Saturday, October 26, 2013

Episode 13 of Radio Harambe - Save the Macaw!

Today we discuss the news, including Bat Day, more Avatar info, and Disney Springs, as well as some rumors of attraction closings at the Animal Kingdom. In our feature section we turn our attention to conservation as we discuss the fight to save wild macaws with Fernanda Hong, a director at the Ara Project in Costa Rica. Asante Sana!

Please subscribe to the show on iTunes and leave us a rating and review as well.  To learn more about the Ara Project, visit

by Dave McBride (twitter: @RadioHarambe)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Disney's Animal Kingdom News Round-Up for October 23, 2013: More Thrillin Than Soarin, Bats and Cheetahs

Rohde Says E-Ticket More Thrillin' Than Soarin':  According to Arthur Levine who writes about theme parks for, Joe Rohde expects the new Avatar E-Ticket to be a thriller.

Since reports began surfacing regarding Pandora’s centerpiece attraction, we have been expecting a “Soarin style” ride platform.  But according to the article, “Rohde said that there might be some similarities, but that the Avatar attraction would be "considerably more thrilling" than Soarin' and incorporate some new, groundbreaking features.”

Halloween is Bat Day at Disney's Animal Kingdom:  It's now something of a holiday tradition at DAK, as the park celebrates bats on Halloween.  Today's Wildlife Wednesday post on the Disney Parks Blog gives us a look at what's planned...

On Halloween, we’re celebrating Bat Day with special activities at Rafiki’s Planet Watch where guests will discover that bats are cool, not creepy. Guests can enter a “bat cave” and test their skills at identifying North American bats. Fun games help guests learn what bats eat and what challenges they face. Guests also can meet our bat keepers and find out how we care for the bats that make their home on the Maharajah Jungle Trek at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. They might even see one of our bats getting its wellness exam in the Veterinary Hospital.

We love these events, and we never miss a chance to tell you about them.  Also, if you are like me and you don't want anything to do with fighting the crowds on Halloween at the Magic Kingdom, this is a great alternative.

Fire Destroys Visitors Center at Cheetah Conservation Fund:  Last week one of our conservation partners suffered a serious blow, as a fire destroyed the Visitors Centre at the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Otjiwarongo, Namibia.  A bolt of lightning hit the thatched roof on the beautiful building, but thankfully no animals or people were hurt.

Obviously after suffering a blow like this the CCF could use some help.  You can head over to our Conservation Page to read about the work they do and also find out how you can help.  Or you can visit the CCF directly and make a donation by going to their website,

Park Hours for this week are...

Wednesday: October 23 9am - 6pm
Thursday: October 24  9am -6pm
Friday: October 25  9am - 7pm
Saturday: October 26  9am - 7pm (Extra Magic Hour 8-9am)
Sunday: October 27  9am - 6pm
Monday: October 28  9am - 5pm (Extra Magic Hour 8-9am)
Tuesday: October 29  9am - 5pm

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

Attraction Closures:
Bradley Fall snack cart is closed - no reopening date announced

Have A Wild Time this week!!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Sleepless in Harambe

After a week of major announcements and cleverly shot promotional videos, there is one thing we can be sure of, Disney’s Animal Kingdom is on the verge of a major overhaul.  The park we love will be a very different place 3-5 years from now.  And to be honest, despite all of the excitement, I am starting to get a little nervous.

If I were writing this post ten years ago, I would have likely taken the exact opposite approach.  But that was before things like Starbucks, the updates to Test Track and Spaceship Earth, and well before New Fantasyland.  These days, my confidence in Imagineering is beginning to fade as their recent record with overhauls is not perfect, and I am far from certain the “new” Animal Kingdom we are getting will be a better place than the one we have now.

The plans for what is to come look good, very good.  Those who read this blog or listen to our podcast know that I am not one of the Avatar haters and the plans we got to see this weekend for Pandora look exciting.  Additionally, the ideas for a nighttime water parade, additional entertainment, and safari can only get the DAK fans smiling.  But plans are plans, and reality is reality.  In 2007 I would have agreed that Spaceship Earth was in need of an update, but what we got was far worse than a “plus” we were promised.  And that’s just to name one.  I am not saying all of WDI’s recent “plussing” projects have been failures.  But they certainly have not all been successes.

And that brings us to the cause of my sleepless nights.  Imagine, if you will, the next Avatar films bomb, and we are left with not only a land, an e-ticket and a dark-ride, but also an afternoon parade and nighttime spectacular replete with giant blue people who no one cares about anymore.  And even worse, picture if you will a large Starbucks smack dab in the middle of Harambe!  Some of us thought the Main Street Bakery was sacred.  Well if that wasn’t, you can be darn sure nothing at the Animal Kingdom is.

