Disney Plans Massive Animal Kingdom Expansion, Updates Given

in Walt Disney World

Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

Credit: Disney

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park may not be the largest Park on Walt Disney World Resort property, but there’s still plenty to enjoy.

“The Most Magical Place on Earth” is home to four unique theme parks– Magic Kingdom Park, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park– as well as two water parks– Disney’s Blizzard Beach and Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon— and the Disney Springs shopping and dining district, among other things.

Cinderella Castle from under archway
Credit: Disney

Disney Park Guests who take their visit down to the Orlando, Florida tourist location spend countless hours from the morning into the night at the theme parks, taking in iconic and thrilling attractions, enjoying special entertainment offerings, and munching on some of their favorite snacks and meals.

While Disney World Guests enjoy what is already at the theme parks, it doesn’t mean that Walt Disney World Resort is done expanding or that there aren’t new plans on the horizon.

As a matter of fact, one of the biggest expansions currently teased for Disney World is at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park. Today, let’s take a look at the latest on the expansion.

beacon animal kingdom
Credit: Disney

What is there to do currently at Disney’s Animal Kingdom?

The theme park is designed to celebrate the natural world and features a mix of animal exhibits, live shows, and themed attractions. Here are some of the top things to do at Disney’s Animal Kingdom:

  1. Kilimanjaro Safaris: This is a guided tour that takes Guests on a safari-style ride through an African savanna, where they can see animals such as lions, elephants, giraffes, and zebras in their natural habitats.
  2. Avatar Flight of Passage: This is a popular attraction that takes Guests on a simulated flight through the world of Pandora, based on the hit movie “Avatar”.
  3. Expedition Everest: This is a roller coaster that takes Guests on a high-speed ride through the Himalayan mountains, complete with an encounter with the mythical Yeti.
  4. Festival of the Lion King: This is a live show that combines acrobatics, music, and puppetry to tell the story of The Lion King.
  5. Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail: This is a walking trail that takes Guests through a lush rainforest environment where they can observe gorillas, hippos, and a variety of other animals.
  6. Maharajah Jungle Trek: This is another walking trail that takes Disney World Guests through a recreated Asian jungle environment, where they can see tigers, bats, and a variety of other animals.
  7. DINOSAUR: This is a thrill ride that takes Guests back in time to the age of the dinosaurs, where they must race to rescue a dinosaur before a catastrophic asteroid impact.
Avatar: Flight of Passage
Credit: Disney

These are just a few of the many things to do at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The theme park also has a variety of restaurants, shops, and other attractions that celebrate the natural world and the wonders of animal life.

In addition, Disney’s Animal Kingdom is in the midst of celebrating its 25th anniversary. On Earth Day in 1998, Walt Disney World Resort invited guests to discover a one-of-a-kind theme park where they could be inspired by the magic of the natural world. The opening of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park 25 years ago introduced a whole new way to appreciate, enjoy and interact with animals while also delivering incredible new stories that celebrated our relationship to the environment. The fourth Walt Disney World theme park was also Disney’s largest, spreading out over 500 acres.

Over the course of this year, there will be many ways to celebrate, from special merchandise to nature-themed food and beverage offerings to adventurous in-Park experiences, and much more.

If you’re visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom in the near future, you should know that the theme park typically opens at 8:00 a.m. and closes at either 7:00 p.m. or 8:00 p.m., depending on the day. The best way to keep up with hours is to visit the official Disney website.

How soon could an Animal Kingdom expansion happen?

Moana crosses her arms in front of Animal Kingdom's Tree of Life
Credit: Disney

Disney teased back at the D23 Expo in September 2022 that a massive expansion could be coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom in the place of DinoLand, U.S.A. Thus far, the company has stayed quiet since then.

While many rumors have circulated over the last few years, there are two major ideas floating out there on what an expansion to Animal Kingdom could be: Zootopia or Moana.

Moana is getting an attraction of sorts over at EPCOT— when Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana opens in late 2023– but the property is very popular, and this attraction will not be a ride, but rather a walkthrough experience. Because of that, many insiders have pegged Moana— which is set to get its own live-action remake in the near future– as the potential replacement for the area, which has already seen demolition.

