Disney announced at the D23 Expo that Moana is another “potential expansion” opportunity and “early concept exploration” for Dinoland USA at Animal Kingdom. This post will share all of the details, concept art, and everything we know about the possible expansion, plus a bit of commentary.
The Animal Kingdom expansion news was announced during the “A Boundless Future: Disney Parks, Experiences and Products” presentation at D23 Expo 2022. Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Chairman Josh D’Amaro offered a sneak peek at concept art for the future in addition and teased what was to come in a few years.
Over the last couple of years, there have been a ton of rumors about Disney’s Animal Kingdom. My favorite has been the Indiana Jones Adventure and Dinoland Changes, and that’s mostly because Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama being replaced by something that is not an abomination is my ultimate dream.
Another rumor has been the revival of the Excavator, a classic unbuilt Walt Disney World attraction that still generates buzz in fan circles. Prior to the actual unveiling of the Zootopia expansion, my guess was that this would be announced at the D23 Expo 2022.
As for this quasi-announcement, Imagineer Chris Beatty and Jennifer Lee of Walt Disney Animation Studios shared a look at the Moana area after teasing a Zootopia expansion. They indicated that both are early concept explorations and one of the potential expansion opportunities.”
Here’s the art they shared on screen for the Moana area, which would replace Dino-Rama at Animal Kingdom:
When Josh D’Amaro kicked off this portion of the presentation, he prefaced it with a warning that it would make some people at the company very uncomfortable, but would be exciting to fans.
The Animal Kingdom portion of the presentation was presented with a bit more certainty than the follow-up about Disney Villains, Encanto & Coco Coming to Magic Kingdom. The concept art was also noticeably more detailed and less impressionistic. At least, the Moana area of the art. Zootopia is off in the clouds in the distance.
Zooming in on the concept art, we can see that one of the attractions would be a spinner ride featuring a bunch of sails.
Given the ambition level, I’d say it’s a near certainty that this ride will be built. With Walt Disney World fans’ luck, this will be the one thing from the 2022 D23 Expo that actually ends up coming to fruition.
The other attraction appears to be a log flume ride.
In the concept art, you can see boats going down a modest drop and then circling around Moana’s wa’a kaulua outrigger canoe before heading under waterfalls and into a show building.
While I’m not getting my hopes up too much about a land that will maybe be built, I’m also skeptical that Walt Disney World would release concept art with this level of detail for a land still in the early stages of development.
At least two of the attractions in this area are clearly defined, which was a deliberate choice. Disney knows that fans will zoom in on whatever art they release and scrutinize each brush stroke for clues about what’s actually intended. Here, not much speculation is required (except for the structures in the rear and to the right) because what these attractions are is pretty obvious.
Normally, if plans aren’t concrete, the concept art is much more vague and impressionistic–like what we saw for the EPCOT overhaul back in 2017 or for the original New Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom. Even this year’s large scale expansion behind Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Magic Kingdom contained far less detail.
Personally, I’m surprised that Walt Disney World is going back to Moana so soon after Journey of Water. While the movie is one of my favorites and I think it deserves more than a walk-through in EPCOT, I also think its presence should be confined to one park at Walt Disney World.
From my perspective, a full land with a flume ride makes infinitely more sense–but that ship sailed once Journey of Water went vertical. It’s too bad there wasn’t some 10-year master plan with all of these ideas decided upon at once, rather than piecemeal.
I feel like the best idea of all probably would’ve been Moana taking over Splash Mountain, Tiana getting a brand new ride in a New Orleans Square behind Big Thunder, a larger South America area (including Encanto) being built in Animal Kingdom, something else entirely at EPCOT behind Spaceship Earth, and Zootopia in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
It’s not that I dislike or disagree with the concept of Moana in Animal Kingdom. The setting and message of the film makes it a great fit, especially if there were environments and elements of Oceania included beyond what’s in the animated film. An expansion that contextualizes IP into a real world setting would be ideal.
My issue is that Moana is already getting a walk-through attraction in EPCOT and doesn’t need more. If it were already going to get more, why not annex Splash Mountain into Adventureland and make it Moana Mountain? Disney’s whole approach here just strikes me as weird, but perhaps I’m getting too hung up on the bigger picture of all four parks.
