The universe is expanding! The Disney Universe, that is. Disney has recruited “For All Mankind” creator Ron Moore to work on a new series for Disney+, called “The Society of Explorers and Adventurers.” In it, the characters, lands and rides of Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World will come to life in what’s being called the Magic Kingdom Universe.
When Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, there were plenty of rides based on existing Disney movies, like Dumbo the Flying Elephant or Peter Pan’s Flight. Other parts of the park, like The Haunted Mansion or The Jungle Cruise, were not based on Disney movies, yet had original storylines, like that of Master Gracey, owner of that creepy mansion. Disney has danced back and forth over the years about adding more rides based on existing Disney movies to the park versus keeping original experiences as part of Walt Disney’s original vision, such as Tomorrowland.
Former CEO Michael Eisner was really into making big movies based on the classic, existing rides while outgoing CEO Bob Iger wanted to bring in new intellectual property, like Star Wars and Marvel themes (which he did), and pop those rides into the park, either as new rides or overlays to existing rides.
Disney has successfully launched movies based on rides before, like the highly profitable "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise, and will hopefully find success with the upcoming "Jungle Cruise," starring Dwayne Johnson. It’s also had some bombs when trying to reverse engineer a movie out of a ride, though, like the Eddie Murphy-led "The Haunted Mansion" and the George Clooney vehicle "Tomorrowland." Does anyone remember the "Tower of Terror" movie or "Mission to Mars"?
Hopefully, with Moore's expertise crafting shows like "Battlestar Galactica" and "Outlander," he can formulate a new plan to make a world out of these rides.
Current Disney CEO and Chairman Bob Chapek sees Disney’s franchises, like Marvel and Star Wars, something that draws people into the parks and separates them from their competitors. It makes sense that he wants to turn the non-intellectual property rides into potential IP.
In "The Society of Explorers and Adventurers," which is still in the development stage, Disney hopes to leverage some of that park magic into interesting storylines. Moore is reportedly working with the Disney Imagineering team to learn more about the stories in and behind the rides.
Though a writer’s team is still being assembled, the idea behind the show is to mix and mingle characters from different rides, like the aforementioned Master Gracey with the family from The Carousel of Progress. Would they go on adventures together? What unexplored portions of the park could make compelling TV? Whether these characters would then mix with existing Disney characters, like Peter Pan or Snow White, is unknown, and we're also in the dark about how (or if ) the upcoming "Jungle Cruise" movie plays into this TV series.
Moore will be also assisting director Jon M. Chu with a "Swiss Family Robinson" series, which we're guessing might tie into this new show in some way, since we're talking a whole universe here, not a single show. If these projects succeed, there will probably be a lot more to come.
The timeline for this new series is still unknown, but it would join the likes of Disney+’s successful original programming, like “The Mandalorian” and “WandaVision.” Considering the theme parks have taken a hit the past year (Disneyland has yet to reopen since closing last March), this could eventually bring a much-needed boost to the parks with people wanting to experience the rides behind the shows firsthand.
This is a great idea -- tapping into already-beloved rides for a new take on the Disney Universe. The possibilities are unlimited in terms of storytelling, always one of Disney’s strong points. There are over 40 attractions in Magic Kingdom alone. Will the Hall of Presidents be included in the series? How about The Country Bears Jamboree? They might want to make sure Teddy Roosevelt and those bears never meet...