Disney's Animal Kingdom
is a theme park
at the Walt Disney World Resort
. The fourth park built at the resort, it opened on April 22
, and it is the largest single Disney theme park in the world, covering more than 500 acres (2 km²). It is also the first Disney theme park to be themed entirely around animal conservation
, a philosophy once pioneered by Walt Disney
himself. Disney's Animal Kingdom is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums
, meaning they have met and exceeded the standards in Education, Conservation and Research.
Shortly after the park opened, Disney advertised the park using the fictional word "nahtazu". Pronounced "not a zoo," the word emphasized that the park was more than animal displays found in a typical city zoo. Disney stopped using the phrase in January 2006.
In 2007, the park hosted approximately 9.49 million guests, ranking it the fifth-most visited amusement park in the United States and eight-most visited in the world.
The park is made up of seven themed areas. However, the original plans called for another area.
Upon entering the park, guests must walk through this area to get into any of the other lands in the park. The Oasis consists of different paths leading to Discovery Island which walk guests past animal habitats such as muntjac
, giant anteaters
, Hyacinth Macaws
, and others. A Rainforest Cafe
is also located at the entrance of the Oasis.
The main land in the park (previously known as Safari Village), Discovery Island is the center island in the park and has paths to all six of the other lands. It is also the home of The Tree of Life.
Here you'll see kangaroos, flamingos, axis deer, West African crowned cranes, vultures, porcupines, lemurs, macaws, ducks, Galapagos tortoise, small-clawed otters, saddlebill storks, and more.
This land is the home of two shows and four character greeting spots where guests can meet characters
such as Mickey
, and others.
Set in the fictional village of Harambe, the Africa
section contains a number of animal adventures.
- Kilimanjaro Safaris - Guests climb aboard an open-sided safari vehicle for an expedition seeing many African animals. Animals from Africa freely roam through acres of savanna, rivers and rocky hills. The guests can see giraffes, hippos, elephants, rhinoceroses, lions and other animals, while later embarking on a mission to stop some ivory poachers.
Rafiki's Planet Watch
Accessible by train only, this area, hosted by Rafiki
, contains small animals, a petting zoo with domesticated goats
, and exhibits teaching about conservation efforts. The veterinary hospital's viewing window allows guests to watch medical procedures conducted by the veterinary staff.
- Wildlife Express Train - Guests ride the rails on this rustic African train that travels the savanna for a behind-the-scenes journey through several animal housing and care areas of the park. On the return trip, the train passes near the Asia section of the park.
- Habitat Habit! - Guests see endangered cottontop tamarin primates up close, trekking down an adventure trail and learning of novel ways to help animals.
- Affection Section - This attraction is an animal encounter with goats, sheep, pigs, chicken, llamas and more. Some of the park's friendlier animals make special guest appearances.
- Conservation Station - At the trail's end, guests can visit the center of Disney efforts to promote wildlife conservation awareness. Inside are a variety of wild animal experiences, interactive games and shows.
Asia was the first expansion land added to Disney's Animal Kingdom, first opening in 1999. Like Africa, the section's attractions are part of a fictional village, Anandapur.
- Flights of Wonder - Guests join a trainee bird handler and a wayward tour guide who teach each other about the delicate state of nature and see birds such as vultures, hawks, colorful macaws, crowned crane and the American Bald Eagle up close.
- Kali River Rapids - Guests raft down the turbulent waters of the Chakranadi River aboard a 12-passenger raft through an enchanting Asian rain forest. Guests ride past a blazing inferno, a rushing waterfall, and geysers. Guests will get wet on this ride.
- Maharajah Jungle Trek - Guests trek into the lush forests for an unparalleled adventure into the wilds of the mystical Anandapur Royal Forest of Southeast Asia and respective ancient ruins, having up-close encounters with Komodo dragons, fruit bats (the largest species in the world), tapirs, birds, and tigers.
- Expedition Everest - In this runaway-train roller coaster, Himalayan trekkers board refurbished steam trains on their way to the base camp of Mount Everest, using a shortcut that passes through the "forbidden mountain" guarded by the legendary yeti.
- The Boneyard - Guests slip, slide, slither and slosh through a play maze filled with fun fossils. "Exploration. Excavation. Exultation." is the motto of the Dino Institute and nowhere is this truer than here. Would-be paleontologists young and old play amidst a world of dinosaur discoveries like a Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus rex, and Wooly Mammoth.
- DINOSAUR (formerly Countdown to Extinction) - Guests whoosh back to primeval times for a wild ride of an expedition to complete a dangerous mission. Guests have mere minutes to rescue a stray dinosaur, and must beware the hungry clutches of one large meat-eating predator and the devastating power of an impending asteroid.
- Animals located in Dinoland include an American Crocodile, Abdim's Storks, and Asian brown tortoises.
- Finding Nemo - The Musical - Officially the park's newest attraction, the show debuted on November 12, 2006. This original stage show was developed by Walt Disney Creative Entertainment and tells the story of the Disney/Pixar film Finding Nemo with new songs by Avenue Q composer Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, and puppets designed by Michael Curry. The production combines dancers, acrobats, animated backdrops, and theatrical puppetry. Marlin, Dory and Nemo are depicted by actors holding large puppets while other characters are portrayed through a variety of puppetry styles. The show performs several times daily.
- Dino-Sue - Disney's oldest "cast" member, clocking in at 67 million years, Dino-Sue is a painstaking reproduction of the largest, most complete T-Rex ever found. The length of a four-story building, the mighty T-Rex is available to pose for pictures with guests at the Dino institute.
