Upcoming Disney World Expansion, a Swing and a Miss?

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Statue of walt disney holding hands with mickey mouse in front of cinderella castle at disney world, with a clear blue sky background.

Credit: Disney

While many are excited about a massive expansion coming to Disney World, some can’t help but wonder if it will be a hit or a miss.

The Walt Disney Company has breathtaking plans for Disney Parks worldwide. From expansions at Walt Disney World Resort to a possible third theme park at Disneyland Resorta spectacular area inspired by Disney’s award-winning movie Frozen at Disneyland Paris, and a jaw-dropping land inspired by Frozen, Tangled, and Peter Pan at Tokyo Disney Resort.

DisneylandForward aerial concept art
Credit: Disney

Fans have voiced their expectations for the planned projects coming to Walt Disney World Resort, including demands for appearances of Kuzco from The Emperor’s New Groove (2000), some beloved Disney villains, and more for the “Beyond Big Thunder Mountain” blue sky project at Magic Kingdom.

While no official details for this thrilling expansion, set to be the largest in Magic Kingdom history, have been revealed, Walt Disney Imagineers recently revealed a first peek at the planned “Tropical Americas” reimagining coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

This project was revealed during the Destination D23 event in 2023 and immediately sparked divided opinions among fans, with many excited about the project and others disappointed after hearing about the extinction of DinoLand U.S.A.

Initial plans for the expansion mentioned attractions themed to Disney Animation’s award-winning movie Encanto (2021) and the Indiana Jones franchise.

Dinoland U.S.A sign at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Walt Disney World Resort
Credit: Ed Aguila

This week, Walt Disney Imagineering revealed a “behind-the-curtain look” at the upcoming project through Instagram, mentioning that Walt Disney Imagineers “recently took a trip to Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula to study culture, art, and the archeology of the Mayans,” drawing inspiration from this culture to develop 3D models “to help visualize the stories that [they’re] trying to tell.”

It is true that Mexico, and the Yucatán Peninsula in particular, are full of history, culture, and pre-Hispanic art that could serve as an inspiration for the reimagined land. However, choosing the Mexican destination as the first stop for this project might have been a swing and a miss for The Walt Disney Company, especially since Encanto, which will possibly be the land’s main attraction, takes place in Colombia, not Mexico.

Mirabel and Dolores Madrigal talking in Encanto
Credit: Disney

Viewers quickly pointed out this discrepancy, commenting, “So ya’ll went to Mexico to study the culture for a Colombian based movie…..interesting.” Additionally, many viewers attempted to “save” the immersive DinoLand U.S.A. area — similar to how many fans defended the divisive Magic Kingdom attraction Splash Mountain before its permanent closure — advocating against its inevitable extinction.

Other viewers said they didn’t understand “what conservation message is in Encanto and Indiana Jones” and commented how the reimagined land would drive Disney’s Animal Kingdom away from its “original purpose.”

Disney stated the following regarding said “purpose”: “The idea behind Disney’s Animal Kingdom was to have a place where we could celebrate the magic of nature, invigorate conservation efforts by caring for animals that were endangered in the wild, and educate guests on ways they could help support that mission.”

Animal Kingdom Park entrance
Credit: Disney

Walt Disney Imagineers might have faced backlash with this first “behind-the-curtain” look at the “Tropical Americas” reimagining. However, Disney World officials have not revealed a timeline for this project, which could still be in its early development stages.

This undoubtedly gives Disney Imagineers the chance to travel to Colombia — to better represent the country in which Encanto takes place — and other countries in South America to continue drawing inspiration for this immersive land.

Disney teased that “more behind-the-scenes and sneak peeks” about the “Tropical Americas” and other Disney Parks projects would be available on the Walt Disney Imagineering YouTube channel in a new series called We Call It Imagineering.

You can see the teaser for We Call It Imagineering below or click here to watch it.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that Disney has “missed” the perfect opportunity to maximize the impact of its latest projects. The Coco-inspired restaurant Casa de Coco – Restaurante de Familia opened last year in Disneyland Paris instead of Disneyland Resort, despite a heavy representation of Mexican and Latin American culture in Walt Disney’s original theme park and Disney California Adventure. You can read more about this project by clicking here.

As of the publication of this article, Disney World has not revealed plans to permanently close DINOSAUR, Triceratops Spin, and other DinoLand, U.S.A. offerings. Stay tuned to Inside the Magic to learn more about the latest projects at Disney Parks worldwide.

What do you think about the upcoming “Tropical Americas” expansion at Disney’s Animal Kingdom? Share your opinion with Inside the Magic in the comments below!

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