But who knows, maybe this won’t end up happening. Imagineering revealed several big ideas for Walt Disney World’s two kingdoms, and it seems highly unlikely that all of that gets built. Given the level of detail in the concept art for Moana as compared to everything else, this land appears the most likely to happen–but that art could simply be coincidence.
Nevertheless, an addition to Animal Kingdom just makes sense. Out of all the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom plans that were shared, something replacing Dino-Rama will almost certainly happen. Animal Kingdom is now the Walt Disney World park furthest removed from its last big expansion, it’s the park people spend the fewest hours in per day, and Disney already demolished Primeval Whirl. The picnic space that replaced it is an upgrade over the ride (addition by subtraction, baby!), but it won’t remain empty forever.
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What do you think of the addition announced for Animal Kingdom at the 2022 D23 Expo? Excited or underwhelmed by the plan? Or, are you in wait and see mode with this? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
Tom, any sense of how the Boneyard fits into the new concept art? Will be axed?
From Blog – “structures in the rear and to the right” – I am guessing the structure at the rare is the current Dinosaur indoor ride and the one to the right is the current restaurantosaurus restaurant
I think this shows Disney was caught by surprise by how popular Moana has been on streaming. They’re probably realizing now that Journey of Water just won’t be enough. The flume ride shown here seems a little redundant with Splash Mountain/Bayou Adventure…but then, 3/4 of the Florida parks have the same spinner rides, and nobody seems to mind.
My guess is they want to fold the Nemo show into “Oceania”, which will be anchored by Moana. I agree with Tom that it’ll probably debut with just the spinner and a new entrance for the Nemo theatre, with the flume ride kept in reserve as part of a Phase II that may or may not happen. But Moana isn’t hot enough a property to command a presence in two parks of the same resort – it’s not spawned sequel or TV series, unlike Frozen, Tangled, Nemo, etc. IMO, they should just go for the easy wins and make it a full Nemo land – build a clone of Crush’s Coaster (from Paris) and retheme TriceraTop Spin to sea animals. (It sounds like all of Dinorama is going away so I assume the spinner will have to be demolished or rethemed.) Yes, I realize this is giving Nemo two more attractions in Animal Kingdom when it already has one at the same resort (Epcot’s The Seas) but this takes advantage of a more popular franchise, folds in an existing land, and avoids the cost of R&D for a totally new ride.
My question is – what happens to Dinosaur? Will it be marooned by itself? It doesn’t make sense in a Moana or Zootopia themed land. Or is it also going extinct? Sure, it’s a lackluster ride but this is a park that needs ride capacity to make it a full-day destination.
Compare the first concept picture with googlemaps and you will see that you are viewing this concept picture from entering this Moana land bottom right walkway coming from Flame Tree Barbecue. The building to the right is the current Restaurantosaurus resturant and the far off building in the back is the current Dinosaur indoor ride. The walkway to the left leads off to Finding Nemo which i would say is not part of this new land. The log flume ride appears to be going in were Dino-Rama was. Behind the area which had Dino-Rama are backstage buildings which I assume might be taken down to put the show building for the log flume ride. I believe I am putting this concept picture correctly with the current lay of Dinoland.
The parks need way more IP from the newest stuff – we parents now have lists of old movies to show our young kids before we go to Disney, because they won’t know a tenth of the references otherwise. And let me tell you, a lot of the movies have aged BADLY. Try rewatching Peter Pan. Seriously, don’t just think “oh I loved that and I know the whole story.” So did I. Watched it a hundred times as a kid. I was stunned when we tried to rewatch it (and ended up not showing our 6yo most of it)! Ditto for movies about a flying elephant, and don’t even get me started on songs of the south! Yikes! Racism and violence are not what kids should associate with Disney.
The point I’m making is – Disney needs to keep refreshing. So adding Moana is good (though late). Encanto even better (because they’re acting sooner). Replacing Dino-Rama with ANYTHING is great news. I hope they don’t remove the playground and dino-excavation area, though.
Of course, the easiest way to stay fresh would be to consistently add character meet and greets for new movies. I’ve never understood why they only have Moana at the special Halloween and Christmas parties, and why so many other newer characters are never there. Are actors really more expensive than an entire ride? It’s definitely faster to add an actor!
