At the latest Destination D23 event on September 9, 2023, Disney announced a potential expansion at Disney’s Animal Kingdom including Encanto and Indiana Jones replacing DinoLand U.S.A. in a much-needed reimagining of this area of the park.
In this post, we are going to discuss everything that was announced regarding the Animal Kingdom expansion and the subsequent DinoLand U.S.A. transformation, and what to expect in the coming years.
DinoLand U.S.A. is one of the weakest lands in any of the 4 Walt Disney World theme parks, and fans have been clamoring for an overhaul to this area for some time. To bring in Encanto, Indiana Jones, or both would mean new attractions for the park and would be a huge improvement to what is there currently.
To be clear, at this point, Disney is only discussing the DinoLand changes and nothing concrete has been decided at the moment. All the plans Disney shared are considered “Blue Sky” which means they are being considered, but they may or may not happen.
The end result of what actually comes to the current DinoLand U.S.A. will likely be much different than the current concept art we have, so remember not to fall in love with what Disney has shared so far.
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(UPDATE) – Destination D23 Announcement Seals Fate for DinoLand USA and Animal Kingdom Expansion
Ever since Disney showed us a Blue Sky look at what the potential Animal Kingdom expansion could look like at the D23 Expo, we have been salivating over the possibilities. And now, with Disney updating fans about this highly anticipated project, it’s looking much more like a reality than before.
Back in September 2022 at the D23 Expo, Disney Parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro showed some early concept art of what a transformed DinoLand could look like with a Moana and Zootopia-themed in its place.
As he brought out in the presentation, there is nothing set in stone, and they are still very early in the process of deciding what will go there. In fact, less than one year later at the Destination D23 event on September 9, 2023 we got a completely different view of what is coming to the Animal Kingdom.
It all but seems those two properties have been scrapped as DinoLand replacements, and two new Disney-owned IPs have now come into the forefront.
Encanto and Indiana Jones.
During the “A Celebration of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” presentation at Destination D23, Josh D’Amaro was back to give audiences a sneak peek at what the future of the Animal Kingdom may look like in the coming years.
He also invited Imagineering Boss Bruce Vaughn to talk about ideas that Walt Disney Imagineers have for this land.
They shared Disney Imagineering plans for DinoLand U.S.A to be replaced by a Tropical Americas themed land with stories from both the Encanto and Indiana Jones franchises. They also shared some concept art of how the land may look when completed.
As part of their research, Imagineers are looking at some of the most biodiverse areas on the planet in the regions just north and south of the equator in the Western Hemisphere – the northern part of South America, stretching up into Central America.
Bruce Vaughn said, “Imagine a land filled with authentic experiences from this part of the world. With all of the placemaking and storytelling you’d expect. Look, it’s a beautiful region to explore and has been the inspiration for so many magical stories over the years. We’re looking forward to bringing all of that to life.”
Vaughn contninued, “Imagineering has been talking about stories from this part of the world; Encanto with Indiana Jones just rose to the top. They give us so much to play with. We have a long way to go now and a lot more to discover. But our team here in Florida is all over it.”
These choices make sense both financially and thematically. Encanto is the biggest hit for Disney Animation since Frozen, so it’s within everyone’s interest to get this into the parks immediately. And Indiana Jones is a beloved character that is always popular with fans.
We know how much Disney likes to promote its IP in the parks, so these just make sense.
That’s not to say this is 100% a done deal, but at this point, it’s pretty close and I now fully expect to see some version of that planned land actually take over DinoLand in the Animal Kingdom. We’ll keep you posted on how this develops.
In the meantime, keep reading for more details about the Animal Kingdom expansion and what type of attractions you can expect to see if it does get built.
Dinoland Transformation Overview
Even though we’ve known for years that Dinoland U.S.A. needs an overhaul, it was somewhat surprising that Disney was willing to talk about it right now and share some of the Imagineers’ ideas for this area.
This new unnamed land is themed to the tropical Americas and would replace the entire DinoLand U.S.A area.
