Magic Kingdom expansion: the lands of Coco, Encanto and Villains revealed


During D23 Expo, Disney revealed that new land (or areas?) is being developed for beyond Big Thunder Mountain Railroad to Frontierland in the Magic Kingdom. The expansion would include Coco, Encanto and Villains (you read correctly). This article will share all the details, concept art, and everything we know about the possible expansion, along with a bit of commentary.

This Magic Kingdom expansion news was announced during the “A Boundless Future: Disney Parks, Experiences and Products” presentation at D23 Expo 2022. Disney Parks, Experiences and Products President Josh D’Amaro offered an overview of concept art for the future as well and teased what was to come in a few years.

This was one of many announcements from Expo D23 2022. Others include the opening season of TRON Lightcycle Run, the return of a Figment encounter, new nightly shows for EPCOT and Magic Kingdom for Disney100 . And that is exactly what has been announced so far for Walt Disney World. We will have a summary of each announcement very soon.

This announcement was made following news of a potential Moana and Zootopia area in Animal Kingdom. The reveal was made by Imagineer Chris Beatty and Jennifer Lee, Creative Director of Walt Disney Animation Studios. They didn’t provide any additional details, but were careful to use crouching language in the announcement, indicating that this is an “early exploration of the concept” and one of the “opportunities for potential expansions.

Here’s the concept art the duo shared on stage:

This concept art is definitely more impressionistic than what’s been shared for the Moana area at Animal Kingdom, but it’s still more detailed than some concept art revealed in recent years.

That said, only the Coco and Encanto zones are well defined. The Disney Villains expansion appears in the distance – no concept art specific to this has been shared.

When Josh D’Amaro kicked off this part of the presentation, he prefaced it with a warning that it would make some people at the company very uncomfortable, but would be exciting for fans.

The Magic Kingdom part of the presentation was presented with a What if we did this kind of a vibe…but they also suggested that those plans are being actively worked on and pursued.

Plans are in development, but ideas being explored would offer guests the opportunity to enter Casa Madrigal and ride on the back of Dante or Pepita, Alebrijes from the Rivera family of coconut.

Honestly, I don’t even know how to categorize this news. This isn’t a stand-alone announcement, but more of us being flies on the wall for an Imagineering brainstorming session or a blue sky pitch. There are concrete details and concept art, but no promises about what the final version of this expansion will actually entail.

One question for me is where will this Magic Kingdom expansion be built? (if it’s built). Walt Disney World quietly moved the roads behind the park in a way that could accommodate that, quite literally, behind Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Another possibility is that at least part of it replaces Tom Sawyer Island. About 7-8 years ago a big budget expansion of the area alongside Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was rumored. It’s possible this location is still the plan, but D’Amaro wanted to share some good news, and cutting into America’s Rivers and Tom Sawyer Island wouldn’t be as well received by Walt Disney World fans.

Before you get too excited from daydreaming, it’s worth noting that it might not even happen. Disney has a poor track record when it comes to vague D23 Expo announcements. In the past, many plans presented without the colossal caveats of those Magic Kingdom expansion plans failed to materialize.

Right next to me, the Main Street Theater, Cherry Tree Lane, original Future World blueprints, second Future World blueprints, the first Avengers E-Ticket, and more weren’t built. (And I know I’m forgetting a ton of abandoned projects – I saw a list before Expo and there was way more than that on it!)

As such, I don’t blame anyone for viewing this with great doubt and pessimism. Beyond all the asterisks, current management hasn’t exactly done the right thing for Walt Disney World fans over the past few years. It’s been a tough time, and this flurry of news seems quite at odds with what we’ve been through recently.

It may be the inveterate optimist in me, but I am still cautiously optimistic about that, even knowing how common it is for D23 Expo announcements — even more concrete than that — to not happen. Even after being burned in the past by Chapek and company, I remain hopeful – perhaps foolishly – that Magic Kingdom will receive another full-scale expansion.

Josh D’Amaro could have come out and highlighted throwback entertainment and other little things. He could have talked about the return of Fantasmic (which is still happening in the next 6-8 weeks), recap what’s already happened this summer, or spent more time focusing on the details of ongoing projects.

Instead, his presentation swung for the fences when it came to Walt Disney World. This D23 Expo splash suggests to me that, at the very least, the company intends to expand Magic Kingdom. Whether it ends up being Coco, Encanto, and/or Disney Villains doesn’t matter.

The desire to build the park exists at a high level of the company, which means there is a desire to invest more money in Walt Disney World. This stage presentation at Expo D23 means it’s not just an idea of ​​blue skies floating around Imagineering.

As someone who thought the best-case scenario for the Walt Disney World “expansion” news at Expo D23 was a stand-in for Primeval Whirl, this took me by surprise. It may not be a direct and immediate response to Epic Universe, but it is something substantial.

Like I said before, I don’t think Disney management thinks they need an “answer” to Epic Universe. Their public stance at the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was that “a rising tide lifts all boats” – that a stronger Universal was good for Disney because it drew more people to Central Florida.

This is unquestionably true to some extent, but it’s also a spin. More than a decade later, the theme park landscape has evolved in Orlando as well. Universal has built half a dozen hotels in the years since at a range of price points, and there’s also the difference that 3 theme parks plus a water park make. For many visitors, Universal will be a destination itself, rather than a diversion from Disney.

Personally, I wonder how much Disney management actually cares about the Epic Universe. The company as a whole, and Walt Disney World in particular, has lost so much institutional knowledge over the past few years. So many Disney executives only know one era of success and have a “no one can touch us” attitude as a result.

Watch any interview with Bob Chapek or Josh D’Amaro and you can see that confidence (to use a charitable term). If that’s the tone at the top, do you really think it’s a company that Universal sucks?

To be absolutely clear, I think that trust is misplaced. Granted, Disney has enjoyed more than a decade of unprecedented success, and its theme park business is at a different stage than Universal. However, as a hospitality company that also operates theme parks, Walt Disney World cannot afford to lose overnight guests to Universal.

These are its most lucrative visitors, and if Universal is able to siphon off even just 10% of them, it’s a blow to Disney. With Universal offering more affordable accommodations and on-site perks for an all-new park, it’s going to be an entirely different dynamic than when Wizarding World began over a decade ago.

Either way, none of this could be ready by the time Epic Universe opens. More than anything else, that’s why it’s not an “answer” to Epic Universe. None of the major expansions announced at Expo D23 2022 will open until 2026. Probably more like 2027.

In my view, the company is likely preparing to invest in Walt Disney World not because of a perceived threat from Universal’s epic universe, but because of the resilience of its Florida theme parks. Walt Disney World continues to outperform and investors have begun to take notice of its success. This, coupled with Wall Street’s sourness on streaming (at least a bit), means Disney could finally start betting bigger on its theme park business. (All the lessons learned during the Great Recession… demonstrating both that history repeats itself and that Disney has lost its institutional knowledge.)

That’s why I think there’s something substantial in these Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom expansion plans. Even if they don’t integrate Disney Villains, Coco, Encanto, etc. in the real lands, there are probably major development projects on the horizon. From my point of view, it is less about details and much more of an overview. The Walt Disney Company once again seems bullish on the theme park business…and that’s a good thing for the fans!

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Your thoughts

What do you think of the possibility that Coco, Moana, and Disney Villains areas or attractions are coming to Magic Kingdom? Think these lands will actually be built, or is this yet another example of Disney throwing so much at the wall and seeing what sticks? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback, even when you disagree with us, is both interesting for us and helpful for other readers, so share your thoughts below in the comments!


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