Monday, December 31, 2012

Looking Back and Wishing Forward: Hurricanes and Relish

We continue today with our year end series of posts looking back at our top stories of 2012 and looking forward to what we wish will happen in 2013 at Disney's Animal Kingdom.  Today, our resident food critic and contributing writer Brooke takes a more personal look at things...

Looking Back at 2012:  My top story of 2012 is a personal one.  My family and I visited WDW in August during which Hurricane Isaac hit.  The morning the storm hit, we were waiting for a bus from the Boardwark to go to DAK for the day.  A cast member, whom I lovingly will refer to as "Buzzkill Bob", was trying his best to deter us from visiting the Animal Kingdom on this day.  In fact, he became a little annoyed with us for sticking to our plan, since we had reservations for lunch at the Yak & Yeti and were not going to pass up the chance to eat there.  Well, it turned out to be the best day ever!  We had the park basically to ourselves, received a lot of one on one attention from cast members who were great to chat about our love of the Animal Kingdom with, and enjoyed a great meal, albeit a very wet one, at the Yak & Yeti.

the author trekking through a hurricane
So my tip to anyone visiting during rain, be it a tropical storm or a hurricane, go to the Animal Kingdom!  Put on your poncho and enjoy the park.  Everything was open and the animals loved the temperature drop the rain brought.  They were the most active I have ever seen them.

 A Wish for 2013:  As for my wish for 2013 -- I really would love it if the Flame Tree Barbecue would bring back the Onion Relish they originally put on their sandwiches.  It was delicious and is truly missed.

By Brooke, contributing writer to Jambo Everyone
Twitter: @Brookie1248

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Looking Back and Wishing Forward; Avatar and Dragons

Today we begin our year end series of postings where we look back at our favorite moment of 2012 and offer our wish for 2013 at Disney's Animal Kingdom.  The famous Safari Mike kicks us off, sending in this communiqué from somewhere high up in the Himalayas.   (We can only imagine what wildlife he will find there!!)

Looking Back at 2012: I think the biggest story of 2012 has to be the on again, off again, on again and off again story of Avatarland. Since the deal with James Cameron was announced last September, it has been a lightning rod of controversy. For months,we got zero information. As the spring turned to summer, there were rumblings that Avatarland would never happen. We heard Cameron was too difficult, the backlash from the Disney community was too great, the imagineers had no interest in the franchise. 
image copyright Disney
Then, just when we were sure it was a dead project, we got leaked plans apparently showing a Soarin' type ride system (a consistent rumor for the project from the get-go) combined with a long boat ride. These were supposed to be linked to Avatarland which now seemed to be back in business. But then, Disney buys Lucasfilms. All of a sudden the Avatarland is dead rumblings return. Iger wants more Star Wars in the parks, that is a Disney property now and Avatar is not.  Avatar 2 would be released the same year as Star Wars 7, a direct rival for the new Disney family franchise.  And then, yet again the tide turns as Disney releases a photo of Joe Rohde, James Cameron and others discussing a model of Avatarland. So now, it seems the project might move forward after all.  Or maybe not.  Disney did announce Hyperion Wharf, Flamingo Crossing and other projects that died on the vine.  I imagine by the end of 2013 though we will know for sure which way the pendulum ultimately swings.

 A Wish for 2013: So then, what is my wish for next year? Well, that actually starts in Fantasyland. You see I want that dragon that appeared during the media event for a one time only appearance. An appearance that the general public was not permitted to. I want it at Animal Kingdom every night. Apparently, we can't have fireworks at the park but I think that the place does need a night capping event. It is the only park that does not go out with a bang like Wishes, Illuminations or Fantasmic, and I think a night ending flight of the dragon would fit the bill. People would stay to see it (and eat dinner and shop while waiting). All of a sudden the logo and dragon headed ticket booth would make a lot of sense. And we would have another mythical creature in the park besides the yeti.

to contact Safari Mike use Twitter: @JamboEveryone

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Word for 2013, Avatar

The coming of the New Year is a time to not only look back at 2012, but also to look forward to what may come in 2013.  And at the Animal Kingdom, gazing into the promise of the new year can mean only one word...Avatar.

Since the first train left the station at the village of Serka Zong and journeyed toward the Forbidden Mountain, little else has changed at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  The opening of Expedition Everest in 2006 was the last major addition to the park.  Since than, all the other parks have seen major attractions added, plussed, or re-imagined, while the Animal Kingdom has remained stagnant.  But it appears all of that is soon to change.

image copyright Disney

As we have been talking about for months, Disney is in the process of pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the Avatarland project, which promises to be one of largest expansions in the history of the Florida parks.  The next year will most likely be dominated by talk and construction of this new land, as little else is in the works for DAK.

A year ago, we could have said the same exact thing about 2012, but instead what we got was another lost year in terms of DAK expansion.  It seems, however, that 2013 will be different, well..sort of.  While Avatarland will likely not open during the calendar year of 2013, what we will get is hope.  Hope that Disney is finally investing into making the Animal Kingdom bigger and better.

image copyright Disney
Hopefully, 2013 will also give us a better idea of what Avatarland will be like when completed.  We have already seen some plans, but those were vague and we all know that everything can change especially since shovels haven’t even hit the ground yet.  Will this be a fun and fantasy-filled extension of the park’s conservation theme?  Or will it be just the beginning of a Disney’s Hollywood Studios-style slippery slope towards thematic mishmash?  

I know many a fan of the Animal Kingdom, a few of whom work for this website, hold out hope for a cancellation of Avatar in favor of something else, something more fitting of the park’s current theme.  But that seems out of the question now.  Avatar will happen.  We just need to keep our fingers crossed that it will be an expansion more like the new Fantasyland or Cars Land, and less like the kind of Camp Minnie-Mickey style expansion it appears to be replacing.

A Special Message from the Cheetah Conservation Fund

We invite you to take a look at this special video message from the Cheetah Conservation Fund and their Founder and Director Dr. Laurie Marker.

I have always loved cheetahs, don't ask me why.  Ever since I can remember I have been fascinated by these animals.  So let's do whatever we can to help!  (And how cool are the cats in this video??)

The Cheetah Conservation Fund is one of our conservation partners, and we are proud to be able to help them in any way we possibly can.  Please visit our Conservation Page and follow the link directly to their donations page.

New Films Added to Rafiki's Planet Watch

According to the Disney Parks Blog, there are some new films now showing at Rafiki's Planet Watch.  The post describes them as "stories about our conservation efforts and how we’re connecting families with animals and nature".  Here is an example of one of the films.  Enjoy!

