News Zootopia and Moana Blue Sky concepts for Disney's Animal Kingdom

Henry Mystic

Author of "A Manor of Fact"
We are entering a new territory—which is what people should’ve been complaining about—which is that IP’s won’t even remotely try to fit.

The new view Disney takes is that all they have to do is slap a film property and people will come. Their new approach is to make multiple smaller lands to cover more territory for their intellectual property without any subtly or regard for the park’s theme whatsoever.

This is evidenced by the Blue-Sky concepts (especially Animal Kingdom’s), the direction of Walt Disney Studios in Paris (which in fairness, has already been this way since it was done on the cheap), the conversion of Paradise Pier into Pixar Pier (this being the start of the present trend), the Disney Wish (egregiously so), Harmonious as a clip-show, the list goes on.

For all the people who complained about Iger, basically anything under him generally worked. He also did legitimately care about Cars Land and Buenavista Street fitting the connective tissue of DCA, etc. Shanghai Disneyland also indicated this new IP-centric approach but did it with, I would argue, to mostly great effect, and while different than Disney from before it's not inherently bad. It’s a fantastic park, but now they’re taking IPs to a whole new level.

The only questionable IPs over the last 10 years at WDW, whether they fit or not, has been Frozen and to a lesser extent Guardians & Moana at EPCOT. They still handled Guardians quite well by making a Big Bang Coaster in a Wonders of Xandar pavilion rather than a Marvel ride, and aesthetically it fits the area perfectly. Also, with the new direction of World Nature, if done right Journey of Water could fit too. The park was an outdated disaster and needed a complete change of direction to make it more unifying. Frozen is the type of IP ride I fear Tiana’s will take note from--let's all be happy everyone!! with no conflict--although Frozen is an outlier from the new rides and is also just a knee-jerk attraction and certainly not an entire land, so I don’t think that’s the best comparison. For a proper one, we need to look no further than the Potter-style lands they've been building starting with Avatar. I'm not even going to include New Fantasyland since it had its own design ethos, but I feel like the design language of NF worked great in the same way the Pandora-style Fantasy Springs in Tokyo looks; it also helps that they're both in a Fantasyland format; that being said, they're not 'ideal', but they do show an effective way to deliver multiple IPs.

Avatar land at Animal Kingdom was added and called ‘Pandora’ since the park is about conservation (in this case showing the effects of poor mining practices), man’s relationship to nature, and animals of past, present, and mythical (mythical creatures of an alien planet used to show biodiversity in this case), so they wanted to make a land about the moon featured in the movie and its environment instead of just making a land about the movie’s characters or plot points. Animal Kingdom doesn't have to all be about edutainment, but FoP tried that approach in the queue to great effect. The rides are just about the environments—one is flying on what is effectively a dragon and seeing an alien moon and the other is a boat ride through it. It’s not about action or a war—the thrill (especially for FoP) comes merely from the experience itself as flying on a dragon should be--it also avoids sensory overload for this reason. Pandora of course received rave reviews and attendance went up by ~12% its first year, and you can tell there was so much artistry behind it without even knowing the legendary leadership of Joe Rhode and James Cameron made it come to life. It fits Animal Kingdom like a glove regardless of if people like Avatar or not; Pandora could easily have been an original idea for the park. That’s how IPs should be used; it benefited the park by existing as it was such a perfect pairing in execution. This is true for really every park but Hollywood Studios, where the lands are fully self-contained and about the films themselves.

While not to the perfection of Pandora, Cars Land is another example of a fantastic IP land as well as the two Potter lands. I think Galaxy’s Edge has the largest scale overall; however, it’s the most flawed out of all of them from a design standpoint but that’s another discussion. GE is still a fully immersive land that has you in it. Contrast that with…lands that scream an IP instead of just you in a physical world. You shouldn't be reminded of it, it's merely the story that was chosen to tell or the place you are at. A land should be effective with or without an IP. Disney is using the world ‘storytelling’ incorrectly by equating it with any random IP they have in their catalogue as if that’s all it takes. To say that’s a surface level view is an understatement, but knowing people in the media industry, this vantage point is consuming every executive. While there are objective benefits and monetary value to IP, they are still misunderstanding why people like their theme park product specifically (which, is an IP in of itself). Movies like Top Gun: Maverick are killing it because of quality, and that's even more true of theme park rides/lands because it's not a one-off product; it lasts likely decades or longer meaning you have to get it right, and it is easier to than a film.

