Animal Kingdom is Walt Disney World’s newest theme park and, at 500 acres, also its largest. This is not a park filled with high speed rides (although there are a few), this is a park that transports you to African Safaris, the prehistoric era, Asian jungles and temples and ties them all together as only Disney can.
The center of Animal Kingdom is the majestic Tree of Life. There are over 300 animals carved into the side of the tree. There are over 100,000 synthetic leaves that were all attached by hand. Back during its construction, conservationist Jane Goodall visited and noticed there was not a chimpanzee carved anywhere. Disney got right to it and carved her favorite chimp, David Graybeard, which can be found in the roots by the entrance to It’s Tough to Be a Bug. You’ll notice this particular animal is a bit more detailed than the others.
Animal Kingdom teaches the value of conservation. Many of the benches throughout the park are made from recycled milk jugs. It takes approximately 1,350 jugs to make one bench.
Wondering why there is a dragon among the animals in the signs around Animal Kingdom? The original park plans called for an area named Beastly Kingdom filled with mystical creatures however it was never built.
Keep an eye out for DiVine. This moving vine always draws a crowd. You’ll find her hidden in the trees around the pathways.
Look at the overhead pipes in the loading area of Dinosaur. They are white, yellow and red representing mayonnaise, mustard and ketchup. How would you know this? The chemical formula for each is found on the pipes! Just another example of Disney Imagineers having fun with us.
The highway sign in Dinoland is Route 498. This is a tribute to the park opening in April 1998.
At about 140 acres, the entire Magic Kingdom Park could fit within the borders of Kilimanjaro Safari, with room to spare. The artists at Walt Disney Imagineering sculpted the roadway on which the safari vehicles travel. It only looks like dirt or mud, but is actually reinforced concrete. Each Tembo Truck weighs something in the neighborhood of sixteen tons and would sink into an organic road.
You won’t see any traditional fences during your ride on Kilimanjaro Safari. To keep true to the safari feel Disney has kept the dangerous animals a safe distance by using hidden moats and ditches. The more docile animals can get very up close and personal with the safari vehicles even causing the jeep to stop and wait for them to cross their path!
The safari animals all have indoor sleeping quarters and shelter from hurricanes. They respond to unique sounds when it is time to head inside.
The flamingo pond in the safari is a Hidden Mickey.
Take the train to Conservation Station early in the morning and you might be able to see an operation on one of the animals. The general rule is if the animal weighs less than 500 pounds and can fit through the door, it is treated here. There are over 20 Hidden Mickeys in the mural at Conservation Station.
The prayer trees in Anandauper in Asia are draped with scarves. This is an Asian tradition in honor of their dead loved ones.
There is a bridge close to the end of Kali River Rapids. Push the buttons to squirt the guests in the rafts with a stream of water. No worries – they will already be soaked so what’s a little more water?
At 199 feet tall Expedition Everest is the tallest of all of Disney’s mountains. It took 3 years, 5,000 tons of steel and 10,000 tons of concrete to build the attraction. There are about 8,000 artifacts from Nepal found in the queue area.
The Yeti from Expedition Everest is referenced all over Asia – from the restaurants to the restrooms it appears everyone is familiar with the legend.
Make sure you pick up a free Wilderness Explorer’s Guide at different locations throughout the park. As you travel around you have the opportunity to earn over 30 badges by interacting with exhibits and cast members. It’s a great way for kids to learn while having fun.
It’s the stories and imagineering that makes Walt Disney World so special. My name is Susan Heidenrich and I am a travel professional with Travel with the Magic. I’ve visited Walt Disney World over 20 times and I would love to help you plan your next Disney vacation. Email me at SusanH@travelwiththemagic.com and follow me on facebook for tips, tricks and information on all things Disney!