Disney’s Animal Kingdom
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(5/1/13) Orlando Parks News takes a look around Animal Kingdom while the park celebrates its 15th Anniversary (MORE...)
(4/29/13) Disney announced new details about the new Wilderness Explorers experience opening soon at Animal Kingdom. “Coming soon, Disney’s Animal Kingdom guests (MORE...)
(4/12/13) Disney’s Animal Kingdom will have a special celebration on April 22nd (Earth Day) to mark the park’s 15th Anniversary. (MORE...)
(4/8/13) Insiders at Animal Kingdom report that the future Festival of the Lion King site (MORE...)
Ride Rehabs - The following information is not guaranteed to be 100% accurate.
Nothing is known at this point in time...
General Park News - (5/1/13) Orlando Parks News takes a look around Animal Kingdom while the park celebrates its 15th Anniversary, the construction walls up blocking the view of the new home for Festival of the Lion King and more.
(4/29/13) Disney announced new details about the new Wilderness Explorers experience opening soon at Animal Kingdom. “Coming soon, Disney’s Animal Kingdom guests will be invited to become Wilderness Explorers and experience the park in engaging and challenging ways aimed at deepening their understanding of animals and the natural world we live in. Taking the official pledge, armed with field guides and earning sticker badges along the way as they complete their challenges, guests explore the park at their leisure. Aimed at guests 7-10 but fun for the entire family, Wilderness Explorers will be self-guided and encourage more “up close and personal” time with the animal inhabitants of the park. Wilderness Explorers will be included in Disney’s Animal Kingdom admission.”
Mickey and Minnie will also meet guests from their new exploration headquarters on Discovery Island starting May 12th.
(4/12/13) Disney’s Animal Kingdom will have a special celebration on April 22nd (Earth Day) to mark the park’s 15th Anniversary. There will be a special opening ceremony at the Tree of Life featuring Joe Rohde, John D’Amaro and Dr. Jackie Ogden, various Earth Day “Party for the Planet” festivities, special food and beverages, limited edition 15th Anniversary merchandise and more.
(1/16/13) Is a new interactive game on the way to Disney’s Animal Kingdom? Sure seems like it, as the Disney Parks Blog promises that the Wilderness Explores organization (from UP) is coming to the park this spring. “Soon, guests can become Wilderness Explorers and experience the entire park using their field guides, completing challenges and earning badges as they go. With more than 30 badges available, Wilderness Explorers is fun for the whole family and helps guests experience Disney’s Animal Kingdom and its themes in a new and exciting way.”
(10/10/12) It’s been some time since anything was ever said about the accidental death of an employee on Disney Primeval Whirl coaster on March 13, 2011, but it now seems that the widow has filed a suit against Disney.
(9/13/12) DaMouse ventures back into Animal Kingdom again this week to check out the progress on all those giant net canopies that were being placed on the pathways near the base of The Tree of Life as well as the queue into It’s Tough to Be A Bug. No one seems to know if this is permanent, or a short-term fix while they inspect and repair any problems with the Tree itself. Speaking of which, there is a section of scaffolding up to do some kind of work on the tree. I’ve no idea is there is near where the one branch piece fell earlier this year or not.
(7/27/12) There is a shocking article on the Orlando Sentinel this week claiming that many guests who took the Wild Africa Trek at Disney’s Animal Kingdom between June and early July ended up suffering from some kind of unknown stomach bug illness afterwards. The food preparation area was searched top to bottom but no problems were found, leaving investigators mystified. Orange County Health officials aren’t sure just what may have caused it, as things like this can be pass on through food, water, person-to-person contact or even contact with something in the environment. Click here to read the official story.
Fall 2012 - Kilimanjaro Safari Renovation - (3/28/13) I didn’t realize they were so much trouble, but apparently just four months after the new Zebra Glen finale was added to the Kilimanjaro Safari, Disney has been forced to remove the Zebras. According to the report by the LA Times the buggers have been troublesome, blocking the paths of the jeeps, bite at each other and possible even at guests. Disney will now replace the Zebras with Addax instead.
(9/12/12) DaMouse heads into Animal Kingdom this week to check on the progress taking place on the Zebra exhibit being added to the end of the Kilimanjaro Safari. A lot of work has been done so far the and old geysers and shallow river bed run is now a distant memory as a more natural landscape has arrived.
(6/14/12) Go along for a ride on the Kimimanjaro Safari at Animal Kingdom with DaMouse this week and take a look at the construction taking place to build the new Zebra habitat.
