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Disney's Animal Kingdom
Disney theme park
The entrance to the Animal Kingdom.
Resort Walt Disney World Resort
Opened April 22, 1998
Theme Animal conservation
Operator The Walt Disney Company
Website Disney's Animal Kingdom Homepage
Walt Disney World Resort
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Magic Kingdom
Disney's Hollywood Studios
Disney's Animal Kingdom

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Walt Disney World resorts

Disney's Animal Kingdom is an animal theme park located at the Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida. The fourth park built at the resort, it opened on April 22, 1998, and it is the largest single Disney theme park in the world, covering more than 500 acres (2 km²). It is also the first Disney theme park to be themed entirely around animal conservation, a philosophy once pioneered by Walt Disney himself.[1] Disney's Animal Kingdom is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, meaning they have met and exceeded the standards in Education, Conservation and Research. [2]

Shortly after the park opened, Disney advertised the park using the fictional word "nahtazu"[3]. Pronounced "not a zoo," the word emphasized that the park was more than animal displays found in a typical city zoo. Disney stopped using the phrase in January 2006.

In 2008, the park hosted approximately 9.54 million guests, ranking it the fifth-most visited amusement park in the United States and eight-most visited in the world.[4]



Welcome to a kingdom of animals... real, ancient and imagined: a kingdom ruled by lions, dinosaurs and dragons; a kingdom of balance, harmony and survival; a kingdom we enter to share in the wonder, gaze at the beauty, thrill at the drama, and learn.
Michael Eisner April 22, 1998

Themed areas

The park is made up of seven themed areas. However, the original plans called for another area called "Beastly Kingdom".[5]



The Oasis is the park's main entrance. Along with providing various guest services, the Oasis features a number of animal habitats. Guests can encounter muntjacs, spoonbills, ducks, wallabies and giant anteaters, among others. The main paths lead deeper into the park, and onto Discovery Island.

A Rainforest Cafe is also located at the entrance of the Oasis, although technically it is outside the park boundaries. Guests may dine at the restaurant without entering Disney's Animal Kingdom, while guests entering the restaurant from within the theme park are actually exiting the park and must present their admission tickets to return to the park.

Discovery Island

The Tree of Life, centerpiece of Animal Kingdom

Discovery Island is located roughly at the center of the park, in the middle of the Discovery River waterway. It was originally called Safari Village, as Discovery Island was the name for the small zoological park located in Walt Disney World's Bay Lake. After that facility closed in 1999, Safari Village was renamed Discovery Island. This is the "central hub" of Disney's Animal Kingdom, connecting almost all of the other sections of the park, except Rafiki's Planet Watch. The Tree of Life, the park's visual icon, is located here, surrounded by animal enclosures showcasing kangaroos, black crowned cranes, lemurs and others. The park's largest gift shops and two of its major restaurants are on Discovery Island, each with a different design theme, such as décor based on nocturnal animals, insects and so forth.[6] The island's other major draw is It's Tough to be a Bug!, a comical 4-D film featuring appearances by Flik and Hopper from Disney/Pixar's A Bug's Life.

Camp Minnie-Mickey

Camp Minnie-Mickey is themed as a rustic summer camp. Here guests can meet the Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy and others. Located in the area's main theatre is Festival of the Lion King, a live stage show featuring acrobatics and musical performances inspired by The Lion King.


Set in the fictional east African village of Harambe, this area contains a number of animal exhibits. According to Disney legend, Harambe was once part of a Dutch colony, but a peaceful revolution made Harambe self-governing in 1963.[6] Today, Harambe is the starting point for tourists and students who want to observe Africa's animals in their natural habitats.

The Africa area features an exhibit of Silverback Gorillas

The village is the namesake of the Harambe Wildlife Preserve, the fictional home of Africa's main attraction, Kilimanjaro Safaris. Guests climb aboard an open-sided safari vehicle for an expedition to see numerous African animals freely roam through acres of savanna, rivers and rocky hills, including reticulated giraffes, hippos, African elephants and lions. On the adjacent Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, visitors trek into the forest in search of gorillas. Along the way, the guest goes on a nature walk through a verdant African valley filled with Nile hippos, birds and fish.

Rafiki's Planet Watch

The one section of the park not connected to Discovery Island, Rafiki's Planet Watch is instead connected to Africa. Guests board the Wildlife Express Train for the short trip to and from Planet Watch, which consists of three distinct areas. Guests first encounter Habitat Habit!, where they can see cottontop tamarins and learn about the efforts to protect these endangered primates in their natural homes. Along the way, guests can also learn how to provide animal habitats in and around their own homes.

Conservation Station showcases the various conservation efforts supported by the Walt Disney Company. It also gives a behind-the-scenes glimpse into Disney's Animal Kingdom's animal care facilities, including a veterinary examination room complete with a two-way communications system so the veterinary staff can answer guest questions. Outside, Affection Section is a petting zoo featuring goats, sheep and other domesticated animals.


