Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Disney's Animal Kingdom 22nd anniversary

I saw on another site a Top 10 things I love about Disney's Animal Kingdom. And as Dave always likes to point out, I love lists. So Here we go. My Top 10 things about Disney's Animal Kingdom.

10. I have no real interest in backstage tours except at this park. The Wild Africa Trek is well worth the steep price as it is such a different experience.

And the new Caring for Giants tour is inexpensive and fun. I can't recommend it enough. Disney often presents tours for limited times that explore the details and behind the scenes animal care of the park. If one is going on at your next visit, sign up. You will learn a lot about the backstory.

9. I have always said on the podcast, there needs to be more for little kids. Too much of what Disney is putting out is geared to adults or thrill seeking teens. There is nothing wrong in my mind with a good spinner ride or playground. Toddlers need stuff to do too. How many times does a parent have to sit with the toddler while everyone else enjoys Space Mountain or the Tower of Terror. There is a lot at the Animal Kingdom though. The Boneyard is the best playground in Disney bar none. The trails are awesome for little ones, as is the Safari, Triceratops Spin and the river journey. And nothing is better than the Wilderness Explorers, a wonderful game that has kids going all over the park learning things and collecting badges, aka stickers, for their wilderness book.

8. One of the most important diversions at any theme park is entertainment, and the Animal Kingdom does a great job at that. I am not talking shows like Festival of the Lion King but more smaller things like Viva Gaia. Yes, we all lament the loss of Burudika. And with layoffs from Covid-19, we are unsure what the entertainment slate will be when the park reopens.

But the park has always had a solid array of cultural entertainment. Hopefully, acts like the Harambe acrobats, Viva Gaia and Winged Encounters (a personal favorite) survive.

7. Food is another important aspect of the theme park experience. And the Animal Kingdom does not disappoint there either. The sit down restaurants like Yak & Yeti and Tiffins are solid but it is counter service where the park really shines. Harambe Market, Sa'tuli Canteen and Flame Tree BBQ are all in my Top 5 of any counter service at any park. I also really enjoy the counter at Yak & Yeti. This is an area where Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios suffer but the Animal Kingdom does very well.

6. On a related note, drinking should not be dismissed. Easily the best lounge/bar in any park (and its not close) is the Nomad Lounge. There is no place I would rather spend an hour relaxing than there. And the Dawa Bar, where you can really soak in the Harambe experience, is no slouch either. Dawa compared to Nomad when Burudika filled the area with music every afternoon. Its not quite the same now. If Burudika was still around, this might be farther up this list, same with #8.

5. Yes, theme parks are crowded, noisy places. When one decides to hit up a theme park for vacation they don't expect tranquility. But at the Animal Kingdom, peacefulness is in abundance. The animal trails are one place, especially the Tree of Life trails where no one goes. If there are no meet and greets, the Cretaceous trail is as quiet as one can get surrounded by thousands of tourists. And the aforementioned Nomad Lounge, especially on the deck, is relaxation personified.

4. It used to be that night time touring at the Animal Kingdom was nearly non-existent. The rare late nights were a treat. Not anymore thanks to Avatarland. And this is also where night time touring is incredibly unique thanks to the bioluminescent plants that cover the alien "planet." But its not just there. Have you ever ridden Expedition Everest at night? Amazing. There are new night time safaris that make for an entirely different experience from the day time version.

And Harambe and Anandapur are much more mysterious after the sun goes down. Even Chester and Hester's seems different at night. Finally, we now have not only Tree of Life Awakenings (which is maybe my favorite night time event anywhere) but the underrated Rivers of Light to cap your evening.

3. With all due respect to Spaceship Earth and Sleeping Beauty Castle, the Tree of Life is without a doubt the best icon of any Disney park. It is a stunning piece of architecture and sculpture. Who hasn't walked around the Tree trying to find new animal sculptures (there are over 300).

