Friday, May 24, 2013

Turning Disney's Animal Kingdom into a Night Destination; Rafiki's Character Safari


Today we continue our examination of how we would turn Disney’s Animal Kingdom into an awesome nighttime destination.  While some of our ideas are admittedly a bit farfetched from a budget standpoint, today we look at one of our more cost-effective proposals.

The common answer to the question of why Disney’s Animal Kingdom closes so early is that the animals need to “go to sleep” at night.  While I am fairly certain that in actuality the animals “rest time” is not at all factored into the equation, I do understand the need to close Kilimanjaro Safaris at night due to the “free roaming” nature of the animal habitats.  That leaves a big gap in the Harambe night entertainment offerings.


However, I do think Disney is not factoring in ALL of the animals they can have “on stage” during the night hours.  Which brings me to my next idea for making DAK a prime nighttime destination, turning Rafiki’s Planet Watch into “Rafiki’s Character Safari” when the sun goes down.

If you have not been back to the area of Rafiki’s Planet Watch, it is huge.  There is plenty of room inside the building, and along the surrounding grounds to place quite a few characters.  So there is little need to build anything to accommodate this idea, keeping costs down.  I would, however, consider a couple of annex-style paths along the entrance road where you can place a couple of characters, just for the sake of creating that “discovery” feel.  As far as construction goes, if you want a few overhangs or shelter style buildings to keep the rain off outside characters that is fine.


And I am not talking about just any characters for this.  Remember, this is a “Character Safari” so let’s have lots animal characters and even a rare find or two that fit the bill.  The obvious ones that come to mind are Rafiki, of course, Timon, and perhaps Flik and Francis the Lady Bug.  These guys are the character-ambassadors for DAK so they need to be there.  Safari Mickey and Minnie have new digs, so there is no need to bring them over.  But Safari Donald and Daisy only appear at a character meal, so this might be a good place for the rest of us to meet them as well.

But how about a couple of other more classic animals that seem to be less prevalent around the parks these days as well, such as Dumbo, Jiminy Cricket, Robin Hood, Brer Rabbit, Brer Bear ,Thumper and Miss Bunny.  Or perhaps a rotation of a few truly rare characters, such as Mowgli, Koda and Kenai, Tarzan and Terk, or even the Big Bad Wolf and the Three Little Pigs.  It can be the only place in Walt Disney World to meet  these characters on a regular basis.


And finally, and I will admit I know nothing about this character, but how about a Safari themed Duffy, found only at Rafiki’s Character Safari?  (I would imagine a Safari Duffy gift shop is also compulsory here...)

Let’s also make the journey aboard the Wildlife Express Train something special at night as well.  How about one or two of these characters ride the train with guests?  I am thinking about perhaps Baloo and King Louie for this since there are already opportunities to take photos with them during the day in the park.  Maybe we can add the safari-clad Goofy and Pluto as well for the same reason.


So here is what I need from you, the readers.  What do you think of this idea?  To me, it is cost effective and can create a night time buzz for DAK.  But I will confess I am not a character person whatsoever, so perhaps I am overrating their popularity.  If not, it draws people deep into the park during the hours when currently the park is all too often closed.  Perhaps not all of the real animals can participate in our after-dark remake of DAK, but these Disney animals certainly can!

by Dave McBride (twitter: @davemcb1897)

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