Thursday, January 21, 2010

Disney's Animal Kingdom

Nancy Bressler

Jambo everyone!

A few months ago, Disney’s Animal Kingdom celebrated its 10th Anniversary as a theme park. It seems astonishing that Animal Kingdom has reached such a milestone already, since I can still remember a time when it didn’t exist. In recognition, I thought I’d take a few moments to examine the past, present, and my hopes for the future of Animal Kingdom.

I still remember my first trip to Animal Kingdom; unfortunately, that wasn’t a particularly good experience. My first visit to the park was with my whole family, who preferred sleeping in late. By the time we arrived, we only saw the front half of the park that day and about 3 attractions. Yet, I will always remember my first glimpse of the Tree of Life. Like the other theme parks, Animal Kingdom needed an iconic attraction. Choosing just one animal seemed unfair, so Disney Imagineers carved over 300 animals into the trunk of the tree. The enormous tree stands impressively over the park and is surrounded by the Discovery Island Trails. Walking through this peaceful area of live animals toward the massive tree and admiring each of the intricately engraved animals is one experience you will never forget!

The second aspect that I will always remember is the Festival of Lion King show. This “not-to-be-missed” show rivals Broadway shows in the pure energy and ceremonious spirit of its performers. While the show lasts about 30 minutes, this show is so captivating that Disney fans of all ages will thoroughly treasure it. Both this show and the Tree of Life were here on opening day and will hopefully remain for many years to come!

Most recently, Animal Kingdom added two new attractions to the theme park. Expedition Everest is also one of the most authentic creations I have ever seen. Disney Imagineers went to Asia and studied the culture and natural wonder of the area and genuinely re-created it in Florida. Getting a FP for Expedition Everest as early as possible is a must, since it remains a popular attraction. Also, if you would like a return visit to Everest’s guardian of the mountain – the Yeti – in the afternoon, ask a cast member if the Single Rider Line is open. This means that your group will be split up, but you will also wait in a much shorter line.

Expedition Everest view from end of the tracks

Mt. Everest (in Florida)

In addition, Finding Nemo: the Musical stage show replaced the old stage show Tarzan Rocks a few years ago. This Broadway-style shows features original songs created just for the re-telling of Disney/Pixar’s Finding Nemo. One of the unique aspects of this show is that the life-like puppets appear alongside their human actors; these actors not only bring the puppets to life, but sing, dance, and perform acrobatics during the show. This show is SO popular, that arriving 45 minutes or more before a performance is a MUST! So grab that FP for Expedition Everest, and then head to see Finding Nemo: the Musical!

Animal Kingdom continues to evolve as a unique “species” of theme park. Yet, as we look toward its future, there is one main improvement that I would love to see. Animal Kingdom could really use a form of transportation around the theme park. This is Disney’s largest park – in fact, the entire Magic Kingdom theme park can fit inside Kilimanjaro Safaris alone! As a result, it could really use a transportation system that allows people to navigate it easier. This is a park where planning is essential! During my first visit here, we had planned nothing in advance and had a terrible experience. This park will continue to expand and having a good touring plan – preferably one from a Disney travel planner like a WDW Travels agent – is especially necessary with Animal Kingdom!

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