And in terms of fitting the theme, what is better than that? Then there is Tree of Life Awakenings, which is an amazing night time show that makes incredible use of the icon as a screen. Anytime I exit the park at night

2. When the park first opened, its catch phrase was that it was "Natahzuh." That quickly went away, because it is, in fact, a zoo. At least in part. And it's a very good one too. There are no animal trails like the Maharajah Jungle Trek in any other zoo, combining cultural references and back story with the animals on exhibit. And there is really nothing as grand as Kilimanjaro Safari.

 Yes, other zoos have safaris where you ride trucks or monorails through a giant landscape of African fauna, but not like here.

1.  What separates Disney parks from other theme parks? One of the biggest things is back story. And no Disney park comes close to the back story developed by Joe Rohde and his team.  I won't go into all the details (this blog and Radio Harambe delve deep into all of that) but the stories behind the jungle trek, all of Dinoland and even the new World of Avatar are extremely detailed. Yes, its true 99% of the guests have no idea who Chester and Hester are, or know that Avatarland takes place 100 years after the movie with new conservation tourism taking root, or the story of the rajahs and the trek. But that commitment to a story is reflected in everything done in the park and creates a unique cohesion seen nowhere else.

I hope you enjoyed this list of all the things that make this park, the best park in the Disney lineup. And why Dave and I have done this blog and the Radio Harambe podcast for years.

Safari Mike

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Burudika No More

I just received confirmation that Disney is not renewing the contract of the Burudika Band that has been an amazing fixture in Harambe for years. The contract expires October 13th.

I for one think the Burudika Band is an integral part of the Animal Kingdom experience. They are simply amazing and I spend at least some time every trip checking out a couple of sets. Of all the slashes in entertainment, this one hits me the hardest.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Beauty of the Maharajah Jungle Trek 

There is no question that the Maharajah Jungle Trek is beautiful. It is rich in backstory and details. Here are some photos of those very details. Enjoy

We have gone through the story of the maharajahs many times. There is no need to go over it again (except maybe on the podcast).

When you get to the red temple, just before entering the aviary, make sure you keep a look out for the stone tablets depicting early life in Anandapur.

Prayers abound everywhere, particularly near the tigers.

The aviary was once the gran ballroom of the maharajahs' palace.

Look closely at all the bird murals there.

Of course, tigers are a main theme of the ruins, much like they are in Indian folklore. The Maharajah Jungle trek is a detailed zoo trail unlike any in the country.

Safari Mike

Sunday, March 3, 2019

World Wildlife Day

Its World Wildlife Day. So here are some pictures of the animals found at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Bats will be featured on an upcoming Planet Watch.

The open savanna.

Wildlife around the Tree of Life

Recent additions to the park, the lion tailed macaques are highly endangered.

The last 2 pictures are from the safari in 1998.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Disney’s Animal Kingdom News for February 21, 2019: lion king on the way? 

Construction: there is fairly significant construction happening around the Tree of Life. Big enough for a new animal exhibit? Let’s hope so. We are always advocating more live animals at the park.

Lion King: rumors have resurfaced that Disney wants to bring in a lion king dark ride. However, it won’t be based on the animated classic. Instead, Disney allegedly wants to focus on the live action remake coming out later this year. Since these remakes have been consistently doing well, Disney can only assume they will have another hit. It is also alleged that the ride will occupy space next to Festival of the Lion King where the path to Avatarland resides. However, there is backstage stuff just behind the festival’s show building as well as the service road that encircles the park. I guess we shall see.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Disney’s Animal Kingdom News for January 16, 2019: new giraffe 

Giraffe Born: a new baby giraffe was born on scene at the Kilimanjaro Safari attraction. Guests were able to watch the process. That includes Christina from @raisinglasvegas who saw the baby just minutes after birth. She also took the picture below. 

Nomad Kids Menu: more of an informational post, you should know if you go to Nomad Lounge, and why wouldn’t you, you are able to order off the Tiffins kid’s menu for your little ones. Here’s the menu also brought to you by @raisinglasvegas. 