(5/12/12) WDW News Today has a nice report about the current state of the Kilimanjaro Safari attraction at Animal Kingdom, now that the Little Red figure and plot story has been removed. Currently the finale of the ride has guests driving past long construction walls while the new Zebra habitat area is under construction. The old on-board soundtrack recordings featuring “Mr. Wilson” are now removed as well, replaced only by background music and sound effects.
While the current changes are set to be compelted by this Fall, apparently WDI’s Joe Rhode informed the attraction’s Cast Members that even more changes would be coming down the pipe for the attraction over the next 3-4 years. One of the planned future changes, would be the installation of a special Nighttime Safari version of the ride that would be an entirely different experience from the daytime version.
Of course the big news you can take from this is that Walt Disney World may be finally ready to get serious about opening up Animal Kingdom at night at last. Going back to the first major expansion of Animal Kingdom in Dinoland, Disney made sure to decorate the carnival ride style area with appropriately night-time lighting as a way to future-proof the area for when the park’s hours would be extended. The same could be said to Expedition Everest, but the longer daily hours never came. Of course, you may recall hearing about a proposed night event once in development for the park back in 2007 called Rivers of Light, which was put on indefinite hold and never heard from again.
With Avatar land lurking on the horizon, which will likely represent the single largest investment expansion in the park’s history, it would only make sense for Disney to finally extend the operating hours of the park, and come up with a whole laundry list of new evening / nighttime things to do in the park by then, which could include some kind of new nighttime spectacular as well.
(2/13/12) Disney has announced on their Blog that the Kilimanjaro Safari will undergo some changes starting this spring that will give guests a better opportunity to see Zebras. To do so the finale section of the tour will be reconfigured, and the Little Red animatronic elephant removed, to rebuild that area as more savannah space with a watering hole for live animals. The change is expected to be complete by Fall 2012, but the tour will remain open during the rehab.
2014 - New Festival of the Lion King Show - Under Construction - (4/8/13) Insiders at Animal Kingdom report that the future Festival of the Lion King site going into the Africa area of the park has been home to bulldozers and earth movers for the past couple of days who have been taking out the trees and clearing the site.
e got proof of the plan to move The Festival of the Lion King show to Africa, in the form of improvement blueprints Disney submitted ahead of construction. As you can see in the new image, not only with the pathway in front of Dawa lead into a new African expansion area that will include a new copy of the Lion King show venue (layered over the plans) but will also involve the construction of a new pathway to the South, ending at the Cast Member bridge for now, but this pathway will eventually connect into the backside of the Avatar land as well, allowing for better traffic flow in and out of Avatar than it would have now with the existing one path in and out.
(3/29/13) Insiders report that more fencing is going up behind the scenes at Animal Kingdom as they prepare to move Festival of the Lion King and begin work on Avatar. It appears that a barrier wall of some kind is being put into place alongside the backstage road to block the view of what is going on, and an excavator is already on site.
(3/22/13) Screamscape sources tell us that behind the scenes at Animal Kingdom crews have begun to install green tarps over the fences around the new African expansion area where the Festival of the Lion King is expected to move to. Green tarps are also said to have started to appear in a fenced area behind the Rainforest Café as well… so I can only guess we may start to see some early demolition and prep work for Avatar under way very soon.
(1/4/13) Today we’v
It also looks like a few little things here and there will be added as part of the expansion, which could be a new character meet ‘n greet area. I’m told some of this area is currently used as a start-up point for the Wild Animal Trek upcharge experience, so that could also be incorporated as well.
(1/3/13) Screamscape sources tell us that a small group of Imagineers were spotted backstage at Animal Kingdom, plans in hand. From what I’m told the plans did not look to be anything to do with Avatar, and the location they were poking around in also seems to confirm this as well.
If the information is correct, they were looking at an empty plot of land that runs between the Dawa Bar and a perimeter road around the edge of the park. I’ve attached a rough image showing off the general area where I’ve been led to believe they were looking, though the actual site may only be a portion of the area I’ve marked on the map. So the million dollar question is… just what are they planning on putting here?
If I had to speculate a bit, I’d guess that this could possibly be the new future home for The Festival of the Lion King show. This assumes that the park is still planning on saving the show and moving it to a new location when Camp Minnie-Mickey is transformed into Pandora: The World of Avatar. Putting a new version of the Lion King show here would actually fit right into the existing Africa theme of the land, and add a new attraction to this corner of the park which has previously only had the Safari tour. Again… assuming that they want to save and move the Lion King show, it would be smart to begin work on the new show venue first. Since Avatar will also bring an end to the character meet ‘n greet facilities at Camp Minnie-Mickey, I would also assume that we could also see some kind of new character meet ‘n greet area added here as well. Perhaps something indoor, similar to the newly opened Pete’s Sideshow at The Magic Kingdom. If anyone else knows more, please do fill us in.