 It is nice to see some time and effort bring put into this often missed corner of DAK. It is also nice to see Disney patting itself on the back a bit for there conservation work.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

New Dining Review and Safari Mike Checks In

With a quick break in the holiday action before the next one come around, we have some new content today on Jambo Everyone today for you.

First up is a new dining review added to our DAK Dining and Drinking Guide.  Our own food critic, Brooke, brings us her views on Sanaa, the Inidan inspired restaurant located in Kidani Village.  With amazing views of the Kidani Savannah, Sanaa offers some of the best atmosphere in all of WDW.  Throw in good food and terrific bar and you have a fabulous place.

Also, Safari Mike sends us a dispatch from his travels.  Today he tells us about the Eland, the world's largest antelope.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Heri Za Krismas!

It is Christmas, the time of the year Scrooge’s nephew Fred called “a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave”.

So with Charles Dickens’ beautiful words in mind, I ask you on Christmas Eve, like those charity collectors knocking on Mr. Scrooge’s door, to help us help our Conservation Partners.  These folks are working tirelessly to save our planet’s precious and endangered creatures and they need our help to continue their work.

So if you want to get something last minute for that person who has everything, or if you just want to make a donation in keeping with the season, please visit our Conservation Page.  From there you can go directly to the donation pages of our friends working to save a few endangered species.

So from all of us at Jambo Everyone to all of you, our fellow Animal Kingdom lovers, we wish you and your loved ones a safe and happy Christmas season.  And to all of those working with our conservation partners, we thank you and wish you continued success in your work for the coming year.  Heri Za Krismas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Disney's Animal Kingdom News Round-up; Christmas Week 2012

It’s Christmas Time in the Jungle:  It is Christmas, and nothing can beat Christmas at Walt Disney World, and the Animal Kingdom is ready! Extended hours to handle the huge crowds means the park will be open until 9pm for the entire Christmas Week.  Also, there will also be Morning Extra Magic Hours on Christmas Day and every morning from Dec 28 through January 1, which means the park opens to resort guests at 7am.

Let me say this, I understand many people coming to Disney World for Christmas come specifically to clamor to get in to the Magic Kingdom for Christmas morning.  But if you are not one of those, the Animal Kingdom is a terrific option.  The park is open early, and while everyone else crams in to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot you will likely not see those same huge crowds at the Animal Kingdom.

Also, holiday decorations are up and Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade is in full swing.  Check out the parade every day at 3:45pm.  It’s terrific and fun holiday parade.

Park Hours: Since this is such a busy time, with lots of changes in the schedule, we have extended our Park Hours calendar to include the entire Christmas week straight through the end of 2012.  Here are the park hours...

Wednesday: Dec 19 9am - 8pm  (Extra Magic Hour 8-9am)
Thursday: Dec 20 9am - 7pm
Friday: Dec 21 9am - 8pm
Saturday: Dec 22 9am - 8pm
Sunday: Dec 23 8am - 8pm
Monday: Dec 24 8am - 9pm
Tuesday: Dec 25 8am - 9pm (Extra Magic Hour 7-8am)
Wednesday: Dec 26 8am - 9pm
Thursday: Dec 27 8am - 9pm
Friday: Dec 28 8am - 9pm (Extra Magic Hour 7-8am)
Saturday: Dec 29 8am - 9pm (Extra Magic Hour 7-8am)
Sunday: Dec 30 8am - 8pm (Extra Magic Hour 7-8am)
Monday: Dec 31 8am - 8pm (Extra Magic Hour 7-8am)
Tuesday: Jan 1 8am - 8pm (Extra Magic Hour 7-8am)

Check Out Kenny the Pirate for this week’s Entertainment Schedule!

Attraction Closures:
No Closures at this time

Have A Wild Time this week!!  And Merry Christmas!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Holiday Gift Guide #4; Something for the Outdoors

As the holiday gets closer and closer, we continue our Holiday Gift Guide, our way to help you find the perfect gift for the animal lover on your list.  All of these items are offered by our Conservation Partners, and purchasing the items in this guide helps these organizations continue the work they do.  Today, we take a look at a few items for those outdoorsy kinda folks on your list
Whenever I am outside for any length of time, I always have a hat on.  My pale skin suffers, especially during long days at Walt Disney World, so I love a good hat.  So, how about this great military style cap from the Cheetah Conservation Fund?  This one works on many levels.  It has a cool look plus it has the fantastic CCF logo.

A good vest is also perfect for the outdoors.  It works great in cold layering situations, so everyone from hikers to boaters would appreciate it.  The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund offers this gorgeous green fleece vest.  It comes in Men’s and Women’s sizes and run a very reasonable $50.

Finally, if you have a serious outdoors friend, and I mean serious, Save the Rhino has a High Visibility vest available.  If you know a cyclist, runner, hiker, or even someone who likes to take long walks with their dog, this is the perfect gift.  It keeps you safe and has that great logo you will be proud to wear.

Friday, December 14, 2012

New Reviews for Kali River Rapids and It's Tough to be a Bug

We are getting closer and closer to having reviews for each attraction in Disney's Animal Kingdom posted in our Attractions Guide.  Today we have new reviews up for two e-ticket rides; Kali River Rapids and It's Tough to be a Bug.

Don't forget to go to our Attractions Guide to peruse through the rest of our reviews.  And feel free to comment here on any of them.

The Jambo Everyone Holiday Gift Guide #3; Something for the Little Ones

Today we continue our Holiday Gift Guide, our way to help you find the perfect gift for the animal lover on your list.  All of these items are offered by our Conservation Partners, and purchasing the items in this guide helps these organizations continue the work they do.  Today, let us turn our attention to a couple of items for the little animal lovers on your list.

If you just happen to know a child who loves animals, specifically rhinos, these cuddly toys offered by Save the Rhino make a perfect gift or even a stocking stuffer.  They are available in white or black and they are only about $10.

Speaking of terrific plush toys, this one pictured above is from the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.  “Armstrong the Gorilla” is cute as could be, and we all know the struggles gorillas face in the wild.  These are only $10 each and the kids in my family would be just as thrilled to know their gift helped save these animals as they would be with the doll itself.

Finally, how about something for the little ones.  Would you like to see your infant be a baby “conservation warrior”?  Well, this onesy offered by the Cheetah Conservation Fund will allow your munchkin to spread the word about helping to save the planet fastest land mammal.  And how cute can you be???

