Discovery Island sign in Disney's Animal Kingdom

Permit Hints at DinoLand U.S.A. Closing

Disney has filed a permit with the South Florida Water Management District that might signal the end of Animal Kingdom’s DinoLand U.S.A. The permit does not cover theme park construction, but rather a staging area for future park upgrades. “Project RO” includes four Imagineering office trailers, one construction contractor trailer, 363 parking spaces, sidewalks, and other infrastructure upgrades.

Animal Kingdom map from a permit filed by Disney

Click the above image for a larger view.

Map of Disney's Animal Kingdom showing where Imagineering and contractor offices will go
Aerial view of Disney's Animal Kingdom showing where Imagineering and contractor offices will go

The new offices will be located on the northeastern edge of the park, replacing an area filled with what looks to be old shipping containers. The geography surrounding Animal Kingdom prevents these offices from being located closer to DinoLand, but workers will have backstage access to that area via E. Savannah Circle.

Again, this permit doesn’t cover actual theme park construction, but it’s still an important step. It shows that Disney is moving forward with concrete theme park expansion plans. No more “blue sky” talk, please.

Goodbye, DinoLand U.S.A.

Dinosaur facade in Disney's Animal Kingdom

DinoLand hasn’t felt the love in a long while. Now we know why. Dinosaur, the land’s flagship attraction, has fallen into disrepair. Numerous audio-animatronics no longer move and the lighting is horrible. It’s become the darkest of Disney’s dark rides. I’m sad we won’t be able to experience it at the height of its greatness ever again.

Dino-Rama in Disney's Animal Kingdom

Other areas of DinoLand haven’t fared any better. Primeval Whirl, a brain-scrambling coaster, was removed years ago. Its absence is noticeable next to Dino-Rama, which attracts few guests to its carnival games. TriceraTop Spin is a “ride if the park is slammed” attraction. The Boneyard is a fantastic play area for younger guests but doesn’t fit a dinosaur-less retheme. The land’s restaurants and shops are mostly unremarkable.

Apart from having to say goodbye to Dinosaur, I’m all in on a new land.

Hello, Encanto, Indy & Coco

Concept art showing how Encanto, Indiana Jones, and Coco attractions could replace DinoLand, U.S.A.

Disney has floated “blue sky” Animal Kingdom ideas for the past few years. At the 2023 Destination D23, Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products Chairman Josh D’Amaro said that Encanto and Indiana Jones experiences were being considered as replacements for DinoLand. Insiders now believe that attractions based on those two IPs will soon become a reality. There are also rumors that a Coco-themed area will replace DinoLand’s Boneyard. Thanks to Brayden from Mickey Views for that bit.

Animal Kingdom opened in 1998 with very few IP-based attractions. Since then, Disney has fully embraced adding IPs to their parks, so this update was inevitable. My concern is that Encanto, Indiana Jones, and Coco don’t have significant animal storylines. How do they fit in Disney’s Animal Kingdom? That will be the challenge for Disney Imagineers. I hope they create a land and attractions that feel authentic to Joe Rohde’s Animal Kingdom.

Set in South America

Much of the land is set in South America. Coco is the outlier, as it’s set in Mexico. But it is north of the other two IPs, so I guess it makes sense geographically.

The Madrigal House will be the centerpiece of Encanto. Rumors are that this attraction will include an Omnimover, a ride system ideal for high rider volumes. That’s something sorely needed in a park with few attractions.

Want some great news? Animal Kingdom’s Indiana Jones attraction will not be a copy of Disneyland’s Indiana Jones Adventure. Instead, Imagineers are creating an all-new story based on the Mayan culture, as evidenced by the Mayan pyramid in the concept art. I love California’s ride, and I’m willing to travel there to experience it, but I’d much rather have unique offerings at each of Disney’s parks.

Finally, we have Coco. Some speculate that it could include a carousel based on the above artwork. That doesn’t thrill me. Coco is a visually stunning movie. I would love to see an attraction that matches the beauty of that film.

Another Animal Kingdom attraction?

Finally, insiders have hinted that another, unnamed attraction is also coming to Animal Kingdom.

I can’t wait to learn more about Animal Kingdom’s future at this year’s D23: The Ultimate Disney Fan Event.