I will admit, we don’t know what exactly will happen.  As far as we can tell, the new “Rivers of Light” show will not be Avatar related.  We are hearing rumors Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade is leaving, and we have no reason to criticize what, if anything, will replace it.  And maybe it is just the lack of details in these announcements that is making my palms sweat.  But whenever I hear of “plussing” my memory always goes back to Future World.  After years of “plussing” that area we were left with a shell of what was once a great place.  And I can’t sleep at night thinking the same thing could happen at the Animal Kingdom.  (Yea, my palms are sweating again...)

The good news is, Joe Rohde’s twitter account tells us the creative leader, the man in whose hands we place our faith, has returned from Mongolia.  And from the video, we can assume he is returning to the helm of the ship he has steered so well.  Avatar is a concept that can easily fail, and it seems many in the Disney fan community are hoping it will.  But this is about much more than just Avatar.  Rohde’s fingerprints need to be on these other additions as well.  The spirit within the man who spent weeks in Mongolia helping to raise awareness for the conservation of the Snow Leopard is the spirit we need at the forefront of the non-Avatar projects.  And not the spirit of whoever it was who felt the Viking Museum at Norway should be replaced by a Frozen promotional area.

by Dave McBride (twitter: @RadioHarambe)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Episode 12 of Radio Harambe is Now Available!

We spend the entire showing discussing this past weekend of huge announcements out of Disney regarding Avatar and the future of Disney's Animal Kingdom at night.  We go through all of it in detail and give our opinions on what now know is a major investment into DAK.

Please share your thoughts with us by emailing your take to, or tweeting us at @RadioHarambe or @JamboEveryone.

The show is also available on Itunes and Stitcher.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Concerning a Rumor That Festival of the Lion King Will Close For Much of 2014?

This morning we are reading rumors of a possible closure of the Festival of the Lion King in January of 2014.  According to the rumors, the new theater will not be ready until the early summer, possibly leaving the the show off the park’s schedule for a matter of months.  At this stage this information is completely unconfirmed, but we are working on it as we speak.

However, the rumor makes some sense.  As we reported earlier in the week, we first heard Camp Minnie-Mickey will be closing in 2014 as well, so this is just an extension of that report.  Add to that the fact that the new theater is clearly not going to be ready by January and things start to make sense.  There is a lot of equipment that will need to be moved into the new theater, and performers will need to rehearse on the new stage, so it simply can not move without some down time.

The only aspect of this rumor I am questioning is the length of the down time.  Festival of the Lion King is very popular with guests and a prolonged closure doesn't seem very necessary, especially with the new theater being readied.  But the need to begin construction on Pandora could be more pressing.  If I were to make a guess, I would say we would see some down time for the move but not half a year worth.

A friend with knowledge of the situation said to me earlier this week that we should all expect Disney’s Animal Kingdom to be a “mess” in the short term as they move attractions and build new things all over the park.  It certainly seems the first half of 2014 at DAK may not be the best time to visit in the park’s history.

by Dave McBride (twitter: @RadioHarambe)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Disney's Animal Kingdom News Round-Up for October 16, 2013: Kiosks, Paintings and a Big Green Sign

The Big Sign Is Back!:  A few weeks we ago we reported that the big green Disney’s Animal Kingdom sign, the one found just outside the front gate towards the bus depot, had vanished.’s back.

It looks like all they did was change the bus info on the back, which is strange considering that info seems to be designed to move around without actually having to remove the sign for extensive work.  But to be fair, it looks a bit like it may have earned a new coat of paint as well.

The funny thing is they didn’t update the sign’s logo at all.  I think we all assumed that if it were to return it would do so without the dragon and perhaps with the addition of a big blue alien in it’s place.  But nope, it looks exactly the same.  And the Beastly Kingdomme crowd still have their ammunition...

More FastPass Plus Kiosks Added:  As the FastPass Plus system rolls out, Disney has recognized that not all guests will be carrying smartphones or tablets where they can access and change their reservations in the park.  So in response, the parks have been getting special kiosks with computer screens for just this purpose.  According to, the Animal Kingdom will be getting kiosks at Guest Relations, Disney Outfitters, Kali River Rapids, Primeval Whirl and the Expedition Everest FastPass distribution area.

Rohde’s Success in Mongolia: Over the past few weeks, Joe Rohde has been on an expedition in Mongolia.  One of his tasks while there was to paint some pieces of art to sell and help raise funds for the Snow Leopard Conservancy.

I am not sure how much money was raised, but from an artistic point of view it was a huge success.  The paintings are absolutely beautiful.  Follow Mr. Rohde on his blog as some of these pieces will be coming back to the US for sale as well.

Park Hours for this week are...