The potential Blue-Sky lands that were just announced for Animal Kingdom with Moana and Zootopia seem so lazy and just throw some characters around without any relation to each other or the park itself.

Zootopia’s story is an allegory for racism filled with animals that act like people, have jobs like people, and live in an urban city like people; with nothing to do with conservation, they are the ‘man’, so they have no relationship with nature, and they’re not actually animals past, present, or future since they’re… well humans.

While Lion King isn’t an ‘ideal’ fit, the film still has a message that warned against overconsumption, and of course, the animals are still supposed to be animals living in Africa (its Hamlet plot has no relation to the fact that they’re still supposed to be in a literal pride in Africa). The Lion King is not literally just people as animals, so it could lend itself better to a ride at Animal Kingdom (and I’d be totally okay with this). It’s certainly not a perfect solution like Pandora, but it’s okay in that it would at least try to fit. Lion King could be used to connect to the mission statement, but they could also have no connection and end up like Zootopia probably will, but it has a better footing. Pandora could’ve easily been a land with rides featuring the characters from the film focusing on a war between humans and the Na’vi, and that would also not fit. If it was Universal (or at HWS), Pandora would have probably been about a military base and the conflict based on or around the movies, but it was designed for Animal Kingdom (and is likely better because of it). Zootopia could theoretically not as effectively follow that path, but we're seeing a shift away from even trying which doesn't bode well for an IP that fits as well as Buzz Lightyear would at AK, and that's the truth. Its only remote association is that it has animals... that happen to be humans (this is coming from someone who likes the movie a lot!).

Even Moana, while having nothing to do with Animals, could have an ocean conservation angle. The better way to do this would be to have a Pacific land that just ‘happens’ to have a subtle Moana ride tying in some way (doesn’t have to be heavy-handed) to the park’s theme rather than a Moana land. Not perfect, but not the worst either. An Indiana Jones ride as part of a South America land focused on paleontology could work too, and probably better since its more grounded in realism like the park. These are attempts to fit. I doubt they have any plans to make Moana fit and Zootopia inherently doesn’t have any real way of fitting. It's also worth mentioning that they are likely trying to pool younger kids from MK to AK, sort of how they wanted to attract teens/young adults with Guardians to EPCOT. While that's fine in theory, they're going about it the wrong way. Additionally, why even consider another outdoor ride for a park that's full of them? Leave that for HWS & EPCOT. AK needs an indoor ride like a Mystic Manor, and perhaps a Slinky Dog level coaster to round it out. You keep the Boneyard & Dinosaur as is and create a new land in the other areas around Dinoland and you could have a more cost-effective, theme-friendly, rain-proof, mass-appeal area.

What’s going on—with Zootopia as exhibit A—is there’s a push to have the park’s sole purpose be to cross-promote the brands without any regard for a theme park’s sense of place. There is nothing wrong with cross-promoting the brand using IP’s, and this forums anti-IP crusade has the right idea but has its eyes set on the wrong target.

I hate to sound cliche but it’s the mass-market, brainless entertainment approach to IP vs the more artsy (Martin Scorsese would disagree lol) approach the parks have taken for decades, and that’s even as they were still focused on money, they still at least tried. Even recently, they have at least tried too (with Pandora the shining example). It’s a boardroom taking over the creative design process entirely it seems.

