Disney confirms a new Zootopia land, so what does that mean for Animal Kingdom?

Disney confirms a new Zootopia land, so what does that mean for Animal Kingdom?
Image via Disney
Nearly two years ago, multiple news sites began sharing details on a rumored new Zootopia land heading to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Now, a nearly identical land was just confirmed for Shanghai Disneyland. In the announcement for the new land, Disney confirmed that it will feature a state-of-the-art major new attraction featuring the film’s main characters, Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde.

The artwork shows a guest enjoying an oversized fruit pop as seen in the movies, though it's unclear if this is an actual food item, a retail item, or merely a photo prop for guests. Multiple guests are seen in various Mickey-ear headbands themed to animals from the movie. A cityscape in the distance looks like it could be the facade for a large building housing the main attraction. A Times Square-like marquee is seen on that building with a reference to Zootopia’s iconic train toward the bottom.

Not much else is yet known regarding the expansion, the second for the Chinese park. Speculation on the ride system has centered mostly around a version of the “2 ½-D” projection mapping that Disney will debut this fall in the "Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway" attraction at Hollywood Studios, or an updated version of the Flight of Passage ride system that Disney used in the Animal Kingdom. The Flight of Passage system seems less likely since a Pandora land is rumored to be heading to Shanghai Disneyland in the coming years. Another possible system could be one similar to Universal’s trackless tram system, used on their recent "Fast and the Furious" and "Reign of Kong" attractions. Interestingly, all current speculation points to heavy use of screens, both on the ride and in the land itself.

Speaking of rumors, many fans have made the assumption that the new Shanghai Zootopia land also means the Animal Kingdom land is all but confirmed. Like any update to the Disney parks in Asia, which Disney either co-owns or franchises, any new attraction in Shanghai will likely have an exclusivity agreement for a set number of years. Previous attractions seem to have a five-year exclusive deal, though the Tron coaster may open at the Magic Kingdom just prior to that five-year window (which would be June 16, 2021).

Disneyland Paris had a similar agreement prior to Disney’s recent buyout of that park's ownership, which helps explain why the Ratatouille ride at Epcot will open just a few months past the five-year mark of the Paris version’s opening.

Disney didn’t give a date for when the new Shanghai Zootopia land will open, only confirming construction will start later this year. Zootopia 2 has been rumored for some time, with a cast member even accidentally confirming their work on the project, though a release date has yet to be announced.

If the Shanghai park has the same type of exclusivity windows that other Disney parks seem to have, then a Zootopia land won’t open outside of Shanghai until at least the middle of the next decade.

That brings us back here to Orlando, where Animal Kingdom seems to be most people’s first choice, but Disney might have another park in mind. Recent additions there have meant that the park has seen massive increases in attendance and Disney leadership, at least locally, did take notice of the pushback regarding the heavy use of intellectual properties in that park.

With multiple live-action films and other non-animated options available, especially with the massive increase in the company’s film library (thanks to the Fox buyout), Disney might be holding off on Animal Kingdom for a possible fit. National Geographic Channel, A Night at the Museum, Planet of the Apes, Rio, and hundreds of other animal-focused franchises that would be a much easier fit for Animal Kingdom will soon be fair game for Disney.

It’s no secret that the Toy Story Land expansion at Disney’s Hollywood Studios wasn’t nearly the draw Disney was hoping for, and while the highly anticipated new Star Wars land will surely draw in the crowds, Disney has been rumored to be looking at bringing other kid-friendly attractions to the park.

The Mickey Mouse dark ride will be part of the answer, but that still means the park will have just a handful of attractions a family can enjoy together. Indiana Jones, The Incredibles and Monsters, Inc. have all been rumored for Hollywood Studios, but with its small footprint and with much of the design already completed, a Zootopia land might be a safer bet for Hollywood Studios.

Unlike the Flight of Passage ride system, which is more of a "one-trick pony" ride system similar to Soarin’, the “2 ½-D” that Disney will be using in Mickey’s new attraction could easily be used for multiple attractions within the same park, since at its essence this is just a very impressive projection technology.

It's interesting that the land Disney confirmed for Shanghai has nearly all the same features as the one rumored for Animal Kingdom, but that doesn’t mean it’s a sure bet for that park or, for that matter, any park beyond Shanghai.

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