- Cretaceous Trail - Cretaceous Trail is a walking tour amidst plant and animal survivors that have outlived the dinosaurs. Guests play with a Pachycephalosaurus, encounter living animal species that have survived since prehistoric times and discover fossil dig sites.
Chester and Hester's Dino-Rama - part of Dinoland U.S.A., this portion is an area made to look like a tacky 1950s roadside attraction built on an old parking lot.
- Primeval Whirl - Guests ride a spinning time-machine themed roller-coaster with sudden dips, hairpin turns and tight curves. Each colorful car spins independently.
- TriceraTop Spin - Guests ride a whirling, twirling, four-person flying dinosaur.
Disney's Animal Kingdom focuses on three broad classifications of animals: those that exist today; those that did exist, but are now extinct (i.e., dinosaurs); and, those that exist in legend and mythology. In the original design for the park, the animals of legend were to have their own section.
Beastly Kingdom (supposedly spelled in Old English as "Beastly Kingdomme") was to have featured mythical animals such as unicorns, dragons, and sea monsters. The land would feature realms of both good and evil creatures. The evil side would be dominated by Dragon Tower, a ruined castle home to a greedy fire-breathing dragon who hordes a fabulous treasure in the tower chamber. The castle is also inhabited by bats who plan to rob the dragon of his riches. They enlist the guests' help in their scheme, and whisk them off on a thrilling roller coaster ride through the castle ruins. The climax of the ride is an encounter with the evil dragon himself, resulting in a nearly-barbecued train of guests.
The good side of this land would be home to Quest of the Unicorn, an adventure which sends guests through a maze of medieval mythological creatures to seek the hidden grotto where the unicorn lives. Finally, the Fantasia Gardens attraction would be a musical boat ride through the animals from Disney's animated classic, Fantasia. The ride would feature both the crocodiles and hippos from " Dance of the Hours" and the Pegasus, fauns, and centaurs from Beethoven's "Pastoral."
Due to budget constraints of the Walt Disney Company, Beastly Kingdom never came to fruition and Camp Minnie-Mickey was built as a temporary tenant of the Beastly Kingdom's land.
The change was supposedly rather sudden, as remnants of this planned area were visible when the park opened. One such remnant was a fire-breathing dragon in the Discovery River Boats attraction. Said dragon was visible from the Camp Minnie-Mickey bridge for several years, roaring loudly and spewing fire from a rocky cave. In addition, one of the McDonald's Animal Kingdom-themed Happy Meal toys was a winged purple dragon.
Legend has it that Disney laid off the Imagineers who had planned the Beastly Kingdom, and they were subsequently hired to create the Dueling Dragons and the Flying Unicorn attractions for Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park .
Even now, hints of a mythological land still exist, including:
- The Unicorn parking area
- The original Animal Kingdom logo, which prominently features the silhouette of a dragon, and still appears throughout the park
- The dragon-shaped stone fountain near Camp Minnie-Mickey
- The detailed dragonhead statue which sits atop one of the ticket booths at the park's entrance (the other two are topped by an elephant head and a triceratops head).
As Expedition Everest includes a yeti, an animal that may or may not exist, the park now features at least one attraction for each of the three categories. Occasional rumors circulate regarding the future construction of Beastly Kingdom, but the park has made no official announcements either confirming or cancelling the section's construction.
Restaurants and shops
The park contains three table service restaurants:
- Rainforest Cafe, located just outside the main entrance (also accessible from inside the park);
- Yak & Yeti, an Asian-themed restaurant located in the park's Asia section (operated by Landry's Restaurants) that opened on November 14, 2007; and
- Tusker House, located in Africa and one of the park's original quick-service restaurants, was converted into a buffet restaurant and re-opened on November 17, 2007.
Tusker House hosts "Donald's Safari Breakfast," a character-dining event where guests enjoy a breakfast buffet while meeting Donald Duck and other Disney characters.
There are four quick-service restaurants located throughout the park:
- Flame Tree Barbecue, on Discovery Island near DinoLand USA;
- Pizzafari, also on Discovery Island, near Camp Minnie-Mickey;
- Restaurantosaurus, in DinoLand USA; and,
- Yak & Yeti Local Foods Café, located next to the larger Yak & Yeti table-service facility.
As with other Walt Disney World theme parks, Disney's Animal Kingdom has other locations and carts that offer snacks and beverages.
Much concern was brought to the animals' well-being when the park originally opened. The park typically closes earlier than other parks
in the Walt Disney World Resort
. The animals are said to require a strict schedule to avoid stress, so even on nights when the park is open later, animals usually will be brought "off stage" an hour or two before the park officially closes for the day. Another notable difference from other Disney parks is that Animal Kingdom does not have a fireworks show in consideration to the animals.
Even in planning stages, various Florida based animal rights groups and PETA, didn't like the idea of Disney creating a theme park where animals were held in captivity. The groups protested, and PETA tried to convince travel agents not to book trips to the park. A few weeks before the park opened, a number of animals died due to accidents. The United States Department of Agriculture
viewed most of the cases and found no violations of animal-welfare regulations. On opening day, the Orange County Sheriff's office sent about 150 deputies in fear that there may be a large protest, but only two dozen protesters showed up. The protest lasted two hours, and there were no arrests.
One year after the park opened, Animal Rights Foundation of Florida complained that a New Year's Eve fireworks show may upset the animals. A USDA inspector came to the park to find no problems with launching low noise fireworks a half a mile away.