So, please do what you can to help our wildlife and by getting a few great holiday gifts while also helping them is great idea.  If you want to learn more about our Conservation Partners and they work they do, head to the Jambo Everyone Conservation Effort.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Grevy's Zebra Trust and AZA Partners Win Conservation Award

Keeping you up to date on the progress of our Conservation Partners.  We encourage our readers to do everything they can to help these organizations.  Click here to donate to the Grevy's Zebra Trust

27 Associatiosn of Zoos and Aquariums institutions and Grevy's Zebra Trust were awarded Top Honors for the 2012 AZA International Conservation Award

In acknowledgement of a remarkable conservation partnership and in celebration of the collaborative Grevy’s zebra conservation successes in recent years, 27 AZA institutions and the Grevy’s Zebra Trust were awarded Top Honors for the 2012 AZA International Conservation Award on 13 September 2012 at the AZA Annual Conference in Phoenix, Arizona.
These institutions included: Brevard Zoo, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Chicago Zoological Society, Cleveland Zoo, Dallas Zoo, Denver Zoo, Detroit Zoo, Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund & Rapid Relief Fund, Fresno Chaffee Zoo, Jackson Zoo, Jacksonville Zoo, Living Desert, Los Angeles Zoo, Oklahoma City Zoo, Oregon Zoo, Phoenix Zoo, Reid Park Zoo (Zoo Teens Program), Riverbanks Zoo, Sacramento Zoo, Safari West,Saint Louis Zoo, San Diego Global, Sea World & Busch Gardens, Sedgwick County Zoo, Toronto Zoo, Utah’s Hogle Zoo, and White Oak Conservation Center.

Without this institutional support, the ongoing Grevy’s zebra conservation programs in Kenya and Ethiopia simply would not be possible. By collaborating together, we are able to accomplish so much more for Grevy’s zebra than any one of our institutions could accomplish alone, and this collective partnership is deeply appreciated.
This award demonstrates the commitment of AZA institutions to in-situ conservation. GZT’s positive experience of AZA support was highlighted during the Conservation Innovation Forum “Are Zoos Doing Enough?” convened by the Wildlife Conservation Network in October.

Safari Mike: Banteng

New on Jambo Everyone today is a dispatch from the world travels of Safari Mike as he tell us about the Banteng, a wild cattle found in Asia.

If you haven't perused through the archives of Safari Mike's dispatches, we invite you to do so.  Seeing the animals at DAK is one thing, but knowing their background, history, and often their plight, makes the experience that much better.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

New Review of the Yak and Yeti

New to Jambo Everyone today is our full review of the Yak and Yeti sit-down restaurant.  The review is by Brooke, our resident foodie and can be found on our DAK Dining Guide.

"...the food is awesome.  In my opinion this is the best sit down restaurant in the Animal Kingdom.  The menu encompasses many tastes from the Orient."

We are getting closer and closer to having each and every dining facility at DAK covered in our Guide.  So keep checking back for more reviews.  If you have any questions on any eatery not yet covered, feel free to leave us a comment or send an email.

Disney's Animal Kingdom News Round-up; December 12

Avatar Moving Forward: The big news this week is about the Avatar expansion coming to Disney's Animal Kingdom.  Late last week Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs said the project is on course, according to this article by Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel.

image copyright Disney
It was only a matter of time before Disney was forced to make some sort of confirmation regarding Avatar's progress.  Between rumors of its demise, and the purchase of the Star Wars franchise, speculation that Avatar would disappear the same way the Hyperion Wharf project did was running rampant on the internet.  But Staggs put the lid on those rumors, saying  "We're not in construction yet. We're still in development. And we're still honing exactly what we're going to do. But it's going to be big."

We have written quite a bit on this subject over the last few months, and there really isn't much "news" here.  I guess the most noteworthy part of this is that after over a year since the announcement Disney still has not begun construction.

It’s Christmas Time in the Jungle:  Holiday decorations are up and Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade is in full swing.  Check out the parade every day at 3:45pm.

Park Hours for this week are...

Wednesday: Dec 12 9am - 5pm  (Extra Magic Hour 8-9am)
Thursday: Dec 13 9am - 5pm
Friday: Dec 14 9am - 8pm
Saturday: Dec 15 9am - 8pm
Sunday: Dec 16 9am - 7pm
Monday: Dec 17 9am - 7pm (Extra Magic Hour 8-9am)
Tuesday: Dec 18 9am - 7pm

Check Out Kenny the Pirate for this week’s Entertainment Schedule!

Attraction Closures:
No Closures at this time

Have A Wild Time this week!!

Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund Helps Rescue Animals from Hurricane Sandy and Other Disasters

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Dec. 5, 2012—The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) recently provided $250,000 to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), whose animal rescue team was among the first to help save hundreds of animals after Hurricane Sandy.

image copyright Disney
In addition to providing immediate supplies to help equip a disaster response trailer, the DWCF grant will also help IFAW to plan for the future by providing resources for future response efforts, as well as training sessions for disaster preparedness globally.

According to rescue team members, families affected by the storm were concerned about the welfare of the pets they had to leave behind and were relieved to know that organizations like IFAW were working to ensure that their animals would be safe.

image copyright Disney
Funding for this DWCF grant was provided by Disney Friends for Change, which contributed the proceeds from the iTunes downloads of various songs including “Rise” and “Send it On.” Guests at Disney Parks and Resorts also help support the DWCF through contributions made at various parks and resorts and even while sailing with Disney Cruise Line.   These contributions as well as the proceeds from various programs, tours and merchandise are all directed to the DWCF annual conservation grants program to help engage people and protect wildlife around the world. Disney matches guest contributions and covers all administrative costs.

This year the DWCF celebrated a $20 million milestone of giving through its various programs to support the study of wildlife, the protection of habitats and the development of community conservation and education programs in critical ecosystems around the world.

image copyright Disney
The DWCF has supported IFAW’s efforts for more than 10 years, including the rescue of 20,000 endangered penguins from an oil spill in South Africa in 2000, and support for the animal victims of Hurricane Katrina, the Asian tsunami and the Haiti earthquake.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Are the critics wrong about Primeval Whirl?

Well, according to Safari Mike they very well might be.  Primeval Whirl has long been the target of Disney World's critics, but according to the new review posted today it simply does not deserve all the negativity.

For those who have never been on Primeval Whirl, Safari Mike gives you a full rundown of what to expect from this "Wild Mouse" style coaster in his brand new full review.  While it is not the best attraction in DAK, it is by no means something to be skipped without at least giving it a shot.

