Disney announced at Expo D23 that Moana is another “potential expansion” and “early concept exploration” opportunity for Dinoland USA at Animal Kingdom. This article will share all the details, concept art, and everything we know about the possible expansion, along with a bit of commentary.
News of the Animal Kingdom expansion was announced during the “A Boundless Future: Disney Parks, Experiences and Products” presentation at D23 Expo 2022. Disney Parks, Experiences and Products President Josh D’Amaro said offered a glimpse of concept art for the future as well, and teased what was to come in a few years.
Over the past two years, there have been a ton of rumors about Disney’s Animal Kingdom. My favorite was the Indiana Jones Adventure and Dinoland change, and that’s mainly because Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama being replaced with something not an abomination is my ultimate dream.
Another rumor was the revival of the Excavator, a classic unbuilt Walt Disney World attraction that is still generating buzz in fan circles. Prior to the actual reveal of the Zootopia expansion, I assumed it would be announced at D23 Expo 2022.
As for that near-announcement, Imagineer Chris Beatty and Jennifer Lee of Walt Disney Animation Studios shared a look at the Moana region 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 onscreen for the Moana Zone, which would replace Dino-Rama at Animal Kingdom:
When Josh D’Amaro kicked off this part of the presentation, he prefaced it with a warning that it would make some people at the company very uncomfortable, but would be exciting for fans.
The Animal Kingdom part of the presentation was presented with a little more certainty than the follow-up on Disney villains Encanto and Coco are coming to the Magic Kingdom. The concept art was also significantly more detailed and less impressionistic. At least the Moana area of 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 with a bunch of sails.
Given the level of ambition, I’d say it’s a virtual certainty that this ride will be built. With the luck of Walt Disney World fans, this will be the only thing from Expo D23 2022 that will eventually come to fruition.
The other attraction seems to be a log ride.
In concept art, you can see boats going down a modest drop and then circling around Moana wa’a kaulua outrigger canoe before heading under waterfalls and into an exhibition building.
While I’m not too hopeful of a land that may 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 fans will zoom in on any art they post and scrutinize every brushstroke for clues as to what’s actually in store. Here, little speculation is needed (except for the structures to the rear and to the right) as what these attractions are is fairly obvious.
Normally, if the plans aren’t concrete, the concept art is much more vague and impressionistic, like what we saw for the EPCOT redesign in 2017 or the original New Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom. Even this year’s large-scale expansion behind Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Magic Kingdom contained far fewer details.
Personally, I’m surprised Walt Disney World is returning 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 EPCOT, I also think its presence should be limited to one Walt Disney World park.
From my perspective, a solid land with a canal ride makes infinitely more sense, but this ship sailed once Journey of Water went vertical. It’s a shame there wasn’t a 10-year master plan with all these ideas decided at once, rather than piecemeal.
I feel like the best idea of all would probably have been Moana taking over Splash Mountain, Tiana getting a brand new ride in a plaza in New Orleans behind Big Thunder, a larger area in South America (including Encanto) being built at Animal Kingdom, something if not 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 film’s setting and message make it a great choice, especially if there were environments and elements of Oceania included beyond what’s in the animated film. An expansion that contextualizes the IP in a real environment would be ideal.
My problem is that Moana is already getting an attraction at EPCOT and doesn’t need more. If there were already going to be more, why not annex Splash Mountain to Adventureland and make it Moana Mountain? The whole Disney approach here just seems weird to me, but maybe I’m clinging too much to the big picture of the four parks.
But who knows, maybe it won’t end up happening. Imagineering has revealed several big ideas for both Walt Disney World realms, and it seems highly unlikely that any of it will ever be built. Considering how detailed Moana’s concept art is compared to everything else, this land seems most likely to happen, but this art could just be coincidence.
Nevertheless, an addition to Animal Kingdom just makes sense. Of all the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom plans that have been shared, something to replace Dino-Rama will almost certainly happen. Animal Kingdom is now the farthest Walt Disney World park from its last big expansion, it’s the park where people spend the fewest hours a day, and Disney has already demolished Primeval Whirl. The picnic area that replaced it is an upgrade from the ride (addition by subtraction, baby!), but it won’t stay empty forever.
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What do you think of the announced addition for Animal Kingdom at Expo D23 2022? Excited or disappointed with the plan? Or are you in standby mode and see with it? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback, even when you disagree with us, is both interesting for us and helpful for other readers, so share your thoughts below in the comments!