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Maleficent's Castle

Walt Disney World offers a huge amount to do for visitors to the Orlando area. It boasts four theme parks, two water parks, an entertainment district and numerous other attractions. And, of course, visitors to the resort may also stray off-site, taking in Universal Orlando's two theme parks, Wet 'n Wild Orlando, SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica, LEGOLAND Florida or Busch Gardens Tampa. Still, that hasn't stopped speculation over the years that Disney will eventually look to further expand its Florida resort by adding a fifth theme park. It certainly has the room - less than 34 percent of its 25,000 acres has been developed. Not all of the remainder is suitable for construction, but several potential areas large enough to hold a full theme park do exist. The Magic Kingdom opened in 1971. EPCOT Center followed in 1982, and Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney's Hollywood Studios) debuted seven years later. Disney's Animal Kingdom opened in 1998. So, for the first three decades of its existence, Walt Disney World opened a new theme park approximately every 9 years. It's now 2014 - 16 years since the last park opened - and restless Disney fans waiting for news have taken matters into their own hands. Over the last few years, numerous rumored "fifth gates" have been floated on the Internet - and some have attained an almost mythical status. In recent weeks, those rumors have resurfaced over on Screamscape. Will we ever see any of these particular concepts become a reality? Probably not (it's more likely that Disney will take a different approach). But, just for fun, let's take a look at them.

3. Disney's Night Kingdom

Lions at night

Image: Tim Ellis, Flickr

Back in 2008, there were strong rumors that Walt Disney World was on the verge of finally announcing a fifth gate. These were driven by reports from long-time Disney correspondent Jim Hill, who claimed that Disney would splurge more than half a billion dollars on the project ahead of a 2011 opening. As Hill described it, Disney's Night Kingdom would be Disney's answer to SeaWorld Orlando's Discovery Cove. Like the SeaWorld park, it would limit attendance to very small numbers - around 2,000 at a time. And just like Discovery Cove, it would focus on intimate experiences involving exotic wildlife. Night Kingdom would operate from 4pm until midnight, and would staffed by a ridiculous 4,000 Cast Members (yes, that's two for every guest). Naturally, that would mean that it would be a very expensive place to visit - with prices as high as $300 per person.

In a sign that the rumors were too good to be true, Hill claimed that the entrance to Night Kingdom would be a supersized recreation of the Adventurer's Club, the legendary venue from the shuttered Pleasure Island over at Downtown Disney. Here, guests would check in and register for the various experiences on offer. These would include hand-feeding hippos, riding a zip line over a pool of crododiles, exploring a cave full of bats and interacting with penguins. The highlight, though, would be a night-time trip (equipped with night-vision goggles) across a darkened African savannah. This would give guests a chance to view nocturnal animals going about their business - something they couldn't do on the existing Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Also on offer would be two themed eateries, as well a Broadway-style stage show hosted in a 2,000-seat theater. Hill even claimed that two hotels could be constructed during a later phase. Six months after his original report, Hill claimed that the plans for Disney's Night Kingdom had changed. Indeed, the name of the park itself was under review, and it was now known as Disney's Jungle Trek. Many of the proposed experiences were still part of the plans, but the theater was to be scaled down. The opening hours would also change, with the park operating from noon to 2am. Table-service meals would be replaced by an all-you-can-eat buffet. Wild Africa Trek

Image: Disney
In the end, Hill was either well wide of the mark or Disney opted to pursue a different approach. Instead of opening a fifth theme park in 2011, Disney instead launched the Wild Africa Trek. This took the form of an additional paid experience at Disney's Animal Kingdom, with guests being taken on simulated "bushwalk" through the park's savannah as well as a trip in a safari truck. Some elements were familiar, though - such as rope bridges over crododiles (instead of zip lines) and close-up encounters with hippos.

Disney's Animal Kingdom

Image: Disney 

Recently, though, Disney announced that the whole of Animal Kingdom will soon open late into the night, as part of a major revamp of the park that will include the addition of Pandora - The World of Avatar. On offer will be a new nighttime version of Kilimanjaro Safaris, featuring an updated storyline and a focus on animals that are largely nocturnal - so another rumored element of Disney's Night Kingdom is finally due to become a reality.

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Comments

If another park were to be created and the other park's attendance went down a bit it may draw more people that prefer smaller crowds. Smaller crowds means easier to maneuver through the parks, faster shorter lines to get food and shorter ride waiting times. This all means more time to ride more rides and e experience more Disney magic. It would increase hotel occupancy for the existing hotels. I see it as a win for everyone involved. After people rave about all that they got to do at each park because of less people would slowly increase the crowd level back to normal if not higher than they are today. People would stay longer leaving less empty hotel rooms.

Just nuke Hollywood Studios completely, and start over from scratch.

Use the half a billion dollars and fix the yeti in Expedition Everest.

I think that a Disney World Snow theme park with giant ski slope dome, and ice rink with many more "ice" and "snow" attractions will be great idea.

After just returning from WDW, I feel there is a real need for a 5th park of any configuration. With all the new resorts that have been added to the property, there is just too many people in the parks for all there is offered. I can't imagine the crowds if it was a busy time. (We were there 1st wk of Feb.)

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