Walt Disney World is one of the most popular places to vacation in the world. With 4 full-scale theme parks at its disposal, it is no wonder that people travel from all over the world for the amazing experience of attending one or more of these parks. With 4 theme parks, two water parks, plus numerous other attractions, such as Fantasia Mini Golf and Disney Quest on Resort Property, one would think that the crowds would disperse nicely and easily all around the resort. In truth, this is absolutely false. Even with constantly raising ticket prices, extras to get into hard ticket events like “Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party”, and ever climbing airfare and gasoline rates, people are still flocking so The Happiest Place on Earth at record numbers. Perhaps most interesting (and most troubling for Imagineers, the people behind the Disney Parks) is that the crowds are steadily increasing year after year, which means that even the slowest seasons are becoming unbearably crowded. The crowds cause 3 hour ride lines and force the parks to be shut down due to being at maximum capacity. This sort of thing can lead to unhappy guests, unhappy cast members, and an unhappy environment. As you can see in the chart below, attendance is steadily rising every year. Even with raising ticket prices, people from all over the world are flocking to Walt Disney World in record numbers. Eventually, the parks will get too full to hold all these people.
So what’s the solution?
For several years, Disney has raised their ticket prices. Undeterred, guests have still entered the parks at record- breaking rates. As you can see from the chart included in this post, Magic Kingdom is by far the most popular park, well on its way to doubling the attendance rates of both Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. Even for those two parks, attendance was over 10 MILLION in 2013. Since it’s only gone up in the last five years, one can predict it will continue to do so. In which case, we are going to need somewhere to put these people. Where better than a fifth amusement park? When one looks at the numbers, it is clear that Magic Kingdom is by far the most popular. We can see from this that guests like the Magic, the castle, the fairytales, etc. So, how can that be integrated into a fifth park, while making it different enough from the Magic Kingdom?
The answer: The Dark Kingdom.
Of all the rumors going around for potential expansion ideas, this one is by far the fan favorite (and my own). There is a great article on the Dis Boards right now about the potential for this park and what it would entail.
A lot of people wonder why the park never took off. Here’s a great forum listing the reasons why not
Essentially, the Dark Kingdom would be the Magic Kingdom turned on its head. Instead of Cinderella’s (or Aurora’s, if you’re thinking Disneyland) castle in the center, Maleficent’s castle would reign above the park. Rides, attractions, and eateries based on the likes of Captain Hook, Ursula, Scar, and the evil Stepsisters would populate the park. The Dark Kingdom once seemed like a very real possible idea of the Imagineers, but has recently been put on that back burner for projects like Avatarland at Animal Kingdom and whatever they are closing things in preparation for at Hollywood studios (quite honestly, likely Star Wars Land).
It sure isn’t for a lack of space that Disney has kept the Dark Kingdom from becoming reality. Read this great discussion of how much unused land exists and what could be done with it.
The Dark Kingdom has been extremely popular with fans. Any time it is brought up on a forum like the ones I’ve linked to throughout this post or a comment thread it seems to explode with life- with those both vehemently for and vehemently against the park. Some think it would be too much for one park. Mothers of young children worry it would be “too scary,” even though young children aren’t the intended audience for this park. Although the Dark Kingdom never went into development, people have begun to get anxious to see it built, especially with the recent announcement of the already unpopular Avatarland and the depleted look of Hollywood Studios (for now) people have started turning back to this old concept. I personally think this would do really well. People love patterns and parallels. Having a Dark version of Magic Kingdom would add a lot for families with older children (who are increasing in attendance every year) and spark interest in those who haven’t been for awhile. Recently, villain merchandise has really taken off in stores, everything from new makeup lines to villain centric events in the parks (Villains Unleashed) have been embraced. It’s time to build the Dark Kingdom, Disney. They’ve got the idea, they’ve got the support, now all they need is the guts.
P.S. Here are two forums where the Dark Kingdom was discussed within the last few years. It is interesting to see people’s different stances on it (and the conflicting information people seem to believe surrounding it):