We can see that the land is really broken down into two themed areas. In the forefront is an Encanto-themed area. In the back of the concept art and much more vague is the Indiana Jones area, with some kind of temple facade on the outside.
Though the concept art is vague and we can’t make out everything in it, this new land would include at least 3 attractions, plus shopping, and dining options.
This section of the presentation also included information about a potential Magic Kingdom expansion in Frontierland which could include a Disney Villains land or Coco. Encanto was mentioned at the original announcement at the D23 Expo, but that is probably not going to be in 2 parks.
They were very careful to remind fans that this is still an “early concept exploration” and a blue sky idea. They also pointed out that this is just “one of the potential expansion opportunities” they are working on and something else may replace it instead.
One thing is sure, however, Disney seems committed to getting rid of DinoLand U.S.A. They have listened to fans’ complaints and know that something drastic needs to be done to this land.
Potential New Attractions
So far we can see at least 3 attractions for the new expansion, though it’s possible there will also be a fourth, things just haven’t been finalized at this point.
As you know, there were always 3 attractions in DinoLand, and it would make sense that they will continue to have 3 in this updated version of the land.
Attractions for the Encanto/Indiana Jones land are:
- Indiana Jones Ride replacing Dinosaur
- Encanto Ride (Casita attraction)
- Playground Area
Let’s break each of these down and what we know so far.
Indiana Jones Ride – This one is tucked in the back right corner of the concept art but it’s easily recognizable with its Indiana Jones-themed exterior. This is the area where the Dinosaur attraction currently sits and it would be replaced by an Indiana Jones attraction.
It also helps that a little attraction over in Disneyland called Indiana Jones Adventure uses the exact same ride system that Dinosaur does, so expect that to stick around with a complete re-theme of the ride.
Playground Area – When you enter DinoLand on the left you find the Boneyard Dig Site, which is essentially a kids’ playground.
Looking at the new concept art, you can see what appears to be another kids’ playground in its place. The difference here is that this attraction or experience is covered with a roof and it looks from the outside to possibly be a carousel.
Again, it’s hard to know exactly what they will put here, but it’s almost guaranteed this will be a kids’ attraction of some sort. Not the most exciting part of the project, but families will find it interesting nonetheless.
Encanto Casita Ride – What I am most excited to find out more details about is the Encanto area on the left and what the attraction will be like there. From the concept art the whole area around the Casita looks gorgeous and it’s surrounded by a pink-hued river inspired by Caño Cristales in Colombia.
No, it’s not just some magical river from the film, but it’s an actual pristine river in the Serrania de la Macarena mountain range gets its name from an aquatic plant called Macarenia clavigera that changes color dramatically throughout the year. Sometimes it’s various shades of hot pink, light green, maroon, yellow, red or blue.
But we are not only excited for the landscapes, but rumors are that the attraction here may be based on the Mystic Manor ride system from Hong Kong Disneyland. In my opinion, this is one of the best attractions that Disney Imagineering has ever created, and anything similar would be a huge win for the Animal Kingdom.
This ride would be located where Primeval Whirl once stood, and the area now occupied by the boardwalk-style games in Dino-Rama. The footprint of these two areas is likely large enough to house the new ride, and if more space is needed, there is still more land behind them that Disney can expand out into.
Other Areas of the Expansion
This new “Tropical Americas” land will not only feature attractions, it will also have at least one restaurant, and we are sure there will be plenty of places to go shopping as well.
Disney is all about saving money, so they will no doubt try to reuse some of the current spaces in Dinoland U.S.A. for this new land. A dining location like Restaurantosaurus and a shop such as Chester & Hester’s Dinosaur Treasures could easily be rethemed.
In fact, if you look at the concept art, you can clearly see that a new restaurant will be coming to the building where Restaurantosaurus is currently located. There will probably be another quick service dining location in place of Dino-Bite Snacks too.
We should also take note of the entrance. The arch at the entryway has been overlayed with the same style architecture as the buildings inside the land.
