Disney Rumors for May 2022
Is Zootopia coming to Walt Disney World? And will augmented reality turn into a permanent thing at an abandoned arcade?
We’ve got some fun topics to discuss in the latest batch of Disney Rumors.
Star Wars at Disney Springs May Hint at More
History often repeats itself in Disney movies. For example, here’s a scene from Tron:
and here’s a tribute to it in Tron: Legacy:
The joke in 2011 was the concept of the arcade had fallen out of favor long ago. Only diehards like Kevin Flynn kept that dream alive.
The same philosophy applied at Disney Springs. In a previous generation, Disney officials had dreamt of a gaming franchise throughout the country.
Disney had planned locations in Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Orlando but anticipated many more.
Only two ever opened to the public, one of which died quickly. That left DisneyQuest at Disney Springs as something of a curiosity.
Disney strategists had planned something akin to Dave & Buster’s, but DisneyQuest proved wildly unpopular everywhere but Orlando.
Even there, the popularity of the multi-floor arcade diminished as Disney chose not to update it regularly.
Eventually, Disney Quest closed, thereby surprising literally no one. However, its replacement, the NBA Experience, proved equally unwelcome.
Disney built this place to strengthen its ties to the National Basketball Association. Fans of Disney didn’t really want to shoot hoops on vacation, though.
So, the NBA Experience replacement lasted less than seven months. So, yes, two entertainment options have failed in the same building over the past five years.
However, Disney is trying something new with the space for a limited time. And it may signify something more permanent at Disney Springs.
From May through July 21st, the building will host ILMxLAB’s Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge. It’s an Oculus Rift Meta Quest video game.
You can already play this at home, but Disney has set up a massive showroom presentation at the old DisneyQuest facility.
The Phoenix Arcade
Presumably, Meta, formerly known as Facebook, has paid the Mouse a hefty fee to showcase this augmented reality Star Wars game.
So, Disney is getting two paychecks from Meta right now. One is for the Star Wars license on the game, and the other is for the promotional endorsement.
That’s not the big takeaway here, though. Since DisneyQuest closed a few years ago, arcades have experienced a resurgence in popularity.
Brands like Arcade 1Up and iiRcade have legitimized the home arcade industry.
Now, Kevin Flynn wannabes like me play The Simpsons Arcade and NBA Jam in our living rooms.
Meanwhile, Ready Player One has hinted at the future of media consumption, the so-called metaverse. It’s a different kind of home arcade.
These changes have Disney executives contemplating a return to DisneyQuest’s initial purpose.
If the Star Wars augmented reality showcase proves popular – and it’s selling out every day right now – Disney could make this idea permanent.
DisneyQuest or something very much like it could provide augmented reality, aka the metaverse, to train Disney fans about the experience. It’s smart business.
The primary reason why Disney may pass on the opportunity is that it mimics some of what EPCOT has previously pitched for the PLAY! pavilion.
I honestly don’t know whether that’s reason enough to dismiss the idea or not.
More Than One Zootopia?
Shanghai Disneyland scooped other Disney parks when it revealed plans for a Zootopia themed land.
Park officials have breathlessly updated American fans about what to expect. The themed land is the City of Zootopia, an idea that expands on the movie’s premise.
You’ll enter the realm of anthropomorphic animals and learn that “anyone can be anything.” That message from the movie should resonate.
In a perfect world, the City of Zootopia would be opening this year, but…pandemic. So, yeah, it’ll need a while longer.
Still, the concept art for this place will take your breath away. You can look at some from this 2019 Parks Blog update.
When Disney announced the project, American fans naturally wondered if/when they’d get a Zootopia.
That answer may be sooner than you think. Well, the timeframe here involves the second half of the decade.
So, we’ll have a three-to-seven-year window if this rumor proves correct. And I suspect it might.
Yes, some insiders believe that the City of Zootopia will come to Walt Disney World by 2029, possibly as soon as 2025.
In this scenario, Disney’s Animal Kingdom would utilize some of the unused space at the Rafiki’s Planet Watch section of the campus.
Disney would once again expand the borders of Animal Kingdom, just as happened with Pandora – The World of Avatar.
Joe Rohde’s Vision vs. Disney’s Desire for IP
What are the odds of this happening? The answer is “better than they were 18 months ago.”
A bottleneck for this project left the company last year. From the time that Zootopia debuted in theaters, fans wondered if it would come to Animal Kingdom.
After all, the movie focuses on animals, and the park is, too. The fit seems ideal, but a Disney icon disagreed.
Here’s former Imagineer Joe Rohde chiming in on the subject:
The animals are proxies for humans and human issues rather than animals in their own right facing animal-related issues. We try to enforce the “no pants” rule. Classic characters excepted. https://t.co/FUT2dgj2mY
— Joe Rohde (@Joe_Rohde) December 30, 2019
Since Animal Kingdom doubles as Rohde’s baby, his opinion held weight on this matter. However, Rohde either retired or was forced to retire at the start of 2021.
Now that the Imagineer is no longer with the company, the idea seems likelier to happen.
In fact, this subject may have worked as the straw that broke the camel’s back for Rohde.
He worked on and enjoyed the Pandora project, as it satisfied his creative streak.
Zootopia, on the other hand, sounds like a personal affront to Rohde, as if the very thought of it wounded his soul.
Now that he’s gone, there’s no one left to argue against the idea. Instead, we can safely expect more Disney intellectual property to come to the park.
On the surface, the City of Zootopia makes the most sense. Imagineers already know what’s involved since blueprints already exist.
Plus, the project is likely quite affordable. Otherwise, Disney probably wouldn’t do it at Shanghai Disneyland, where the company’s profit margins are smaller.
To a larger point, Animal Kingdom needs something to pull some guests away from Pandora, a problem I’ve discussed many times.
So, I feel like Disney wants Zootopia to happen at Animal Kingdom. And Rohde’s retirement likely accelerated the timeline.