(8/10/12) The latest buzz from the Rhinos is that the Festival of the Lion King show is expected to close in January to make way for Avatar. The long term plan is to move to into a new theater somewhere, but it sounds like the show will close down complete long before this happens.
(10/11/11) According to the latest rumor, Disney may be working on plans to move the still popular Festival of the Lion King show over to a new theater location somewhere in the Africa area of the park. The thought behind the motive is that the Lion King show will be moved just in time to begin the demolition work to the rest of the Camp Minnie Mickey area across the bridge, making way for the future Avatar land to open in about 5 years.
As for the Lion King show itself, I can only imagine that if Disney were taking the time to move the show to a new theater, they will also be taking the time to retool and reinvent the show into a somewhat new experience as well this time around. Hopefully more will come to light about this soon.
2015/2016 - PANDORA - The World of Avatar - (5/1/13) In case anyone is wondering, Disney did apparently confirm during their media event last week that they are still hard at work designing the Avatar land project. Nothing has been cancelled.
(12/10/12) Disney issued a minor update on the status of the Avatar land coming to Animal Kingdom at last week’s media events, and even showed off an interesting pictures of Cameron looking over a model with Imagineering. While there wasn’t much in the way of details on the model itself, the image on the wall in the background appeared to show some very interesting looking rock spires and arches that could very well serve as the entrance portal into the world of Pandora. Check out the video of the brief talk about Avatar as posted by Attractions Magazine.
(11/9/12) A weird new rumor floated my way, offering up some interesting details about that C-Ticket Boat Ride attraction seen in the leaked Avatar plans. According to our source, this slow family ride is intended to essentially server as a crash course in PANDORA 101, a way to bring all guests up to speed on the world of Avatar, and why humans have traveled across the stars to visit.
Intended as a sort of informational family attraction, the overall tone of the ride’s theme may actually have a bit in common with one of the Edutainment rides at Epcot. In short, this of this as a Pandora version of “Living with the Land”, showing guests the various plant and animal lifeforms of this new world.
(10/29/12) I wasn’t sure if I was going to post these right away, but since other sites have also obtained most of these same pictures, I’ll show my hand as well. What you see here is supposed to be early layout plans for the 3D flight simulator ride planned for Avatar: World of Pandora. From studying the plans myself for a few days, which seems to indicate three different floors in the building, I can verify the 3D aspect of the attraction plans, as the lower floorplan, which also shows off a boat ride layout for a C-Ticket attraction, has one room in the center of the four theaters labeled as the room to clean the glasses, complete w
ith a pair of “chutes” up to the next floor, which seem to link up with what looks like pre-show rooms. This same second level piece of artwork, which I have yet to see anywhere else, also shows off the layout of the attraction’s themed queue which would be built on top of the indoor portion of the C-Ticket Boat Ride.
What has been bothering me post is the layout of the individual theaters, as they seem to feature a large circular screen, but also two more screens above the main screen that appear to have a gap of some kind in between them. Putting a “hole” in the middle of your view screen seems a bit crazy to me, at least in terms of a normal simulator style ride experience, so this may be something a bit out of the ordinary.
For one possible idea I came across that would perfectly fit into this concept very easily was something shown off at IAAPA 2011 by a company called Simtec called HEXaFLITE. It was their own take on creating a more dynamic version of the Soarin’ style flight simulator experience, but kind of flipping everything around, top to bottom. While you would load in the horizontal position, as you do in Soarin’, your seats were connected to the floor instead of inverted coaster style. Then at the start of the ride, your entire theater platform would move forward and drop into a vertical dive posture… as if you were going over the edge on a vertical drop coaster, except your seats would roll forward with you to keep you level and upright. Best to see the concept art that Simtec was showing off to really get a firm idea of what I’m talking about. Simtec said that the they could customize the system to have everything from a very mellow and simple (ie: Soarin’) range of motion, up to a fully dynamic 6-DOF full range of motion controls.
