Disney fans from around the globe just descended on Anaheim, California for the 2022 D23 Expo — and they were treated to a ton of news about what’s next for the company’s beloved theme parks.
During a panel presentation, Disney Parks Experiences and Products Chairman Josh D’Amaro shared a closer look at what’s awaiting Mickey Mouse’s guests at properties around the world, from a look at the 2024 “Princess and the Frog”-themed makeover awaiting Splash Mountain to a new Marvel attraction coming to Avengers Campus at Disneyland.
But one of the most intriguing of the day’s reveals was that there could be a whole new area coming to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Park themed around Disney villains, alongside new areas based on recent animated favorites from the studio.
D’Amaro was joined on stage by Imagineering Portfolio Creative Executive Chris Beatty and Walt Disney Animation Studios Chief Creative Officer Jennifer Lee for what they called a “blue sky” exploration of future plans for the area “beyond Big Thunder Mountain” at Magic Kingdom and teased an expansion that would include areas themed to “Coco,” “Encanto” and Disney Villains.
They first teased possible concepts for a “Coco”-themed area, centered around a Dia De Los Muertos celebration in Santa Cecilia, the Mexican town where the 2017 Pixar film is set. Beatty even shared a potential ride concept. “What if we can climb aboard the back of alebrijes and fly into the land of the dead with our familia just like the Riveras in ‘Coco’?” Beatty asked.
Moving on to “Encanto,” Lee asked, “What if we do want to talk about Bruno?” Lee shared details on a possible experience where guests could walk into the Madrigals’ living casita with Mirabel as their guide, meeting her magical family and exploring awe-inspiring locations from the 2021 movie like Bruno’s tower and Antonio’s room.
You can see the concept art the trio shared below, with Big ThunderMountain seen at frame’s left in the foreground as the new areas branch off behind. Immediately in the foreground, you see the village square of Santa Cecilia and then Ernesto de la Cruz’s ornate ornate tomb from “Coco” on a hill in the background to the left. To the right, you see the “Encanto” portion, including the colorful Casa Madrigal beneath a rainbow.
Finally, the trio moved on to the Disney characters Lee joked that the crowd “loves to hate, but mostly love, adore — and sometimes a little too obsessively adore” — Disney villains. The idea of an area “overrun by villains,” has “always been in the back of our minds,” D’Amaro told the audience.
Concept art revealed Gothic-looking castle turrets shrouded in ominous haze and Beatty suggested the land would have “Villains looming overhead with Casa Madrigal in the distance.” You can see it in the far background of the above concept art but here is a closer look.
D’Amaro, Lee and Beatty were quick stress that this “blue sky” phase of brainstorming is a time to explore what’s possible and ask “What if?”, calling these concepts “thought starters,” so it’s unclear how far along in development this potential new area of Magic Kingdom is.
Also part of this brainstorming conversation was a discussion about a “Moana” and “Zootopia”-themed expansion in the existing Dinoland, USA area of Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Disney World.
“I can’t wait to keep talking more with you both about these ideas and to start locking some of these in,” D’Amaro said.
More New Rides, Entertainment Coming to Disney World
While these new areas are still in the very early stages of development, there are some new attractions more imminently on the horizon at Disney World. During the presentation, D’Amaro shared several updates and opening timeframes for new and returning attractions.
A new coaster, Tron Lightcycle / Run, will open at Magic Kingdom in spring 2023. Also at Magic Kingdom, the Hatbox Ghost, a popular character from the Disneyland version of the Haunted Mansion ride, will be added to Florida’s version of the ride. And fan-favorite nighttime spectacular, “Happily Ever After” will return to Magic Kingdom later in 2023, replacing Disney World’s 50th anniversary fireworks show, “Disney Enchantment.”
Over at EPCOT, the nighttime spectacular, “Harmonious” will be replaced with a new nighttime show in late 2023. Also coming to EPCOT, Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana, an interactive walk-through attraction, will open in late 2023. And by the end of 2023, the beloved character Figment, star of EPCOT’s Journey into Imagination with Figment ride, will begin meeting guests.