I love the idea of Moana at AK. Regardless of what they choose, they definitely need to improve Dinoland! I agree Coco in Epcot would be a great addition. Disney need to continue improving the world showcase with attractions. Otherwise, it is just a miserable and punishing walk with no shade, through mostly stereotypical ideals of countries.
Tom, the succinct vision you lay out above is 100% spot on: “Moana taking over Splash Mountain, Tiana getting a brand new ride in a New Orleans Square behind Big Thunder, a larger South America area (including Encanto) being built in Animal Kingdom, something else entirely at EPCOT behind Spaceship Earth, and Zootopia in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.”
It only just occurred to me that Disney could’ve hypothetically overhauled Splash Mountain with Tiana at DL (creating an incredible, expansive and thematically consistent New Orleans Square along with the newly announced restaurant) while using Moana for Splash at MK. Having two distinct versions of the same ride can be awesome, like Tower of Terror on one coast and Mission Breakout on the other. That would’ve made such perfect sense but as soon as I begin to type the words “more money” here, all other forms of logic are rendered powerless.
I’ve been banging the drum in these comments for months about a full-fledged South America Land in AK so I’m glad to see you’re on board. 😉
Per Epcot, personally I’ve loved the “Journey of Water” concept since it was announced, and I feel strongly (and have argued here) that “gentler”, greener, natural areas are much needed at EPCOT as both a respite from hot concrete and a reconception of what an idealized present and future means for humanity (when Walt was vision-casting, the future looked like 1960s-era world’s fair pavilions). HOWEVER, the Journey of Water concept didn’t require Moana’s exclusive involvement. Countless lead characters in Disney stories travel in, on, and around water in the course of their journeys (it’s almost easier to name those who don’t!). The walk-through could have easily featured vignettes from multiple movies in its interactive demonstration of the water cycle. And it could have been even more compelling with more IP injected (the bosses upstairs love that!) and opportunities for future updates and overlays.
Sometimes it’s like the Disney brass rejects the most obvious and intuitive ideas just because they seem obvious and intuitive. Sigh…
I agree with all of this!!! Here is something that will always baffle me. I don’t work for Disney, as a matter of fact most of us don’t. Yet in the last 24 hours I have seen so many ideas presented but us regular folks that seem SO MUCH BETTER than what was shown at D23. Are they really that out of touch? My take on Animal Kingdom: make Dinoland into Australia/New Zealand. I feel like that’s a huge untapped area. We have Africa and Asia, so another Continent makes sense. Add the Crush Coaster, you could technically extend eastward into the Pacific Islands and catch Moana too.
We need more Moana like a hole in the head. In fact, we need more IP projects like more holes in the head. Restore and refurbish already existing rides that are falling apart-aka Imagination, Mission Space, American Adventure, all the countries in EPCOT (since EPCOT has turned in essentially your local bar/mall-give us actual pavilions where we can learn stuff), and keep dak an actual animal area. Next thing you know, dak will turn into Bush Gardens. Not that Bush isn’t good, but DAK is so much more and still focuses on animals and really learning about them.
I would rather see something with Pocahontas in Animal Kingdom over those two or Pocahontas in place of Splash Mountain. They really could have done the waterfall scene in Pocahontas as the drop in Splash. I know it won’t happen since it’s an older film and not anywhere as popular as the current movies. Tiana would have worked better with the riverboat area as the bayou instead.
I am not really sure what for AK but I don’t like the idea of Zootopia or Moana. Why another log ride if it happens?
Coco would make sense in Mexico at Epcot. Just strange the choices they are considering.
Whatever is decided I hope there will be a ride with water. Especially needed in Florida. Love any ride with water. Most of the popular rides do have water. Pirates, Small world, Jungle Cruise, Splash. In Disneyland there are a few more with water too. But most are rides from several decades ago with the exception of Navi, which is way too short. And, please, not a ride with a ton of screens.
To be honest, the fan service here is paper thin. D23 is now about showing early concept art that will probably never see the light of day. I don’t mind the attractions that have been built or are coming. They all seem…fine. Let’s just dispense with the theatrics of “fans will like this despite management” followed by some artwork that doesn’t really need to be dissected. Those attractions won’t be built. We might see something in the general sense of what they are showing, but we as fans shouldn’t spend an ounce of time/energy/hope expecting any of this to be actually built. It’s just an attempt to conjure some goodwill. See: Mary Poppins at Epcot, original Tiana artwork vs the recent model, etc.
