Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Animal Kingdom Theme Spotlight: Pizzafari

Disney's Animal Kingdom is, in our humble opinion, the best themed and most detailed of the domestic Disney Parks.  With that in mind, we begin our new series called "Theme Spotlight" where we dig a closer into an area of the park and talk about the details and themes that make it so special.  Today, Safari Mike begins with a look at Pizzafari. 

Theming is a vital aspect of what makes the Animal Kingdom so special, at least to me. Often times, this theming is missed by even the most astute or observant guest. At the Animal Kingdom, things such as theme and back story are often times extremely subtle. This series is designed to help you appreciate the theme of some of the buildings, walkways and the like a little more.

One of the most heavily themed areas in the park is Discovery Island. Each building has a unique theme that only one who pays very close attention to details (or reads this blog) will pick up. I want to focus today on one of the most vibrant of these buildings: Pizzafari.

Before we even step inside, take a look at the building itself. It's extremely colorful. The sign is a pair of deep red chameleons forming a pizza shape. When Disney began designing the look and feel of Safari Village, which was Discovery Island's original name, it looked to the island cultures for inspiration. The island of Bali was where much of this work was actually done and, as a result, this Indonesian island has a heavy influence on the buildings around the Tree of Life although touches from islands all over the world had a hand in the final look. The vegetation is also very important. Its a place where man and nature are attune with each other and thus, the plant life is integrated with the structure itself.

But its inside where this building really shines. Much of this has to do with pedigree. What do I mean? Well, Disney convinced Frank Armitage to come out of retirement to paint, along with his daughter Nicole, 34 amazingly vivid murals that adorn the five rooms of the restaurant. Mr. Armitage worked on animation back grounds and layouts for such classic Disney films as Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty, Mary Poppins and, a favorite of mine, the Jungle Book. The art is both colorful and whimsical with each room containing an overall theme in the animals shown.

The main room where you order is the Ornamental room, which focuses on butterflies and clownfish. These are animals that use color in their behaviors. The mural is dominated by a huge peacock that sits over the service windows and is the single biggest animal depicted. But don't just look at the walls, look up as well, and you will see little figures of butterflies clinging to the poles but more on those in a minute.

There are four dining rooms, making this one of the bigger counter service places in the park.  And the rooms you can pick from are stunning. The themes are Camouflage, Upside Down, Homes and Nocturnal. The Camouflage room is full of predators that rely on stealth like polar bears, leopards and lions, but there are prey animals too, like deer. This room is clearly the least whimsical. The Homes room shows animals who carry their homes with them like snails, turtles and kangaroos. The Nocturnal room might be my favorite featuring owls, wolves and an awesome tiger. The Upside Down room shows animals that, well, hang upside down like possums, monkeys and snakes. Each room has a hidden mickey in it, see if you can find them. Also, when you study the murals more of it comes to life. You will see animals that were not obvious at first glance, and there are subtle things like a possum missing its body and one animal is right side up in the Upside Down room. Try to have your children (or adults) find it.

And the theming doesn't end there. Listen to the music. All the songs are about animals. Songs like Blackbird, Octopus' Garden, A Whale of a Tale, the Lion Sleeps Tonight and others comprise the background music here. Even Puff the Magic Dragon is played here, so I suppose there is at least that dragon reference in the park.  Also, remember those butterflies I mention? There are little wood carvings throughout the building. These are authentic oaxacan wood carvings from Mexico. If they look familiar, they should, there are many of these at the Mexico pavilion at Epcot.

To be honest, this is not my favorite place to eat food wise. The pizza is mediocre. There are some decent choices like the hot Italian sandwich and the bread sticks has its fans. And its indoors so its quite comfortable in the heat. But the theming here is amazing and certainly worth a walk through if nothing else.

by Safari Mike (twitter: @JamboEveryone)


  1. I never noticed so much, I'll pay more attenention next time. We don't eat there much either but I will wonder through armed with this new information.

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