If you are looking for info on all of the attractions offered at Disney's Animal Kingdom, click here to peruse the Jambo Everyone Attractions Guide.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Jambo Everyone Holiday Gift Guide #2; T-Shirts For Everyone!!

Okay, let me admit to something right off the bat.  I am a t-shirt junkie.  Sounds weird, I know, but I pretty much buy t-shirts from everywhere I travel and then some.  I have dozens and dozens, much to the chagrin of my wife.  So when it comes to suggesting some ideas for the holiday gift guide it was only natural for me to do an entire post on t-shirts you can get to help conservation efforts.  I think I might buy a few myself!

First up we have this fantastic tee pictured above offered by the Save the Rhino organization.  It is available blue and black, as well as the pictured khaki which is my personal favorite.  They also have kids shirts in dark green and beige.  They go for 15 British Pounds, which is only about $25.

The Cheetah Conservation Fund offers literally dozens of great gift ideas, including an entire range of shirts for everyone on your list.  The item pictured above is a stunning women’s cut tee available in a range of colors.  Personally, I like this black one the best as it really seems to enhance the emotional connection to the eyes of the cheetah.

For men, the CCF has a really nice organic shirt featuring the organizations logo.  The shirt is made in the USA from 100% organically grown cotton.  It also features on the back a stunning photo of a cheetah doing what it does best, sprinting!  Both shirts mentioned here from the CCF sell for less than $30.

Finally, we have this beautiful shirt offered by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.  It is only available in army green, but I can not imagine a color that works better.  It sports a cool newsprint design in the shape of the african continent and sells for $24.  I admit this might be a bit of a “guy” kind of shirt, but I love it!

Let’s be honest, how great would you or your loved ones look wearing any of these around Disney’s Animal Kingdom?  They are all gorgeous shirts and the proceeds go towards helping these organizations do their work saving our wildlife.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Jambo Everyone Holiday Gift Guide #1; Adopt a Gorilla

Yes, it is that time of the year again, the time to spread some holiday cheer to your loved ones.  Now I know for some folks the holidays are made stressful by the process of shopping for gifts.  But we here at Jambo Everyone have some great gift ideas for the animal lovers on your list.  Over the next few days we will point out some great items sold by conservation organizations which helps to fund their good work.

And if you are someone who thinks the holiday season has become too commercial and that the real spirit of the season has been lost under a pile of marketing campaigns, we have some great gift ideas that will not only make your loved ones smile but will also warm your heart because you are doing something to help save endangered species.

First on our list is the adoption programs offered by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.  There literally is something for everyone here and they make truly special gifts for animal lovers.  You can choose to adopt a infant gorilla, orphan, mom and infant pair, adult silverback or even a patrol of anti-poachers, the people on the front lines of the fight to save these magnificent creatures!

You can spend anywhere from $40 and each package comes with a variety of different items including adoption certificates, window stickers and the like.  But what is even cooler is that the adoption packages keep you informed on the work of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, so all year long your loved ones are reminded of how special your gift really is!

So follow this link directly to the adoption page on the Dina Fossey Gorilla Fund website.  Or, you can explore more about any of our conservation partners by going to our Conservation Effort.

by Dave McBride @davemcb1897

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Looking for Dragons in Disney World

Dragons are cool. Real cool. They are easily the most interesting of all mythical animals. Even cooler than the Yeti, and yes, I consider the Yeti a mythical critter. Dragons are, well, from everywhere. For some reason, a giant monstrous lizards/dragons reside in myths across the world, China, Europe, South America.

And the dragon was meant to be an integral part of Disney's Animal Kingdom. As most know, in the area where Camp Minnie Mickey sits, there was to be the Beastly Kingdom (or Beastlie Kingdomme). This land was meant to have a lot of cool attractions, the greatest of which was the Dragon Tower. The attraction was to be amazing and extremely immersive. The ride would be held within a crumbling black castle tower. The queue would begin in the courtyard where the ruins would be accompanied by medieval music. You then would work your way through the abandoned castle filled with broken weapons and artifacts. Faint whispers could be heard here, and this is where the Disney magic begins.

You see the Dragon's Tower was to be filled with bats. Gigantic, intelligent bats that wanted you to help them battle the dragon that has taken control of their home. You would encounter a group animatronic bats drawing up battle plans for the big showdown. When you arrived on the scene, you would have been recruited. That is, you would have boarded melted cauldrons that were, in fact, your coaster car. The bats would fly you through the castle to do battle. The dragon, on his heap of gold and gems, would breathe fire and the battle itself would head outside into a magical forest until you and the bats eventually become victorious.

Ultimately, there was no money for Dragon Tower and the rest of the Beastly Kingdom. Instead, Disney wanted to build Dinoland and Countdown to Extinction. It was cheaper since the main attraction was essentially a clone of the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland and Disney had in production a dinosaur animated feature for synergy. So, the Animal Kingdom never got its dragon.

Or did it. There is, of course, a dragon in the logo walking alongside an elephant and a triceratops. There is also a dragon head over one of the ticket booths. But, there was once a dragon in the park itself. When the park first opened, there was a little ride called the Discovery River Boats which plied the rivers around Discovery Island. On this boat trip, you would come across Dragon cave. Within the cave lived the Dragon king. As the boats passed the cave's mouth, one would hear growls and see blasts of flame. The dragon himself could not be seen, but he was there. That is, until the boat ride closed a little over a year after the park opened. Now there is only a rock sculpture visible from the Camp Minnie Mickey bridge that looks like a dragon's head.

So now, we are getting dragons. Not in the Animal Kingdom where they belong, but in new Fantasyland. Disney has launched a website dedicated to the sightings of the massive flying creature and someday soon, we will find out what all the hype is about. What is this dragon they are talking about? A new attraction? a new show? A new feature to the fireworks?

Is Beastly Kingdom truly dead? Probably. Is Avatarland dead? No one seems to know. But it is fun to speculate that the dragon born in fantasyland will then make its way to the Animal Kingdom for a show there. Or maybe, since they seem to say the dragon in fantasyland is good,  there will be an evil counterpart at the Animal Kingdom that will be a part of a revitalized Beastly Kingdom that replaces Avatarland. After all, why build Avatarland when you own Star Wars? Why fly around on those strange animals from Pandora, when you can battle the real deal in myths - the evil dragon.

by Safari Mike
Twitter: @JamboEveryone

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Record year for rhino poaching in South Africa

From the Save the Rhino website

With two months of the year still to go, a record number of rhinos have illegally been killed this year in South Africa. Poachers have slaughtered 488 rhinos so far in 2012, surpassing the 448 killed during the whole of 2011. Over half (296) of the rhinos killed were in Kruger National Park.