Well said Andrew.
I agree with others…I get the sense that there’s a lack of overall vision and cohesion. I love that Disney wants to incorporate lands from some of the more recent films, but they need to take a step back and look at the big picture, and potential future growth of those areas.
I said this on the other article, but Moana makes infinitely more sense in AK than Zootopia to me. Quite frankly, I don’t see a problem with one of the better WDAS films from the last decade getting more love in the parks. If they could shoehorn Frozen everywhere ever, including even World freaking Showcase on the cheapest of technicalities, why shouldn’t Moana get a land in a park all about nature and conservation when that was literally the point of her movie? And like Rat over in Epcot it would be an inclusion of IP that actually makes sense and fits the existing theme. We have Africa and Asia lands, so adding Oceania is a no brainer. Even if the weirdly salty people are finally proven right and Moana really is just a “flash in the pan” (despite years of being shown otherwise at this point) it would be super easy to take her out of it too, and still have an Oceania land that focuses on the ocean and animals from that part of the world.
Agree completely. Don’t like the idea of Zootopia in AK. I’d love to see a Pacific/Oceania type land in AK with Moana stuff, and maybe also a South America land with Encanto. They could also do a Coco expansion of the Mexico pavilion if they want to do Coco.
Don’t think any of these properties are a great fit in MK, though as I mentioned in my own comment some kind of “explorers of the Pacific” themed area connected to Frontierland or Adventureland with Moana stuff would also work imo. Clearly AK needs the most love though, so it could do with BOTH Oceania/Pacific and South America lands honestly to make it a full day park.
I’m all in on Team Zootopia for AK expansion.
With Moana’s established presence at EPCOT – an attraction which is looks gorgeous in the concept art form and seems very promising, IMO – I see no reason for a feature attraction at AK. In fact, I find it very thematically confusing and actively DON’T want this.
Zootopia – animals, hello – even if it breaks the brilliant Mr. Rhodes’ mantra of “no pants” feels MUCH more genuine to AK… and is not present anywhere else. For me, given that this land will debut across the Pacific gives me all the more reason to think this has to be the front runner. I just hope it doesn’t take 5 years of spreading capex across annual reports to come to fruition.
I LOVE Moana, Coco, and Encanto, and want to see more of them in the parks. That said, the lack of overall vision is annoying. They don’t seem to understand the character of the different parks or what they want to do with them.
Like why Moana for AK instead of Encanto? Why Moana in BOTH Epcot and AK? It’s just very confusing.
You can put Encanto in either park, but the style of the area /should/ be quite different depending on which park you put it in. You shouldn’t be able to grab one area and transplant it into the other park if they’re doing their jobs correctly.
If they’re doing Moana in AK, it should actually be a “Pacific” or “Polynesia” region or something that’s themed around Moana. And the focus should be on natural beauty and animals of that area, with some Moana attractions thrown in. They could do something similar for South America with Encanto, or combine it with central America and do both Encanto and Coco if they really want.
Of course coco could also go into Mexico in Epcot which would make a lot of sense, especially if they can move cast parking and expand behind the Mexico pavilion, which I’d love. (Though I do love the current Mexico ride — it’s legit one of my favorites.) Then the focus is on Mexican culture primarily, quite different to if it were in AK or MK.
On the other hand, you could put Moana in MK too, connect it to Frontierland as they’re saying, and have a theme of explorers of the Pacific (focusing on the original Polynesian explorers more than western explorers). Same IP, different style. Both work.
Similarly Encanto could go into Adventureland or something, but a stand-alone Encanto area? Just seems random.
There are a lot of ways you can incorporate these properties into different parks which make thematic sense, but I don’t think they’ll do this property and don’t get the impression they care. They just want to turn the parks into all the same, and have everything be interchangeable. It’s frustrating and sad.
I’m very flexible on how they do this, but I wish they’d have a consistent and coherent vision for the parks and execute it.
Very well said!
Where are any moana meet and greets?!?!
I have thought and expressed all along that Moana should be the new Splash Mountain and Tiana should be given something closer to New Orleans. It just makes since ( guess that’s where I went wrong). I’m not sure I get the connection of putting Moana in Animal Kingdom.
How about instead of “Moana” we do “Polynesia”? Fits with Animal kingdom and you can still work in Moana if you want characters and IP.
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