Disney's Animal Kingdom
One of the four theme parks residing at Walt Disney World, Disney’s Animal Kingdom provides guests with an up close encounter with animals from across the globe. Opened on April 22nd, 1998, Disney’s Animal Kingdom has been connecting guests with the animals of the world for 21 years. It is the largest theme park in the world. Disney's Animal Kingdom is often identified with their iconic Tree of Life, which also acts as a lights show during the holiday season and hosts one of the shows on property at the base of the tree. It is the second most visited park in World Disney World. The entire park is centered around the idea of the environment and all that makes it unique such as the animals within it. This concept was thought of from the mind of Walt Disney himself and transformed into Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The park mimics a lot of properties from Asia and Africa that were studied by the Disney Imagineers for the safety and comfort of the animals. Since Animal Kingdom’s inception, they have helped preserve various animal species. They have even begun to re-introduce the white rhinos to their homeland in Uganda.
Backstory and Context
Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened on Earth Day and was the fourth and most recent Disney theme park establish. Walt always had a passion for nature conservation and connecting with animals within nature. The features of the park vary from location to location as each of them is built to a specific theme. Each of the themed areas are designed to honor the nature and agriculture of that section of the world. Currently, Animal Kingdom boasts animals from Africa and Asia and offers guests a chance to connect with the world of Pandora. It is the second most visited park at Walt Disney World behind Magic Kingdom. Being the largest park in the world, geographically, Animal Kingdom boasts a variety of rides and lands for people of all ages to enjoy.
With animals from all over the globe, Animal Kingdom does its very best to preserve their habitats from the wild and bring them here to Walt Disney World. Built on the west side of Walt Disney World, Animal Kingdom is isolated from the rest of the Walt Disney World property in order to keep the animals away from the various disruptions throughout the day from other parks.
Behind the Making of Animal Kingdom
Walt Disney himself always entertained the idea of presenting live animals to theme park guests, but it was his brother Roy who originally supported Walt's idea and began crafting the idea for the Animal Kingdom. Michael Eisner, Disney's CEO at the time, had always entertained the thought of creating something along the lines of an animal themed park. The development of the park took roughly five and a half years for the final decision to be made. Even with Walt's desire, Roy's visioning, and the belief that Michael Eisner had in the concept of the park, it took a single Disney Imagineer to light the fire that sparked the construction of Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Joe Rhode was the Disney Imagineer that spearheaded the inception of Disney's Animal Kingdom. Him and his team tackled azoo problem that Disney identified after visiting zoos across the nation. Disney's zoo problem was that most of them were cheap, dirty, and did nothing for the animals, but Joe quickly rectified that concern. He proposed the idea of incorporating a proper presentation of these animals, creating their habitats in which they live in to idolize them. Joe set the stage for the park and wanted to go above and beyond what an average zoo would do for the animals. He wanted to make a theme park that expressed love for these animals and that this was "about our feelings for the animals." Joe further echoed this in the presentation of the park when he brought in a 400-pound Bengal tiger into the meeting that brushed up against then CEO, Michael Eisner.
One of the biggest issues that Disney ran into when it came to the park was that the theme park industry was looking bleak. The recession was taking a toll on the industry, Florida was having issues with tourists being murdered, and questions as to whether or not this was a business that Disney wanted to get into. However, even with the local area looking bleak and the belief that Florida might have hit a wall when it came to the theme park business, Disney pursued the dream of the Animal Kingdom.
Inside Disney's Animal Kingdom
When you first walk into the park, you walk into the Oasis, Animal Kingdom's equivalent to Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom. Along with the main entrance to the park, there is also a secret entrance hidden inside of the Rainforest Cafe.
From there, you reach the center of the park; otherwise known as Discovery Island. At Discovery Island you can come face to face with the world famous Tree of Life, the park's iconic centerpiece. Here, you can find the two largest gift shops in the park and you can go either left or right and begin your journey through the rest of the park.
Starting on the right, guests will find themselves immersed in the children’s zone of the park called Dinoland USA. Here, guests can experience an animal themed carnival and have the chance to meet up with some of Disney’s wilderness explorers. Guests also have a chance to experience the attraction, Dinosaur, which is largely based on the movie. It’s one of Disney Animal Kingdom’s thrill rides that largely takes place in the dark.
Continuing on from there, guests will reach the vast land of Asia. Here, guests can interact with various animals from the countries of Asia in the Maharajah Jungle Trek. This animal trek is a walk through exhibit where guests have the opportunity to learn about the cultures of the various animals and be educated on their habits, lifestyles, and their homes. The animals in this exhibit are all real and each of the animals’ origin locations have been recreated for their comfort and safety.
