‘Beyond Big Thunder Mountain’, Disney imagines whole new worlds

“Beyond Big Thunder Mountain” is the latest “Blue-Sky’ imagining of Disney’s creative department – and they have imagined whole new worlds for the Magic Kingdom park at Walt Disney World.

“Beyond Big Thunder Mountain” concept art

Among those worlds, Disney Imagineers revealed concepts for lands dedicated to the movies “Coco” and “Encanto,” plus an additional one for – wait for it, Disney fans – the Disney villains.

The concept lands were among the biggest potential developments to emerge from the annual D23 Expo convention in Anaheim, California, today, September 11, 2022.

Among an outpouring of news about new character appearances, attraction openings, the naming of Disney Cruise Line’s next ship – the Disney Treasure – and other resort and cruise news, the possibility of a major expansion of the Magic Kingdom came as a welcome surprise.

beyond big thunder mountain coco“Coco” expansion concept art

Under the heading of “A Boundless Future,” Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Josh D’Amaro introduced Creative Portfolio Executive at Walt Disney Imagineering Chris Beatty and Jennifer Lee, chief creative officer at Walt Disney Animation Studios, to talk about ideas for Dinoland at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and, more in depth, about the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad area of the Magic Kingdom’s Frontierland section.

D’Amaro explained, “This is way early in the creative process. It is what our Imagineers call ‘Blue Sky.’ But I want to be clear with everybody – we are not up here daydreaming. These things we are going to talk about are very real.

“They are very serious discussions I am having with our teams about the futures of our parks and experiences, and I want to touch on a couple of them today, and I want you to see behind that curtain a little bit.”

beyond big thunder mountain villains“Villains” expansion concept art

Beatty was the creative director for the Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland expansion in 2012, and D’Amaro referenced it, saying, “Up until right now, that was the largest expansion project in the Magic Kingdom’s history.”

And, Beatty insisted, “There are so many amazing stories yet to be told, lands yet to be explored. At Imagineering, we are always thinking about that comes next. And one of the concepts we are most excited about is this idea of new frontiers.

“Let me give you an example. Josh. Do you ever wonder, if you could travel to the other side of Big Thunder Mountain, what could be there? That’s what we are exploring.”

D’Amaro, Beatty, and Lee then unveiled a series of three conceptual images that built into one overarching artist’s rendering for a land that had three distinct sections:

“Coco” – An area dedicated to the movie set in the little town of Santa Cecilia, where they are celebrating Dia de los Muertos. “And what if we could climb aboard the back of Alebrije and fly into The Land of the Dead?” asked Beatty. “That’s what could be out there.”

“Encanto” – “And what if we do want to talk about Bruno?” queried Lee, setting the scene for an image of a section themed to the movie. “There are many of us at Disney animation who can’t wait to see more ‘Encanto’ in the parks. No one could bring a magical house to life like Disney Imagineering. What if you could step up to a door and discover your own magical gift?”


Disney Villains – “This is not planned anytime soon,” insisted D’Amaro, “but it’s something we know [our fans] talk about, and it’s always in the back of our minds – an area overrun by villains.” And Beatty agreed, unveiling an image that incorporated all three.

Naturally, there was no timeframe mentioned for any of the new concepts, but it would be highly unusual for Disney to reveal images of this type and then for there to be no follow-up.

And, with Universal Orlando well under way with construction for their Epic Universe park and hotels in 2025, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Disney decided to add something this dramatic to the Magic Kingdom by way of a little competition.