New Photo Reveals What Will Be Destroyed in Record-Breaking Magic Kingdom Expansion

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Magic Kingdom's iconic castle behind a red prohibitory sign.

Credit: Inside the Magic

It has been a confusing week for The Walt Disney Company, and where fans thought there would be lots of noise on the huge financial investment being poured into the company, everything fell a little flat. That was until the House of Mouse filed a permit for the biggest park expansion in Magic Kingdom history.

Magic Kingdom entrance at Disney World
Credit: Frank Phillips, Flickr

Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger has been fighting Disney naysayers on all fronts. Ron DeSantis continues his campaign against the company in Florida, while Nelson Peltz, backed by former Disney executive Ike Perlmutter, vies for a seat on Disney’s board. The long-awaited head-to-head happened at Disney’s recent shareholders meeting on Wednesday, April 3, 2024, resulting in billionaire Peltz being unelected to the coveted board.

During that same meeting, Iger divulged more information on the reported $60 billion investment being injected into the company, $30 billion of which is being designated to parks and resorts worldwide. With $30 billion, Disney has the chance to push forward in the theme park race and broaden the gap between Universal Destinations & Experiences, which is hot on Disney’s heels with its huge Epic Universe expansion in Orlando.

Universal Epic Universe concept artwork.
Credit: Universal

Iger revealed that Disney had been aware of Universal’s big plan and that, seemingly, instead of announcing its own new park, it poured energy into bolstering the four theme parks it already had. EPCOT being transformed with new neighborhoods and attractions (such as Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, and Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana) as well as Splash Mountain’s reimagining to Tiana’s Bayou Adventure were some of the things Iger noted as taking place in the same timespan as Universal’s third gate development.

What surprised many, though, was that Iger admitted Disney had nothing “tangible” to show for the $30-60 billion financial pledge made months ago. This was an unusual choice of words, considering not long after, the company gave multiple updates regarding the future of the Disney World theme parks.

Tiana's Bayou Adventure, which replaced Splash Mountain, at Disney World.
Credit: Disney

Surprise Disney World Updates Shared

Three notable updates have been shared regarding the future of the Disney resort in Orlando. One involves a more in-depth look at the animatronics coming to Tiana’s Bayou Adventure in Magic Kingdom’s Frontierland. The characters will feature familiar faces from The Princess and the Frog (2009), including Tiana herself and alligator Louis, voiced by Anika Noni Rose and Michael-Leon Wooley, respectively.

The second Magic Kingdom update came with the confirmation that Disney would be expanding its leading Florida theme park in what looks to be the biggest in its history. Information was shared revealing the company would be filing permits for the area behind Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and that the permit would be made public in due course. This will be the first major move in the once-blue sky “Beyond Big Thunder” concept.

Disney World IP expansion including 'Coco', 'Encanto', and Villains Land
Credit: Disney

In a new photo shared by Bioreconstruct, the area in which Disney is looking to build upon–that is, what it will have to destroy to make room for whatever Intellectual Property (IP) it plans on opening there–can be seen in relation to the rest of Magic Kingdom Park.

Aerial photo of undeveloped areas just beyond Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

At right is the canal where Electrical Water Pageant boats are staged.

Show buildings of It’s a Small World and The Haunted Mansion at left.

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With “Beyond Big Thunder” in motion, Disney park fans are taking to social media to analyze just how, logistically, this expansion will work. Many consider the current layout to be unsuitable for access to the new area, with much of the land around Big Thunder Mountain taken up by the Rivers of America. Not only that, but the expansion will likely close down the Walt Disney World Railroad for multiple years once again. The attraction was closed for many years to accommodate the construction of TRON Lightcycle / Run in Tomorrowland.

@ValueNetwork97 wrote on X (formerly Twitter):

Oh we’re absolutely seeing a clone of the Disneyland rivers of America. The railroad will be pushed forward, the river will be rerouted, Tom Sawyer is getting snapped in half, and a raised path just like the one next to hungry bear will go next to big thunder.

@Ashalo1955 echoed something similar, saying:

i’m interested to see how they connect it… fill in Rivers of America? otherwise that path alongside BTMR will bottleneck real bad

The development of this land was first teased over one year ago at the D23 Expo 2022 in Anaheim, California. Disney Experiences (formerly Disney Parks, Experiences and Products) chairman Josh D’Amaro invited his fellow executives, Jennifer Lee (Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios) and Chris Beatty (Creative Portfolio Executive at Walt Disney Imagineering) to the stage to discuss multiple concepts for the Walt Disney World Resort. The biggest of these was the concept to bring the likes of Encanto, Coco, and the Disney Villains to the area behind Big Thunder Mountain.

However, nothing more was shared, not even at the following Destination D23 in 2023. There, it was in the not-said that was most telling. Disney revealed that the much-needed refurbishment of DinoLand, U.S.A. would happen with a Tropical Americas retheme. The area would include the Encanto and Indiana Jones franchises, seemingly confirming that Encanto may not be included in whatever the Magic Kingdom expansion looks like.

Concept art for the all-new area coming to Animal Kingdom inspired by Encanto and Indiana Jones
Credit: Disney

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Many presume that “Beyond Big Thunder” will primarily focus on the Villains, and this could be how the resort brings in the fan-favorite Dark Kingdom idea. Until the permits are filed and work commences, it is unlikely that Disney park fans will get any more information.

What development plans have been shared, though, are the ones happening over at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Disney Parks on Instagram showed video footage of Imagineers researching the Yucatán Peninsula for inspiration to bring the Tropical Americas expansion to life, including a very familiar looking Casita…

What would you like to see in the “Beyond Big Thunder” expansion at Magic Kingdom? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

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