Movie IPs (intellectual property) have been headlining the newest attractions to arrive in Disney Parks for several years now. Since this practice has come to be expected, most Disney fans were not surprised at the mention of new IPs arriving in Walt Disney World when the company presented a couple of “Blue Sky” ideas at this year’s D23 Expo.
Some of these ideas, that might or might not come to Disney Parks in the future, included the possibility of Zootopia (2016) or Moana (2016) replacing the current theming in DinoLand U.S.A. in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Do either of these properties work for Disney’s conservation-focused theme park, though? We have some other movies in mind that might be a better fit…
While some fans have been suggesting a Zootopia addition to Disney’s Animal Kingdom for several years, others feel that this film is not well-suited for the Park. And Moana, even if suited to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, is already set to be featured in one of the newest attractions currently under construction in EPCOT, Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana.
Our first pick for a film to be included in Animal Kingdom instead is Disney and Pixar’s WALL-E (2008). Disney’s Animal Kingdom, though packed with exciting rides, shows, and animal encounters, is really all about conservation, and what better movie from Disney’s collection to exemplify this point than WALL-E?
The Jungle Book (1967) is another worthwhile choice, where the story takes place in India, so if it were to replace DinoLand, it would flow nicely from the Asia section of the Park. Moreover, The Jungle Book was featured more prominently in the Park earlier in Animal Kingdom’s history in several experiences that were quite popular. Most recently, King Louie and Baloo were featured in Disney KiteTails, which just ended sooner than expected due to Hurricane Ian, and the characters had meet and greets in the Park prior to the pandemic.
Prior to this, The Jungle Book: Alive With Magic, a nighttime show based on the 2016 live-action version of the story was briefly performed over the Discovery River Lagoon prior to the opening of Rivers of Light. This was essentially a placeholder show, but many Guests (myself included) actually preferred The Jungle Book show to Rivers of Light.
And long before that, Journey Into the Jungle Book was an opening-day attraction that was short-lived but beloved by fans. The stage show opened at the Theater in the Wild (now home to Finding Nemo: The Big Blue…and Beyond) and closed in 1999 to make way for Tarzan Rocks.
Lastly, we have to consider the Disneynature films. This documentary-film subset of the Walt Disney Studios has produced some of the greatest educational animal films of the present age. While the individual animals shown in the films could obviously not be included in the Parks, their species certainly could, along with information on Disneynature in general and ways Guests can support endangered animal populations in the wild.
DinoLand U.S.A. does fit in with Animal Kingdom’s conservation messaging by showing what happens to animals whose populations are not saved in the wild (ie: the majority of the animals in this land are obviously extinct, save for the American Crocodile, Asian Brown Tortoise, and Abdim’s Storks.) As a DinoLand apologist, I have to admit that I would prefer a revamp of the land to keep the dinosaur theme, perhaps with everything in the land redesigned around the story of the Dino Institute without Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama, as this is the section fans typically take issue with.
But, if the Blue Sky ideas showcased at D23 to come to fruition, it seems there are movie IPs that make more sense for the theme of Disney’s Animal Kingdom than Zootopia and Moana.