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Not A Nondescript Coaster, But Certainly Time For A Change

It’s not like “I’m going to ride some nondescript coaster somewhere, that maybe is [themed like] India or whatever.” -Bob Iger
Many have asked if this line Bob Iger said in an interview last week to Barron's is really such a big deal. Well, I hate to say it certainly is. It is one thing to support a CEO who is making many creative decisions in the parks we often disagree with. But it is another thing entirely to have a leader who clearly holds the very ideals these parks were founded on in disdain.

How can anyone, especially someone who is supposed to be a creative leader of the Disney Company, call Expedition Everest “nondescript”?? Joe Rohde and his team created an attraction that transports thousands of guests everyday to an incredible corner of the planet most will never go. They spent months and months getting this right, down to every last detail. It is nothing short of an Imagineering triumph in the great tradition of WED Enterprises and Walt Disney Imagineering, and this guy calls it “nondescript”?? It’s just a bridge too far for fans of the kind of detail and backstory that are the very foundation of Disney theme parks. (And he also clearly doesn’t seem to know where Mount Everest actually is, but that’s another issue for another day…)

Non-IP attractions, attractions not based on existing properties like films or television shows, were as important, if not WAY more important, to Walt Disney and the team of geniuses who created the Disney Parks. I don’t need to list all of the “non film” based attraction Disney worked on, many of which were the things he was most proud of. From Main Street USA, to the Amazon River to the shores of the Caribbean, Walt wanted his guest to be transported across the globe, back in time or rocketed into the future. Not ALWAYS placed in the world of a film he was promoting. In fact he hardly ever wanted that. Disneyland was a place for creativity, not just a marketing tool.

Now we have a leader who thinks we can only enjoy an attraction if it ties into whatever film he is trying to promote now, and finds any other attraction unworthy of his attention. But what’s more, he disagrees with the very mission the founder of this company set forth. This is just not acceptable. And this is coming from someone who applauded and supported many of his early decisions. The move to purchase PIXAR and to bring back Oswald the Lucky Rabbit made us think we had a CEO who respected the Disney Company's past and creative future. But when it comes to the parks, he clearly does not.

This should trouble Animal Kingdom lovers deeply, and that's why I am writing this today. Michael Eisner, a CEO many disliked for many good reasons, went back into Walt Disney's love of wild animals and exotic places and put a creative genius in Joe Rohde in charge of building a new theme park almost completely devoid of intellectual property cross-marketing. And what we got was an incredible success, perhaps the most "themed" of all the theme parks in the world. Disney's Animal Kingdom is an incredible modern example of what makes Disney parks the best and most culturalaly relevant in the world. Anyone can build a good coaster or a great zoo. Heck, for that matter anyone can build a good park based on movies. But it takes true creativity, patience, bravery and foresight to do what Walt Disney and Joe Rohde have done. And we are going to flush that all away because some former television executive who can't locate Nepal on a map thinks we only like rides about movies?

On the last episode of our Radio Harambe podcast, Safari Mike asked a great question; why did Iger even say such a thing? Why would he even think to criticize his own parks and therefore the people who designed them? That is a great question, and my fear is this might be a sign that there actually are people in the Disney Company, maybe Imagineers who go back to before Iger's tenure, who do not think the parks are on the right track. Maybe we are not the only ones who believe Pandora doesn't belong in the Animal Kingdom. Perhaps there are others in these meetings who know Guardians of the Galaxy has nothing to do with Future World or Epcot, it isn't even set in the future for crying out loud! Maybe this was just Iger's way to publicly push back on those voices making sense. Of course, we shouldn't expect a man who is clueless about the Himalayas to also know that Arendelle is not, in fact, in Norway.

I hate to say it but it is time for Iger to go, or at least to hand off creative control of the parks. It is time for someone who fosters creativity and new ideas within the Disney Company to take over before we end up with theme parks devoid of identity and completely without a theme.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas

Here are some DAK decor for the holidays

And from our friend Ian MacGregor


Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Disney Animal Kingdom News for December 19, 2018: Tasting samplers

Kali River Rapids Refurb: Kali River Rapids is going down for its annual refurbishment. It will closed from January 7 until March 22. The ride typically closes this time of the year for work.

