• Wed. Oct 5th, 2022

Zootopia expansion revealed for Animal Kingdom

ByStephanie M. Akbar

Sep 11, 2022

At Expo D23, Disney announced that Zootopia was a “potential expansion” opportunity and “early concept exploration” for Dinoland USA at Animal Kingdom. This article will share all the details, concept art, and everything we know about the possible expansion, as well as a bit of commentary on the rumored Excavator roller coaster concepts and Indiana Jones that beat it.

News of the Animal Kingdom expansion was announced during the “A Boundless Future: Disney Parks, Experiences and Products” presentation at D23 Expo 2022. Disney Parks, Experiences and Products President Josh D’Amaro said offered a glimpse of concept art for the future as well, and teased what was to come in a few years.

This was one of many announcements from Expo D23 2022. Others include the opening season of TRON Lightcycle Run, the return of a Figment encounter, new nightly shows for EPCOT and Magic Kingdom for Disney100 . And that is exactly what has been announced so far for Walt Disney World. We will have a summary of each announcement very soon.

Over the past two years, there have been a ton of rumors about Disney’s Animal Kingdom. My favorite was the Indiana Jones Adventure and Dinoland change, and that’s mainly because Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama being replaced with something not an abomination is my ultimate dream.

Another rumor was the revival of the Excavator, a classic unbuilt Walt Disney World attraction that is still generating buzz in fan circles. Prior to the actual reveal of the Zootopia expansion, I assumed it would be announced at D23 Expo 2022.

Instead of these concepts, what’s being announced is a Zootopia expansion, which is likely at least a partial clone of the Zootopia Land under construction at Shanghai Disneyland.

Imagineer Chris Beatty and director Jennifer Lee and creative director of Walt Disney Animation Studios didn’t provide any additional details, simply noting that the zone will replace Dino-Rama. They were also careful to use squat language in the announcement, indicating that Zootopia is an “early conceptual exploration” and one of the “potential expansion opportunities”.

They did, however, show some pretty detailed concept art on screen for an area that includes both Moana and Zootopia, so it looks like it’s more than just a blue sky idea. I’m totally speculating here, but I suspect the Zootopia expansion is more concrete than Moana – and that’s despite the Moana part of the art being more detailed.

It wouldn’t surprise me if more details couldn’t be revealed ahead of the launch of the attraction and area at Shanghai Disneyland. It wouldn’t be the first time that Disney’s contract with its Chinese partners gave this park the right to reveal and debut an addition first. That’s why Soarin’ Around the World at EPCOT and DCA opened a day after the grand opening of Shanghai Disneyland.

It is also not uncommon to have exclusivity windows in contracts with operators in Hong Kong, China and Japan. To my knowledge, this only applies to other parks in Asia. This means that the land of Zootopia could not be cloned at Tokyo Disneyland (if OLC even wanted to) until 5 years after it debuted at Shanghai Disneyland. It is possible that the same arrangement exists here with Zootopia land and Walt Disney World. Guess we’ll find out if the land opens at Animal Kingdom 5 years and a day after it debuted at Shanghai Disneyland.

The reason I think the land of Zootopia 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 business, and building it once in China means not having to reinvent the wheel and incur all those R&D costs again.

Cloning attractions is more economical, and it might be desirable if Walt Disney World is simultaneously developing original lands at Magic Kingdom. Here’s hoping that this time Disney at least spends the money to translate the ride into English. The “cultural authenticity” excuse doesn’t work here in the same way as it does for the Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure clone from Walt Disney Studios Park at Disneyland Paris.

An Animal Kingdom expansion featuring Zootopia doesn’t adhere to Joe Rohde’s “no pants” rule, and is likely to draw criticism from some Walt Disney World fans and Animal Kingdom purists.

It’s understandable, and we can’t really “disprove” it. In fairness, this same review also existed when Pandora – World of Avatar was announced, and I think the end result silenced all (or at least most) critics of this addition. The main difference is that Joe Rohde and his deft touch have since left Imagineering, so he won’t be around to helm the Zootopia addition.

That said, we’re looking forward to a Zootopia expansion at Walt Disney World…if that happens. One of the great strengths of the original zootopia was how he created a living, breathing city inhabited by an eclectic cast of creatures. The metropolis seems to lend itself well to explorable theme park terrain – and these creatures would make great Audio Animatronics in a dark ride.

Beyond that, an addition to Animal Kingdom makes sense. It’s now the farthest Walt Disney World park from its last big expansion, it’s the park where people spend the fewest hours a day, and Disney has already demolished Primeval Whirl. The picnic area that replaced it is an upgrade from the ride (addition by subtraction, baby!), but it won’t stay empty forever.

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Your thoughts

What do you think of the announced addition for Animal Kingdom at Expo D23 2022? Excited or disappointed with the plan? Or are you in standby mode and see with it? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback, even when you disagree with us, is both interesting for us and helpful for other readers, so share your thoughts below in the comments!

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