If the parks now have zero care for mission statements or themed consistency, then the parks as an art form will be permanently tarnished. One of my complaints with Universal is their lack of a park theme, but all their new lands are flawless as individual worlds. My guess is that will remain true for Epic Universe. I’m not confident Disney will even care about the lands themselves anymore much less an entire park like Animal Kingdom which will only cheapen the parks when any addition should be adding to them (again, you may disagree, but the recent additions have plussed them in a huge way overall).

And I don’t want to say the standards are so low because they’re frankly not. The level of investment up until COVID (but including the rides under construction during it) in WDW for instance hasn’t been seen since the 80’s. The parks are in better shape, perhaps besides MK, then they have ever, or at least certainly for EPCOT’s abysmal last 20 years, been while HWS and AK are leaps better than before. We’ve been in a ride and themed land renaissance and have been taking it for granted. Would it be nice if they all weren’t IP’s? Yes. Has it been perfect? No, but my belief is that what they’ve done as a whole fit in the lands they're in and have tried to fit in the parks. Even when it was questionable like Guardians, they still attempted to what's mostly a success.

They told everyone today that they don’t care anymore. Not a little. Absolutely zero. They don't care about themed design, and they clearly don't care about their fans. Look no further than the Figment bait for a meet and greet they did (because people will go crazy for it like a popcorn bucket!). I mean, they didn't even mention Spaceship Earth or Play!

I’m not saying every decision has been perfect. GMR to Mickey was explicitly a bad move, but I’m concerned that there is legitimately zero regard for place making entire lands now unlike single attraction mistake like that--that still fit, however.

Just look at DCA, it was transformed into a legit park with a mission statement about California, and now only under Chapek as parks head has it been chipped away even going so far as to convince Iger himself to change the California Screamin’ to Incredicoaster. I don’t think Mission: Breakout was a thematic disaster (saved by the one and only Joe Rhode... just look at Webslingers for a ride without his touch) given Avengers: Campus coming later, but the land still hurt the park’s theme overall. Over the last few years, the other projects like TRON, Ratatouille, Mickey, or to a lesser extent Guardians have all tried to fit, but Pixar Pier marked the start of this shift we’re now seeing play out with random IP’s thrown about. It also creates an issue where you're visiting a 'theme park' instead of being transported to somewhere else. The only park where this would be acceptable is EPCOT since you're actually supposed to visit a World's Fair. Since Pixar Pier (that had *some* good ideas), Chapek has purged the ranks of people loyal to Iger and changed the mindset over in parks, experiences, and products. While I blame Chapek more than D’Amaro, and Iger, they're also culpable.

Just imagine if MK’s blue-sky land was dreamt up to be like a Liberty Square with an agnostic theme but to a time period instead of individual IP’s, and then you had a Coco ride within the land and the Casita from Encanto looming over part of the land like The Haunted Mansion. While not flawless, it’s at least an attempt to create a cohesive land and fit better within MK. I’ll give Disneyland’s Galaxy’s Edge a pass since Star Wars is such a part of Americana now, but this is food for thought, and as a fan, it has me extremely concerned that this art form may actually be on the way out. Not like a little bit, or marginally, but actually in its entirety.

Sorry for the ramble, but hopefully it summarizes my thoughts on the matter on this transition from attempting to fit IP’s to absolutely not caring whatsoever.
 
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Captain Neo

Well-Known Member
Of course it should be this, but then there would be no need for an IP mandate at all. You certainly don't need IP for a great ride design (and I'd argue having to use IP actually makes it harder due to existing constraints).

The IP mandate implies popular IP (or something they expect to be popular). They aren't going to greenlight a Rescuers ride even if it was the most impressive design in years.
they green lit tron and that movie flopped TWICE!
 

doctornick

Well-Known Member
I’ve always been of the mind that not every attraction in DAK has to explicitly focus on animals and nature. I mean the park as a whole should certainly but an individual attraction more importantly needs to fit its land and surroundings. So I’m okay if we get an Oceana land that has the Nemo show and the Moana stuff as long as it is all designed to fit together. Surely it will be nice if the flume ride has some elements of man’s relationship with the oceans and animal life there but it doesn’t have to be the main thrust.

