Let’s Talk about the Expansion Franchises Coming to Disney Parks
The Walt Disney Company suddenly changed its tune about its theme parks.
After years of rumors, innuendo, and the dreaded blue-sky descriptions, Disney executives finally drew a line in the sand.
The company filed the paperwork to build out its infrastructure at its American parks.
The suddenly loose-lipped Disney mentioned ten potential franchises that could drive future theme park “stories.”
Let’s talk about the franchises Disney wants at the parks and what we should probably expect.
Let’s start with the basics. We know part of what we learned from a Disney SEC filing.
Then, Disney CEO Bob Iger and Parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro appeared at an investor conference and filled in some of the blanks.
So, this isn’t the typical fan speculation regarding rumored expansions. Everything we’re discussing today comes straight from Disney!
For example, D’Amaro described Disney by saying, “We have a wealth of untapped stories to bring to life across our business.”
Then, he explicitly mentioned Coco with a follow-up statement: “The world of Coco is just waiting to be explored. There’s a lot of storytelling opportunity.”
During holiday seasons and occasional parade floats, Disney has displayed elements of an El Día De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration.
We could see something along those lines that combines Coco’s hometown with elements of the Land of the Dead.
Disney has already announced a musical experience based on Coco for the Disney Treasure.
A Coco-themed land with strong musical connections would prove popular, or Disney might just do a Coco Neighborhood.
I want to expand on the Disney Neighborhood a bit, as it’ll come up quite a bit in the coming months and years.
When Disney rebuilt Disney California Adventure on the fly, it created Pixar Neighborhoods rather than a complete themed land based on the brand.
Disney has favored that style with its modern designs. In doing so, it can now build mini-themed lands rather than full-fledged ones.
I suspect that some of the options we’ll discuss today are closer to Neighborhoods or single attractions than complete themed lands.
Then, we have an exception to that statement. Folks, Encanto is massive.
This brand resides in roughly the same position that Frozen did in 2014-2016.
Due to the pandemic, Disney couldn’t capitalize on the momentum of Encanto as quickly as with Frozen. And even the Arendelle brand is still evolving.
Folks, the sky is the limit with Encanto. We’ll get the Casita Madrigal at a minimum, but I expect a strong presence at multiple parks.
Think Toy Story Land. Disney will put Encanto attractions everywhere in the world.
Speaking of Arendelle, World of Frozen will open soon at Hong Kong Disneyland.
After that, Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disneyland will open their Frozen-themed lands as well.
As a reminder, EPCOT already hosts Frozen Ever After, but the Norway pavilion remains largely a Norway enterprise, Royal Sommerhus notwithstanding.
So, what we’re discussing is the equivalent of World of Frozen. Disney has hinted at one at Disneyland Resort.
Should we expect one at Walt Disney World as well? That’s a challenging question. I wouldn’t say that I expect it, but I think there’s a chance.
Disney already confirmed this one. It’s more of a formality than the rest.
During Destination D23, an executive awkwardly described Disney’s plans for DinoLand, U.S.A.
Disney will re-theme this space as “the northern part of South America,” which makes sense as long as you don’t say it out loud.
We’ll describe this part of the world as the Central Americas, and we know the Animal Kingdom version will include Encanto and Indiana Jones.
I’m mentally preparing for the Indiana Jones portion to involve re-theming DINOSAUR into Temple of the Forbidden Eye.
Could Disney do more? Certainly. Realistically, the box office performance of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny reduces this possibility, though.
Yes, Magic Kingdom and Disneyland both operate versions of Peter Pan’s Flight.
What you may not know is that Fantasy Springs at Tokyo DisneySea will add a Peter Pan section in Spring 2024.
In this section of Fantasy Springs, guests will visit Never Land and interact with Wendy and the Lost Boys.
Disney will host two rides, Peter Pan’s Never Land Adventure and Fairy Tinker Bell’s Busy Buggies.
You can tell by the description that one of them is a children’s ride, and Disney loves those because they’re less expensive to build.
