Scrapped: Disney’s Magic Kingdom Expansion ‘Shelved Indefinitely,’ Updates Reveal

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Guests walking in Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom behind Cinderella Castle

Credit: Ed Aguila, Inside the Magic

It’s been nearly two years since the announcement of Magic Kingdom’s “Beyond Big Thunder Mountain” expansion that was set to take place in Walt Disney World Resort.

In the world of Disney Parks, the future always seems to hold boundless possibilities. This sentiment was front and center during the “A Boundless Future: Disney Parks, Experiences and Products” presentation at the D23 Expo in 2022.

A bustling crowd walks down Main Street towards a castle at a theme park. The street is lined with shops and decorated with orange pumpkins and fall-themed decorations, while the sky overhead is overcast. The castle stands large and iconic in the background.
Credit: Nicholas Fuentes, Unsplash

Chairman of Parks and Resorts Josh D’Amaro shared teaser glimpses of what might be in store for Disney Parks, stirring excitement among fans and sparking a whirlwind of speculation. However, not all dreams come to fruition, and recent developments have seen at least one promising idea for a Magic Kingdom expansion put on hold if not entirely scrapped.

The Promise of New Lands at Magic Kingdom

During the 2022 D23 Expo, Josh D’Amaro touched on the future of DinoLand U.S.A., U.S.A. at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, hinting at possible replacements but remaining non-committal about specifics. More exciting, however, were the potential expansion ideas for Magic Kingdom, Disney World’s flagship park.

Imagineering Portfolio Creative Executive Chris Beatty expressed his enthusiasm for Magic Kingdom’s future, emphasizing the park’s unique ability to tell amazing stories and explore new lands.

Three main ideas were floated during the presentation: Encanto Land, Coco Land, and a Disney Villains Land. Each concept promised to bring beloved Disney characters and stories to life in immersive new environments.

Beyond Big Thunder Mountain Space on My Disney Experience App
Credit: My Disney Experience App

Encanto Land: A Magical Family Experience

The immense popularity of Encanto (2021) made the idea of an Encanto Land an exciting prospect for Disney fans. The film’s hit song “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” topped the charts for weeks, and the movie itself became a cultural phenomenon, especially on Disney+.

Josh D’Amaro posed tantalizing questions about the potential of an Encanto Land: “What if you could walk into the Madrigals’ casita? What if Mirabel is your guide? What if you could walk up to a door and discover your own magical gift?”

These questions sparked imaginations, suggesting a richly interactive and immersive experience where guests could engage directly with the magic of the Madrigal family. The idea of an Encanto attraction was further fueled by comments from then-CEO Bob Chapek, who recognized the movie’s success and hinted at its potential for expansion into the parks.

However, the most recent updates have Encanto heading for Disney’s Animal Kingdom as part of the replacement for DinoLand, U.S.A.

Mirabel and Dolores Madrigal talking in Encanto
Credit: Disney

Coco Land: A Celebration of Family and Tradition

Similarly, the concept of a Coco Land promised an enchanting journey into the vibrant world of the dead, as depicted in Coco (2017). D’Amaro’s pitch imagined guests joining Miguel on his adventure to the Land of the Dead, meeting characters like Hector, and uncovering the mysteries of Miguel’s family.

But the question still remains: Is Coco a strong enough IP to hold down an entire land in Magic Kingdom?

Disney Villains Land: The Dark Side of Disney

Perhaps the most intriguing and the most speculative of the proposed expansions was Disney Villains Land.

Fans have long clamored for a dedicated space for Disney’s iconic villains, and the idea of a land where characters like Scar from The Lion King (1994), Ursula from The Little Mermaid (1989), and Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty (1959) roam free was tantalizing. However, this concept was acknowledged as being the furthest from realization, with many logistical and creative hurdles to overcome.

Cruella, Iago, Jafar, Ursula, and Captain Hook sitting at a table together Disney Villains
Credit: Disney

The Harsh Reality: Plans Change

Despite the excitement generated by these announcements, the reality of theme park development is that plans are always subject to change. Disney CEO Bob Iger’s recent comments at the MoffettNathanson Media and Communications Summit underscore this point.

More crucially, Iger revealed that future investments in Disney Parks would be centered around intellectual property (IP), indicating a shift towards leveraging existing franchises more strategically. This approach means that while ideas like Encanto Land and Coco Land align with Disney’s IP-focused strategy, the specifics of these expansions remain fluid and uncertain.

Iger’s insistence on keeping future expansion plans secretive to maintain flexibility has left many fans feeling uneasy, particularly as Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is set to open in just a matter of weeks at the Disney park. This secrecy suggests that even the most exciting concepts can be altered or abandoned based on changing business priorities and market conditions.

Bob Iger speaking at a podium against a blue-lit backdrop.
Credit: Disney

The Axed Idea: “Beyond Big Thunder Mountain”

One significant casualty of this shifting landscape appears to be another “Beyond Big Thunder Mountain” expansion idea, which had been rumored to include both new ideas and established IPs like a Toy Story-themed Woody ride. This particular idea for the expansion now appears to be off the table, at least in its originally conceived form.

“For quite a long time, new attractions and lands at the parks were based on, essentially, either very old IP or no IP — just an attraction,” Iger said. “And, starting really with Carsland and Toy Story and a few others. We decided that almost all of our investment in the parks in terms of attractions and lands would be using that IP. And it’s very very clear what that delivered.”

The idea, for those who are unaware, was that Disney was going to create a “Wild West-themed” land. This land would fit in well with Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and could mix an established IP like Woody from Toy Story in with new ideas, similar to what we see with Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean, which were rides that were established long before they were movies.

haunted mansion storm
Credit: Mike Buchawiecki / Flickr

Iger’s recent statements make it clear that while Disney is committed to expanding and enhancing its parks, these plans must align with broader strategic goals. The focus on IP-based investments means that while new attractions and lands are still in development, they may not look exactly like the concepts teased at the D23 Expo.

Looking Ahead: The Future of Magic Kingdom

Despite these comments confirming that the Wild West idea is likely dead in the water, the future of Magic Kingdom remains certain.

It does seem certain, at least for now, that Encanto will have its own land. The only question is if it will be at Magic Kingdom or Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The other two ideas? They’re up in the air.

Disney’s commitment to storytelling and innovation ensures that new attractions and experiences will continue to delight guests. While the specific ideas of Encanto Land, Coco Land, and Disney Villains Land may not come to fruition exactly as imagined, these are still the most prominent ideas afloat for the Disney World park, at least for now.

Disney will likely give fans an updated glimpse at the expansion this August during the D23 Expo, but for now, we’ll have to wait and see what might be on the horizon for Walt Disney World Resort and beyond.

What expansion do you want to see take over Magic Kingdom? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments!

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