Concept art of 'Zootopia' and 'Moana' areas at Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom presented at D23
Credit: Disney

Right now, DinoLand, U.S.A. still consists of the dark attraction DINOSAUR, and the ride TreceraTop Spin. The rumor is that both of these attractions could be demolished to make way for the new land, but is Moana the favorite to take over the spot?

While some would say she is, the overarching belief is that Zootopia could actually be the direction that Disney World chooses to go. Zootopia makes a lot of sense in fitting in with the theme of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and there are already precedents for what Disney could build if it were to construct a Zootopia land. 

Of course, there’s always a chance that both reside in the area.

As far as how soon one of these lands could be built, we do have news to share. Disney recently filed a couple of permits for construction in DinoLand, U.S.A., but there has been no confirmation that these are the start of the construction for the expansion in the Disney Park. As a matter of fact, right now, the expectation is that Disney will keep with the status quo, but more on that in a few.

Bonnie Hopps with her phone during the chase. Credit: Disney Animation Studios
Credit: Disney Animation Studios

Is this the same Zootopia land that is in Shanghai?

Disney Shanghai’s Zootopia Land is an upcoming themed land based on the popular Disney animated film, Zootopia. The land is currently under construction and is set to open in the future, although an exact opening date has not been announced yet.

According to Disney, Zootopia Land will feature immersive experiences inspired by the film, including a major attraction that will allow guests to join Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde on a thrilling adventure through the city of Zootopia. The land will also have themed shops, restaurants, and entertainment offerings that will transport guests into the world of the movie.

Some of the key features of the land will include a replica of the city’s central hub, the unique neighborhoods of Zootopia, and characters from the film, such as Officer Clawhauser and Gazelle, who will be available for meet-and-greets.

disney world animal kingdom tree of life
Credit: Disney

Inside the Magic has covered the construction on this new Disney Park land, and it looks absolutely stunning. The skyline for the land looks great, and there are expected to be some fun rides, as well.

If Disney were to go this route, the land would likely not be the exact same but would be very similar. There will likely be some aspects that are involved in Shanghai Disneyland that wouldn’t be included in Walt Disney World Resort (or vice versa) but, nevertheless, the two lands would likely be similar.

Will Animal Kingdom expand before Magic Kingdom?

A rainbow crosses the sky over Magic Kingdom's Cinderella Castle
Credit: Disney

If you’ve been following Disney, you know that there are two expansions that Walt Disney World Resort has teased.

The first, of course, is the replacement for DinoLand, U.S.A., which we are talking about. The other is at Magic Kingdom Park in a project that has become known as “Beyond Big Thunder Mountain.”

Disney teased three possible lands that could be constructed “Beyond Big Thunder Mountain.” These include Encanto, Coco, and Disney Villains. While Encanto seems to be almost a guarantee right now, it could be a few more years before these expansions ever come to fruition.

The expectation, at least for now, is that an expansion “Beyond Big Thunder Mountain” in Magic Kingdom might not happen until Tiana’s Bayou Adventure opens. The new water attraction is taking over the space where Splash Mountain used to reside in Frontierland, but there are rumors that the entire land could be rethemed. If this retheme is happening, the expectation is that the construction of this expansion could go hand-in-hand with it. For now, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is set to open in late 2024.

So, this begs the question, could we hear something about an expansion at Disney’s Animal Kingdom first?

Entrance to Walt Disney World
Credit: Disney

With Tiana’s Bayou Adventure set to open in late 2024, it would stand to reason that we would hear something at Animal Kingdom’s expansion before the attraction opens. Disney wants to continue to have “new and exciting projects” to unveil to its audience, and it would make sense for a new project to be “on tap” before the Splash Mountain replacement is open.

At the latest, our prediction is that we’ll hear about an Animal Kingdom expansion at D23 in 2024, but the truth is that an announcement could come a lot sooner than that, perhaps even at Destination D23 in Walt Disney World Resort this September.

Inside the Magic will continue to give updates on the latest surrounding Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland Resort, and much more.

What do you think of Disney’s Animal Kingdom expansion? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments!

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