Wednesday: October 16 9am - 6pm
Thursday: October 17  9am -6pm
Friday: October 18  9am - 6pm
Saturday: October 19  9am - 7pm (Extra Magic Hour 8-9am)
Sunday: October 20  9am - 6pm
Monday: October 21  9am - 6pm (Extra Magic Hour 8-9am)
Tuesday: October 22  9am - 6pm

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

Attraction Closures:
Bradley Fall snack cart is closed - no reopening date announced

Have A Wild Time this week!!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Camp Minnie Mickey to Close in 2014

Cast Members at Disney’s Animal Kingdom have been told to expect Camp Minnie-Mickey to close some time in 2014, making way for construction to finally begin on the new Avatar-themed land.  This is essentially a rumor as Disney has not acknowledged it publicly, but it is only a matter of time before they do.

Camp Minnie-Mickey was certainly an afterthought for designers of DAK.  But over the years it has gained quite a bit of favor among Disney fans.  The character meet and greet trails, along with the Festival of the Lion King, were popular and will be missed.

But, at the same time, Camp Minnie-Mickey was also a bit of a pain.  While the bridge to it across the river is aesthetically beautiful, the whole area was quite obviously not designed to handle the crowds it often sees.  The release of the FotLK audience after the show creates an often mind-boggling bottleneck of people and strollers.  No one is going to miss that mess.

The closing brings to an end the longest run of a “temporary” attraction I can think of.  The current Festival of the Lion King theater is also coming down, with a new one being built in Africa.  At the same time, characters have already been moved around the park in preparation for the closing.  There have been no specifics offered as to when exactly in 2014 it will close, but there is no doubt the end is near.

by Dave McBride (twitter: @RadioHarambe)

Monday, October 14, 2013

James Cameron and Joe Rohde Give Us a Peek Into Pandora

In case this past weekend’s flood of information regarding the future of Disney’s Animal Kingdom and the pending Avatar project was not enough for you, this morning Disney released a video shown at Japan’s D23 Expo giving us even more details on Pandora.  It features James Cameron and Joe Rohde.  Have a look...

After you make your way past the obligatory corporate fluff, there are a couple of things that really standout here.  The first is that we can stop the “Avatar might not even happen” stuff.  That’s over with.  The idea that Disney would turn back now is not even imaginable. It is happening and it looks like it may just be really, really cool!

Second, and perhaps the most important, is the apparently enthusiastic inclusion of Joe Rohde in this video.  I don’t know about you, but seeing Mr. Rohde as the guiding force here helps put to rest speculation that he may not be fully behind it, speculation that was never sourced or confirmed.  Whether he likes the idea or not is immaterial at this point.  He’s firmly onboard and the language he uses in comparing Pandora to the Animal Kingdom is the kind of language we DAK fans want to hear.

Now let’s look at a couple of specifics.  The obvious standout is the clip of the designers in front of a movie screen in what is obviously the precursor to a flight simulator.  This is exactly what type of ride we were expecting, but seeing it in this context really brings out the potential excitement of this experience.  To me, this seems like the kind of e-ticket one can really enjoy whether they are familiar with the film or not.

The other item of note was an additional artist rendering showing a family in the foreground walking through Pandora at night.  It is exactly the same image we saw on the weekend, with same family and background, only this time it shows us how the same area will look in the dark.  And it certainly appears to be an ambitious design to say the least.  It looks like this will be the first Disney “land” that entirely transforms when the sun goes down.

And that’s just the beginning.  Rohde says “The land comes to life when you interact with it and seems to be a living creature itself.”  Without specifics it is hard to wrap your mind around all this may entail, but the concept, from what is being said at least, appears to be breaking new ground for Imagineering.  Rohde is the man who best defines the words “theme” and “detail” at Imagineering and now it looks like he may be taking it to the next level.

Everyone involved with the Avatar project, especially those at Disney, know this is a controversial project among the Disney fan community.  It would be easy to have never pushed forward with it and bowed to fan pressure months ago.  But it certainly does seem they have taken the opposite approach and instead are shooting for the moon with this one.  Whether they get there is what remains to be seen.

As promised, we will dedicate the entire next episode of Radio Harambe to all of this.  But to be on the safe side, I think we may hold of on recording another day or two, just in case...

by Dave McBride (twitter: @RadioHarambe)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A New Parade Coming to Disney's Animal Kingdom?

Yesterday we reported on big changes coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but today we are hearing of possibly one more change on the horizon.  This one is a change in the afternoon parade, as we now believe Mickey’s Jammin Jungle Parade may be disappearing towards the end of 2013.

Mickey’s Jammin Jungle has been the midday parade since way back in 2001 when it debuted along with the “100 Years of Magic” promotion.  It is a fun, if somewhat unremarkable, Disney parade that replaced the much more artistic and eclectic parades of the park’s early years.  But don’t get me wrong, Jammin Jungle has been there this long for a reason.  It’s worth seeing and the kids will love it.

We do not yet know what, if anything, will replace it.  But my guess is we will hear more on that soon as the afternoon parade is a needed scheduling bridge to the evening hours Disney is hoping to build on.  We also have not heard the exact closing date, but if I were to wager a guess I would say that it would coincide with the ending of the Jingle Jungle holiday overlay in early January.  So my advice is, if you have the chance to see Mickey’s Jammin Jungle Parade in the next few weeks than do so.  It might be your last.

