Walt Disney World is revamping much of the resort for its 50th anniversary, but Animal Kingdom will have to wait to get some attention

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click to enlarge Dino-Rama at Disney's Animal Kingdom - Image via Markydeedrop | Twitter
Image via Markydeedrop | Twitter
Dino-Rama at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Since opening in 1998, Animal Kingdom has struggled with its attraction lineup. While the live animals within the park are a draw, many guests at Disney World remain focused on rides.

Early on, the park faced criticism from ride-focused guests as being a ‘half-day’ theme park. Even as two major thrill rides opened in the Asia section, the stigma of not being comparable to the other three WDW theme parks remained.

With its Dumbo-like spinner and family spinning coaster, Dino-Rama was the next failed attempt at convincing guests the park was of the same caliber. Finally, with the debut of Pandora – The World of Avatar, Animal Kingdom was attracting the crowds it was designed for. Each addition leading to Pandora saw attendance steadily climb. By the park’s twentieth anniversary, it was the third most visited theme park in the U.S., just behind Magic Kingdom and Disneyland.

When details for the 50th anniversary at Walt Disney World began to emerge in 2017, it was clear Disney was acknowledging that Animal Kingdom still needs significant investments to be on par with the rest of the park.

In August of that year, we noted rumors of an overhaul headed to Dino-Rama at Animal Kingdom. It was to be the next major project for the resort after the 50th anniversary. In that piece, we noted a two-year timeline for work to begin overhauling the mini-land; sixteen months later, in 2019, the anchor of the land, Primeval Whirl, closed. After a short stint operating as a seasonal attraction in the winter of 2019, it closed for good in 2020.

Now, as the spinning coaster attraction is being dismantled, insiders are again pointing to what may eventually come to this area. With recent additions and impressive attendance, this park is sitting out the massive round of investments the rest of the resort is receiving as part of the 50th-anniversary push. Animal Kingdom's 50th-anniversary additions include new shows and character statues, but no major new investments in the park.
click to enlarge Disney KiteTails, debuting in October at Disney's Animal Kingdom, as part of the 50th anniversary - Image via Disney
Image via Disney
Disney KiteTails, debuting in October at Disney's Animal Kingdom, as part of the 50th anniversary
Despite being heavily themed, Dino-Rama never saw the fan appreciation that other themed lands at Disney Parks typically have. The intentionally tacky roadside carnival theme was lost on many tourists. It didn’t help that Primeval Whirl, the area's anchor, got a reputation of being rough.

Having a land-themed to the very thing many people visit Disney World to escape being anchored by an unpopular and problematic coaster meant Dino-Rama was often an afterthought for those visiting Animal Kingdom. For years, Tim Grassey has been tracking rumors of Dino-Rama’s demise on his Disney information and rumor aggregator website, WDWThemeParks. He thinks the theme is a big part of why the land remains unpopular.

“It’s a poor concept for a highly themed area. You can argue that it’s a great execution of a poor concept, but it’s still a poor concept,” he told Orlando Weekly.

Even with its anchor attraction is being dismantled and the land remaining one of the least popular at Walt Disney World, Grassey is hesitant to believe Disney is ready to address this section of Animal Kingdom. Regarding the rumors of a new attraction headed to this area, he says, “I think there’s a lot of smoke, not sure there is any fire yet.”

That hesitancy is shared among others who follow the rumor mills surrounding Disney World projects. Still, some insiders are stating something is in the works.
click to enlarge Shanghai Disneyland's upcoming Zootopia themed mini-land - Image via Disney
Image via Disney
Shanghai Disneyland's upcoming Zootopia themed mini-land

Some of the rumors align with previous expectations that most of the original parts of the Dinoland, USA, will remain intact. Previous rumors pointed to Indiana Jones or Zootopia as possible themes for the upcoming attraction. A Zootopia mini-land is currently under construction at Shanghai Disneyland and has been heavily rumored for Animal Kingdom despite many, including Animal Kingdom’s lead designer Joe Rohde, stating it wouldn’t fit into the park since the Zootopia animals are "proxies for humans."

click to enlarge This early concept art for Dinoland shows the proposed wooden coaster in the background. - Image via Jambo Everyone
Image via Jambo Everyone
This early concept art for Dinoland shows the proposed wooden coaster in the background.
Other recent rumors have pointed to Mystic Manor, the Haunted Mansion-inspired trackless dark ride at Hong Kong Disneyland, being brought to the park. Dinoland initially was to have a high-thrill wooden coaster. While there’s no indication Disney has dusted off those plans, they would be an impressive response to the coasters opened in recent years at Universal Orlando.

For now, though, there are no official plans on what will come to the area. With new coasters to market in two other parks and be projects underway at Epcot, new investments in Animal Kingdom will likely not be announced for some time. Still, when asked what he thinks will be the next major project at WDW after the 50th, Grassey acknowledges an update to Dino-Rama is “very likely.”

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