“Long live the King!” Rumors of expansion at the Animal Kingdom are in full bloom. It’s like we’re heading into spring or something? We’re counting on you Dunkirk Dave (Punxsutawney Phil’s Canadian cousin), don’t let us down, you said early spring! Recently, we’ve heard inclinations of a new Zootopia Land and now we’re hearing about a potential Lion King ride roaring into the Animal Kingdom. With tons of land around the park, the Animal Kingdom has plenty of areas for new attractions and expansion. Let’s head over to Pride Rock to see if Simba is packing his bags for Florida. Keep an eye out for stampeding wildebeest, ain’t nobody got time for that!
Year of the Lion
Simba and the rest of The Lion King crew are celebrating their 25th birthday! From this day forward they will always be “25”. Birthday’s don’t exist after 25, right? All-around the Animal Kingdom you’ll find a variety of activities centered around the classic movie that we reviewed in another article. In conjunction with everything in parks, Disney will be releasing the live-action version of The Lion King on July 19th. Everybody look left, everybody look right, what do you see? That’s right the Lion King!
Rumor Has It
Could there be a better Intellectual Property (IP) for Animal Kingdom than The Lion King? We think not! A Lion King ride has been rumored to be coming to the park going on 4 years. Back in 2014 marni1971 (a well known Disneyphile insider), shared that Disney was working on a new dark ride (similar to Winnie the Pooh) themed around the Lion King. The project never moved forward, and Disney Imagineering efforts were put towards other projects, like Pandora.
Fast forward 5 years and the rumor is back and appears a little stronger than previously. There are reports that the project has a faint green light and could see traction after the release of the live action version of the Lion King in July. The project design for a new Lion King Ride is still looking like a dark ride, with the exact details on the ride mechanism is still up in the area.
Lion King Land?
With the addition of Pandora World of Avatar, Disney added a brand new pathway connecting the new area to the Africa section. The first attraction you come upon walking from Pandora to Africa is the Festival of the Lion King show. Just before coming upon Festival of the Lion King is a potential area that could be used for a new attraction or restaurant. This would be the perfect location for the new Lion King ride.
Behind the pathway is just parking lots and access roads that Disney is known to move when needed. Walt Disney World did a similar thing when adding theRatatouille expansion in Epcot. This would be the perfect spot to expand the Africa section of the park with a Lion King mini-land.
Passholder Insights: We would recommend not getting a FastPass+ for Festival of the Lion King. Instead head over to the show about 45 minutes prior to the start time and you should be able to get in on most days. Cast members let you in the theater about 30 minutes prior to the show starting.
Green Light, Red Light
Disney does tons of testing before ever green-lighting any type of new attraction for the parks. For example, the testing they’re doing for Coco at Epcot. The green light for a Lion King ride could hinge on two things: first, the success of the live-action movie. Early reports from the test audiences are showing the movie will be a huge success. The second could be how much guests interact with the new Lion King activities scattered around the park. This is not confirmed but is similar to how Disney likes to test the use of different IPs.
We won’t know for certain if a new Lion King ride will be built or not, but we’re crossing our fingers it does. Animal Kingdom is a great park, but it could use a few more attractions for kids to enjoy. We believe The Lion King fits the themeing of the park well and is an IP that has the nostalgic feel all Disneyphiles enjoy.
If we had to guess when an announcement would occur we would say sometime either at D23 or more than likely for 2021 during the 50th anniversary. Disney is expected to make a lot of announcements around expansion at the Animal Kingdom during this big year. Until then, Hakuna Matata!