The mountains of Expedition: Everest.

Asia was the first expansion area added to Disney's Animal Kingdom, first opening in 1999. Like Africa, the section's attractions are part of a fictional village, Anandapur. Much like Harambe, Disney legend states that Anandapur is now a center of animal research and tourism. At the Caravan Stage, these two "worlds" meet in Flights of Wonder, a live bird show where one of Anandapur's bird researchers educates a tour guide with a fear of birds about natural bird behaviors and the effects of habitat loss and conservation efforts on bird species, such as the Black Crowned Crane and American Bald Eagle.

The Maharajah Jungle Trek leads guests through the forests and ruins outside the village, which are home to a number of animal species, such as Komodo dragons, fruit bats and tigers. Nearby, Kali River Rapids is a river rapids ride along the fictional Chakranadi River through a rainforest, past an illegal logging operation and down a waterfall. Looming in the distance behind Anandapur is the Forbidden Mountain, the home of Expedition Everest, a roller coaster ride through the Himalayas.

DinoLand U.S.A.

DinoLand U.S.A. is inspired by the public's general curiosity about dinosaurs. The fictitious Dino Institute and it surrounding facilities attract those with a scientific interest in the long-extinct animals, while Chester and Hester's Dino-Rama recalls the many roadside attractions that were once scattered throughout the United States. Like the other sections of Disney's Animal Kingdom, there are animals on display.

These particular animals, such as the American Crocodile and Asian brown tortoise, have evolutionary links to the age of the dinosaurs. Other plant and animal species that have survived since the dinosaur era can be found along the Cretaceous Trail. At the edge of DinoLand U.S.A. is the "Theater in the Wild," which hosts Finding Nemo - The Musical, a live-action musical stage show based on the story of the Disney/Pixar feature film.

The Dino Institute is the home of DINOSAUR, a thrill ride featuring a trip through time to the Late Cretaceous Period. Just outside the Institute is "Dino-Sue", a casting of a Tyrannosaurus rex fossil that is the most complete yet found. At the nearby Boneyard, children enjoy a multi-leveled playground area complete with a mammoth fossil to be uncovered.

Chester and Hester's Dino-Rama, on the other hand, is about dinosaurs as fun. The TriceraTop Spin is a colorful ride for families, while Primeval Whirl is a spinning roller coaster for thrill-seekers. Throughout the area are carnival games and gift shops, as well as chances to meet Disney characters.

Beastly Kingdom

Animal Kingdom's original logo which includes a dragon at the center.

Disney's Animal Kingdom focuses on three broad classifications of animals: those that exist today; those that did exist, but are now extinct (i.e., dinosaurs); and, those that exist in legend and mythology.[5] In the original design for the park, the animals of legend were to have their own section.

The original design for Animal Kingdom included a section called the Beastly Kingdom (possibly spelled in Old English as "Beastly Kingdomme"). It was a land devoted to creatures of legend and mythology. Due to budget constraints, Beastly Kingdom never came to fruition and Camp Minnie-Mickey was built as a temporary tenant of the Beastly Kingdom land.

Beastly Kingdom was to have featured mythical animals such as unicorns, dragons, and sea monsters. The land would feature realms of both good and evil creatures. The evil side would be dominated by Dragon Tower, a ruined castle home to a greedy fire-breathing dragon who horded a fabulous treasure in the tower chamber. The castle would also be inhabited by bats who planned to rob the dragon of his riches. They would enlist the guests' help in their scheme and whisk them off on a thrilling roller coaster ride through the castle ruins. The climax of the ride would be an encounter with the evil dragon himself, resulting in a nearly-barbecued train of guests.[citation needed]

The good side of this land would be home to Quest of the Unicorn, an adventure which sent guests through a maze of medieval mythological creatures to seek the hidden grotto where the unicorn lived. Finally, the Fantasia Gardens attraction would be a musical boat ride through animal scenes from Disney's animated classic, Fantasia. The ride would feature both the crocodiles and hippos from " Dance of the Hours" and the Pegasus, fauns, and centaurs from Beethoven's "Pastoral."[citation needed]

Remnants of this planned area were visible when the park opened or are still visible today:

  • The parking lot contains a section named "Unicorn."
  • The silhouette of a dragon appears in the Animal Kingdom logo.
  • There is a dragon-shaped stone fountain near Camp Minnie-Mickey.
  • A detailed dragonhead statue sits atop one of the ticket booths at the park's entrance. (The other two booths are topped by an elephant head and a triceratops head)
  • Blasts of fire would be spewed from a cave at the edge of the water, in Camp Minnie-Mickey. Burnt suits of armor were just outside the cave entrance, and when boats passed this scene in the now-closed Discovery River Boats attraction, guests were told by the boat's captain that the fire was created by a fire-breathing dragon inside the cave. This scene was visible from Discovery River Boats attraction and the Camp Minnie-Mickey bridge for several years.
  • One of the McDonald's Animal Kingdom-themed Happy Meal toys was a winged purple dragon.