And here are my two cents, come up with a unique parade.  Speaking for myself, I have seen enough of parades promoting the latest film, DVD releases and princess toys.  Jammin' Jungle had a good theme and built on the heritage of Disney's animal characters along with great representations of real animals found at the park.  If it were up to me, I would keep that idea alive.  Keep the animals but add in some more cultural elements from Africa and Asia into the floats and music.

by Dave McBride (twitter: @RadioHarambe)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Biggest Announcement in Disney's Animal Kingdom History!

I believe that sometime last night I experienced my first bonafide twitter explosion, as my phone’s lock-screen was literally filled with an unending display of tweets all about the same thing...Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

In what was easily the biggest and most important official announcement in the history of DAK, late last night Tom Staggs, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, took to the Disney Parks Blog to give us the post we have been waiting so patiently for.  Staggs finally released some serious concept art and details regarding the upcoming Avatar project.  But he also announced much, much more.  Disney’s Animal Kingdom is on the verge of becoming a nighttime must-see.

First let’s look at the Avatar stuff.  The above photo is the one that really grabbed my attention.  In the film, Pandora at night was the truly beautiful and imaginative piece of set design so it only makes sense to use that idea as the centerpiece for a dark-ride attraction.  And this looks to have serious potential.  I would expect to see not only gorgeous landscapes and lighting but this also appears to be just the place to add some giant blue audio-animatronics.

This next one pictured above is a bit harder to figure out, but we have some clues to go on.  In the post, Tom Staggs says “guests will also discover what it feels like to soar into the sky riding a Banshee.”  Now add that quote, this photo, and the previous rumors regarding new Soarin-based simulator technology and we might be close to what we can expect to experience here.  The intriguing thing is that each Banshee appears to have only one rider, rather than two or three like one would expect on a ride vehicle.  But again, we may be looking to far into the specifics of this picture.

We also have two images giving us an insight into the general layout of the Avatar “land”.  The first is this rendering above which is really just your off-the-shelf Imagineering concept art.  Not much to pull from this other than general aesthetics.

But this one above, with Tom Staggs flanked by James Cameron to his right and Joe Rohde to his left offers quite a bit more.  For one thing it give us sense of the scale, and it is simply enormous!  We are not just getting a couple of attractions here, we are getting a brand new Disney Mountain!!  And this may just be the most architecturally ambitious one yet.  I assume it will house one of the two attractions as they are both indoors.  We also see water to our left.  For those who don’t remember the initial rumors, this may be an outdoor section of the boat ride we discussed earlier.

But Staggs did not stop at just Avatar.  What we also now know is a few of our friends, namely the Disney Hipsters, were right all along.  Disney is setting its sights on making the Animal Kingdom a true nighttime destination and they are going beyond Pandora to achieve this.  Here us what Staggs said...

As part of the largest expansion in the history of the park, we’ll be adding all-new entertainment experiences, including a new nighttime spectacular where live music, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery all combine to bring a show to Discovery River that will delight our guests and truly cap off their day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The park will introduce more nighttime entertainment as well, including live performers on Discovery Island (pictured above) and a new nighttime version of the Kilimanjaro Safaris

Let’s take these one at a time.  The photo above is a general concept of DAK at night, and it is staggering.  Take a look at the Tree of Life!  How GREAT is that going to look with some serious lighting treatment??  (On a side note, that certainly appears to be the Viva Gai Band in that image.)

And once again our hats off to the Disney Hipsters, as it appears they got the “Rivers of Light” rumor spot on.  The sentence about a “nighttime spectacular” on Discovery River isn’t much to go on, but it coincides perfectly with what the Hipsters told us weeks and week ago.

And finally, something yours truly has been suggesting for literally years and years only to be shot down by the idea of “animal need to sleep at night”, something I was sure was not entirely true.  We are at last getting the one thing all of us who love DAK have always pined awat for, a “new nighttime version of the Kilimanjaro Safaris.”  WOOOHOOOO!!!!!

So, what are you most excited about?  Well, rest assured you haven’t heard the end of this posting.  We had plans for the next episode of Radio Harambe, but they just got shelved.  We will dedicate all of episode 12 to this one posting.  Sit tight until midweek, we have to wait for Safari Mike to return from the Animal Kingdom...

by Dave McBride (@RadioHarambe)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Construction Walls Make Me Nervous

Harambe is a place of great story and aesthetic beauty, one of the best locations in any Disney theme park.  But right now, it is also appears to be a place of great change and evolution.  As we reported last week, walls are up all over Harambe as it seems the town we love so well may be changing.

Change is not always a bad thing.  We know already that Harambe will be the new home to a permanent theater for Festival of the Lion King, a location most feel is more appropriate for the show...we hope.   But it certainly seems much more is happening, and that makes me very nervous.