Of course what would help is if they added some animal exhibits as well to compliment. Even just a few Australian animals would be nice (or maybe New Zealand specifically to tie it more in with Polynesia if desired) on a smaller trail.
 

LSLS

Well-Known Member
I think it's 100% execution. Moana and Tefiti clearly have incredible connection to the water and life. They could 100% be guides/ambassadors to those creatures. The focus needs to be on the nature, not the characters.

That's where my extreme doubt comes in. There are several ways to do it very well. I have no faith current Disney would accomplish that given what we've been seeing recently story-wise. It would be a Moana attraction. Not a nature-focused attraction that uses Moana characters as a conduit. The characters will always upstage the alleged "story" to make it fit into its surroundings.
How could you not have faith with the exceptional job they did tying Cosmic Rewind into the theme of Epcot? It's like you don't even want to be educated in how to fight a giant space monster in super hero space.
 

doctornick

Well-Known Member
And more importantly from a theme park integration perspective, they both looked dope.
Which is kind of my point. Tron is a great IP for a theme park attraction even if the movies aren’t really all that popular. I’d rather see a great attraction based on an obscure (or no) IP than awkwardly fitting in something themed to a popular IP just to get park representation (looking at you Frozen)
 

UNCgolf

Well-Known Member
Which is kind of my point. Tron is a great IP for a theme park attraction even if the movies aren’t really all that popular. I’d rather see a great attraction based on an obscure (or no) IP than awkwardly fitting in something themed to a popular IP just to get park representation (looking at you Frozen)

Yeah, me too, but they just aren't going to do that with the current IP mandate.
 

doctornick

Well-Known Member
They didn't really flop, but beyond that, it's because it was a clone from Shanghai. They wouldn't have designed a new TRON ride from scratch for the Magic Kingdom that they were just building now.
Which of course explains their interest in building Zootopia in WDW as well.


They just should be doing it as a new build and in DHS not DAK.
 

MagicHappens1971

Well-Known Member
A conversation I just had with my little sister lol
 

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MagicHappens1971

Well-Known Member
No one has said 2025. It’s blue sky. Has NOT been green lit. The earliest anything could open would be 2027
Someone in this thread said 2025. It’s highly probable if they start construction end of this year/early next year. It would be a retheme of Triceratop Spin, Resturantasorus, and then razing the Boneyard, and plopping a show building in its place.
 

doctornick

Well-Known Member
No one has said 2025. It’s blue sky. Has NOT been green lit. The earliest anything could open would be 2027
@ToTBellHop indicated that the Moana area may already be approved and might be done for a 2025 target opening. That seems to only be replacing the Dinorama area - retheming the spinner and building the water ride kinda where PW used to be. It’s not like Disney to work that “fast” but it’s entirely possible for that timeframe to work if they wanted.
 

ToTBellHop

Well-Known Member
No one has said 2025. It’s blue sky. Has NOT been green lit. The earliest anything could open would be 2027
Simply untrue. They will not let 2025 and 2026 pass without a major addition. This is literally the most eligible spot in all of WDW since it is in a currently-used guest area, it’s cleared, it’s ready to go, and it is in the park that is next in line for an addition.

2027, we’d be talking about Zootopia if it is built and the MK expansion being well under way. Those ideas are aspirational but I’d expect something in MK this decade.
 

UNCgolf

Well-Known Member
Which of course explains their interest in building Zootopia in WDW as well.


They just should be doing it as a new build and in DHS not DAK.

Absolutely.

The potential saving grace is that I think the Shanghai Zootopia attraction is a different ride system, so they wouldn't be able to just copy everything over. They could decide it's not worth the cost.
 

doctornick

Well-Known Member
So anyone have any ideas as to what the vehicles are for the Moana spinner? Or the basic concept? It looks like they are barrels to me but that doesn’t make sense I don’t think
 

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