The next big thing in themed entertainment in central Florida is just a couple of years away, and it’s not coming from the Walt Disney Company.
Universal Studio’s Epic Universe, the third Park at the Universal Orlando Resort (they can call Volcano Bay a third gate, but, c’mon, it’s a water park), has every theme park enthusiast excited. What tricks will Universal Creative bring to the table to top their work on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter? Will Super Nintendo World exceed its international sibling? What other IP will Guests get to walk into and live inside?
Unfortunately, there’s no similar talk about Walt Disney World right now. Sure, there are a few exciting attractions lined up – Tron Lightcycle, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, etc. – but most of the other upcoming changes and additions are long-delayed, simply rumored, or no more than the barest of Blue Sky ideas.
But if Epic Universe proves as successful as some think it could be, and poaches even more Orlando visitors away from Walt Disney World, might Disney need to respond in kind, opening a fifth gate theme park? And if so, what would that fifth gate actually look like?
In the spirit of Blue Sky conceptualizing, here’s a few ideas for what a at the might be!
Disney Villains World
At this year’s D23 Expo, Chairperson of Disney Parks and Resorts Josh D’Amaro announced a few concepts for potential developments at the Disney Parks, but the one that most caught people’s attention was the idea to add a Villains land to the Magic Kingdom. Given that this was the fan-favorite concept – exceeding the excitement for the addition of Moana and Zootopia to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, for example – would it be so much of a stretch to think that the concept could be expanded to an entire Park?
Expanding to size would allow room for all of the Disney (not just the ones featured in The Descendants) and would give space for the addition of attractions featuring any new that might show up in films in the years to come. It even provides the ability to bring in and Marvel characters!
What’s more, the entire Park could exist as a dark mirror to the Magic Kingdom – the long-rumored Dark Kingdom. Picture Maleficent’s castle at the end of a thorny-vine-covered main street, looming over a series of lands themed to different villainous milieus and fiefdoms, each of which reflects a land from the . The evil queen from Snow White reigns over a dark Fantasyland; Gaston is king of his own Frontierland, a satire of hyped-up toxic masculinity; Jafar rules the dark jungles and blazing sands of a scary Adventureland. And as for Tomorrowland? Perhaps a certain Sith Lord could gather his forces there.
When the Oriental Land Company wanted the Walt Disney Company to create a second theme park for the Tokyo Disney Resort, the Imagineers landed on a concept that was meant as a natural companion to Tokyo Disneyland – Tokyo DisneySea (though this does raise the question if there will ever be a Tokyo DisneyAir, or the frankly terrifying prospect of a Tokyo DisneyFire)! The seven themed lands, or “ports of call,” at the Park are united by an overall nautical theme and a central body of water that breaks off into different “harbors.”
Though the play on words wouldn’t be quite as strong in Orlando, a Walt DisneySea (because “Walt Disney’s Sea World” would probably have its own legal issues) could take the general nautical theme and apply it to Florida. Popular lands like Mysterious Island and Mermaid Lagoon could be recreated and joined to other properties like a Finding Nemo land or an east coast version Pixar Pier. The Imagineers would also have the opportunity to come up with new sea-themed lands and attractions, perhaps focusing on the threat of global warning or, less dourly, on the Pacific shores of Moana or the Atlantis ruled by Namor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The possibilities are as vast and limitless as the oceans themselves!
Rumors about Epic Universe are that it will be a Park consisting entirely of lands dedicated to pre-existing IP. Given that this is the fad within the entire themed entertainment industry at the moment – and a particular obsession of Disney CEO Bob Chapek – its most likely that a Walt Disney World fifth gate would be IP-focused.
So perhaps that fifth gate doesn’t need an overarching theme and could just be a conglomeration of various popular Disney IPs. Frozen’s Arendelle could join Zootopia and The Incredibles’ Metroville, the Columbian village of Encanto’s family Madrigal, or even the Tatooine experience that Star Wars fans have been clamoring for!
Such a “kitchen sink” type of Park would have the added bonus of being easily updated. If a particular intellectual property loses its luster, then that land can close, get redeveloped as something new, and re-open without harming the overall theme of the Park! This has proven successful at Disney’s California Adventure, after all, with A Bug’s Land recently becoming Avengers Campus.
Something else entirely!
Then, of course, there’s the bluest of Blue Sky ideas – something entirely new! If the history of theme parks has shown us anything, it’s that Walt Disney Imagineering is not at all limited in its thinking. Who says a fifth gate needs to be anything that we’ve seen before, or a copy of a type of theme park that already exists? Perhaps it could instead be something new, innovative, and entirely exciting in a different way than Epic Universe will be.
The Blue Sky is, after all, the limit!