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‘Zootopia’ in Animal Kingdom? Joe Rohde Previously Dismissed the Idea

Disney just wrapped up this year’s D23 Expo in Anaheim, and with the final day of panels fans were able to get first looks at proposed concepts for Disney Parks.

Among new announcements that came out of the Disney Parks panel was a somewhat vague “Blue Sky” concepts for both the Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The concepts, if they come to fruition, would include entire new lands beyond Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in the Magic Kingdom, and replacement themes for DinoLand, U.S.A. in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Credit: Artwork by Disney, photo by Scott Gustin

Among potential replacements that could later be in the works for DinoLand, U.S.A. are lands and attractions inspired by Zootopia (2016) and Moana (2016). Fan reactions to a potential Moana overlay in Animal Kingdom have been mixed especially as an attraction inspired by the film is already confirmed to be coming soon to EPCOT.

As for Zootopia, fans have been expressing an interest in seeing characters and stories from the film in Animal Kingdom since the movie was released, and the conversation only continued to grow when Zootopia additions were actually announced for Shanghai Disneyland.

Credit: Disney Tips

In Animal Kingdom, however, we have to wonder if Zootopia actually fits with the theme of the Park. Everything in Animal Kingdom is centered around the greater theme of conservation. There is some flexibility to make sort of unexpected stories fit the theme; Pandora – The World of Avatar is one example of this, where some fans were initially unsure of how this land would work but the focus on showing the moon’s recovery from the destruction of the natural world caused by humans certainly fits.

Is Zootopia too much of a stretch though? Joe Rohde might think so. The renowned Disney Imagineer known for his work on Disney’s Animal Kingdom shared some thoughts on the possibility of Zootopia in the Park on Twitter, long before the concept was shown at D23:

In the tweet, Rohde says, “The 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.” The issues presented in Zootopia are certainly of the human variety despite being presented by animals.

Of course, Joe Rohde retired from his role at the Walt Disney Company in 2020, leaving behind a legacy that spanned more than 40 years and some of the most iconic elements at Walt Disney World, and as the creative lead behind Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawai’i.

Change is at the heart of what makes Disney Parks and Resorts so special, and even in the early days of Disneyland Park, Walt Disney welcomed it. “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world,” Walt famously said.

While the Blue Sky concepts for both DinoLand U.S.A. and the proposed Magic Kingdom expansion may not come to be, or at least in the way they were originally presented at D23, we at DisneyTips will continue to wonder whether Zootopia really is a fit for Animal Kingdom after all.

About Brittany DiCologero

Brittany is a New England-based writer focused on the history of the Walt Disney World Resort. She is the author of "Red, White, and Disney: The Myths and Reality of American History at the Walt Disney World Resort," and "Brittany Earns Her Ears."