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Why Adding Zootopia To Disney's Animal Kingdom Doesn't Make Sense, And Why It's Probably Going To Happen Anyway

 Judy and Nick looking somber in Zootopia
Judy and Nick looking somber in Zootopia

Walt Disney World’s multiyear project to update half of Epcot is almost complete, and once that happens, odds are the focus at the resort is going to shift over to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. That park has a long-ignored area, Dinoland U.S.A., that we’ve already been told is slated for replacement. What we don’t know for sure is just what we’ll get, though at this point it seems like the smart money is on a Zootopia-themed land.

On its face, a Zootopia Land may seem like it makes a lot of sense. It’s a movie about animals, and this is inside Disney’s Animal Kingdom. However, I’d argue that the movie doesn’t lend itself to that park nearly as well as it may seem. There’s a pretty good chance that we’ll be getting a definitive answer to the future of Animal Kingdom very soon, and it will probably be Zootopia, even though it really shouldn’t be.

Tree of Life at Disney's Animal Kingdom
Tree of Life at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Disney's Animal Kingdom Is Getting Ready To Replace A Whole Land

Dinoland U.S.A. has been a strange part of Disney’s Animal Kingdom since the park’s inception. While the rest of the theme park was inspired by living animals of today, Dinoland was inspired by those that were extinct. While the Countdown to Extinction attraction, simply called Dinosaur today, is still one of the best rides at Animal Kingdom, the rest of the area was given over to midway-style games that have never felt at home at Disney Parks.

Replacing Dinoland U.S.A. with something a bit more fitting is the right move. The area needs something to breathe new life into it, and while losing Dinosaur would be unfortunate, it’s the price that we may need to pay so that we get something new here. We know that something new is coming, we just don't know when it will be here or what exactly it will be.

Nick taunting Judy in Zootopia
Nick taunting Judy in Zootopia

Zootopia Is One Of The Ideas Being Considered To Replace Dinoland

At the D23 Expo in 2022, Disney did something a bit unusual at the panel dedicated to news about the Parks. The final portion of the presentation wasn’t about what was coming to Disney Parks, but what might come to them. A discussion of Dinoland U.S.A. did take place, but rather than simply announcing a new plan for the area, two different ideas were suggested: one was Zootopia, the other was Moana.

Of the two, Zootopia already seemed like the more likely scenario. Moana was already in line to get an attraction at Epcot, while there was not yet anything related to Zootopia at Walt Disney World, or Disneyland Resort for that matter.

Judy Hopps in Zootopia
Judy Hopps in Zootopia

Disney's Animal Kingdom’s Theme Is Conservation, Not Animal Life

The problem with Zootopia at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is that while the park is full of animals, and so is Zootopia, that’s not really what Animal Kingdom is ultimately about. The ethos of Animal Kingdom is one of conservation of nature, and while Zootopia is a fantastic movie with a core story that is absolutely worth celebrating, the story is about human issues of systemic inequality, not conservation.

While there is a predator/prey dynamic in Zootopia, the film is an allegory for humanity's problems with itself, not humanity’s interactions with the animal kingdom. The mere idea of building a Zootopia land, when Zootopia is a city that would encroach on the animals that exist at Animal Kingdom, goes largely against the concepts of the park as conceived.

There's a place for Zootopia at Disney Parks, even someplace at Walt Disney World, but Animal Kingdom is the wrong place for it. Even Pandora: The World of Avatar, as much as it may seem out of place with its alien creatures, is ultimately telling a story about conservation and why it's important to protect nature. That's why it works. The previously mentioned Moana idea is at least closer to the mark, as that is a movie that deals with a threat to the natural world.

Nick Wilde in Zootopia
Nick Wilde in Zootopia

A Zootopia Land Is Already On The Way In One Disney Park

And yet, it seems like a pretty sure bet that a Zootopia land could be coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The best evidence of this is the fact that a Zootopia land is already in development at Shanghai Disney Resort.

We recently got a glimpse of what is coming to the new land, including a Zootopia attraction, Hot Pursuit, that appears to use a Rise of the Resistance-style ride system for a trackless dark ride. While the current Dinosaur attraction uses a traditional track, it’s not hard to imagine the Dinosaur building being upgraded and retrofitted for something like this, even if it ends up being a smaller version of the attraction.

At the end of the day, building the same land twice is cheaper than building new lands everywhere. In just the past five years, we’ve seen two versions of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and two versions of Avengers Campus, as well as two planned World of Frozen lands, all planned at different parks. It’s becoming more rare to see unique lands appear in one park that don’t appear anywhere else.

We also know that Disney has big plans for Zootopia as a franchise. Another Zootopia movie is in development, which isn't a shock considering the first one made $1 billion. Zootopia was a massive hit, especially overseas, and you can’t discount the importance of overseas tourism to Walt Disney World when it comes to what Disney Parks may be considering for the future.

On Saturday morning at the Destination D23 event, there will be a presentation from Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products, and it will be an absolute shock if we don’t hear more about the plans for Dinoland U.S.A. At this point, it seems like almost a foregone conclusion that Zootopiua will be the new land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. As a fan of the movie and somebody who believes it’s a truly special film that deals with real issues in a way few animated Disney films do, I would love to visit Zootopia. I just feel like it belongs in another park.