Perhaps Safari Mike’s enraged rant on the latest episode of the Radio Harambe podcast over the removal of the Viking museum at Epcot’s Noway Pavilion in favor of a promotion for the upcoming film “Frozen” has me a bit on edge.  That museum, while small and hidden, is one of those things that represent what the World Showcase was based on.  It is an attempt to offer the culture and history of the country, and now it is being tossed aside in favor of the dreaded “corporate synergy”.  Could that happen at Harambe as well?

While I understand those who feel the Lion King, being a story based in Africa, belongs in the Africa section I am not completely sold on the move as a definite positive with regards to theme and design.  Harambe is supposed to represent East Africa, and the Imagineers worked wonders to tell its story.  It’s amazingly beautiful and full of history and authenticity.  But as far as I can tell, most old port towns along the east coast of the continent do not contain broadway-style shows based on animated characters.  And from the photos, this theater will tower over Harambe.  And without even concept art on the exterior to calm me down, is it safe to assume this strutcture will aesthetically blend seamlessly into Harambe?

And what else is involved in this project?  We hear many rumors, and not all of them make me excited for the future.  We hear of potential merchandise and dining locations.  That’s all well and good, but what if those included a Lion King store and a Starbucks?  Those are both distinct possibilities and neither of them indicate a desire to further the authenticity of Harambe or help to tell its story.  And if you don’t think that great theme and story can be tossed aside to sell plush or fulfill a contract with an outside vendor than you haven’t been paying attention.  It can happen, and it already has.

During the last dozen or so years, Disney has made many changes to existing attractions and locations.  And without getting too deep into specifics, I personally feel these “plus” projects on the whole have been a net negative.  And I my palms get sweaty every time I think of Harambe getting a Future World style “plussing”.

by Dave McBride (twitter: @RadioHarambe)

A Photo For Today; Harambe's Artist

With all the talk this week about Harambe, I thought we should make today's PFT something from our favorite mythical East African port town.  Here is one of the great treasure's and artists of Walt Disney World, Harambe's own wood carver.

I love this photo because of what it says about the beauty and authenticity of Harambe.  There is so much going on in the photo, and all of it helps to contribute to the story of the Africa section of the park.  The next time you are there, check these carving out.  They are a bit pricey, but they are gorgeous handmade pieces of art.

by Dave McBride (@RadioHarambe)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Radio Harambe Podcast Episode 11 - The Story of Harambe

This week's episode features your hosts talking about the backstory of Harambe, the history of the real countries that inspired it and even a little tour through the streets of this mythical Port of East Africa. They also discuss the news including tours of Expedition Everest, springboks at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, and a serious gripe-fest over changes to the Norway Pavilion at Epcot's World Showcase.

Remember to subscribe to us on iTunes and leave us a review. It should be up on Stitcher and iTunes shortly.  Asante Sana!

by Dave McBride (@RadioHarambe)

The Story of Harambe: Part Five

Today we conclude our look at the backstory of Harambe with Part Two of Safari Mike's history of Disney's mythical East African Port.

History is found throughout the town. Near the Dawa bar stands a minaret which is ready for use in Islamic prayer, a sign that all kinds of cultures came together (that is work together). The diversity continues to a small red mail box, a British mail box, a nod to the England's role in the colonialism of the area. Along the river banks and behind the Dawa bar is a turret where you can see the small huts and boats of the fishing fleet, at least the ones that are not out on the water. Unlike other areas which show a British touch, this area is of Portuguese influence, another colonial power of the area.  Dawa translates to medicine, which is a slang term in the region for strong alcohol. Dr. Dawa, as he dubbed himself, was the local business man who started the place. Many of the safari guides who catered to the rising tide of tourists would stop here after their journeys. This place used to also cater to beach goers. The beach was once a popular spot but as a nearby warning tells you the river's currents have become too dangerous. It is now for fisherman only.

The town itself has grown around the nearby wildlife reserve. And with tourists come hotels, and Harambe has a few. There is the Hotel Shangilia (the word means praise) which you can see advertised near the entrance to the safari ride. There is also a sign for the Hafifu House, down Ngara Road, which is well, cheap. And, of course, there is Hotel Burudika, which translates to "be refreshed." The later is most popular with the younger crowds. You can see chairs and beach towels on the roof. A radio is playing and you can sometimes hear the young people talking and enjoying the day at the roof top lounge. The old Colonial governor's house has been converted into an upscale store, the Mombassa Marketplace. Next here is the last stop in shopping before your safari, the Ziwadi Traders. As you shop here, you will notice the decor of all sorts of important goods for heading out on your safari, canned items, binoculars, fishing poles, even the local newspaper, where apparently the Harambe Stars are involved in a World Cup qualifying match. 