As you start walking down the pathway, we see what appears to be snack stands on the right with a seating area to eat. Not too much shade here, but the tables do have umbrellas.
The lush tropical setting makes it visually stunning and the setting fits in nicely with the theming of the park, only adding to its natural beauty.
Will the Dinosaur Ride Close Too?
In the scenario that Disney laid out for us, yes, Dinosaur the attraction would end up closing and be replaced by the Indiana Jones ride.
While I am a huge Dinosaur (and dinosaur) fan, an Indiana Jones ride is a natural replacement, technically speaking at least.
Again, though we don’t have all the details about the Indiana Jones E-Ticket, we can safely assume it will keep its current ride system, which just so happens to be identical to, guess what…the Indiana Jones Adventure attraction in Disneyland Park.
If we were to speculate, Disney would keep the current Dinosaur track and ride system in place and seamlessly reimagine the theme of the ride to Indiana Jones with a brand new story, perhaps one involving dinosaurs?
I don’t think it will be an identical clone of Indiana Jones Adventure for a couple of reasons. For one, the way the temple is laid out in California is different than the way the track goes at the Animal Kingdom, so effects like the drawbridge and others may not be doable here.
Also, Disney’s Animal Kingdom needs to make a splash, and by making it a “different” ride, at least they can sell fans on it and give them more of a reason to visit.
Now, what I would really love is an original story involving Indiana Jones, time travel, and dinosaurs, which would give Disney Imagineers a reason to use some of the existing dinosaur animatronics.
It’ll also be interesting to see what they do with the attraction queue and if they extend it longer than it currently is. That’s one of the highlights of the Disneyland attraction and the current space in Animal Kingdom is much smaller.
What is probable is that the existing Dinosaur show building is left in place with the interior getting completely removed and re-done to fit the Indiana Jones attraction, but without any significant extension. This would be like when The Great Movie Ride show building was emptied for Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway.
When Will the Dinoland U.S.A. Transformation Take Place?
What we need to keep in mind right now is that none of the plans Disney has shown so far have been green-lit and this Encanto and Indiana Jones land may never actually get built. They once again went out of their way to say during the presentation to say that these two intellectual properties “are being considered” and that they are still a long way to go.
That being said, we think this land or at least part of it is closer to being built than we may realize.
This expansion was once again talked about in a presentation about “blue sky” projects together with the Beyond Big Thunder Mountain expansion over at the Magic Kingdom.
However, looking at the two sets of concept art for the projects you will find a marked difference. The concept art for the DinoLand transformation is much more detailed than the Magic Kingdom one, and you can clearly see what will be included in the different areas of the land.
The Animal Kingdom concept art is pretty far along for a project that is “blue sky.” Normally when Disney is working in the very early stages of a project, the concept art isn’t a s detailed as the one they shared with us, so that gives us hope that this, or at least something similar will end up getting built.
The Magic Kingdom concept art is much more vague, and if you noticed, at this most recent event there was no real mention of specific IPs that could be included there. This tells us that Disney executives are prioritizing the Animal Kingdom project, and rightly so.
But just because it’s seemingly the #1 priority doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily going to be open anytime soon.
First of all, it will take some time for Disney to decide on all the fine details of the land and come up with a construction plan. Concept art is one thing, but when attractions need to then stick to a budget, things get more complicated, and it could take a while.
Even if this new DinoLand replacement was green-lit and ready to build tomorrow (which it’s not), Disney is extremely slow at building new attractions/lands, and an overhaul like this would require a minimum of 3 to 4 years of construction time.
All that being said, our guess is that the new DinoLand U.S.A. replacement could open sometime in 2027 or 2028. That’s a realistic timeline. It gives Disney a year or so to finalize the plans and get started on construction, then 3 or 4 years to actually get it built.
No, it won’t be a direct response to Universal’s Epic Universe (that opens in 2025), but nothing will at this point since Disney has been dragging its feet for so long to get new projects in the pipeline.
