Disney Unveils Plans For Expansion
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) _ The Walt Disney Co. announced plans today to build a fourth theme park, Disney’s Wild Animal Kingdom, featuring wild animals in a setting twice the size of Epcot Center.
Walt Disney Chairman Michael Eisner called the new park ``a celebration of animals that ever or never existed,″ at a news conference this morning.
Disney had held off making a formal commitment to the $760 million-plus project largely because of declining attendance, but Eisner said today attendance has been rebounding.
``We don’t feel our business is anything but extremely strong. Walt Disney World is having a banner year.″ Eisner said.
The centerpiece of the park is The Tree of Life, which will be larger than Spaceship Earth at Epcot Center. The Tree of Life will be made up of a swirl of animal images.
The company already has cleared a huge area for the park on property west of Disney-MGM studios and Blizzard Beach. Work at the site came to a halt earlier this year, but sources said it likely will resume immediately. That would put the park on track to open in about three years.
The 500-acre animal park will include the sort of high-tech thrill rides found in other Disney parks. But the new theme park also aims to deliver lessons on conservation and wildlife protection, both in its rides and through research and other programs.
The park would ultimately include themed ``lands″ connected by a central hub: Africa, which takes visitors on a mock safari; The Beastly Kingdom, focusing on mythological creatures; and Dinoland, an area with dinosaurs as the theme.