Disney's Animal Kingdom
Disney's Animal Kingdom is the fourth of four theme parks built at the Walt Disney World Resort in Bay Lake, Florida. It was dedicated and opened to the public during Earth Day on April 22, 1998. It is the largest theme park in the world, covering 580 acres (230 ha). The park is dedicated and themed entirely around the natural environment and animal conservation, a philosophy once pioneered by Walt Disney himself.
Disney's Animal Kingdom is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, meaning they have met or exceeded the standards in education, conservation, and research. In 2014, it hosted approximately 10.4 million guests, ranking it the fourth-most visited amusement park in the United States and seventh-most visited in the world.
The park is represented by the Tree of Life, a sculpted 145-foot-tall (44 m), 50-foot-wide (15 m) artificial tree.
Welcome to a kingdom of animals... real, ancient and imagined: a kingdom ruled by lions, dinosaurs and dragons; a kingdom of balance, harmony and survival; a kingdom we enter to share in the wonder, gaze at the beauty, thrill at the drama, and learn.
Disney's Animal Kingdom is divided into six themed areas.
The Oasis is the park's main entrance, providing guest services. It features several animal habitats, including African spoonbills, Australian white ibis, babirusas, bronze-winged ducks, buffleheads, Chiloe wigeons, Eleonora cockatoos, Florida cooters, giant anteaters, hooded mergansers, hyacinth macaws, lesser whistling ducks, military macaws, Puna teals, radjah shelduck, Reeves's muntjacs, rhinoceros iguanas, ringed teals, rosy-billed pochards, ruddy ducks, scarlet macaws, spot-billed ducks, swamp wallabies, white-cheeked pintails, and yellow-billed teals. The main paths lead deeper into the park, and onto Discovery Island.
A Rainforest Cafe is located at the entrance prior to entering Oasis and the park proper through the turnstiles.
Discovery Island is located at the center of the park, in the middle of the Discovery River waterway. It is the "central hub" connecting the other sections of the park, with the exception of Rafiki's Planet Watch. It was originally called Safari Village, as Discovery Island was the name for the small zoological park located in Walt Disney World's Bay Lake, but renamed after that area closed in 1999.
The Tree of Life, the park's sculpted, man-made Baobab tree, is located in this section and is surrounded by trails and animal enclosures showcasing Abdim's storks, black crowned cranes, black-necked swans, blue-and-yellow macaws, Cape teals, chitals, collared brown lemurs, eastern grey kangaroos, Galápagos tortoises, Greater flamingos, Knob-billed ducks, Lesser flamingos, Oriental small-clawed otters, plumed whistling ducks, red kangaroos, red-and-green macaws, ring-tailed lemurs, roseate spoonbills, saddle-billed storks, salmon-crested cockatoos, silver teal, white storks, white-faced whistling ducks, and woolly-necked storks.
The park's largest gift shops and two of its major restaurants are on Discovery Island, each with a different design theme, such as décor based on nocturnal animals, insects and so forth. The island's other major draw is It's Tough to Be a Bug!, a comical 4D film featuring appearances by Flik and Hopper from Disney·Pixar's A Bug's Life.
Africa is one of the original areas of the park. Set in the fictional east African village of Harambe, this area contains several animal exhibits.
The village is the namesake of the Harambe Wildlife Preserve, the fictional home of Africa's main attraction, Kilimanjaro Safaris. Guests climb aboard an open-sided safari vehicle for an expedition to see numerous African animals freely roam through acres of savanna, rivers and rocky hills, including addax, African elephants, black rhinos, blue wildebeests, bongos, bontebok, cheetahs, common elands, dama gazelles, gerenuks, Grant's zebras, greater flamingos, greater kudus, helmeted guineafowls, hippos, impalas, lions, mandrills, Nile crocodiles, northern pintails, nyalas, okapis, ostriches, pink-backed pelicans, reticulated giraffes, sable antelopes, saddle-billed storks, scimitar-horned oryx, springboks, warthogs, waterbucks, white rhinos, yellow-backed duikers, and yellow-billed storks.
On the adjacent Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, visitors trek into the forest where animals such as black-and-white colobus monkeys, gerenuks, gorillas, hippos, Kenyan sand boas, kori bustards, meerkats, naked mole-rats, okapis, tarantulas, and yellow-backed duikers, as well as an aviary, are located.
In 2014, Festival of the Lion King, an attraction that originated in the now-demolished Camp Minnie-Mickey section of the park, was reopened in the newly built Harambe Theater. This is part of a wider expansion of Africa which will include a new path, restrooms, and new restaurant opportunities.
Rafiki's Planet Watch is a section for young children and with families and the only section of the park not connected to Discovery Island, and is instead connected to Africa. Guests board the 3 ft 4 in (1,016 mm) narrow gauge Wildlife Express Train for the short trip to and from the area, which consists of three sub-areas. Guests first encounter Habitat Habit!, where they can see cotton-top tamarins and learn about the efforts to protect these endangered primates in their natural homes. Along the way, guests can also learn how to provide animal habitats in and around their own homes.
