What’s Beyond Big Thunder Mountain at Magic Kingdom?

We want you to get the most out of your ‘luxury villa’ stay in Solterra, Davenport (near Championsgate and just south of the Disney World Resort area). To help out, we have sourced the following blog post to keep you up to date with news from Walt Disney World Resort. Thanks to the guys over at Blog Mickey for the original post...

With the announcement that Walt Disney Imagineering is exploring concepts for the largely undeveloped northwest corner of Magic Kingdom. The concepts presented included Coco, Encanto, and Disney Villains. The concepts are in the “Blue Sky” phase, which means that its still early in the development process, but Josh D’Amaro was clear: these ideas are not “daydreams” and are, in fact, “very real conversations” within Imagineering.

Before we start to take a look at what Disney could do, here’s a look at the concept art released by Disney for the “Beyond Big Thunder” project. In the concept, we can see a Mexican city in the area immediately behind Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and then Encanto further along in the distance in the upper right side of the image. In the extreme background (top) of the concept, we can see a Villains-themed area that is hardly defined at all.

When we were compiling our D23 Expo wishlist, one of the things we were hoping for was an announcement that Disney World would expand Frontierland. Simply put, the busiest theme park in the world has a lot of “unused” acreage that is ripe for expansion. So, when Disney announced the Beyond Big Thunder project, we were excited to see that this area of the park will be developed. That said, while we called the area “unused”, that isn’t exactly true. Perhaps “underutilized” is a better way of framing the roughly 15.5 acres of Tom Sawyer Island and the Rivers of America area inside the Walt Disney World Railroad perimeter. For context, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is roughly 14 acres. If the Railroad isn’t considered, there could be up to 26 acres of underutilized space in the northwest corner of Magic Kingdom.

Today, we wanted to take a look at what’s beyond Big Thunder Mountain Railroad by taking a lap on the Liberty Square Riverboat.

As we pass the buttes of Big Thunder Mountain, we get a look at what is perhaps the biggest question mark about the entire project – the logistics of walking past Big Thunder Mountain. Currently, the north side of Big Thunder Mountain has a small show scene but critically serves as backstage access for the Liberty Square Riverboat. Past the bridge pictured below is a backstage area that leads out to Seven Seas Lagoon where the Riverboat can continue on to a marina for maintenance. We’ll speculate on how Disney could connect the “Beyond Big Thunder” project to Magic Kingdom in a bit.

As we continue along the river, greenery takes over and we leave the hustle and bustle of Magic Kingdom behind. For the next 10 minutes, we pass various channel markers as we twist and turn through the Rivers of America. To the starboard side, a smoking log cabin can be seen on Tom Sawyer Island before heavy vegetation takes over.

In the distance, an Indian village can be seen, but before we make it there, we pass by Beacon Joe and the Alligator Swamp hut.

A deserted Indian village can be seen on the port side, and moose can be seen on the starboard side.

The major show scene along the back of the Rivers of America is an Indian village.

Passing by the Indian village, it’s mostly more greenery until we hit Tom Sawyers Island again.

As we start to make our way back to the hustle and bustle of Magic Kingdom, we couldn’t help but to start thinking about how the “Beyond Big Thunder” project might come together, and a bridge that splits Tom Sawyer Island looks like a good place to start.

Thanks to a few recent draining refurbishments of the Rivers of America, we all know that the Liberty Square Riverboat runs on a track. This track has been rebuilt a few times over the years, and the process looks incredibly simple – relatively speaking. If we were to see a reconfiguration of the Rivers of America to accomodate the Beyond Big Thunder project, we could see Disney using the bridge above as a good area to create a smaller circle that keeps the Liberty Square Riverboat, and a portion of Tom Sawyer Island, while also creating enough space to bring Coco and Encanto to Magic Kingdom in the next decade or so.

If we take a look at the digital map of Magic Kingdom, we could see a scenario where the area north of the Tom Sawyer Island bridge gets filled in and developed, while keeping a shortened loop for the Liberty Square Riverboat. Disney could even use the Beyond Big Thunder project to create a walking bridge to Tom Sawyer Island to remove reliance on the rafts. If we really wanted to continue to speculate, Tom Sawyer might be a property that Disney won’t want to be associated with in the future, and they could transform the remaining south island into the Tiana’s Palace restaurant, but we’re getting a bit off topic.

In short, while there is certainly a quiet quaintness to the Rivers of America, it is woefully underutilized right now and we hope that D’Amaro is able to deliver on the Blue Sky concept of developing the area beyond Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Magic Kingdom.

As always, keep checking back with us here at BlogMickey.com as we continue to bring you the latest news, photos, and info from around the Disney Parks!

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