The 20th anniversary of Animal Kingdom is quickly approaching; however, many people still don’t appreciate the hidden wonders of this park. Sure, a cursory jaunt through the park will get you a few thrill attractions and some great views of animals, but a slower walk through the park will allow you to appreciate the little special details.
One of the most interesting thing about this park is that it was imagined, in part, by Joe Rohde, who is highly focused on art and art history. As such, so much of the park has references to objects from the real world and/or was inspired by an artistic piece. Since detailing all of the references throughout the park would encompass a novel, I would like to highlight a few fun aspects in the details of the park for your next visit.
First, all of the details in the park are on purpose and specific in such a way that is easily overlooked by the casual park-goer. Ever look at the worn away posters in Harambe Market? If you do, you will notice that they advertise the Festival of the Lion King, which is an attraction that received a new theater in Africa. Speaking of Pandora- have you eaten at Satu’li Canteen? The story of the building is that it was once the commissary for the army while they were outposted on Pandora. It has now been taken back by the Na’vi, but you can still see the rusty stains of where piping was and the signs leading guests to the “Mess Hall” show the “history” of the building. These elements are not “necessary” per se, but they add just that little extra to the park that creates a better guest experience.
You can’t talk about Animal Kingdom without talking about the animals. Many people brush off Animal Kingdom as simply another zoo and, if they have easy access to a zoo at home, why visit one on vacation? However, the park could not be further from a typical zoo. The traditional cages are nowhere in sight and very few of the animal exhibits actually show the animals in a restricted environment, aside from smaller animals (such as reptiles or bugs) that are housed in glass environments. When you go to view the gorillas, there are no bars; the lions are laying out on their kopjes (rock formations) without any obvious barriers between them and the guests; and the monkeys are simply swinging from their ropes around Asia above guests’ heads. It’s a whole new way to experience and interact with animals that a zoo cannot offer. And, since there is a big emphasis on learning, the park is replete with animal experts offering in depth knowledge of the animals.
Let’s discuss a little bit about the art history elements of the park. Have you ever gazed upon the floating mountains and had your eye drawn up to the sky? This is inspired from the cathedrals from the Gothic era that grew to great heights to bring the eyes to heaven/the glory of God. Have you walked by the Yak and Yeti restaurant? The stone sculpture of the dragon has its origins in Asian art, reflecting an actual piece in the world. The fact that the structures and elements of the park are genuine reflections of real world elements helps cement that immersion.
It’s these very special elements that make up the park that demonstrate what type of unique experience it offers to guests. The trick is letting yourself experience it and not just run from attraction to attraction and then leave mid-day. So why not take an entire day and enjoy the park.
Photos by Peter Tedone