At the D23 Expo, Disney revealed new land (or areas?) under development beyond the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Frontierland in the Magic Kingdom. The expansion will feature Coco, Encanto and Villains (You read that correctly). This post will share all the details, concept art, and everything we know about the potential expansion, plus a few comments.
News of the expansion of the Magic Kingdom was announced during the “A Boundless Future: Disney Parks, Experiences and Products” presentation at D23 Expo 2022. Josh Damaro, Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, gave a sneak peek into the concept art of the future as well as a peek at what It will come in a few years.
This was one of the many announcements at the 2022 D23 Expo. Other games include the inaugural season of TRON Lightcycle Run, Figment Meet and Greet, and Disney100’s new EPCOT & Magic Kingdom night shows. And that’s exactly what has been announced so far for Walt Disney World. We will have a summary of each announcement very soon.
The announcement came on the heels of news of the possible presence of Moana and Zootopia in the animal kingdom. Unveiled by Imagineer Chris Beatty and Jennifer Lee, Walt Disney Animation Studios Chief Creative Officer. They did not provide any additional details, but were careful to use the language that underlies the declaration, indicating that this is an “early exploration of the concept” and one of the “potential expansion opportunities”.
Here is the concept art the duo shared while on stage:
This artistic concept is certainly more of an impression than what has been shared in the Moana area of the animal kingdom, but it is still more detailed than some of the artistic concepts that have been revealed in recent years.
With that said, only Coco and Encanto areas are well defined. The Disney Villains expansion is showing off – no specific concept art for that has been shared.
When Josh D’Amaro started this segment of the show, he prefaced it with a warning that it would make some people in the company very uncomfortable, but it would be exciting for fans.
The Magic Kingdom portion of the show was presented with a file What if we did this Sort of an atmosphere… but they also suggested that these plans be actively worked on and pursued.
Plans are in early development, but ideas being explored for guests will offer guests the opportunity to enter Casa Madrigal and ride on the back of Dante or Pepita, Alebrijes of the Rivera family from Coco.
Honestly, I’m not even sure how this news is ranked. It’s not a full commercial, but more of us being flying on the wall for a brainstorming session fantasizing or a blue sky. There are concrete details and conceptual art, but no promises as to what the final version of this expansion will entail.
One question for me is where the Magical Kingdom expansion will be built (if was built). Walt Disney World was quietly moving the roads behind the park in a way that could accommodate this, literally, behind the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
Another possibility is that at least part of this is replacing Tom Sawyer Island. About 7-8 years ago, a major budget expansion for the area was rumored to be along with the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. It’s possible that this location is still the plan, but D’Amaro wanted to share the good news, and Walt Disney World fans won’t be greeted with storming America’s Rivers and Tom Sawyer Island.
Before we get too excited about daydreaming, it’s worth noting that this might not even happen. Disney has a poor track record when it comes to obscure D23 Expo ads. In the past, many plans were introduced without The formidable warnings of the Magic Kingdom’s expansion plans did not come to fruition.
Out of my head, Main Street Theater, Cherry Tree Lane, original Future World plans, second Future World plans, first Avengers e-ticket, and more aren’t built. (I know I forgot a lot of abandoned projects – I saw a list before the show and there was so much more!)
As such, I wouldn’t mistake anyone for viewing this with a lot of skepticism and pessimism. Far from all the superstars, the current administration hasn’t quite done that by fans of Walt Disney World in the past few years. It’s been a tough era, and this outburst of news seems very at odds with what we’ve been through lately.
He may be the optimist in me, but I am resident Cautiously optimistic about this even knowing how common D23 gallery ads – even more tangible ones – don’t happen. Even after being burned in the past by Chapek and his cohorts, I’m still hopeful—perhaps foolishly—that the Magic Kingdom will get another large-scale expansion.
Josh D’Amaro could have come out and spotlighted the return of entertainment and other little things. He could talk about the return of Fantasmic (which is still happening a lot in the next 6-8 weeks), sum up what really happened this summer, or spend more time focusing on the details of the projects in progress.
Instead, he swung his view of the fences in relation to Walt Disney World. This awesome D23 exhibit suggests to me that, at the very least, the company has plans to expand the Magic Kingdom. Whether it actually ends up being Coco, Encanto, and/or Disney Villains is immaterial.
The desire to build the park is at a high level from the company, which means that there is a desire to invest more money in Walt Disney World. This is being presented on stage at the D23 Expo which means this isn’t just a blue sky idea floating around Imagineering.
As someone who discovered the best-case scenario for Walt Disney World’s “expansion” news at the D23 Expo, a replacement for Primeval Whirl, this surprised me. It may not be a direct and immediate reaction to the Epic Universe, but it is a substantive thing.
Like I said before, I don’t think the leadership at Disney thinks they need an “answer” to the Epic Universe. Their overall stance when the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened was that “high tide lifts all boats” – and that a stronger Universal presence was good for Disney as it drew more people to Central Florida.
This is somewhat unequivocally true, but it’s also a spin. More than a decade later, the park’s landscape has also evolved in Orlando. Universal has built half a dozen hotels in the intervening years at a range of price points, and there’s also the difference 3 theme parks make plus a water park. For many visitors, Universal will be a file Destination By itself, not a diversion from Disney.
Personally, I’m wondering how concerned the Disney leadership really is about the Epic Universe. The company as a whole, and Walt Disney World in particular, has lost a lot of corporate knowledge in the past few years. Many leaders at Disney know only an era of success, as a result of which they have a “no one can touch us” attitude.
Watch any interview with Bob Chapek or Josh D’Amaro and you can see this trust (to use a charitable term). If that’s the tone being set at the top, do you really think this is a company that fears Universal?
To be perfectly clear, I think this confidence is misplaced. Disney has certainly enjoyed a decade of unparalleled success, and its theme park business is in a different phase than that of Universal. However, as a hotel company that also operates theme parks, Walt Disney World can’t afford to lose overnight guests to Universal.
These are its most lucrative visitors, and if Universal can grab some – even just 10% – that’s a huge blow to Disney. With Universal offering more affordable accommodation and on-site concessions for a brand new theme park, it’s going to be a very different dynamic than it was when Wizarding World debuted over a decade ago.
Regardless, none of this will be ready by the time the Epic Universe opens. More than anything else, this is why this is not an “answer” to the Epic Universe. None of the major expansions announced at the 2022 D23 Expo will open before 2026. Perhaps more like 2027.
In my view, the company will likely prepare to invest in Walt Disney World not because of the perceived threat from the Universal’s Epic Universe, but because of the resilience of its Florida theme parks. Walt Disney World continues to outperform, and investors are beginning to notice its success. That combined with Wall Street’s nervousness on broadcast (at least a bit) means Disney may finally start betting more on its theme park business. (All lessons learned during the Great Recession… prove that history repeats itself And the That Disney lost institutional knowledge.)
That’s why I think there is something fundamental to the expansion plans of the Magical Kingdom and the Animal Kingdom. Even if they don’t integrate Disney Villains, Coco, Encanto, etc. into the actual grounds, there are likely plans for a major development on the horizon. In my view, it’s not so much about the details as it is about the big picture. Once again, the Walt Disney Company appears to be optimistic about the theme park business…This is a good thing for fans!
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what do you think of Possibility That Coco, Moana, and Disney Villains areas or attractions are coming to the Magic Kingdom? Do you think these lands are actually going to be built, or is this another example of Disney throwing the same pot at the wall and seeing which sticks? Do you agree or disagree with our evaluation? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback – even when you don’t agree with us – is interesting to us and useful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
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