Disney Takes Steps for Magic Kingdom Expansion Beyond Big Thunder Mountain

The theme park wars may be starting, and it has the same energy as when Commissioner Gordon told Batman about escalation before handing him the Joker card. Universal Studios, which is now called Universal Orlando but is still really Universal Studios, is working on its Epic Universe, a massive expansion featuring immersive rides and attractions based on some of Universal’s most popular properties, like Harry Potter, the Universal Monsters, and How to Train Your Dragon. Now comes word that Disney World is working on an expansion of its own. The website Disney Food Blog has exclusively learned that Disney is making moves to break ground on a project they’ve been talking about for a while. Called the “blue sky” project and “Beyond Big Thunder Mountain” (the latter because of the planned location) in different stages, the plan is to significantly expand The Magic Kingdom with a series of “lands” (not unlike the Epic Universe’s “worlds;” I know Disney already uses “land” in its areas, but the setup sounds similar to Universal’s)  based on various Disney themes, with rumors of Coco, Encanto, and Disney villains being among them. Well, this week, Walt Disney Imagineering had an event where it was announced that Disney would soon “file permits for storm drainage and other foundational work” for the area where construction is planned. It’s still in the early stages, but there is movement, and more Disney is likely coming to Orlando.

I guess this is why Disney gave up on its legal war with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Considering the financial trouble they’re in, they’ve got to get started on whatever projects they think are going to make them money, and a Disney World expansion would certainly be one of them. It’s also becoming clear why they enlisted one of their most successful Imagineers to train the next generation. Despite my intro, I have no idea if this is really a response to Universal’s Epic Universe or if they had planned this for a while, and the coincidence is entirely coincidental. But Universal had to have been planning the Epic Universe for some time; that video of the How to Train Your Dragon – Isle of Berk world shows that a lot of progress has been made, and the Epic Universe is scheduled to open in 2025. Disney, meanwhile, hasn’t even filed any permits yet. Nevertheless, it’s hard not to see the park expansions as competitors with each other, and since Universal is ahead of Disney and their attractions look pretty cool, the pressure is on the Mouse House right now. That means they’d better stop doing dumb things like calling Splash Mountain racist and letting bearded men walk around dressed as fairy princesses and start embracing fun and families. Hopefully (and it’s a lot of hope… a whole, big lot of hope), Disney will step up, and tourists will have two great parks to choose from – or split their time between – in a few years. Competition breeds innovation, and the biggest winner is the customer. Well, usually; maybe not when Disney is involved.

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