Modernity is slowly coming to Harambe, as well. Power lines can be found overhead. You can see a sign indicating computer training classes are available. Also, the National Telephone Authority is setting up phone lines. The design of the emblem was taken from a real life example in east Africa. In fact, the entire town was influenced by the imagineers trip to Lamu, an island off the coast of Kenya.  Like Harambe, most of the buildings are built from coral blocks (though in Disney it just looks like coral blocks).  Even the town's coat of arms shows signs of modern life, with a gear framed by tribal shields and lions, a symbol melding modern advances with cultural traditions and the natural world, an important theme in Harambe and a goal in many African nations.

by Safari Mike (twitter: @JamboEveryone)

Disney's Animal Kingdom News Round-Up for October 9, 2013: Limited Time Magic!

The First Ever Safari Mike Meet and Greet!:  That’s correct DAK fans, get your cameras and autograph books ready.  Jambo Everyone’s own wildlife enthusiast, Safari Mike, will be at Disney’s Animal Kingdom this weekend for a meet-up.  And he will be joined by our Travel Partner Jennifer Greene of Destinations in Florida Travel.

This Saturday, October 12, Safari Mike will be taking advantage of some rare autumn after-dark hours at the park and he will be waiting to meet you in Dinoland USA at 6pm.  Come on out, discuss our favorite park, and enjoy a night with Chester, Hester AND Safari Mike! I hear there might even be a group ride on TriceraTops Spin.  It's our own little Limited Time Magic.

Limited Time Magic Tours of Expedition Everest This Week: And speaking of Limited Time Magic, in perhaps the single best offering of the entire promotional event, this week Disney is conducting exclusive tours of Expedition Everest.

But don’t get too excited.  Besides being a great idea, this also puts the “limited” in Limited Time Magic.  Only 10 guests per day got a chance to sign-up, if they even found out in time to do so, and it filled up in minutes.  So while it is a great idea, almost no one got a chance to participate.  If you were lucky enough to sign-up in time, please contact us and let us know how it went.

Park Hours for this week are...

Wednesday: October 9 9am - 6pm
Thursday: October 10  9am -7pm
Friday: October 11  9am - 7pm (Extra Magic Hour 8-9am)
Saturday: October 12  9am - 8pm
Sunday: October 13  9am - 6pm
Monday: October 14  9am - 7pm (Extra Magic Hour 8-9am)
Tuesday: October 8  9am - 6pm

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

Attraction Closures:
Bradley Fall snack cart is closed - no reopening date announced

Have A Wild Time this week!!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Story of Harambe: Part Four

Today we have Part One of Safari Mike's look at the backstory of Harambe, the mythical East African Port town at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Harambe means "working together" and that is exactly the message that is the core of the story of this mythical east African port. It is the story of the people working with, not against, the animals to carve out livelihoods. You play the role of a tourist who has come to Old Town to enjoy the markets and hotels, and for the most part will be partaking in photographic safaris as opposed to hunting safaris as in the past. For a "list" of these safaris check out the Tusker House at the Safari Orientation Centre, spelled the British way, to reflect the colonial heritage. The safari center sits next to the open air market, which is now the buffet stations of the Tusker House. Although there are quite a few safaris listed, only 2, are truly available.

What you see in the park is the Old Town. The metropolis of New Town is located "up the road" and is not accessible to guests. But that's ok, to learn of the history and culture of Harambe, one needs to be in Old Town which was influenced not only by the native culture but several colonial powers. But before we talk about the current Harambe its important to reflect on the past. Like so much of Africa, Harambe's character was formed in part from its colonial heritage. It was a major trading post in the early 1500s, used by Europeans to trade gold, ivory and spices.

Harambe, built in 1420 (look for the sign referencing this date), is located on the the Uvumbuzi River, which translates to Discovery River, the name Disney has given the body of water that surrounds the Tree of Life. The river leads to the Indian ocean not far away. So close in fact that early colonial powers built a fort to protect their interests from pirates and other potential enemies. The remnants of the fort can be seen throughout the town. Walking into Harambe, one must traverse old Sokoni Road, the main drag. As you enter the town, look down and you will see white markings. This designates the site of the main wall and gates of the fortress. All that is left of the main tower of the fort is what is now Tamu Tamu. The seating behind the eatery is husk of the burnt tower.

Independence was achieved in 1961. This was demonstrated by a simple stone bench marked with the phrase "Uhuru 1961" which means Freedom 1961. The bench has been removed with recent construction but will hopefully return soon. Other small stone pillars are engraved "Harambe 1961," celebrating the peaceful transfer of power to the local population.

by Safari Mike (twitter: @JamboEveryone)

Monday, October 7, 2013

Animal Kingdom Lodge Art Spotlight: Chockwe Pig Mask

The Chokwe, sometimes spelled Chockwe, tribe is located in central Africa, particularly modern day Angola and Zambia. They were once one of the tribes of a great empire in the area called the Lunda Empire. At one point, in the 18th century, they separated from the empire, due to what they considered to be unfair treatment. The Chokwe were becoming wealthy from the ivory trade than ran through their territory to the coast. The emperor demanded tribute. War shortly followed and the Chokwe, obtaining firearms from European allies, overthrew the Lundu emperor.