Conservation Station showcases the various conservation efforts supported by the Walt Disney Company. It also gives a behind-the-scenes glimpse into Disney's Animal Kingdom's animal care facilities, including a veterinary examination room complete with a two-way communications system so the veterinary staff can answer guest questions. Outside, Affection Section is a petting zoo featuring goats, sheep and other domesticated animals.
Other animals seen are ball pythons, blue-and-yellow macaws, blue-tongued skink, boa constrictors, butterflies, central bearded dragons, chinchillas, chinchilla rabbits, citron-crested cockatoos, common brushtail possums, corn snakes, Costa Rica zebra tarantula, death's head cockroach, Dexter cattle, Dominique chickens, Eleonora cockatoos, emperor scorpions, eclectus parrots, fennec foxes, ferrets, giant African millipedes, golden lion tamarins, gray rat snakes, green tree pythons, Guinea hogs, Gulf Coast Native sheep, hermit crabs, hyacinth macaws, kinkajous, llamas, Madagascar day geckos, Madagascar hissing cockroaches, Madagascar tree boas, Nigerian Dwarf goat, Nile monitors, North American donkeys, opossums, pygmy goats, rats, rat snakes, red-and-green macaws, red-cockaded woodpeckers, red-crested turacos, roughneck monitor lizards, San Clemente Island goats, savannah monitors, Solomon Islands skinks, spectacled owls, striped skunks, tamanduas, tarantulas, tawny frogmouths, tawny owls, tenrecs, Tunis sheep, two-toed sloths, uromastyx, variable hawks, and vasa parrots.
Asia, the first expansion area added to Disney's Animal Kingdom, first opened in 1999. Like Africa, the section's attractions are part of a fictional place, the kingdom of Anandapur (which means "Place of many delights" in Sanskrit and is named after the Kendujhar district's Anandapur municipality in India.
Anandapur comprises two villages: a riverside village that is also called Anandapur and Serka Zong (which is in the foothills of the Himalayas). Portraits of Anandapur's royal family (consisting of the maharaja and his wife) can be found in most of the businesses within the two villages, a map of the kingdom featuring both villages and their location relative to the mountains and river can be found on the wall of the Disney Vacation Club kiosk located there. Much like Harambe, Anandapur is now a center of animal research and tourism. At the Caravan Stage, these two "worlds" meet in Flights of Wonder, a live bird show where one of Anandapur's bird researchers educates a tour guide with a fear of birds about natural bird behaviors and the effects of habitat loss and conservation efforts on bird species, such as the black crowned crane and bald eagle.
The Maharajah Jungle Trek leads guests through the forests and ruins outside the village, which are home to species such as Asian fairy-bluebirds, Bali starlings, bantengs, bar-headed geese, Bengal tigers, blackbucks, black-rumped flamebacks, blue-throated barbets, collared kingfishers, common emerald doves, cotton pygmy geese, crested partridges, early bluebirds, Eld's deer, golden pheasants, golden-crested mynas, green junglefowl, green peafowls, hooded pittas, hoopoes, Indian rollers, iris lorikeets, jambu fruit doves, Komodo dragons, Lady Amherst's pheasants, magnificent ground pigeons, Malayan flying foxes, Mandarin ducks, Moluccan king parrots, New Guinea masked plovers, Nicobar pigeon, northern white-cheeked gibbons, orange-bellied leafbirds, pheasant pigeons, pink-headed fruit doves, pink-necked green pigeons, plum-headed parakeets, red-headed parrotfinches, Rodrigues flying foxes, sarus cranes, scaly-breasted munias, siamangs, silver-eared mesias, sooty-headed bulbuls, Timor sparrows, treron pink-necked pigeons, white-headed munias, white rumped shamas, wompoo fruit doves, yellow-throated laughingthrushes, and yellow-vented bulbuls.
Nearby, Kali River Rapids is a river rapids ride along the Chakranadi River through a rainforest, past an illegal logging operation and down a waterfall.
Looming in the distance behind Anandapur is the Forbidden Mountain, the home of Expedition Everest which is a roller coaster ride through the Himalayas where passengers will encounter a Yeti.
DinoLand U.S.A. is inspired by the public's general curiosity about dinosaurs. The fictitious Dino Institute and its surrounding facilities attract those with a scientific interest in the long-extinct animals, while Chester and Hester's Dino-Rama recalls the many roadside attractions that were once scattered throughout the United States. Like the other sections of Disney's Animal Kingdom, there are animals on display. The animals, such as the American crocodile, red legged seriemas, Abdim's stork and Asian brown tortoise, have evolutionary links to the age of the dinosaurs. They are animal species that have survived since the dinosaur era and can be found along the Cretaceous Trail along with a collection of Mesozoic plants. At the edge of DinoLand U.S.A. is the "Theater in the Wild", which hosts Finding Nemo - The Musical, a live-action musical stage show based on the story of the Disney·Pixar feature film.
