Disney Rumors for May 2023
In early March of 2023, Disney looked back to its past in planning for the future.
Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) rehired Bruce Vaughn as its Chief Creative Officer.
Obviously, Vaughn wouldn’t take this position unless he expected to work on several substantial park projects.
Similarly, Disney wouldn’t have rehired someone as good (and expensive) as Vaughn unless it intended to use one of its greatest living Imagineers.
What’s in store at Disney parks? We’ll discuss the possibilities in the latest batch of Disney Rumors for May 2023.
Big Changes Coming to Disney’s American Parks
A themed land based on the animated film, Zootopia, will open at Shanghai Disneyland later this year.
Park officials have displayed some of the Audio-Animatronics coming to this place:
Also, Imagineers showed off the remarkable Judy Hopps tech at SXSW:
Meanwhile, Shanghai Disneyland fans have chronicled construction on the project:
Why is this important to American park goers? Magic Kingdom recently opened Tron Lightcycle / Run, a variant of Shanghai Disneyland’s Tron Coaster.
Many elements of Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios mimic similar features at international parks as well.
In short, Disney isn’t averse to copying rides at theme parks around the world. And we know that park planners have at least toyed with the idea here.
During the 2022 D23 Expo, Disney indicated that attractions and possibly even themed lands could debut at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Executives specifically mentioned two properties: Moana and Zootopia.
While the comments at the time suggested that the attractions would share space beyond DinoLand, U.S.A., a belief remains that new themed lands would replace it.
Specifically, Disney appears ready to introduce more intellectual property at Animal Kingdom, which was a sore subject for former Imagineer, Joe Rohde.
Some people have even connected the dots between the timing of this project and Rohde’s retirement from Disney.
I’m skeptical of this argument, as Rohde happily worked on Pandora – The World of Avatar, a different intellectual property (IP)…and one Disney didn’t even own at the time!
Still, the reality at Animal Kingdom hasn’t changed over the years. As I’ve mentioned several times, Disney currently possesses an imbalance.
Guests flock to Pandora early and often. DinoLand U.S.A. is an afterthought at best.
For the park to work efficiently, Disney must offer something in the DinoLand space to entice guests.
Yes, $17 Billion
A few months ago, something happened. We shouldn’t overlook the significance of it, either.
Disney suddenly gained the impetus to advance its park projects quickly.
The tiff with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis came with this hidden benefit.
Before Disney lost control of the former Reedy Creek Improvement District, the company filed paperwork to streamline future projects.
The new Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board would likely interfere with such projects. So, Disney needed to beat the clock, so to speak.
However, Disney’s attorneys recognized that the company couldn’t just say it planned several new projects. It needed the blueprints, too.
Some friends of Imagineers have suggested that Vaughn hit the ground running during his triumphant return. He may have led/joined some pitch sessions.
As part of these conversations, Imagineers pitched something huge to their bosses.
Presuming that’s true, we’re probably talking about more than merely a Zootopia themed land.
In fact, I’m allowing for the possibility that CEO Bob Iger spoke sincerely when he indicated that the company would spend $17 billion on Walt Disney World projects over the next decade.
On the one hand, Iger may have stated that specifically for the purpose of a lawsuit he knew was coming.
On the other hand, he may recognize that the Disney campus desperately needs expansion.
A $17 billion investment infrastructure definitely indicates MUCH more than adding Moana and Zootopia at Animal Kingdom.
Even if we used Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge as an example, we’d still be talking about $3 billion for the best possible Moana/Zootopia areas.
That would still leave Disney with $14 billion to spend. So, yes, this amount definitely hints at a fifth park.
For the time being, we only know about Animal Kingdom’s expansions, though.
A Water Ride?
Some mock-ups exist online. Whenever I see stuff like this, I’m skeptical because we live in an era of deep-fakes and visual effects magicians.
Still, enough people I trust think this one is authentic that I’m starting to buy into it as well.
Perhaps the most intriguing part of this sketch suggests that Disney will replace the former Primeval Whirl with…a water ride?!
The footprint for the defunct roller coaster doesn’t match the concept. Moreover, this space resides near the front of the park.
So, I’m especially skeptical about the location. However, that’s a splitting of hairs in the greater scheme.
Should Disney start from scratch on the DinoLand, U.S.A. land, it could easily build a water ride here if so inclined.
Debates continue about whether this ride would celebrate Moana or Zootopia. That’s baffling to me.
Much of Moana’s story takes place on water versus very little of Zootopia’s. If Disney builds a wet ride here, it’s for Moana.
What would Zootopia entail? Some early reports suggested that Disney would transition attractions from Shanghai Disneyland.
While that’s entirely possible, we shouldn’t view it as a foregone conclusion.
After all, here are Shanghai Disneyland’s Toy Story Land attractions:
- RC Racer
- Slinky Dog Zigzag Spin
- Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop
At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the rides are:
- Alien Swirling Saucers
- Slinky Dog Dash
- Toy Story Mania!
Disney doesn’t feel the need to operate the same attractions at various theme parks.
In fact, direct transfers like Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and Tron are quite rare. I suspect former CEO Bob Chapek liked them more since they’re cheaper.
Bob Iger has always prioritized creativity. I’d be surprised if Zootopia at Animal Kingdom proved eerily similar to Shanghai’s version.
Is DINOSAUR Safe?
We’ve got one other subject to discuss today. That’s the fate of DINOSAUR, which is both the most popular attraction at DinoLand, U.S.A. AND an underachiever.
While I love the ride – it’s legitimately top 15 at Walt Disney World for me – the reality is that its average wait times tell the story.
Modern audiences simply don’t love this attraction the way they once did.
For this reason, Disney has contemplated re-theming the attraction several times.
Previously, a rumor persisted about an Orlando version of Indiana Jones Adventure, an attraction that employs the same tech.
Apparently, Disney isn’t ready to commit to Indiana Jones right now, at least not at this park.
A strong showing by Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny may change that philosophy, but that’s where we’re at today.
Instead, the DINOSAUR building could house an updated Zootopia ride. It, too, may use the same underlying tech…but with a Zootopia theme.
This kind of rethemed ride fits Disney’s current needs, which aren’t what you might expect.
During 2023, Disney has marketed Tron and Journey of Water | Inspired by Moana as reasons to visit the parks.
Next year, the marketing push will highlight Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. After that…well, 2025 lacks something like that.
Disney needs something it can sell in 2025, which means Imagineers need the green light to get started on something NOW!
Realistically, a re-theme of an existing ride takes less time, which is why I’m fearful about the fates of several current attractions I love. Stay tuned!
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Feature Photo: Disney