The dinosaurs at Walt Disney World could soon be starting their countdown to extinction.
DinoLand U.S.A., the dinosaur and paleontology-themed land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park, is getting an overhaul. The news came at Disney’s 2022 D23 Expo in Anaheim, California, as Disney Parks executive Josh D’Amaro made the announcement.
“We see tremendous opportunity here to tell some new stories that fit right in with what Animal Kingdom is all about,” D’Amaro said, with Walt Disney Animation Studios Chief Creative Officer Jennifer Lee adding that filmmakers and Walt Disney Imagineers have been working together to find ways to “bring the films from this last decade into the parks in natural ways.”
She said the first film that came to mind for the team when thinking about an overhaul of DinoLand U.S.A. was 2016’s “Zootopia.”
“Watching Judy Hopps board the train and go through those amazing landscapes, the animals in those environments just jumped off the screen to me as a possibility that could live in Animal Kingdom,” said Imagineering Portfolio Creative Executive Chris Beatty, who joined D’Amaro and Lee on stage at D23 Expo.
While the trio emphasized that the project was still in very early development and that their ideas remain in the “blue sky,” brainstorming phase, Lee suggested that guests visiting the new area could potentially be immersed in the different districts represented in the bustling city of Zootopia, including Little Rodentia, Bunny Burrow and the Rainforest District, with Beatty teasing possible new districts that haven’t been revealed yet. A new original series, “Zootopia+,” is set to debut on Disney+ later this year, so it’s also possible we could see some new settings introduced there for the Imagineers to bring to life.
Lee explained that the team also identified 2016’s “Moana” as a good fit for integration into Animal Kingdom, and said guests might get the chance to journey with the titular princess, help fight off the Kakamora and meet mysterious animals and creatures.
They revealed one piece of concept art for the area, which primarily shows the “Moana” portion of the potential new land, with Zootopia visible to the back right of the artwork. Two “Moana”-themed rides are clearly visible — a spinner to the right and a log flume to the left.
Also part of the discussion was a potential expansion “beyond Big Thunder Mountain” at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, which would include areas themed to “Coco,” “Encanto,” and Disney villains. D’Amaro, Lee and Beatty reiterated that that this “blue sky” phase of brainstorming is a time to explore what’s possible and ask “What if?”, calling these concepts “thought starters,” so it’s possible plans for DinoLand’s overhaul may evolve before construction begins.
‘Moana’ and ‘Zootopia’ at Other Disney Parks
Elsewhere at Disney World, construction is already well underway on another “Moana”-themed attraction. Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana, an interactive walk-through experience, will open at EPCOT in late 2023. Fans visiting D23 Expo got a closer look at a scale model of Te Fiti (shown below) in the Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Wonderful World of Dream pavilion. At Shanghai Disney Resort, meanwhile, a full “Zootopia”-themed land is under construction.
‘Mandalorian’ and Marvel Characters Coming to Disneyland
During a panel presentation that gave fans a closer look at what’s headed to Disney parks around the world, D’Amaro was joined by a series of big-name guests to help share the news. “The Mandalorian” executive producer Jon Favreau introduced fans to new walk-around Mandalorian and Grogu (aka Baby Yoda) characters headed to Disneyland Park for a new meet-and-greet beginning in mid-November.
Also at the event, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige shared details about a third attraction coming to the Avengers Campus at Disneyland Resort’s Disney California Adventure Park that will introduce a new villain, King Thanos. Feige and D’Amaro also brought a massive walking, talking Hulk out on stage to announce a meet-and-greet with the green guy beginning at Avengers Campus this week.
Combine all this with the reveal of a new live-action “The Little Mermaid” trailer and it’s been a pretty exciting month for Disney fans.