These horrific figures show the dramatic rise in rhino poaching over the past decade, where just 13 rhinos were killed in South Africa during the whole of 2007. Poaching is carried out by highly organised criminal syndicates, with rhino horn is now reputedly worth more than gold on the black market. The latest South African government figures show that 214 arrests have been made so far this year.
South Africa is home to around 20,000 rhinos, more than any other country. However there is much concern that the number of rhinos killed will soon exceed the number of births, which will tip the species into decline.

The increase in rhino poaching is mainly attributed to the growing demand for rhino horn from wealthy consumers in Asia, in particular Vietnam and China. Rhino horn is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, with demand recently increasing due to unfounded rumours that rhino horn can cure cancer. Other users have been identified who believe that rhino horn has 'detoxification' properties following the consumption of excessive food or alcohol.

More recently, the use of rhino horn as a prized status object has emerged. A number of wealthy Vietnamese individuals have been discovered in possession of rhino horn. In early October 2012, a case emerged of the theft of a rhino horn from a wealthy Vietnamese bank tycoon who was ''gifted'' the  white rhino from someone who apparently shot the rhino during a legal hunt in South Africa in 2006.

Click Here to Learn More About Save the Rhino

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Kilimanjaro Safari, the Signature Attraction

If there is a signature attraction at Disney's Animal Kingdom, it is Kilimanjaro Safari. It has been there since the beginning and was immediately the headliner at the park. Even with the subsequent openings of Expedition Everest and Kali River Rapids, it is still considered by many as the defining ride. Much of the vast amount of space of the theme park is comprised of the safari. The Magic Kingdom could fit into it. And, as a zoo exhibit, the safari is innovative.

The experience begins in the queue. You wind through a forested path at the end of the village of Harambe to begin your journey into the Harambe Wildlife Reserve. Overhead monitors tell the story of some of the animals here. You will also walk through the ranger station. Take a look at some of the props and posters. Through much of this queue you are able to bring your stroller. It is only near the end where you need to ditch the stroller in the designated parking area. This is a good thing as the line can get long and letting the kids relax in the stroller might prevent an unwanted meltdown.

Click here to read more….

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park News Round-Up for Week of November 7

It’s Christmas Time in the Jungle:  Yes, that’s right.  While it may not feel like Christmas yet in most parts of the country, it is certainly starting to look that way at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  Holiday decorations are going up and Mickey’s Jammin Jungle Parade is about to start as the park’s daily parade.  The Jammin Jungle makes its 2012 debut this Friday November 9 at 3:45pm.  Look for the holiday parade at that same time for the rest of the week.

Park Hours for this week are...

Wednesday: Nov 7 9am - 6pm
Thursday: Nov 8 9am - 6pm
Friday: Nov 9 9am - 8pm (Extra Magic Hour 8-9am)
Saturday: Nov 10 9am - 7pm
Sunday: Nov 11 9am - 7pm
Monday: Nov 5 9am - 5pm (Extra Magic Hour 8-9am)
Tuesday: Nov 6 9am - 5pm

Check Out Kenny the Pirate for this week’s Entertainment Schedule!

Attraction Closures:
No Closures at this time

Have A Wild Time this week!!

by Dave McBride @davemcb1897

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Finding Nemo the Musical, a Big Blue Review

Finding Nemo the Musical is located in a theater near Dinoland. The theater has been there since the park opened. It was first the home of a Jungle Book stage show that I rather liked. That was replaced by an odd version of Tarzan featuring skate boarders and gymnasts. Several years ago it became Finding the Nemo the Musical, a very different kind of stage show.

First of all, Finding Nemo the movie, as I'm sure you know, is not a musical. Considering the wide range of musical animation in the Disney archives, it seemed strange to pick a movie that required new songs be written. But to be fair, the songs are terrific. They tell the story of Nemo well, helping pare down the movie to a thirty minute stage show.

Click here to read more…

The Cheetah Conservation Fund: Helping Animals to Help Other Animals!

Jambo Everyone is committed to conservation and helping to save the animals that make our experience at Disney’s Animal Kingdom so great.  We have launched our Jambo Everyone Conservation Effort and part of that effort is to keep you informed, here in our news page, on the work of those organizations we have been honored to work with. 

image copyright Cheetah Conservation Fund

The Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) has many programs aimed at saving the world’s cheetah population.  One of those is a fascinating program called the Livestock Guarding Dog Program.

Cheetahs face many different threats in the wild, but one of the biggest is from humans, specifically farmers looking to protect their livestock from predators.  However, the cheetah lives in a world with serious competition for prey from other local predators of the four-legged variety.   As a result they are often forced towards livestock and that makes them a target.

The CCF is working with farmers on non-lethal ways of protecting livestock from cheetahs, and one of those ways is through the use of guard dogs.  The organization breeds and places to farms in Africa a rather large breed of dog called the Kangal Anatolian Shepherd.  This ancient breed of shepherd has been protecting livestock in Europe for ages.  Males often weigh well over 100 pounds and can bark up a storm, making them the perfect tool for farmers to keep their livestock safe from predators, including cheetahs, who would much rather move on than take a chance against these canines.
image copyright Cheetah Conservation Fund

Dogs begin their work as puppies, placed with livestock at an early age so they can create a bond with the animals they are meant to keep safe.  According to the CCF, the Livestock Guarding Dog Program has so far placed over 300 dogs to farms in Namibia and can report an 80% decrease in livestock attacks as a result.  It is a progressive and effective way to make sure farmers, livestock and wildlife can all exist together.

So basically, we can help the CFF to help animals help other animals.  (That sentence is easier to write than speak!)  Talk about your great “circle of life” moments!  Cheetahs are undeniably a fascinating and majestic animal, but they are in trouble.  Do we really want the planet’s fastest runner to disappear??

To read more about the CFF, the issues facing cheetahs and to donate, visit our Conservation Page and follow the links.

by Dave McBride @davemcb1897

Monday, November 5, 2012

Dinosaur, a Countdown to Extinction

You enter the “Dino Institute” through a lobby area filled with fossils and the kind of scientific information one finds in many a museums throughout the country.  As you pass through you get a quick presentation, with a voiceover by Bill Nye the Science Guy, which gives you a subtle hint into what you are about to experience.  But many guests talk their way through it, so it is on to the briefing room to prepare yourself to experience extinction at work.

