Famously “NotAZoo,” at its 1998 opening, Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort broke the theme park mold. Imagineers considered many factors when designing this property. They focused first and foremost on the comfort and well-being of the animals and the safety of Guests. However, their primary goal, as with other Disney Parks, was to place the Guests in the action. In this case, that meant providing opportunities for Guests not only to observe but also to interact with creatures in their natural habitats.
Spend a day at Animal Kingdom and you’ll realize an interesting aspect of Disney Parks is that no piece stands alone. A ride is not merely a ride. A restaurant is not simply an eatery. Everything has a story! The stories of Animal Kingdom are based on the relationship of mankind to the world in which we live, with the intention of demonstrating harmony between human, animal and natural elements. Buildings and manmade structures are necessary, of course, but Park architecture is not allowed to overwhelm nature. Nowhere in the Park do feeding troughs, landscape barriers or fences detract from the Show.
The focal point, or wienie, of Animal Kingdom is its Tree of Life. The canopy of the Tree of Life rises 145 feet in the air and spreads 160 feet across. This natural-looking masterpiece is one of the World’s most exquisite architectural and artistic features. The story it tells expresses the mythologies of many cultures, where the tree is both “a source of life and an emblem of symbiosis.” The 325 extinct, contemporary and imaginary creatures, metaphorically, were not etched into its surface but grew out from it. According to legend, the Tree was the first thing on Discovery Island. The village came to the Tree whose water supports life for the Islanders and all of Animal Kingdom.
When Guests tunnel under the Tree’s roots, they virtually shrink to the size of an ant to enter a 430-seat theater for the 3-D Audio-Animatronic show, It’s Tough to be a Bug, hosted by A Bug’s Life’s Flick and Hopper. Parts of the show might startle toddlers, but bigger kids get a kick out of the special effects. While Guests are bug-size, Hopper is larger than life. Standing eight feet tall, Hopper is one of the most complex Audio-Animatronics ever made.
The newest of Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom attractions is Expedition Everest—Legend of the Forbidden Mountain. Adding a second wienie to the Park, this breathtaking piece of Himalayan Mountain Range combines the real world with the mythical. To the people of the mountainous regions of southwestern China, India, Nepal and Tibet, the Yeti is more than folklore. Although the creature is both mythical and real to them, the Yeti is not to be feared. He is the revered protector of the forest. Disney’s Yeti stands 18 feet tall and is the largest Audio-Animatronics figure ever created by Walt Disney Imagineering.
One of the most fascinating attractions at Animal Kingdom is the Kilimanjaro Safari, which takes Guests on a trek across the World’s own Serengeti, the Harambe Wildlife Reserve. Guests, ever vigilant for potential poachers, board open-sided safari vehicles for an exciting expedition across rickety bridges and rocky outcroppings, and often experience up-close encounters with a few of the featured wildlife, including the giraffes, black rhinos, elephants and lions that freely roam the 100-acre savannah.
The “ultimate animal adventure” began back in January with the opening of the Wild Africa Trek. For Park admission plus $129.00 per person, Guests ages 8 and up get up close, into and over animal habitats deep in the Pangani Forest on this privately guided 3-hour expedition. A modified zip line dangles 10 feet above massive hippos. Rope bridges sway over the crocodile-filled Safi River. VIP safaris cross open savanna teeming with creatures native to the African plains. It’s an African excursion within the safe confines of Walt Disney World Resort.
Adapting film to stage, “Festival of the Lion King” is a perennial favorite live performance at Animal Kingdom’s Camp Minnie-Mickey. In keeping with the summer camp theme of this Park area, Guests gather in an assembly hall to sing songs and share stories. The four rolling stages on which fifty costumed performers combine dance, acrobatics, and elaborate staging are actually floats once used in a Disneyland parade.
Dinosaurs are anything but extinct at Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom. In DinoLand, USA, evidence of the massive reptilians covers every square inch of space from the dinosaur skeleton greeting Guests at the Land’s entrance to the knick-knacks filling Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama gift shop. A 40-foot long, 20-foot high Tyrannosaurus rex named Dino Sue, an exact replica of the largest, most complete Tyrannosaurus rex fossil ever unearthed, stands charge by the entrance of Dinosaur! Once you eek past Dino Sue, proceed through the queue and travel back in time. Strap into your Time Rover and hang on!
Write your own story when you spend a day in the life of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
*NOTE: We recommend arriving at Park opening and heading straight to Expedition Everest and Kilimanjaro Safaris to pick up a Fastpass (or go ahead and ride before lines get long).
- Celebrating Thanksgiving at Walt Disney World (chipandco.com)
- Wild Africa Trek Experience (chipandco.com)