The positive news here is that Disney executives are listening to what the fans want and they know they need to make run-down areas of the parks like DinoLand better.
Overall, we are pretty happy with what Disney has shared so far about the potential DinoLand transformation project.
I know many people would like to keep the Dinosaur theme and name for this land, maybe even bringing in a classic unbuilt ride like the Excavator roller coaster. However, it doesn’t look like that is going to happen and Disney seems confident in changing themes.
In my opinion, overhauling DinoLand is well overdue, and it’s perhaps the weakest land at Walt Disney World. Yes, I do love Dinosaur the attraction, but at the end of the day, if I have to sacrifice it to bring back life to this section of the park, I’ll do it.
The playground area attractions is a wash with The Boneyard, though we would like to see something a little more interesting that what it seems like in the concept art.
The Casita Encanto attraction is rumored to be something similar to Mystic Manor from Hong Kong Disneyland, and if that is true, it’s a HUGE upgrade over Primeval Whirl and Dino-Rama. I would make that trade any day of the week.
The remaining question is if the new Indiana Jones ride will be at least as good as Dinosaur. It’s hard to say at this point without knowing 100% what the ride proposed in this expansion will be like, but it’s not likely to be worse than Dinosaur.
We are huge fans of Indiana Jones Adventure and even if we got an exact clone of the Disneyland ride, we’d still like it better than Dinosaur, and that is coming from a Dinosaur fan.
Then there’s also the question of if Encanto and Indiana Jones are a good fit at the Animal Kingdom.
Thematically, I think both properties fit in with the overall message of the Animal Kingdom just fine. Disney is calling this area a “tropical Americas” land, and to me if fits in well with Africa and Asia also represented. Thematically, it actually works better than DinoLand U.S.A. imo.
You can squarely put me in the camp of fans that are totally onboard with a South American land featuring Encanto and Indiana Jones. I think this introduces two more IPs to the park to pacify the shareholders, but ones that thematically fit into the park.
Sure, there are no animals of note in either franchise, but wildlife native to the many regions of the tropical Americas can easily be added to this land and would be great fits for the ecological diversity of Animal Kingdom.
I have no doubt an Indiana Jones attraction will be a big success, and if the Imagineers can hit it out of the park with the Encanto section, the parks drawing power will increase substantially, and we may finally eliminate the overall feeling that it’s only a half-day park.
Again, just keep in mind this version of the Animal Kingdom expansion hasn’t been green-lit just yet, and things could change drastically between now and when we finally do get a replacement. However, if this is what DinoLand eventually becomes count us in the crowd that is extremely excited about this change!
What Happened to the Moana and Zootopia Project?
The first time we heard Disney officially talk about replacing DinoLand U.S.A. was at the 2022 D23 Expo, where Disney Parks Chairmain Josh D’Amaro showed some early concept art of what a transformed Dinoland could look like with a Moana and Zootopia-themed in its place.
As you may recall, Disney is currently building a Zootopia land in Shanghai Disneyland, along with an E-Ticket dark ride to headline that area. So why not bring that over to the Animal Kingdom?
It seems that Disney has now done a complete 180 and instead of Moana and Zootopia, we will be getting Indiana Jones and Encanto. There are a few reasons for the change…
First of all, to fit Moana, it would have had to been an area themed around the South Pacific. Besides Moana, there aren’t many other Disney IP that would technically fit that part of the world. The Rescuers maybe? Swiss Family Robinson? Yeah, I don’t see those coming to a Disney park anytime soon.
In fact, in the previous announcement, Disney had Zootopia in there with Moana, so apparently, they couldn’t come up with anything else thematically similar either. Honestly, those two IPs, though we love each of the individually, we don’t think they really go that well sharing the same space.
Then, there is the fact that adding Moana to Animal Kingdom is not really necessary since the Moana: Journey of Water attraction is already in EPCOT. Even though it is a great film, I’m not sure I want it in two parks over a stronger IP like The Lion King which still to this day doesn’t have a ride in the parks.