Tasting Sampler: DAK is starting a tasting sampler. You'll get a pre-loaded gift card for $35, but you only need to pay $30. This includes about 40 different kiosks around the park.  You’ll be able to get a few new offerings like Shrimp Curry and Chicken Curry Bowls at Kusafiri Bakery, House-smoked Pastrami Sliders at Smiling Crocodile, Buffalo Chicken Chips at Trilo-Bites, Pulled Pork or Shrimp Mac and Cheese plates at Eight Spoon Cafe, Korean Fiery Beef Sliders and Tuna Bao at Caravan Road. 

Thursday December 20 8 am - 8:00 pm

Friday December 21 8 am - 8:00 pm

Saturday December 22 8 am- 8:00 am  Extra Magic Hour in the morning

Sunday December 23 8 am- 10:00 pm

Monday December 24  8 am- 10:00 pm Extra Magic Hour in the morning

Tuesday Christmas Day 8 am- 10:00 pm

Wednesday December 28 8 am- 10:00 pm

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Disney Animal Kingdom News for November 14, 2018: After Hours

After Hours: Tickets are on sale now for an after hour event in DAK. For a $125 per person, you get three hours in the park. At night. DVC and Annual Pass holders pay only $95. Ice cream. popcorn and non-alcoholic drinks are included. The dates for same are Dec. 4, 12 and 18, 2018; and Jan. 8, 16, 22 and 31, 2019; and Feb. 5, 6, 12, 13, 19 and 26, 2019; and March 5, 20 and 27, 2019; and April 3, 2019. Tree of Life Awakenings and Pandora are open as well as other older attractions. 

Thursday November 15 8 am - 8:00 pm
Friday November 16 8 am - 8:00 pm
Saturday November 17 8 am- 8:00 am  Extra Magic Hour in the morning
Sunday November 18 8 am- 9:00 pm
Monday November 19  8 am- 9:00 pm
Tuesday November 20 8 am- 9:00 pm Extra Magic Hour in the morning
Wednesday November 21 8 am- 9:00 pm

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Disney Animal Kingdom News for October 24, 2018

New Okapi: Another baby is present at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Mom, Zelda and Dad, Mandazi, were chosen to breed through the SSP. The calf will be offstage for a few months, but keep an eye out at Kidani Village.

New DVC resort: Ordinarily, I wouldn't comment on such a thing, but this nature inspired. Disney said the resort will be "nature inspired." There will be 900 rooms or so. The resort will be located between  the Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness. There will also be varied room types.

Thursday October 25 9 am - 8:00 pm
Friday October 26 9 am - 8:00 pm
Saturday October 27 9 am- 8:00 am  Extra Magic Hour in the morning
Sunday October 28 9 am- 8:00 pm
Monday October 29  9 am- 8:00 pm 
Tuesday October 30 9 am- 8:00 pm Extra Magic Hour in the morning
Wednesday October 31 9 am- 8:00 pm

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Disney's Animal Kingdom News for October 4, 2018: Rafiki is back

Save Rafiki: Apparently the story that Rafiki's Planet Watch was closing was fake news. Its going down for an "extensive" refurbishment and will reopen in the Spring (probably Earth Day) of next year. The train will obviously be back then. We shall see what the refurbishment entails. No word from Disney yet.

Drinkwallah: Additional seating is being added to this establishment. It appears an additional structure is going near the water. Its a great place to sit, but in the past there have been only a few tables and seats. Its tremendously themed, so this is a good thing.

Thursday October 4 9 am - 8:00 pm
Friday October 5 9 am - 8:00 pm
Saturday October 6 9 am- 8:00 am  Extra Magic Hour in the morning
Sunday October 7 9 am- 8:00 pm
Monday October 8  9 am- 8:00 pm   Extra Magic Hour in the morning
Tuesday October 9 9 am- 8:00 pm
Wednesday October 10 9 am- 8:00 pm