
We have absolutely zero insight into what, if any, exclusivity window has been negotiated between the Walt Disney Company and Shanghai Shendi Group, the Chinese joint venture partner for Shanghai Disney Resort. It doesn’t seem coincidental that the big reveal for that park’s Zootopia land would happen a few days before Destination D23, but maybe it is.
In my uninformed opinion, Shanghai Disneyland unveiling its Zootopia land significantly increases the odds of an announcement at Destination D23 for Zootopia land at Animal Kingdom. I think it’s still very far from a sure thing, and there’s absolutely no way there will be this level of specificity if it does happen. Even if Shanghai Disneyland and Walt Disney World aren’t competing for the same pool of guests, Shanghai Shendi Group won’t want its thunder stolen in the media. (Hence this reveal happening earlier in the week–and with a ton of detail.)
It’s possible that Parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro gets up on stage and discusses all of the foregoing for Zootopia land at Shanghai Disneyland, hyping up Hot Pursuit and all of the other additions in an extended segment about this new land. Then, as a “one more thing” moment, he announces that Animal Kingdom will also be getting its own version of Zootopia land in the future, officially confirming the land while offering no other details.
My gut says that this is the compromise that allows Shanghai Disneyland to have the spotlight and Animal Kingdom to also get its bombshell news. Again, that doesn’t mean it’s what will happen. It’s just as likely that Shanghai Shendi Group wants its Zootopia land highlighted at Destination D23, but wanted to first share the news itself during the Creative Preview. It’s also possible that they want an announcement for Animal Kingdom to come after the land actually opens in Shanghai Disneyland, which would set the stage for a 2024 D23 Expo announcement.
Even if it is announced at Destination D23, don’t get your hopes up that Zootopia land will open at Walt Disney World anytime soon. The last attraction that the company cloned from Shanghai Disneyland opened almost 7 years later, and that was essentially just a roller coaster in a dark and empty warehouse. Zootopia: Hot Pursuit is a lot more complex than that…but also, it probably wouldn’t be a 1:1 clone, anyway. (Think more like Pooh’s Hunny Hunt vs. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.)
Given that Walt Disney World builds at the pace of Flash Slothmore, you can expect any major addition not to open until 2027 or later at this point. Here’s hoping we find out whether Zootopia is coming to Animal Kingdom at the 2023 Destination D23 event over the weekend. In my view, it’s not a matter of “if” anymore–it’s a matter of “when.” Either the announcement happens at Destination D23 or the 2024 D23 Expo.
What do you think of the Zootopia land? What about the Zootopia: Hot Pursuit trackless dark ride? Do you hope this expansion comes to Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World? Any questions? We love hearing from readers, so please share any other thoughts or questions you have in the comments below!