Disney’s Animal Kingdom–Indy, Encanto, Zootopia, Joe Rhode & More!

Disney’s Animal Kingdom–Indy, Encanto, Zootopia, Joe Rhode & More!

BREAKING NEWS! Disney and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight’s District has come to an Agreement! More at the end of the podcast!

We come to you from deep in the jungle of Disney’s Animal Kingdom to not only tell you the latest and greatest on what’s happening at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but how these connect to major happenings across the Disney universe. The big news is in Dinoland, but Asia, Africa, Pandora and Discovery Island all have some thing to share. We’ll look at what’s potentially happening with the advent of Indiana Jones, Encanto, Zootopia and more. We’ll talk about Animal Kingdom’s own Joe Rohde’s new announcement, and what’s happening for the 30th anniversary of Disney’s Lion King. There’s much to talk about, to include attendance in the park and big records being set at Orlando International Airport. Join us for this very insightful visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

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Park Entrance

Two thoughts as we enter the park:

  • What is the most expensive park to run and the least expensive park to run? Water Parks vs. Disney’s Animal Kingdom: Expensive and Least Expensive Park–Why fish was taken out of the lagoon.
  • People arriving in Orlando is up high:
    • Last Saturday of Spring Break was the highest number of passengers departing, with a new passenger record with 102,064 departing passengers. That does not include arrivals, which would logically double that number to 204,128 total passengers – the most the airport has ever seen in a single day.
    • 11% increase in passengers from last year
    • 57.7 million have come through in 2023. 2019 was 50.6 million
  • The question is, “who is on the plane and why are they here?”

Discovery Island & Zootopia

Image by Disney.

Announced in the Destination 2023 event, Zootopia is replacing “It’s Tough to Be a Bug”. Here are some considerations.

  • Tough to Be a Bug
    • Was one of many original concepts considered for the Tree of Life
    • Was done with little Pixar animation support
    • Was never child friendly.
    • Had the best animatronic when the park originally opened in the form of Hopper
  • Zootopia
    • Builds on a very popular and current animated film
    • Has an established animatronic in the form of Officer Clawhauser

Pandora: World of Avatar

Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

We spoke a little about this two weeks ago in our discussion of Disney’s 60 billion dollar expansion. Avatar is a key possibility for being a major part of Disney Parks and their expansion worldwide. Here are some things to consider:

  • In 2023 on the heels of a successful theatrical release of “Avatar: The Way of Water,” Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger noted in an investor call when he said the world of “Avatar” is coming to Disneyland Resort. “Today I am thrilled to announce that we will be bringing an exciting Avatar experience to Disneyland. We will be sharing more details on that very soon.”
  • In May it was announced that James Cameron, who directed Avatar and who is being made a Disney Legend this summer noted he had been working with WDI on a Pandora project.
  • In a Morgan Stanley conference, Bob then stated: “We have one Avatar-based land, Pandora, in Florida,” Iger said at the teleconference. “We’re going to put a second one in California.”
  • According to Disney Tourist Blog, an Imagineer off the cuff noted that the Avatar experience would be built at DCA. But a spokesperson noted afterwards that no such formal announcement had been made.
  • My feeling is that DCA has more room, utilizing their Hollywood Land, but Tomorrowland needs help, and it too has space. Still, such a project could go elsewhere.
  • Iger also stated: “We have one Avatar-based land, Pandora, in Florida. We’re going to put a second one in California. That doesn’t mean we can’t put one somewhere in Asia or somewhere in Europe, for instance.”
  • By the way, there is room at Disney’s Animal Kingdom for an addition to Pandora: World of Avatar.

Africa & Lion King’s 30th Anniversary

Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Heading to Africa is an opportunity to talk about the celebration for the 30thanniversary of Disney Animation’s “The Lion King”. This will happen throughout the entire park from June 10 through Sept. 6. There is a whole new merchandise collection, items to eat, a Pumba popcorn bucket, meet ‘n’ greets with Rafiki and Timon in Conservation Station, plus an opportunity to practice drawing the characters in the Animation Experience.

Curiously, rumor has it that Walt Disney Studios Paris is considering a “Lion King” land to replace the initial idea of doing a Star Wars Land in that park around the lake. That said, a Star Wars addition is being considered also in the Disneyland Paris park.

Asia & Joe Rohde

Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

What is old is new again as former Imagineers like Bruce Vaughn return home to Imagineering and newer executives like Barbara Booz, who was president of the group, announcing that she was leaving. An instagram from Imagineering announced this about Joe Rohde.

“Beginning this week, Imagineers have an opportunity to participate in a series of master class work sessions led by Joe Rohde. Following in the footsteps of many former Imagineers, Joe continues to mentor and share his years of storytelling knowledge with current Imagineers, contributing to the future of creativity at Walt Disney Imagineering.”

Rohde will be honored as a Disney Legend in this upcoming D23 Ultimate Fan Event. Joe is known for his work on

  • Pleasure Island’s Adventurer’s Club
  • The creation of Disney’s Animal Kingdom
  • The establishment of Aulani in Hawaii
  • The development of Pandora: World of Avatar
  • The change over of Tower of Terror at DCA to Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout
  • He is so celebrated that his likeness can be found in Tokyo’s Tower of Terror as Harrison Hightower

It is fascinating to hear Joe was deeply and philosophically about the details of Imagineering. As an example, consider how he was both fascinated and frustrated about how hair scrunchies were being left by guests at the top of Expedition Everest:

Joe is a right fit to teach Imagineering principles to other Imagineers. His portfolio is diverse and his accomplishments impressive.

Dinoland, Indiana Jones & Encanto

Permits filed for construction trailers occurred this last week, believed to be in conjunction with the plan to change Dinoland USA.

Animal Kingdom permit
Image by Disney.

Of course the assumption here is that this will be the plan shown most recently by Josh D’Amaro.

Here’s what I think may end up happening:

  • Because it is simply easier to install, and because the Officer Clawhauser is already developed as an animatronic, the new Zootopia attraction is most likely to arrive first. That could be as early as 2025.
  • Indiana Jones and much of the infrastructure that supports it (Former Restaurantosaurus and Chester & Hester’s Dinosaur Treasures) could open up one year later, or roughly two years from now in 2026. By the way, the animal of the day at Indy is…snakes. “Why does it have to be snakes?”
  • The carousel-like building is confusing, and could be many other things like the Rapunzel spinner style ride in Walt Disney Studios Paris. Not sure why a playground dig pit wouldn’t go well with Indiana Jones
  • The Encanto attraction is still yet to be defined, and because it is ground up, could likely not show up until 2027. My hope that in the same way that Mystic Manor is to Haunted Mansion, that the Casa Madrigal de Encanto could be to Mystic Manor. This could be an amazing attraction. Think Antonio with all those animals mixed with Bruno.
r/DisneyWorld - aerial view of a city with buildings and trees
Image by Disney.

All Things Encanto:

  • By. the way, an Encanto show is headed to Epcot this summer. It will be interesting to see the reception of this new show, which depends on how guests respond to the new outdoor CommuniCore stage.
  • This new limited-time show, “¡Celebración Encanto!” will run several times throughout the day and will be a sing-along to include two narrators as well as Mirabel and Bruno on the newly opened CommuniCore Plaza stage. 
  • The image of this attraction was not impressive, showed no seating (and few people attending), and really a sparse looking environment. All of this and it premieres outdoors during the summer.
  • It is likely we will have to wait for more details in the August D23 Ultimate Fan Event.
New limited-time show, “¡Celebración Encanto!”, at EPCOT
Image by Disney.

A Century of Powerful Disney Insights Book

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