Is Disney starting work soon on new Animal Kingdom attraction?
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Disney wants to invest in its theme parks. But what? And when?

Nearly seven years have passed since Animal Kingdom last debuted a major new ride. There are rumblings Disney is going to start construction on something new at the park that hasn’t seen a large-scale expansion since “Pandora — The World of Avatar” opened in 2017.

WDWNT reported a new permit application filed with South Florida Water Management District that hints that work is moving forward at Animal Kingdom.

The Disney news site reported that the permit seeks to allow four Walt Disney Imagineering trailers and one additional contractor trailer along with 363 parking spaces. The permit also shows a road leading from the trailer area to Dinoland U.S.A. — a land that Disney executives have targeted as being ripe for redevelopment.

Walt Disney World has not officially announced an upcoming attraction at Animal Kingdom, but one of the company’s top executives said Dinoland U.S.A. could be axed and replaced with some of Disney’s most popular intellectual property.

“I’m going get myself in trouble here,” Disney Experiences Chair Josh D’Amaro teased during the D23 Fan Expo in 2022.

“Now some of you might know, at one point in my career, I was lucky enough to be leading Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World. During that time, I was involved with some of the planning for Pandora — the World of Avatar. … But you know, I was kind of always thinking about the possibilities for transformation in this other area of the park. And that’s Dinoland.”

D’Amaro went on to say Dinoland held “tremendous opportunity” to tell new stories as Disney Imagineers pitched “Zootopia” and “Moana” as fitting in with the heart of Animal Kingdom.

“We have real, real aspirations for this part of the park,” D’Amaro said, although Disney called the concepts “blue sky.” That meant they were company dreams and creative brainstorming ideas, not ready to be drawn up anytime soon in construction documents.

A year later, in 2023, D’Amaro was back on stage at D23 and again brought up Dinoland. But this time, Disney played catchy music from “Encanto” (“We Don’t Talk About Bruno”) and the famous Indiana Jones theme song from John Williams. “Encanto” and Indiana Jones could conceivably be themed in the same part of the world — the tropical Americas — at Animal Kingdom. Again, Disney was just theorizing and not ready to announce firm details.

“I know every time that we’ve met with the team, the concepts, they just keep getting better and better,” D’Amaro said.

Leaders have said several times in recent months that Disney is looking to invest into its business. What is known is that Disney plans to spend $60 billion over the next decade at Disney theme parks and cruise ships. What’s not known: Exactly where and how.

“We’re already hard at work, basically determining where we’re going to place our new investments and what they will be. You can pretty much conclude that they will be all over, meaning every single one of our locations, including on the High Seas,” Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger said last month during an investor’s conference when he was asked about new attractions, including a long rumored fifth Disney World park.

Iger said Disney would start rolling out updates starting in 2025, a year where Universal Epic Universe opens down the road near the Orange County Convention Center. 

Will Disney fans learn any more details about what’s coming to Animal Kingdom at the company’s annual shareholders meeting next month?

Gabrielle Russon

Gabrielle Russon is an award-winning journalist based in Orlando. She covered the business of theme parks for the Orlando Sentinel. Her previous newspaper stops include the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Toledo Blade, Kalamazoo Gazette and Elkhart Truth as well as an internship covering the nation’s capital for the Chicago Tribune. For fun, she runs marathons. She gets her training from chasing a toddler around. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @GabrielleRusson .

One comment

  • PeterH

    March 20, 2024 at 3:17 pm

    Disney is a Florida magical wonder. Orlando and the adjacent family oriented parks are a testament to the success of this treasured business model that DeSantis continues to minimize and trash!

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