Is Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Getting a Massive Expansion?

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Will Magic Kingdom’s Beyond Big Thunder expansion soon see the light of day?

Josh D’Amaro (Chairman of Disney Experiences, including theme parks) teased major park expansions at both Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom at the D23 Expo in 2023. The Magic Kingdom Expansion was referred to as “Beyond Big Thunder”, hinting at its likely location. It was said to feature attractions inspired by Pixar’s Coco, Disney’s Encanto, and a Villain’s Kingdom area. 

But the announcement was fairly vague and lacking in specifics. As a result, many critical Disney fans dismissed the announcement as no more than a public brainstorming session. 

Cinderella's Castle and Walkway
Big changes could soon be underway for Disney World’s Magic Kingdom (photo by Morgan Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

What we know so far

There are a couple of big moves made by the Walt Disney Company in the last couple of years that lend credence to the park expansion announcement. These included a change in leadership, followed by an announcement of massive investment in the parks over the next decade.

Let’s discuss what we know about the Magic Kingdom park expansion, including its location, timeline, and theme. 

Back in 2022, Disney made a Bob Swap. It was a second Bob Swap. The first one happened when Bob Iger retired as CEO in late February 2020. His hand-selected successor, Bob Chapek took over the company just a few weeks before a global pandemic forced the parks into unprecedented extended closures. 

Less than three years later in October 2022, Bob Chapek was ousted and Bob Iger returned. Keep in mind that Disney Parks executed huge ambitious projects at its parks during Iger’s previous tenure. Disney acquired Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm. They opened parks in Hong Kong and Shanghai and launched Disney+. The additions of Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge dramatically transformed Hollywood Studios. New Fantasyland opened in Magic Kingdom and Pandora opened in Animal Kingdom. 

Perhaps it’s an unfair comparison given that Chapek was leading the company through a pandemic. Either way, it’s safe to say that with Iger back at the helm, Disney looked likely to continue pursuing big projects like park expansions. Then in September 2023, they announced $60 billion worth of investment in Parks, Experiences, and Products over the next 10 years. There’s room in that budget for some large-scale projects like park expansions such as Beyond Big Thunder.

There is room for an expansion behind Big Thunder Mountain about the size of Fantasyland (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

When and where will it open?

The most likely spot for the expansion is the 17-acre area behind Big Thunder Mountain and Tom Sawyer Island. This area is bordered by the current railroad tracks and Grand Floridian Way. That’s about the size of Fantasyland. This area would provide plenty of room for multiple attractions, both quick service and table service restaurants, and even a large amphitheater housing a show. 

Such a large-scale project will span multiple years. The work in this area is unlikely to begin in earnest until later in 2024 after the Tiana’s Bayou Adventure and Country Bear Jamboree projects are complete. That being said, the expansion could open as soon as 2028. We should have more information later in 2024 about Disney’s plans for 2025. That will give fans a better idea of what to expect in terms of a timeline for the Beyond Big Thunder expansion.

What attractions are you most excited to see there? Let us know in the comments below.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kirby Russell

Kirby Russell is a freelance contributor for TheSmokies.com LLC – the parent company of TheSmokies.com and HeyOrlando.com.

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