You make your way into a small theater for the pre-show, a film aimed at setting the story for the attraction.  Fans of the Cosby Show, and children of the 1980’s, will love the cameo by Mrs. Huxtable, the actress Phylicia Rashad who here plays Dr. Helen Marsh.  Dr. Marsh introduces you to your ride vehicle and what she hopes will be your easy and relaxing time travel into the world of the dinosaurs.  But of course, like in the storyline for nearly all of Disney’s e-tickets these days, something goes horribly wrong.

Click here to read more…

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Avatar, Disney and George Lucas

As we all know by now, Disney has purchased Lucasfilm and all that it encompasses. ILM, Skywalker Sound and the rest of the lot are now Disney properties much like Marvel and ESPN. This, of course, includes the Star Wars franchise. And Disney has already said there will be more Star Wars stuff in the parks. Plus, Disney will be releasing more Star Wars movies in the future, starting in apparently 2015.

I have already seen comparisons between the Avatar announcement and this one. There are, of course, several major differences. First and foremost, Disney has had a long standing relationship with Lucas and none with Cameron. Secondly, and most importantly, Disney did not buy Avatar, they just made a deal for theme park rights to the franchise. While Disney has a real vested interest in the popularity of Star Wars and will do all it can to promote (and cross promote) any new Star Wars products, the same does not hold true for Avatar. Whether or not Avatar does well, really means nothing for Disney.

Or does it? It seems to me that Avatar is a direct competitor to Star Wars for the sci-fi dollars especially as it seems the Avatar sequels will be out during the same time frame as Star Wars 7 and the Avengers 2. Disney, when they announced the Avatar deal made a point of talking about how Avatar could come to other projects like the Hong Kong and Shanghai parks. Guess what, in the announcement of the purchase of Lucasfilm, Iger made a point of saying Star Wars would be added to Hong Kong and Shanghai. You think Disney would put Avatarland in Shanghai or Star Wars land? I doubt it would be both.

So now, Disney will be building a giant Avatarland in the Animal Kingdom only. Will Disney still move forward with the Avatar project at the Animal Kingdom while now owning a rival science fantasy franchise? Would Disney build Star Trek rides while owning Star Wars? Probably not, but as of last week, the once thought dead Avatarland project sprung back to life in the form of leaked blue prints.

Take another peak at those plans. The word Avatar or Pandora does not appear in any form on those blueprints. They are generic without any indication of what they are meant for. There is no indication that it is earmarked for the Animal Kingdom even. It seems rather strange that just a few days before the announcement of the purchase of Lucasfilms (which they have been working on for some time) blueprints for a new major area are leaked. Maybe those plans aren't for the Animal Kingdom or Avatar after all. Maybe they are for a new Star Wars area at Disney's Hollywood Studios or for one of Disney's foreign parks. If Disney wants to build their own Potter, the Star Wars franchise is much more likely to create that buzz than Avatar.

by Safari Mike
Twitter: @JamboEveryone

Friday, October 26, 2012

Avatar Lives!

The reportedly on-again-off-again Avatar Project appears to be on...again.  Early yesterday rumors made the rounds on various internet sources saying the apparent issues between Walt Disney Imagineering and Avatar creator James Cameron had been resolved and the project was once again moving forward.  And then, within hours, what were said to be blue-print style plans for the new project popped up as well.

image copyright Disney

First, let me just state the obvious disclaimer right off the bat.  Disney has had no official word on the Avatar project since the original announcement of their partnership with Cameron late last year, and they have certainly not confirmed the veracity of these rumors.  Also, their is absolutely nothing found on these images that lead me to believe they are or are not “official”.  Basically, this could be the real deal, or it could be just a hoax.  Only time will tell.

Having said all that, leaking blueprints of future theme park projects is not exactly new for WDI.  Those who follow the Disney rumor mill will remember plans for the new Fantasyland were readily available on the internet months before any announcement of any kind was ever made.  So, I guess what I am saying is that if these leaked images in fact turn out to be true than WDI either has a mole or an interesting new strategy of floating ideas to the public.  (So, maybe this would be a good time to express your pleasure or displeasure with this idea.)

So let’s have some fun with this and assume for a moment they are real.  There are two things that stand out, the words “e-ticket” and “c-ticket” appear within what are apparently two attractions.  The “c-ticket” looks from the layout to be some sort of water based ride, a river of some kind that seems to meander in and out of the building.  The “e-ticket” dominates the plan with multiple theater areas and what appears to be a backstage facility for cleaning glasses, 3-D glasses I would imagine.  Could this be the first use of the rumored next generation of the Soarin’ technology?

I have said before, I am not a fan of the Avatar film and I am not all that excited about the Avatar Land, even after seeing these plans.  Perhaps when I get a look at artist renderings, and that sort of thing, my feelings will change.  But until than I will continue to say that additions to the Animal Kingdom should include, obviously, animals.  There already is a park for random film tie-ins and I guess I was hoping the Animal Kingdom would not head down that path.

But, let’s look at the bright side.  Camp Minnie-Mickey was supposed to be a temporary placeholder, and years later we are finally having it replaced by something that at the very least represents a  huge investment in time, money and creativity.  I will keep an open mind...

by Dave McBride @davemcb1897

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Kungaloosh! Bring the Adventurer’s Club to the Animal Kingdom!

The history of Disney parks is replete with fans longing for the days of old. Extinct attractions are often brought up by fans in a "i miss....." sort of way. We know them all. Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, the old Animation tour at Disney MGM Studios, Horizons (I miss Horizons) are often spoken of and many even have their own web sites and fan clubs (especially Horizons). One that often tops the lists of things from yesteryear is the Adventurers' Club from Pleasure Island.

Unlike the dance clubs that existed there, the Adventurer's Club was pure Disney. For those that don't know, the club itself was supposed to be set in the mid-1930s and was for explorers. The place was covered in artifacts and pictures from the members' various travels. But the fun did not stop with the decor. The place also featured various animatronics, puppets and numerous hysterical actors and actresses wandering about mingling with guests in their roles as club members.

Even the rooms had their own personality. There was the Zebra Mezzanine, The Main Salon, The Mask room (my favorite), the Treasure room, and the Library, where many of the scripted shows were performed. The shows were a highlight of the club for many guests. These included Samantha's Cabaret, the New Member Induction, the Welcome Party and the Hoopla which ended the evening. And, of course, there was Colonel Critchlow Suchbench who was a puppet in the Main Salon that would "come to life" and mingle with guests periodically.

