Disney parks are unlike any theme park in the world. There is so much imagination and attention to detail, unique to each park, that you can discover something new in each visit. Learning the history of the parks is one of my favorite things to research. It makes my visits all that more enjoyable, knowing secrets of how they function and why things are the way they are. Thus inspiring a weekly feature…DISNEY PARKS FUN FACT FRIDAY! A chance for me, a Disney history nerd, to share some pretty cool facts with you!
I’ve decided to start with Walt Disney World. The youngest, but largest of the four parks is Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Opening on Earth day in 1998, Disney’s Animal Kingdom was inspired by Walt Disney’s tremendous association with animals. His true life Adventures series was launched with the release of Seal Island in 1948. Eight of the thirteen films of the series won Academy Awards! From that point on, Walt always had the intention to have live animals in a Disney park. His original plan for the Jungle Cruise in Disneyland even called for live animals! Although that didn’t work out, 32 years after the death of Walt Disney, a park dedicated to the wonderful creatures of the world-real and extinct opened its doors at the Walt Disney World Resort!
So without further adieu….The Five Fun Facts for Disney’s Animal Kingdom park!
- THE TREE OF LIFE
The tree of Life is one of the most amazing pieces of art ever created by Disney Imagineers. It reaches 145 feet into the air and can withstand 145 mph winds! The core of the tree is actually an oil drilling platform covered in foam and steal cage mesh. There are 325 animals carved into the tree making it one of the most beautiful sights on property! It serves as the parks icon, and the home to the 3D film, “Its Tough to be a Bug!”.
- KILAMANJARO SAFARIS
This amazing attraction is about as close to a real African safari as you can get! At roughly 110 acres, it is almost the same size at the entire Magic Kingdom park! Landscaping this attraction was no easy feat. The plants needed to be accurate to the actual habitat of the animals, so in order for the plants to root properly they were put in at the same time as breaking ground for the entire park. While riding along, you may see the “random” ruts in the ground, seemingly made by your safari vehicle. These were carefully constructed to keep the polluted water from the road from intermingling with the “life support” water in the animal habitats! Disney thinks of everything!
- ATTENTION TO DETAIL
Themed paving is an important aspect of the realism to Animal Kingdom park. You may not notice it, but now you may stop and look at the fun things you are really standing on! These surfaces are passed over by foot traffic, strollers and scooters by thousands of people each and every day. Not only do they need to be sturdy for this purpose, but able to withstand the wear and tear of Florida weather. A special recipe was made to do just that, with a little magic added in. Animal tracks, hiking boot footprints, bicycle and truck tire marks can all be seen walking throughout the park. They were actually put in to tell a story of the “lands” of the park. One of my favorites is the paving at the entry to Harambe in Africa near the amazing Tusker House restaurant. You will see the remnants of what looks like old city walls. According to the history of the fictitious town of Harambe, is was once surrounded by a fortress. This bit of history adds to the story telling of the park, as well as giving an “age” to the city of Harambe!
- EXPEDITION EVEREST
My personal favorite coaster among the four Walt Disney World parks has such a fun story line. Most people in Tibet, Nepal, and India believe in the Yeti as a mystical creature who carries out protective duties. When looking for an attraction to fit perfectly in the Asia area of the park, Imagineers used this belief to their advantage. If you are brave enough to take the Expedition (and keep your eyes open) you may have seen the massive Audio Animatronic Yeti that waits inside the mountain. The standard set for this park was real animals, so this Yeti couldn’t look like a cartoon abominable snowman! Imagineers visited all areas of southwestern China doing research on the Yeti they believe in; choosing traits that would make it believable to guests taking the journey on this thrilling coaster. You will even find some of their “research” on display throughout the queue. This Yeti even carries enough hydraulic force to move a passenger jet!
- PANDORA: THE WORLD OF AVATAR
KALTXÌ! This means hello in the language of the Navi! Pandora is the newest land to be built within the park, and boy is it immersive! It is home to the ever popular Flight of Passage attraction. This ride allows guests to ride a banshi alongside your Navi counterparts. ITS NOT TO BE MISSED! You will never experience an attraction as amazing as this one! As you’re exiting Avatar Flight of Passage you may see three handprints in red paint. These are the handprints and initials of James Cameron, the director of the Avatar film, Jon Landau, producer of Avatar, and Joe Rohde, lead Imagineer for Pandora and all of Animal Kingdom. This was their way of leaving a legacy behind for all of their hard work and imagination that went into this amazing attraction. If you aren’t familiar with the Avatar movies, you will have plenty of opportunities to do as the natives do!
I hope you have enjoyed these five fun facts! Its always nice to appreciate the hidden gems that Disney parks hide in plain sight! Next week we go to Hollywood! Disney’s Hollywood Studios that is! See ya real soon!
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