The tribe recognizes a single deity called Kalunga. They also worship numerous nature and ancestor spirits called the mahamba. The spirits belong to the families and communities. As such, they must be appeased or there will be misfortune. Evil spirits are activated by sorcerers called wanga and health is administered by the nganga. They practice divination, the most common of which involves tossing items into a basket and "reading" how they fall. Chiefs are referred to as mwana nganga.

Masks, like this one, are commonly carved among this tribe. They are not decorative but are believed to hold power. They are often in the forms ancestor spirits, mythological figures, or, as in this case, animals. They are used in various ceremonies such as to heal and to promote fertility.

by Safari Mike (twitter: @JamboEveryone)

Ankole at Kidani Village

There is a savanna over by the pool at Kidani Village. Its a great place to hang out right by the Maji pool. You will sometimes see okapi, river hogs, blue cranes and waterbuck. At other times, you can see the impressive ankole cattle.


by Safari Mike (twitter: @JamboEveryone)

The Story of Harambe Part Three; Looking Back at the History of Kenya

As we get ready for Safari Mike’s in-depth look at the backstory of Harambe, the mythical East African port in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we continue our discussion on the history of the real East Africa.  Today we take a quick peak into Kenya, one of the great inspirations used by Imagineers during the creation of the park.

Germany handed over its claim on the territories which would become Kenya to Great Britain in the 1880’s, as part of a mutual agreement between European powers to avoid armed conflict over their territorial claims.   As a result, the Imperial British East Africa Company set up shop as a trade profiteer but soon became the areas de facto government as Britain attempted to steer clear of any direct governmental involvement.

Amboseli National Park
But the Company, unable to avoid political and often violent unrest with settlers and native tribes, soon proved incapable of completing its most important task, the building of a railroad linking the coastal region to the area of Lake Victoria.  In 1895 Great Britain stepped in and assumed direct control of what they would call the East Africa Protectorate.    Construction of the Uganda Railway, across the length of Kenya linking Mombasa on the coast with Kisumu on the eastern shore of Lake Victoria, was completed and trains began operating in 1903.  (On a little side note, this railroad project also is famous for a pair of man-eating lions who killed dozens of African and Indian laborers during the building of a bridge over the Tsavo River.  The incident was made famous in the 1996 film The Ghost and the Darkness)

The building of the railroad forever changed the face of Kenya.  Not only economically, but also culturally as thousands of workers were brought in by the British from India, many of whom became permanent settlers throughout the area.  These Indian populations not only influence things like art and cuisine but also the political landscape, representing another non-white european interest in the countries political future.

Mombasa, Kenya
In the early part of the 20th Century, white settlers in the tens of thousands were awarded land claims and began setting up plantation-style farms throughout the interior.  The millions of Africans already farming there were forced to work on these farms or leave for the cities.  Tensions began to rise between the British and large local tribal groups, including those from the Luo, Masai and Kikuyu tribes, and these tensions often turned to violence.  The Mau Mau Rebellion, whose origins come from the Kikuyu people, began in 1952 and would prove to be the most influential of the violent uprising leading to independence.

Determined to force white settlers from Kenya, the Mau Mau Rebellion was part terrorist campaign, part military engagement and part civil war.  But whatever conclusion one draws about the nature of the conflict, and it was one marked with horrible atrocities throughout, one thing is clear; the end of the conflict in 1956 essentially marked the beginning of the move towards independence.  In 1960, London announced they would hand over power in Kenya to a democratically elected government.

Jomo Kenyatta was a Kikuyu born in British East Africa in 1889.  His interest in politics began in 1924 when he joined the KCA, the Kikuyu Central Association which aimed to lobby London on behalf of tribal interests.  Kenyatta spent years in London writing, studying and speaking out on the perils of africans in their native lands.  He returned to Kenya after the Second World War and was imprisoned by the British during the Mau Mau Rebellion, though his direct involvement in the rebellion’s leadership is not entirely certain.  During his imprisonment he was elected president of the Kenyan African National Union (KANU) and upon his release in 1961 he emerged as one of Kenya’s most important political leaders.

The first Kenyan election was held in 1963 and KANU won the majority of seats in the newly formed parliament.  As a result, Kenyatta became Prime Minister.  A year later, Kenya enacted a new constitution and became a republic, with Kenyatta being elect to the presidency in 1964.  Over the years he consolidated power, turning Kenya into essentially a one-party government.  Kenyatta stayed in his office until his death in 1978  at the age of 88.  He was succeded by his Vice-President Daniel arap Moi, who served until 2002 when the newly elected Mwai Kibaki essentially ended the single-party rule, ushering in a new period of democracy in Kenya.