Like all of Pleasure Island, the place shut down on September 28, 2008. While many mourn the loss of other portions of Pleasure Island (especially the Comedy Warehouse), none come even close to the uproar involved with the loss of the Adventurer's Club. Within 72 hours, nearly 3000 people signed an online petition to save the club. There was a letter writing campaign, and numerous blogs and websites set up to save it or at least remember it. There is no doubt in my mind that the Adventurer's Club, if brought back, would be a huge success and public relations bonanza. Just imagine for a moment, the excitement and buzz if this was announced at a D23 event.

But where should it go? Well, this is an Animal Kingdom site, so I think you can guess where I am going with this. Here's why I think the Adventurer's Club is perfect at the Animal Kingdom.  First of all, one the prime imagineers behind the club was Joe Rohde, Mr. Animal Kingdom, himself. Also, I think I read somewhere that the Magic Kingdom is the park of fantasy, that Epcot is innovention, the Studios are magic and the Animal Kingdom is the land of adventure. And that is so true. The theme of the club fits well with the decor of Dinoland, with the ruins of the Maharajah Jungle Trek, and with the town of Harambe. I would take out the Rainforest Cafe and replace it with the club as a new gateway to the park. At that spot, it could even stay open well after the park closes.

This is not to say that the Adventurer's Club can be brought back in its identical form. First of all, some of the banter amongst the personalities could be a touch risque. Secondly, I would think the club would have to be redesigned to a degree. I would want a menu, so it would become a lunch and dinner destination. The shows, such as they were, could be conducted in different rooms during the course of the day. Perhaps the library would be larger and be the area where one dines. with shows every hour. The other rooms would be for the bar crowd and maybe a more limited menu. The food would reflect the club, different cuisines from the corners of the world. Gifts brought back by the club members from their trips.

I would think this would be a huge asset for the Animal Kingdom. A truly different yet old, experience for new guests and seasoned Disney veterans.


by Safari Mike
Twitter: @jamboeveryone

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Zebras Make the Headlines at the Animal Kingdom

Zebras are in the news this week, specifically a herd of zebras on their way to Kilimanjaro Safaris.  Today’s Disney Parks Blog has a quick story, but yesterday the Orlando Sentinel put up a great article about them and even featured a beautiful photo gallery of the new residents of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

image copyright Disney 2012

This herd will consist of 15 female zebras, including one Grevy’s zebra, a specie on the endangered list.  They were acquired through an organization called Associations of Zoos and Aquariums and have been going through an acclimation process to get them ready for their on-stage debut.

All animals need to adjust to their new surroundings, however like many mammals it seems zebras have some of their own unique challenges.  Wherever they go, zebras can often try to takeover and bully other animals in their territory.  But they also easily acclimate to many temperatures, including those few chilly winter days in Central Florida.  And let’s face it, people love them.  We spoke to a cast member last month, and it was confirmed to us the herd was doing very well and should be onstage sometime later this month.

For those who don’t already know, the new zebra area is going into the Kilimanjaro Safari ride, and construction has been ongoing in recent months.  The final seen, the “Little Red” seen has past into history soon to replaced by these wonderful zebras.  A great decision, if you ask me!

by Dave McBride @davemcb1897

Thursday, October 11, 2012

How can the Animal Kingdom become a nighttime favorite?

When Expedition Everest opened at the Animal Kingdom, the talk by the experts was that this was the attempt, or even the key, to turning the park into a full day park capable of drawing guests deep into the nighttime hours. Well that clearly has not happened, as the park is still not open after the animals "go to bed", the standard Disney excuse for the limited park hours.  In fact, the few opportunities offered by Evening Extra Magic Hours seem to have vanished as well.

So what needs to happen in order for the Animal Kingdom to shed the dreaded “half-day park” tag”? Let’s take a look at a few of my ideas.

First, it is important to note there are already plenty of attractions there that can be enjoyed at night. Everest and Primeval Whirl are great during dark hours. Dinosaur, Festival of the Lion King, Finding Nemo, and It’s Tough to Be a Bug are not effected by the loss of daylight at all. There’s also plenty of food and drink on offer as well.  The fact is, Animal Kingdom has attractions and dining options to suit later operating hours, but there’s still more to do.

People need to want to go to the Animal Kingdom at night.  In all the other parks, there is a fireworks show that does the trick, but at this park that's not an option.  There needs to be not just one special thing, but a host of smaller "night only" experiences that keep people there.

Obviously the biggest challenge is that the park is not currently equipped to showcase animals during night hours, a problem when you consider guest coming to the Animal Kingdom will rightly expect to see animals. Kilimanjaro Safaris is the only e-ticket attraction that we can assume will not be open. But it’s the centerpiece of the park, so closing it makes the night-hours marketing push difficult.

But here is the thing, Kilimanjaro Safari may not have to be lost after all.  The standard excuse is that the animals can not be out for all those long operating  hours, but is that really true?  Over at the Animal Kingdom Lodge most of the same animals are out on the savannah 20 hours of the day.  So let me throw out this idea; what about a night time safari, equipped with night-vision glasses.  My thought would be fewer people per truck and a longer duration ride with perhaps even a different path to travel.  My guess is this will need a special reservation process as people will clamor for the few available spots.  There certainly will not be the same number and variety of animals on display, but seeing any through night-vision goggles is quite an experience.

While I am not a zoologist, I think there may also be a possibility of even further enhancing the animal experience beyond Africa. During the holidays, the Bronx Zoo used to offer something called Holiday Lights. It’s a nighttime event  and one of the coolest offerings is a session with their Tigers. As nocturnal creatures, this time of the day is not spent sleeping. Instead they are very active and often a joy to watch. Perhaps an event once or twice per night in their current spot on the Maharajah Jungle Trek, with simple lighting and a narrator will do the trick. And let us not forget the bats section.  How about some soft lighting there or even some more night-vision goggles?  Very few zoos offer a true night time experience for animal viewing and Disney can really pioneer this effort.

For years, there has been a rumor about a nighttime torch light parade. That sounds like a great idea. Fireworks are not an option when you have the wellbeing of wild animals to consider, so this idea is just the thing to balance all these variables. Installing some World Showcase style torches near the Tree of Life before and after the parade can also add some interest and ambience to the experience.  If I were working at WDI, I would seriously explore the idea of using costumes and songs from the Lion King Broadway show for this parade.

Speaking of fire, I would explore the possibility of intensifying the fire effects in Kali River Rapids. Adding just a little bit of light to this ride can really be great. Imagine a water ride where you can’t really see where the water’s coming from. That would make the experience completely different at night, and probably much more thrilling.

