Animal Kingdom's Disney+ debut might be a sign of more streaming content ahead from Orlando parks


  • Screenshot via Disney/YouTube
No other company has mastered the art of cross-promotion like the Walt Disney Company, and that fact will be readily apparent on Disney+ in the coming years.

Disney’s entrance into the streaming wars last year marked a new chapter for the industry, now slightly more than a decade old. First announced in 2017, just ahead of Disney’s in-house Comic-Con-style D23 convention, the streaming service offers Disney fans a one-stop-shop for all of Mouse-related content. The purchase of the majority of Fox meant the company also had a majority share of another streaming service, Hulu, which launched as an aggregate service to house the content of multiple studios, including NBCUniversal and News Corporation.

With Disney’s purchase of Fox, the Mouse owned 60percent of Hulu with AT&T, parent company of Time Warner, selling Disney its 10 percent stake a month later. NBCUniversal, who owned the remaining 30 percent, then announced it was launching its own streaming service,
Peacock. This has allowed Disney to shift its more adult content to Hulu, which it now fully controlled, while keeping Disney+ family-friendly. One of the first major moves Disney made to Hulu was launching a live 24/7 ABC News channel.

At the same time, Disney has been looking to add more Disney Parks content to Disney+ with a new veterinarian focused reality show that shows the daily workings at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The show is surprisingly one only a handful on Disney+ that’s concentrated on Disney Parks. Produced by National Geographic, the new show, titled Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, brings a synergy to Disney+ that so far yet to be seen. Using the highly recognizable National Geographic branding to add a level of legitimacy to the show, Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom is expected to showcase Disney’s award-winning animal care while also promoting the park, now the second most visited theme park in Florida. Despite the name, the show will also showcase the veterinarian care throughout Walt Disney World, including Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge and Epcot's Living Seas aquarium.
But this is believed to be just the start of what Disney has planned in regards to Disney Parks content on Disney+.

A lot of the infrastructure that allows these in-park live streams to take place is thanks to the Disney Stores that dot suburban malls across the nation. On May 2, 2015, Disney unveiled the next generation of Disney Stores at the Sunvalley Shopping Center in Concord, CA. The store replaced the dated animatronics that the 1990s Disney Stores were known for; instead, this store relied heavily on projection mapping, ‘storytelling neighborhoods,’ and the Disney Store Theater. The theater was to broadcast live feeds from various Disney parks throughout the day. As guests shopped, they could stop and watch the parade from Disneyland or the fireworks from the Magic Kingdom. By 2017, the idea was pushed even further when to help sell the experience, during the streams store employees would push snack and retail carts similar to those used at Disney Parks past guests who were enjoying the live streams.

The idea didn’t last long as it quickly became apparent that the live feeds became a focal point that distracted shoppers from shopping. Within a few years, the concept was all but abandoned, but the short-lived experiment did prove live feeds from the parks were possible.

Live feeds from inside the parks didn’t die but moved from an in-store experience to an online one. Even as Disney had shifted away from live broadcasts for its holiday events, such as the popular Christmas Day parade, the company was looking at ways to capture the highly sought after live feeds of its in-park events. The past decade has seen Disney follow the lead of content creators by launching their own blog in 2009 and a YouTube channel dedicated to Disney Parks. On the YouTube channel, which now has over 1.28 million subscribers, Disney regularly broadcasts live events from the parks, such as New Years' Eve firework displays and debuts of new in-park offerings.

At the 2019 D23 Expo, just as Disney was giving all attendees an introductory rate to sign up for Disney+, the company announced a massive multi-billion-dollar redo of Epcot. In the slew of concept art was one piece featuring what looks to be a television studio inside the EPCOT Garden Festival Center in the middle of World Celebration. In concept art revealing the studio, two hosts are seen seated behind a desk with Spaceship Earth behind them, large broadcast style cameras and lighting rigs can be seen, with visitors standing nearby watching.
  • Photo via Walt Disney World
  • Josh Gad
While Disney has not confirmed details regarding the studio, the location within the festival center is telling. Epcot’s various festivals regularly see high-profile guests hosting special panels, events, or educational workshops. Some of the classes and events are already filmed and broadcast live on monitors to allow for larger classes. The location of the proposed studio is also nearly identical to where Disney already hosts many of its live streams from with Epcot’s World Showcase lagoon or Spaceship Earth already regularly featured as the backdrop.

Various content creators have already gained a following by live-streaming within Disney Parks. Attractions Magazine, a Central Florida based publication devoted to all aspects of the attractions industry, hosts a weekly live-stream that regularly sees thousands of viewers tune-in during the hour-long broadcasts.

Disney could potentially create its own in-house daily Disney Parks content if it had its own studio. Just as ViacomCBS has found success with its television-style live channel programming through the Pluto TV app, Disney could potentially run these programs live in a television channel style format similar to how it operates its ABC News Live channel on Hulu. At the same time, a constant stream of in-park content could be used to promote new events in Disney Parks.

Unfortunately, the global pandemic and related economic recession are believed to have caused the Festival Center, where the studio was to be located, to be indefinitely postponed.

While this may limit the amount of content being created, Disney’s live events on YouTube and the at-home broadcasting that many news shows, including those on ABC News, have shown that content can be made quickly and easily with limited technology. Joe Rohde helped drive home this message recently when his family joined in creating a series of short videos where the Imagineer gave behind-the-scenes details on the creation of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The videos, shot in Rohde’s dining room and backyard, have garnered tens of thousands of views since being published just over four weeks ago.

For now, Disney hasn’t moved any of its YouTube content to Disney+, but Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom is thought to be only the beginning of Disney Parks content for the streaming platform. Unfortunately, a daily feed of in-park videos may now be delayed just a bit longer, even as many of us are stuck at home for the foreseeable future.

Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom will premiere on Disney+ on September 25. Check out the trailer below.
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