On the next stop in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, guests can be immersed in the continent of Africa. Here, guests have the opportunity to hop into the Kilimanjaro Safari ride and get an up close encounter with animals of Africa in the Harambe Wildlife Reserve. Here, guests can drive through the Savannah, the wetlands, the forests, and more. You can come face to face with elephants, lions, ostriches, flamingos and other wild animals. It is one of Animal Kingdom’s premier attractions and after finishing the safari ride, guests can hop onto the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail where they can learn about more animals that aren’t on the safari.
The last land is one of the newest additions to the park and it is the World of Pandora. The land is entirely based on the hit movie, Avatar. Guests have a chance to ride upon the Na’Vi River Journey and take in the breathtaking sights of the world of Pandora. The land at night turns into a beautifully lit scene straight out of the movie where guests feel like they’re actually in Pandora. The number one attraction in Disney’s Animal Kingdom is also in the land of Pandora called Avatar: Flight of Passage. Here, guests become connected with an Avatar and the Na’Vi allow guests to experience a sacred journey that only their people get to experience.
Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park, DisneyWorld. Accessed February 3rd 2020. https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/destinations/animal-kingdom/.
This source gives a general overview of Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park. It is the official website sponsored by Disney. It is the home page to Disney’s Animal Kingdom and gives you various links and other descriptions of what can be done within the theme park. It gives information regarding the various lands, attractions, food, and character meet and greets for guests of all ages.
Since this is a Disney sponsored website, this would be a primary source. It also ties into American history because the location of the park is within the American borders. It doesn’t have as much of a historical context in regards to the development of the park, but it does inform the reader about the present day operations of the park.
The website offers a chance for guests to further deepen their connection with the park and have an experience unlike any other. It asks as a distributor of information, being that it is the homepage of the park. It’s relevance to American history resides in the present because the park is always expanding and evolving to fit with the times, much like our culture has.
Animal Kingdom Secrets (Discover the Hidden Facts & History of the Park). (2020, February 7). Retrieved from https://magicguides.com/animal-kingdom-secrets/
This source gives readers an insight into all of the hidden secrets about the park. It provides a guide to all of the references to the Imagineer, Joe Rhode, who is the lead engineer on Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It provides readers with a variety of details to further enhance their experience as guests as well as inform them of how detailed Disney was in the creation of Animal Kingdom. It gives information into how some of the structures in Disney were built and what some of the art work and detail represents given the theme of the land and area that they’re found in.
It gives readers a chance to understand the work that was put into the park and its inception. The park is largely influenced by cultures outside of America, which is an accurate representation of the growth of America. From the moment the first immigrants stepped foot on the land, America has been a melting pot of various cultures clashing and mixing together to get the beautiful land that we have today. Animal Kingdom takes that concept and applies to the collection of animals native to lands other than America.
Gunther, Marc, and Joe McGowan. “Disney's Call Of The Wild Michael Eisner and His Theme Park Wizards Are Counting on a Profit Bonanza from Their New $1 Billion Animal Kingdom in Orlando.” Fortune, 13 Apr. 1998.
This article from Fortune magazine from 1998 gives the reader insight into the creation of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It is the main source used here in order to find out how the entire park was made. It offers a short little story about the efforts that were made by the lead Disney Imagineer that went a long way into creating the world’s largest theme park by square footage.
There is a brief mentioning of the economic times and the recession in the time period within the article that can spark further research. The article shares a few of the difficulties that Michael Eisner, Joe Rohde, and the rest of Disney faced as they planned the expansion of their theme park business. There is a lot of information that can be used to compare what Disney looked like back in 1998 as compared to today. In 1998, making Animal Kingdom was a risk that they were gambling on, largely due to the recession, but today it would seem like a no brainer.
“Disney - Leadership, History, Corporate Social Responsibility.” The Walt Disney Company, thewaltdisneycompany.com/about/#corporate-citizenship.
This website is a basic source that provides insight about the various individuals who have served in a key corporate role within the company of Disney. It also contains little snippets and various messages for the reader. It is used as a general overview of some of the company’s missions and goals along with other companies that they oversee such as FX, ESPN, and ABC. The page acts as a guide for all that Disney owns, operates, and oversees on various platforms. At the very bottom of the page there is a small slideshow depicting some of the history of Disney and some of the key events and moments throughout their history.
“Disney's Animal Kingdom.” Edited by Gina Ferrie, Conservation Centers for Species Survival, conservationcenters.org/disneys-animal-kingdom/.
This is a basic source that offers limited details regarding the conservation efforts of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It raises a few specific facts regarding their work such as the beginning of reintroducing the white rhinos to their homeland in Uganda. It mentions a few of their target species, but the page is very much a general overview and doesn’t dive into a lot of the details of their day to day operations.