For the kids, I would explore one or two programs, either shows or special meet and greets, that only occur at night. How about a cruise on the Discovery River around a wonderfully lit Tree of Life with the Fab Five? You could also construct a small stage for a nighttime stage show, or something along those lines. But these are things that would only occur after the sun goes down.

Ok, I made it ten paragraphs without mentioning the word I am sure you all have been thinking of since you began reading this…Avatar.  Yes, the point of handing such a huge chunk of the Animal Kingdom's real estate over to James Cameron is entirely to make the park a "full day experience".  But with the complete lack of any ideas or concepts even a year later makes me think that if this project ever actually does happen that it will be years from now.  What I am talking about above are things that Disney can do right now without hundreds of millions of dollars being spent by Cameron.

Single day tickets are the most expensive per person ticket, and the key for financial success at the Animal Kingdom, and therefore expansion.  I would think the trick is to make that single-day at least as long as it is at Disney's Hollywood Studios, making the price a better value.  But also, there needs to be a reason for park-hoppers to come back at night as well.

Right now, it is not as far from full day status as some may think.  (despite the views of the esteemed WDW Today hosts)  But Disney will need to make the night hours a special experience, and very different from the normal theme park nighttime offerings.  Considering the amazing amount of detail and architectural splendor the park has, this can be a reality without any real big-ticket investment.

by Dave McBride @davemcb1897

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

New Night Safari at Animal Kingdom Lodge

There is a new night time safari being offered at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, and it truly sounds like a great experience.  It takes place on the Sunset Savanna, which encompasses both the Jambo House and the Kidani Village resorts.

The safari will give each guest a pair of night vision goggles, a unique and fun way to search for and view animals.  It is and hour long tour costing $70 per person and is limited to ages 8 and up.  It is only offered Wednesday and Sunday nights and must be booked via the concierge.

Currently, both Kidani Village and Jambo House offer free use of night vision goggles from eachg resorts’ savanna viewing areas.  But getting out in among the wildlife at night must be something really special.  If anyone goes on the new safari, please tell us what you think by emailing us at

by Dave McBride @davemcb1897

Disney Animal Keeper Combines Art and Care to Help Endangered Rhino Species

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – As a rhinoceros keeper at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Chad Harmon tends to some of the toughest, strongest animals on the planet.  He recently channeled that passion into an arts auction that raised approximately $6000 for the endangered animals.

image copyright Disney

For the Horns to Heroes project, Harmon used one of the rhinos he cares for as a model to make 40 horns by hand using a process known as rotational casting. The pieces are made of foam-filled resin and stand 16 inches tall and 7 inches wide.

He then recruited Central Florida painters, tattoo artists, sculptors, graffiti artists, illustrators, photographers and special-effects artists to create original and unique works of art. Each one was auctioned off with proceeds benefitting the International Rhino Foundation which funds research programs and helps protect threatened rhino populations in Africa and Asia.

“By supporting the International Rhino Foundation, The Horns and Heroes Project will help fund programs that support the courageous and dedicated rangers who risk their lives to stop poaching and give rhinos a chance at survival,” said Harmon. “We’re hoping that these works of art will help spark more conversation about how to protect these species.”

Though at one time there were 30 living species of rhino, only five species remain today, and those populations are facing the severe threat of extinction. Without immediate action, some rhinos could be extinct within the next 20 years, due to poaching, forest loss, habitat conversion and encroaching human settlements.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom currently includes a herd of white rhinos. Since the park opened in 1998, nine rhinos have been born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom as part of a white rhino breeding program coordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The program focuses on sustaining the white rhino population in North America.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Best Thing Disney can do at the Animal Kingdom

This week, we heard the tragic news of the death of a days old panda cub at the National Zoo in Washington, DC.  The heart-wrenching death was on front pages across the nation, and with good reason.  The Giant Panda is a rare and beloved animal that captures the hearts of people across the world.
Tian Tian from the National Zoo, photograph by Ann Batdorf, NZP photographer

The Chinese Government guards pandas with an intense, and almost fanatical, fervor.  With perhaps less than 2,000 bears left in the wild, acquiring a breeding couple is not easy.  However, in recent years Disney has held a productive and working relationship with the Chinese Government.  And I think it is time for that relationship to result in what I believe would be the single best investment Disney can possibly make into the Animal Kingdom, the introduction of a Giant Panda Habitat.

I often hear Disney fans discussing what they would like to see added to the Florida theme parks that would improve their overall experience.  And let’s face it, the Animal Kingdom has been the biggest target of criticism in these circles over a perceived lack of attractions since it opened.  It is usually agreed that a new “land” or “e-ticket” would do the trick, hence the announced Avatar expansion.  But I think those conclusions are incorrect.  An expensive and cantankerous partnership with James Cameron is not the answer, the answer is the Giant Panda.

Loaning a couple of pandas from the Chinese Government is an expensive and difficult proposition, I will admit.  The cost is reported at around a million per panda per year for a 10 year period.  Bring in two, and that is a cost of roughly $20 million.  Plus, their is the cost for care of the animals, potential breeding attempts, the physical habitat construction and, of course, the gift shop. But that is practically a drop in the bucket when compared to the price of attractions at Disney these days.  Reports put the cost of Expedition Everest at  $100 million alone, and that one doesn’t even work correctly anymore!  The price tag of the new Cars Land area at Disneyland’s California Adventure was somewhere around $450 million.  And I am certain there is more than one Disney bean-counter who hasn’t slept much since the announcement of the Avatar deal.

Bringing pandas to DAK would be cheap in comparison, but would likely yield an attendance and monetary increase similar to that of an e-ticket.  Zoos have reported an increase in attendance of 35% and even more after bringing in pandas, while the National Zoo was estimating upwards of half a million additional guests from just the birth of the cub.

Now, I can not say what exactly I think the attendance figures would look like at DAK after the opening of a panda habitat.  I am not an accountant for Disney.  What I do know is that unlike an e-ticket or land, pandas are a proven commodity.  And what I also know for certain is that nearly every person who comes to Walt Disney World, no matter their length of stay, would make a point of visiting the Animal Kingdom to see the pandas.  And that is something that simply does not happen currently.

And finally, while I am already up here on my soapbox, this is Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and not the Cameron Kingdom!  While I am not against the Avatar project, this is simply better.  Let us get the focus back on wildlife.  As I said before, the Giant Panda is one of the world’s most beloved endangered specie.  If Disney wants to invest in the park to make the turnstiles spin, is there a more appropriate way than this?  Personally, I think not...

by Dave McBride @davemcb1897