Now while I have not heard about any official connection between Simtec and Disney regarding this project, the similarities in the ride’s overall design style are close enough to lead me to believe that I may be on the right track here by pointing out this Simtec design. I also find if very interesting that Simtec has a rather humble website that doesn’t even attempt to flaunt this amazing new ride system concept on the front page, but instead has opted to bury it deep in the back end rather than try to promote it to the world. Could an exclusive use deal with Disney be pending? One has to wonder…
(10/26/12) Pandora: The World of Avatar may still be years away, but who’s ready to find out just what kind of major new attractions we can expect to find inside? From what I’ve heard so far, there are a few different proposals floating around with different offerings and different budget levels to choose from, as the final choice has not yet been made. That said, it does seem as if Disney may have selected their primary E-Ticket attraction for the land, which would some kind of new open simulator style ride using a large circular multi-story screen. While this may sound a bit like Soarin’ at first, I’m hearing that this is likely to be a different kind of beast, able to take advantage of the new style digital 3D system Disney used on Star Tours 2, and while it may be about flying around Pandora, I think we’ll see a more active and adventurous motion system used here, as travel through the World of Pandora will not involve the same mellow friendly skies we experienced from Disney’s Soarin.
Attached to this E-Ticket ride structure, which will apparently feature four different theaters to deal with the capacity problems, will be a second C-Ticket level adventure ride that will feature both indoor and outdoor scenes. I’ve heard that it may be family friendly boat ride experience (Small World of Pandora?) though I’d also got a hunch that it could be a land based dark ride system as well as it seems the early proposal may feature 6 to 9 passenger vehicles, using 3 rows of seats.
For those hoping for a little more action and adventure, I’ve also heard that Disney has drawn up some plans for a second E-Ticket ride that could use the same Vekoma MotoBike based coaster system that they are putting to use in Shanghai as a Tron Light Cycle ride. Budget is the primary factor here, as adding the launched coaster to the land would increase the budget by good number of digits. Hope to have more information to share about The World of Avatar soon… so stay tuned.
(9/7/12) Despite the rumor from IGN claiming that the Avatar project may have hit a speed bump, local sources say that the early prep work projects are moving full steam ahead, with deadlines to keep.
(9/5/12) According to a report at IGN, there may be a delay in the start of James Cameron’s planned back to back shoot of Avatar 2 and 3. They also claim that this delay could carry over into the Pandora: The World of Avatar land at Animal Kingdom. Of course, it was just a few weeks ago that we heard that the early work for this new land was starting, and with the pressure on from Universal Orlando with attractions like Transformers and a second Harry Potter land on the way, I don’t think Disney will be willing to wait.
(8/9/12) Engadget reports that Disney is working with Berlin-based Studio NAND to create a new kind of interactivity between humans and real life plants called Botanicus Interacticus. Through the use of a capacitive sensor, a low level current is piped through the plant so that the system knows exactly where you are touching it resulting in a variety of reactions. Examples of the technology was put on display at the SIGGRAPH show, where the results are displayed as an effect on a mirror image behind the plant.
While no actual practical use was mentioned for the project, this seems like something we would see added to Pandora: The World of Avatar for sure.
(8/6/12) A reader was kind enough to send in a picture they snapped early in the morning just outside Animal Kingdom showing off the fleet of balloons that were lifted over the park the other morning. While you can’t make it out in the early morning light, apparently some of the balloons were different colors (Yellow, Red, etc) seemingly to indicate either different height levels, locations, or both. To the view of one source, the red balloons seemed to be higher than the yellow, with one of the red balloons appearing to come up from a location just behind guest relations.
(8/3/12) A couple of interesting things were reported from Animal Kingdom early on Thursday. According to a Screamscape source, CM’s arriving early at Animal Kingdom that morning could see height test balloons being flown over the park, reaching an estimated 200 feet in height. (That’s about the same height of Tower of Terror for comparison’s sake…) The location in the park hasn’t been confirmed, but is thought to be in the Camp Minnie / Mickey area.
On a related note, apparently Joe Rohde sent out word to his staff that today was also the first day of on-site construction work for “Pandora – The World of Avatar”. So get ready for Avatar mania to begin…
(6/26/12) Disney Imagineering has been spotted testing something very odd at a small airport north of Bakersfield, CA. It can be best described as a heavily modified Ultralight style personal aircraft, heavily themed to appear as a dragon in flight. According to the local news report sent in, the dragon’s mouth can open and close, breath a little fire, tail wag and more. Apparently Disney signed a secret deal with the airport to keep quiet about the project, which is being kept inside a rented aircraft hanger at Shatter’s Minter Field. Some believe that the flying dragon may be a wild prototype created for possible inclusion in a new Avatar themed show concept for Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
(3/14/12) In a perfect bit of timing, Disney CEO Bob Iger reaffirmed at the Disney shareholder meeting that their plans to build an Avatar themed land at Animal Kingdom are still on track to see it open by 2015. So looks like the rumors about possible Avatar setbacks were simply bad rumors.