I can also see Animal Kingdom purists getting upset with Zootopia coming to the park since it doesn’t really fit the whole “conservation” theme, even if it is about Animals.
Joe Rohde has commented that in Zootopia “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.”
Speaking of Zootopia, Disney did announce that a new Zootopia show is replacing “It’s Tough to be a Bug” inside the Tree of Life, which pretty much eliminates any possibility of that IP being used in other parts of the park.
We are fine with this change and supposedly, the animals and their biomes will be highlighted and not the metropolis of Zootopia. While it’s not ideal, it’s also not a dealbreaker for us and we realize that it needed a shot in the arm to bring the crowds back once again.
Getting back to the DinoLand replacement, honestly, I’m really happy that the previously announced project from the D23 Expo in 2022 was not given the green light right away and Imagineers had time to think over the space and what would fit best.
Indiana Jones and Encanto are a much better choice imo, and if Imagineers are really allowed to work with a budget that a land of this scope deserves, it has tremendous potential.
Other Transformation Ideas
Just in case we don’t actually get an Encanto and Indiana Jones land, here are some other ideas that have been thrown around as to what could wind up replacing DinoLand U.S.A.
Indiana Jones Land – Before this latest announcement, bringing in an Indiana Jones-themed attraction/land was the popular rumor and the one that made the most sense from a theming perspective, so it makes sense that it looks like it will be a part of this expansion.
But what if they made the entire land Indiana Jones-themed?
The attraction Dinosaur would still be re-themed to a ride similar to Indiana Jones Adventure in Disneyland, and something else (maybe an Indy coaster) could go in the Dino-Rama area. You could even make Dinosaurs and archeology work together quite nicely.
I thought this was the front-runner, so even though we aren’t getting a full Indiana Jones land, it’s nice to see that Disney feels that it’s at least worth including in part of the re-theme. Either way, don’t expect to see any new Indiana Jones experiences at Hollywood Studios, they have probably scrapped those ideas at this point.
Crush’s Coaster – Another option could be to make a duplicate of Crush’s Coaster for Walt Disney Studios in Disneyland Paris. Disney loves to bring over existing attractions from other parks, and something Nemo-themed would fit right next to “Finding Nemo…The Big Blue and Beyond”, though the Dinosaur-themed land wouldn’t really work.
I’m not sure though how that would fit in with the rest of what is coming to the DinoLand expansion, but you’d have to make the expansion bigger than just Crush’s Coaster. But it is an option if Disney really wants to build on the cheap.
Raya and The Last Dragon – There have been some fans throwing around theories about a Raya and the Last Dragon-themed area or attraction coming to the Animal Kingdom, but I don’t think it’s really a great fit for a DinoLand U.S.A. replacement.
While I’m sure they could turn this exciting animated film into a great ride, thematically, it would be better off in Asia if you do it, rather than putting it over here or making this an expansion of Asia. Re-theming something like Kali River Rapids would make more sense if you are dead-set on getting Raya in there (I’m not).
Wakanda – Bringing something Black Panther-themed to Walt Disney World would be a huge draw for Marvel fans, and with a land on the scale of Pandora, it would probably be absolutely stunning. Black Panther 2 was received well, and it’s one of Disney’s biggest money-making franchises.
The only thing is that it would probably cause even more problems among the Animal Kingdom purists since there isn’t much of a connection with animals to make it justifiable to build here.
Whatever they end up building, it will surely be home to some of the best new attractions coming to Disney World in the next few years.
That wraps up our look at the DinoLand U.S.A. transformation with a potential Encanto and Indiana Jones expansion. We’ll be finding out more info in the coming months so stay tuned for more!
If you are going to Disney World soon, make sure to read our Disney World Planning Guide for all the tips and info you will need to cover everything! Also, check out our Disney World Crowd Calendar so you know when the best time to visit is!
I want to know what you think about the proposed Dinoland U.S.A. replacement…
- Would you like to see a land themed to Encanto and Indiana Jones?
- What are some attraction ideas for the land?
Let us know in the comments section below!
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