Even better, The Oriental Land Company has paid for the design phase of these attractions, which saves Disney some legwork.
I think it’s fair to expect some version of one or both of these attractions in North America, possibly even at both parks. But Disneyland is likely for now.
Do you know what else Fantasy Springs includes?
Yes, there’s a section called Rapunzel’s Forest and a water ride named Rapunzel’s Lantern Festival.
For anyone who has seen Tangled, the thought of a ride incorporating the lanterns is, well, joy-inducing.
We need this ride in North America, and it sounds like Disneyland has a solid chance of getting it. Hopefully, Walt Disney World will as well.
Okay, this one sounds quite specific to Disneyland…probably.
As you know, Disney’s Hollywood Studios already hosts an excellent version of Toy Story Land.
While Disney California Adventure operates some Toy Story attractions and has a Toy Story Neighborhood, Disney is hinting at more.
So, I think that Disney is talking about more rides or possibly a Toy Story Hotel. But Disney’s Pixar Pier Hotel debuts soon.
That’s a polite way of saying that I know DisneylandForward hints at Toy Story stuff. I’m wholly unsure of what that might be, though.
Here’s an instance of mixed signals from Disney.
Obviously, we already have a Tron attraction at Walt Disney World. So, we’re specifically discussing Disneyland Resort with this expansion.
Disney’s paperwork and even some graphics suggested that Disneyland Resort could get a Tron roller coaster of its very own.
That’s unexpected due to local regulations in place on the land where Disney wants to build.
Should Disney expand in this section of the Disneyland campus, it must follow the rules about skylines and blocked views.
Obviously, the canopy for Tron Lightcycle / Run is extremely tall, which makes this premise seem like a non-starter.
Disney clearly knows something that outsiders don’t about the viability of a Tron coaster in Anaheim. And the idea of it is rather tantalizing.
Here’s the most exciting option for Marvel fans. Josh D’Amaro just said the following: “Imagine bringing Wakanda to life.”
The Parks Chairman didn’t elaborate from there, but what he said is plenty.
Importantly, D’Amaro didn’t say where, and it’s tempting to wonder whether Disney thinks it has a Wakanda loophole in the Marvel/Universal Studios agreement.
Since there probably isn’t one, let’s presume that Wakanda is a logical part of the expansion at Disneyland Resort.
Disney could do a kind of Avengers Campus II here, but it’d look entirely Wakandan.
As a Marvel fan, that’s pretty much the best news I could hear regarding park expansion.
Finally, we get to the long-rumored land of Zootopia.
Shanghai Disneyland is already building its version, and MickeyBlog has discussed the possibility of a Walt Disney World iteration many times.
Recently, Disney joined us. At Destination D23, executives acknowledged the open secret of a Zootopia-themed land coming to Animal Kingdom.
Of course, in the process, Disney denied another longstanding rumor. Zootopia won’t be what replaces DinoLand, U.S.A.
Should we get a Zootopia at Animal Kingdom – and Disney hasn’t officially confirmed it yet – this land will be in a different part of the park.
Apparently, Disneyland Resort will get its own version of the land as well.
At a minimum, a Zootopia ride is in the plans. Disney listed it as one of the experiences fans will get if the DisneylandForward project moves forward.
Okay, that’s everyone that Disney has ever said out loud or put in writing.
These are the Disney stories Imagineers expect to tell at the parks soon.
In this instance, we’re defining “soon” as some point within the next ten years.
That’s the timeframe Disney has provided for its $60 billion investment in better theme parks.
As a reminder, Star Wars Land cost a reported $1 billion to build. Even if we think that number is low and adjust some for inflation, the conclusion is clear.
Disney can afford to build multiple versions of everything listed here if so inclined.
I’m not expecting anywhere near that much expansion, but it’s mathematically possible.
By my count, at least half of these franchises lack a significant park presence at the moment.
So, we’re talking about a gigantic improvement in theme park experiences once Disney completes its decade of expansion.
I’m not being hyperbolic when I say that it’s an almost incomprehensible amount of growth.
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Feature Photo: Disney