The Dino Institute is the home of Dinosaur, a thrill ride featuring a trip through time to the Late Cretaceous Period. Just outside the Institute is "Dino-Sue", a casting of a Tyrannosaurus rex fossil that is the most complete yet found. At the nearby Boneyard, there is a multi-leveled playground area with a Columbian mammoth fossil to be uncovered, and a cast skeleton of a Brachiosaurus.
Chester and Hester's Dino-Rama, has the TriceraTop Spin ride, while Primeval Whirl is a spinning roller coaster. Throughout the area are carnival games and gift shops, as well as chances to meet Disney characters.
The area was formerly sponsored by McDonald's until 2009 when the contract ran out.
In September 2011, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts announced plans to partner with filmmaker James Cameron, his Lightstorm Entertainment production company, and Fox Filmed Entertainment to develop attractions based on Cameron's Avatar film series exclusively for Disney theme parks. The first installation is planned for Disney's Animal Kingdom in the form of an Avatar-based section of the park. While no specifics were announced, the new area was described as being several acres in size and costing an estimated $400 million to build, a scale similar to Cars Land at Disney California Adventure in California. Components from the upcoming second and third films in the Avatar series will be featured, along with new designs not seen in any of the films. Construction began on January 10, 2014.
At the 2015 D23 Expo, Disney confirmed two attractions for the area: Flight of Passage, a flying E ticket simulator attraction where guests will learn to fly with a mountain banshee, and Na'Vi River Journey, a D ticket boat ride attraction showcasing the native fauna and flora of Pandora that may include small drops.
A new nighttime event, entitled Rivers of Light, similar to World of Color from Disneyland Resort, will debut at the park's Discovery River in early 2016, featuring mist screens, floating lanterns, music and lighting.
Camp Minnie-Mickey was themed as a rustic summer camp, built as a placeholder on the location where Beastly Kingdom was intended to be built. It served as a meet-and-greet for Disney characters including Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Koda, and Thumper. The area's main attraction was the Festival of the Lion King, a live stage show featuring acrobatics and musical performances inspired by The Lion King. Pocahontas and Her Forest Friends, based on the 1995 animated film, was a live stage show that ran from April 22, 1998, to September 27, 2008. The area closed on January 5, 2014, and is currently being developed into Pandora–The World of Avatar.
When conceived, Disney's Animal Kingdom was to focus on three broad classifications of animals: those that exist in today's reality; those that did exist, but are now extinct (i.e., dinosaurs); and those that only exist in the realm of fantasy. The original design for Animal Kingdom included a themed section called the Beastly Kingdom (possibly spelled as "Beastly Kingdomme"), devoted to creatures of legend and mythology. Camp Minnie-Mickey was built instead of Beastly Kingdom and was meant to serve as a temporary placeholder until Beastly Kingdom could be built.
Beastly Kingdom was to feature mythical animals such as unicorns, dragons, and sea monsters, featuring realms of both good and evil creatures:
Remnants of Beastly Kingdom were seen when the park opened, some of which are still extant:
As Expedition Everest features the mythological yeti, the park now features at least one attraction based on each type of animal (living, extinct and legendary).
In 2000, Walt Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde said: "We had a vision and now it's become a place holder. We have all kinds of ideas and not all of them fit with the theme of Beastly Kingdom. I'm not even convinced there will be a Beastly Kingdom."
The park contains three table service restaurants along with one more under construction:
Tusker House hosts "Donald's Safari Breakfast" and "Donald's Dining Safari Lunch," a character-dining event where guests enjoy a buffet while meeting Donald Duck and other Disney characters.
There are six quick-service restaurants located throughout the park:
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.
Disney does not allow plastic straws, lids, or balloons to be used in the park, unlike the rest of the Disney parks. This is so that plastic does not inadvertently enter an animal's habitat and hurt them. The park uses paper straws instead.
The park is also the only park to have doors on all of the bathrooms in the event that an animal gets loose. If this would occur, guests would be instructed to go into the bathrooms and lock the doors behind them.
As a zoological park, Disney's Animal Kingdom is engaged in research and conservation efforts involving its animal species. Since the park's opening in 1998, the resident elephant herd has produced six calves, with births in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2010, and 2011. In 2008, the park's giraffe herd produced four newborns, raising the total number of giraffe births since opening to eleven.
In 1999, one of the park's white rhinos gave birth to a female calf named Nande. In 2006, Nande and Hasani, another of the park's rhinos, were transferred to Uganda's Ziwa animal sanctuary, in the first attempt to re-introduce white rhinos to the country. Due to civil strife, the white rhinoceros had become extinct in the area. In June 2009, Nande gave birth to a male calf, the first such birth in Uganda in over 25 years. In January 2010, the success of the Rhino breeding program was highlighted with the news that eight white rhinos have been born at Animal Kingdom since the parks opening, the newest calf having been born to another Animal Kingdom born mother.
Even in planning stages, various Florida based animal rights groups and PETA did not 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; about 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 could upset the animals. A USDA inspector came to the park and found no problems with launching low-noise fireworks half a mile away.
In January 2015, an animal rights group listed the park at number 10 on its 2014 "list of worst zoos for elephants."