Disney Files the Paperwork for Park Expansion

The 2024 Annual Shareholders Meeting for The Walt Disney Company came and went without a single park-related headline. Thankfully, Disney fans weren’t down in the dumps for long, though. 

On the morning of April 4th, 2024, Disney officials filed the paperwork to begin construction on theme park expansion. Soon afterward, Disney started a social media campaign to clarify what’s coming next. 

The future has finally arrived at Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Here’s what you need to know about the impending changes.

Disney Files Magic Kingdom Paperwork

At the 2022 D23 Expo, Disney Experiences Chairman Josh D’Amaro speculated about what lies beyond Big Thunder Mountain. At the time, Disney officials downplayed the conversation as a theoretical, blue-sky evaluation of what Magic Kingdom could be. 

Behind the scenes, many of the same people have acknowledged that those plans were real, and that Disney desperately wanted to implement them. For that to happen, a few things would have to change, though.

Perhaps the most pressing was settling the protracted dispute between Disney and the state of Florida. Thankfully, the parties agreed to a settlement last week, clearing the final hurdle for Walt Disney World’s expansion.

Not coincidentally, Scott Gustin posted this on X, the site formerly known as Twitter:

Here’s the applicable text: “Walt Disney World is currently in the process of filing permits for development work behind Magic Kingdom that will prepare the area for a future expansion expected to be the largest expansion in the park’s history.”

In other words, the “What Lies beyond Big Thunder Mountain” plan is no longer theoretical. Disney has filed the paperwork to bring it into reality. 

Sadly, anything else I say about this project would count as conjecture right now. Disney passed on the opportunity to detail the possibilities during the Annual Shareholder Meeting. However, we do have that Parks Panel we can reference. Here’s the video:

As a quick recap/reminder, Disney hinted at experiences involving Encanto, Coco/the Land of the Dead, and an area themed to…villains. Now, Disney CEO Bob Iger specifically stated yesterday that he prefers expanding several areas rather than adding a theme park. So, we probably shouldn’t get our hopes up about a fifth gate based on Villains. These are the previously mentioned ideas, though.

Disney Confirms the Tropical Americas 

Bob Iger also appeared on CNBC this morning. You can watch the full discussion on YouTube, although CNBC has divided it into segments. Here’s the first one:

After the interview ended, CNBC’s David Faber lamented that he failed to ask about theme parks enough. You might think that indicates that we’re lacking in confirmed Disney expansion news today, but that isn’t the case.

Disney’s social media team posted several noteworthy items while Iger was speaking. For instance, here’s a link to an Instagram Reel. Disney literally takes us behind the curtain to look at the planning for the upcoming park additions at Animal Kingdom.

Specifically, we learn from Imagineer Neal Emery. As the team’s Principal Landscape Designer, Emery explains how Imagineers construct 3D models to help their planning of future park additions. Recently, Emery’s team traveled to the Yucatán Peninsula to gain more inspiration for the upcoming Tropical Americans conversion. 

Notably, this change is no longer theoretical. Here’s the applicable Insta quote: “Travel with us to the Yucatán Peninsula, one of the many locales where we’ll draw inspiration for Tropical Americas, the exciting update coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom!” That’s a declarative statement, not a maybe. 

In another Disney release, the company indicates that we should expect more exciting announcements at the upcoming 2024 D23 Expo, whose Parks Panel will occur on August 10th. That’s four months from today. At that point, we should learn more about Disney’s upcoming expansion plans.

What Comes Next?

However, long before then, Disney is likely to provide other details. I say this because a new show debuted today on YouTube. We Call It Imagineering takes fans behind the scenes to show the creative process. You can watch the first episode, Audio-Animatronics, here. 

If that clip doesn’t get you excited for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, you and I are VERY different people. The Louis Audio-Animatronic appears to be Disney’s greatest technological triumph to date, and it’s just the start of what’s about to come next. 

With Bruce Vaugn back in charge of Imagineering, Disney appears ready to reveal many upcoming park expansion tidbits via a piecemeal approach. 

So, I’d strongly encourage you to subscribe to Walt Disney Imagineering. That way, you’ll be among the first to learn specifics about the upcoming park additions at Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and probably Disneyland Resort. 

The DisneylandForward project could receive its final approval as soon as April 16th. After that, Disney can start detailing more about the “Avatar experience” coming to that park. Yesterday, Disney showed the first picture of this unnamed project, which looks like an outdoor boat ride. That could be only a part of what we’re getting, though. We won’t know until the Anaheim City Council votes. 

This is obviously an extremely exciting time for Disney fans. So, keep checking back for new details about park changes and expansion!

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