(3/13/12) I’m not sure where this is coming from, but there is a buzz around the ‘net lately claiming that Disney may be re-thinking their plans to add an entire Avatar themed land to the Animal Kingdom. This does not mean that Disney is abandoning their plans to make Avatar themed attractions or lands in general… only that they may have come to the realization that Animal Kingdom may not have been the best place to build it. AK needs help, that is for sure, and there is no denying that a ton of major attractions have been pitched as possibly solutions to expand the park and add a new land to replace “Beastly Kingdom” over the years, but the Avatar land was the only one officially announced and confirmed by Disney so far.
Last I heard through the rumor mill was that the various attraction design pitches had been going well, and the look and feel of the land was really starting to solidify. Perhaps it was this more solid look at what would best represent Avatar as a brand that may have caused some second thoughts about putting it into Animal Kingdom. After all, one thing we did see a lot of in the movie was fighting, death, destruction, guns, mecha-troopers and much more. It doesn’t take a genius to know that if the attractions would also feature similar themes, it may fit in better over at the Studios. Anyone know a bit more about what may be going on, one way or the other?
(12/12/11) Stitch Kingdom has posted an interesting article about a new patent Disney has filed for detailing a new kind of attraction, officially titled as ‘Amusement Park Ride with Cable-Suspended Vehicles”. In a way, it kind of looks like a revamp of the old Konfrontation style ride concept at Universal, with the ability of the cabin to move through a real 3D space, while being able to control the altitude, pitch, roll and yaw of the rider cabin.The concept goes even further, suggesting that guests could be able control certain aspects of the ride’s movement, that could change the storyline or thrill level of the ride experience.
So just what ride may this really be for? There is some speculation that this could possibly be put to the test as an AVATAR based attraction, though given the timeline, I do have to wonder if it may have been dreamed up for something for the Shanghai park first.
(10/19/11) The latest news from the official Disney Park Blog shows off James Cameron touring Animal Kingdom with Tom Staggs (Chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts) and Joe Rohde (Disney Imagineer) to explore the park and get a feel of how the world of AVATAR will take shape in the park in the near future.
(9/22/11) The buzz over Disney building a whole land themed to Avatar is still rocking the industry right now, and from what I’ve heard, the deal itself is so fresh, the ink on the contracts is probably still wet. So at this point, it’s far too early to even think about just what kind of rides and attractions will be coming into the land for sure. After all, this is the ultimate Blue Sky phase, as Disney Imagineering has been tasked with creating a themed environment to represent an entire planet in the middle of Animal Kingdom.
That said, the budget is going to be huge… and while nothing is off the table at this point, I’m hearing that the estimated budget limit to create the world of Pandora is sitting around the $500 million mark. It’s hard to imagine any kind of limits with that much money at your disposal, which is a fantastic place to begin.
(9/21/11) Shocking announcement from Disney today… and probably the big announcement that everyone had been hoping they would drop at the D23 Expo back in August. Disney has signed a deal with Fox and James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment to develop attractions and experiences based on the Avatar film series. Yes, there are two more films set in the Avatar universe on the way which promise new characters, new stories and new locations in the Avatar universe to explore.
The first project out the gate will be an entire Avatar themed land coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom park in Walt Disney World. While they were not ready to say just when it will be ready to open, they did confirm that construction was expected to begin by 2013, so we’re probably looking at a 2015 opening date at the earliest.
According to the press release, “We believe Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a great fit for this project because it was created to give guests the opportunity to experience the worlds of animals and nature – real and mythical – in new ways. Disney’s Animal Kingdom also celebrates adventure, living in harmony with nature and environmental stewardship – themes that are deeply rooted in the story of AVATAR.”
As a long time fan of James Cameron’s films myself, I have to admit to geeking out at this announcement in a big way. And it’s a nice bit of justifications for Cameron to find himself in good company alongside George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Jim Henson by having a Disney theme park attraction themed to his creative vision. And please note that this will only be the first Avatar themed lands to come to Disney’s theme parks. “Future locations for additional AVATAR-themed lands will be determined with our international theme park partners at a later date.”
As for the location… well this certainly will finally give Animal Kingdom that huge long overdue shot in the arm people have been begging for, and perhaps finally find a way to make people forget about the long lost Beastly Kingdom concept in favor of the world of Pandora.