Animal Kingdom: Imagineering Hidden Treasures
This was a post that should have come out earlier this week, as Monday was Earth Day and Animal Kingdom’s Anniversary, but on that day, the weather was just so nice and Mike was home so we went for a long walk and enjoyed the Earth instead of sitting inside writing about it. It’s those kind of nights that make life worth it and while I love writing and sharing this blog with everyone, real life experiences and in person time with those I love will always come first. That is where the adventures begin!
So, albeit a little late, here is my thoughts on my favorite hidden treasures of Animal Kingdom’s past and present!
Animal Kingdom opened on April 22nd of 1998 and helped bring the magic found in nature to all of us. The Imagineers, when designing this park, came up with some small but ingenious ways to tell stories and allow us to see nature in a whole new way. Here are a few of my favorites, some of which no longer work or exist in the parks:
Restaurant and store themes - While it looks as though each store is just covered in animals, each one has a very specific theme to them that you can only recognize after studying the types of animals on each building. For Instance, Beastly Bazaar is covered in animals that like to spend time in and around water, such as bears, turtles, otters and others. The restaurants have similar themes. Pizzafari has an animal theme to each of its rooms and my favorite theme is at Flame Tree Barbecue. Here, there is a large “predator vs prey” theme in each pavilion; anteaters and ants, spiders and bugs. They even take it to the next level in the furniture! You are sitting on an anteater chair while ants decorate the table where your prey, the delicious barbecue, sits!
Tree of Life Trail- This is sadly a fond memory now due to safety concerns (Safety always comes first at Disney), but this trail used to walk around the front of the Tree of Life and give you some up close views of the tree in all of its stunning glory. Near the end, there was a bench made out of a log that had some holes burrowed into it that, if you looked in each of them just right, would highlight specific animals on the tree! It was incredible! While you can still get to that bench, the new safety canopies and some of the overgrown brush obscure your vision. At least they did on my last trip to the park, I will be checking on our next trip for sure, just in case someone remembered that bit of magic.
Maharajah Jungle Trek Story- One of my favorite parts of Animal Kingdom (yes, I know I have a lot of them) are the walking trails; Pangani Forest Exploration Trail in Africa and Maharajah Jungle Trek in Asia. The theme of the Asia area as a whole, and specifically the Jungle Trek, is the power and resilience of nature. As you walk through the Maharajah Jungle Trek, you are walking the grounds of a once great palace of a sultan. Near the Tiger enclosure, there are murals that depict the rise of man trying to conquer nature and how, subsequently, nature regained control and how man learned to live in harmony with it. Those not looking for the theme or story would just walk past these murals, but they are such a beautiful detail that really send home the message of Animal Kingdom.
These are just some of my favorite areas of Animal Kingdom! There is so much more to discover when you visit. If you want to learn more about what went on while planning the stories of Animal Kingdom, I recommend 2 things. 1. Follow Joe Rohde on social media, especially Instagram. He is the creative genius behind this park, along with many other projects and his insights are just fascinating! 2. Get the book The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. While this book is older and some of its information is obsolete (they brag a lot about the technological advances of the yeti in Expedition Everest), the creation of the park and the details of the areas are a great read!!
What are your favorite parts of Animal Kingdom? Do you know any of the secrets to the park?