Statue of Jomo Kenyatta in Nairobi
Like nearly all of Europe's former colonies, Kenya has had its bumps and potholes along the road of history.  Despite its struggles, Kenya remains a stable democracy.  And throughout the years its amazing natural beauty and incredible wildlife have helped to build a large and vibrant tourism industry, and it also drew Imagineers to revel in its wonders.

by Dave McBride (twitter: @RadioHarambe)

Friday, October 4, 2013

Walls Going Up All Over Harambe!

On the recent episode of Radio Harambe, Safari Mike discussed a rumor concerning construction in the Africa section of Disney's Animal Kingdom.  And today we have some photographic evidence to back him up.  (A big "Asante Sana" to Christa for providing these images!)

What we all have been lead to believe is that this project is for the construction of a new theater for the Festival of the Lion King, pictured above, and that's all.  However, Safari Mike now believes Harambe is in for more than just a new theater, perhaps a much larger expansion.

We know the Dawa Bar is being moved closer towards the main walkway, however these walls around the Tusker House building certainly do not seem to be for that part of the project.  

What exactly is being done here?  Perhaps a merchandise location or two?  Maybe a walkway leading from the new theater?  Or even an entire new area of Harambe Village?

We don't yet know, but we can start to move towards being pretty sure it involves more than just a new theater and a simple 20 yard move for the Dawa Bar.  Safari Mike will be at DAK soon enough, and he has orders to investigate...

by Dave McBride (twitter: @Radio Harambe)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Disney's Animal Kingdom News Round-Up for October 2, 2013; Elephants and Springboks

Springboks Coming to the Animal Kingdom Lodge:  It seems the Animal Kingdom Lodge is about to get a few new members of its four-legged family, as it appears the Animal Care Team is in the process of acclimating Springboks to the savanna.

Disney has yet to confirm this information, and we are not sure if this is, in fact, the same herd from the Kilimanjaro Safari moving over.  However guests at the Lodge were told to expect to see Springboks on their Sunrise Safari.  We’ll keep you posted...

96 Elephants and What We Can Do To Help:  On Episode 10 of Radio Harambe, we mentioned an effort called “96 Elephants” being undertaken by the Wildlife Conservation Society to help stop the senseless slaughter of our precious wild elephant population.  So here is the website to read about it and what you can do to help.

Elephant poaching is a tragic and very real issue, and one we can certainly effect positively.  It is also an issue inexorably linked with Disney’s Animal Kingdom, if perhaps a bit less so now than a few years ago.  The main conservation message brought home to guests was the idea of stopping the poaching of elephants, and I hope we can continue that spirit even in the post-Little Red era.

Park Hours for this week are...

Wednesday: October 2 9am - 5pm
Thursday: October 3  9am -5pm
Friday: October 4  9am - 6pm
Saturday: October 5  9am - 6pm (Extra Magic Hour 8-9am)
Sunday: October 6  9am - 7pm
Monday: October 7  9am - 5pm (Extra Magic Hour 8-9am)
Tuesday: October 8  9am - 6pm

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

Attraction Closures:
Bradley Fall snack cart is closed - no reopening date announced

Have A Wild Time this week!!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Animal Kingdom Lodge Art Spotlight; Senufo Staff Finial

This is one of the coolest pieces of African art at Kidani Village. It is the Senufo staff finial. According to the plaque, it was used as an award for the most diligent young male farmer. They were set on posts around the farm as a symbol of pride.

The Senufo tribe is located in western Africa with the largest single population in the Ivory Coast. However, they are found in Ghana and Mali, as well. The capital of the tribe is Korhogo, a 13th century town in the northern part of the Ivory Coast. As this piece shows, they are primarily a farming people. The main crops include peanuts, rices and yams.

Birds are very common in the staff finials. They symbolize prosperity. Pythons are another common symbol in Senufo art. Religion involves numerous rituals and the use of brass jewelry which often incorporates the python. Figures that represent ancestors are also common.

Society is divide into different castes. These divisions, called katioula, separate the people into farmers, blacksmiths, carvers, brass casters and leather workers. There are also four societies which govern the people. One is the Poro which ensures good relations between the living and the ancestor spirits. Another, the Wambele, are sorcerers. Divination is the realm of the Sandogo, who are mostly women.

by Safari Mike (twitter: @JamboEveryone)

Plenty of New Videos from DAK

The Jambo Everyone YouTube Channel continues to grow.  This weekend, Safari Mike posted a couple of new videos from DAK...

If you listened to our episode of Radio Harambe on hidden gems, then you heard me talk about this little tucked away area. There is a path that cuts across the Oasis. Here you will find this rope bridge that leads into a cave. Through there, you will find the Tree of Life. Its a great way to begin your trek.

The gibbons are one of the most fun animals to sit and watch animals be animals. The theme here is great. These are ruins that are under repair by the people of Anandapur, Unfortunately, the floods have returned and the workers have left. Now, the gibbons enjoy the rafters.