As Expedition Everest features the mythological yeti, a creature that may or may not exist, the park now features at least one attraction based on each type of animal (living, extinct and legendary). As to Beastly Kingdom's future, Joe Rohde said in 2000: "We had a vision and now it's become a place holder. We have all kinds of ideas and not all of them fit with the theme of Beastly Kingdom. I'm not even convinced there will be a Beastly Kingdom."[7].

Restaurants and shops

Rainforest Cafe

The park contains three table service restaurants:

  • Rainforest Cafe, located just outside the main entrance (also accessible from inside the park);
  • Yak & Yeti, an Asian-themed restaurant located in the park's Asia section (operated by Landry's Restaurants) that opened on November 14, 2007; and
  • Tusker House, located in Africa and one of the park's original quick-service restaurants, was converted into a buffet restaurant and re-opened on November 17, 2007.

Tusker House hosts "Donald's Safari Breakfast," a character-dining event where guests enjoy a breakfast buffet while meeting Donald Duck and other Disney characters.

There are five quick-service restaurants located throughout the park:

  • Flame Tree Barbecue, on Discovery Island near DinoLand USA;
  • Pizzafari, also on Discovery Island, near Camp Minnie-Mickey;
  • Restaurantosaurus, in DinoLand USA;
  • Tamu Tamu Refreshments, in Africa; and,
  • Yak & Yeti Local Foods Café, located next to the larger Yak & Yeti table-service facility.

As with other Walt Disney World theme parks, Disney's Animal Kingdom has other locations and carts that offer snacks and beverages.


Much concern was brought to the animals' well-being when the park originally opened.[8] The park typically closes earlier than other parks in the Walt Disney World Resort. The animals are said to require a strict schedule to avoid stress, so even on nights when the park is open later, animals usually will be brought "off stage" an hour or two before the park officially closes for the day.[citation needed] Another notable difference from other Disney parks is that Animal Kingdom does not have a fireworks show in consideration to the animals.

Conservation efforts

As a zoological park, Disney's Animal Kingdom is engaged in research and conservation efforts involving its animal species. Since the park's opening in 1998, the resident elephant herd has produced four calves, with births in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2008.[9] In 2008 alone, the park's giraffe herd produced four newborns, raising the total number of giraffe births since opening to eleven.[10]

In 1999, one of the park's white rhinos gave birth to a female calf named Nande.[11] In 2006, Nande and Hasani, another of the park's rhinos, were transferred to Uganda's Ziwa animal sanctuary, in the first attempt to re-introduce white rhinos to the country. Due to civil strife, the white rhinoceros had become extinct in the area.[11] In June 2009, Nande gave birth to a male calf, the first such birth in Uganda in over 25 years.[11] In January 2010, the success of the Rhino breeding program was highlighted with the news that eight White Rhino's have been born at Animal Kingdom since the parks opening, the newest calf having been born to another Animal Kingdom born mother.[12]


Even in planning stages, various Florida based animal rights groups and PETA didn't like the idea of Disney creating a theme park where animals were held in captivity. The groups protested, and PETA tried to convince travel agents not to book trips to the park.[13] A few weeks before the park opened, a number of animals died due to accidents. The United States Department of Agriculture viewed most of the cases and found no violations of animal-welfare regulations.[14] On opening day, the Orange County Sheriff's office sent about 150 deputies in fear that there may be a large protest, but only two dozen protesters showed up. The protest lasted two hours, and there were no arrests.[15]

One year after the park opened, Animal Rights Foundation of Florida complained that a New Year's Eve fireworks show could upset the animals. A USDA inspector came to the park to find no problems with launching low-noise fireworks half a mile away.[16]

See also


  1. ^ "Environmentality: Disney and the Environment". The Walt Disney Company. Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  2. ^ Association of Zoos and Aquariums
  3. ^ Scott Powers (2008-04-22). "Disney's Animal Kingdom celebrates 10 years today". Orlando Sentinel.,0,1482354.story+%2Bnahtazu+animal+kingdom&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=9&gl=us. Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  4. ^ "TEA/ERA Theme Park Attendance Report 2008" (PDF). 2009-04-16. Retrieved 2009-04-16. 
  5. ^ a b "Disney Plans Wild Animal Kingdom in Florida". AP. 1995-06-21. Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  6. ^ a b The Imagineers (2007-05-22). The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World. Disney Editions. 
  7. ^ "Grand Prix out of gas; hotels to fuel land's future". Orlando Business Journal. 2000-10-06. Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  8. ^ Mireya Navarro (1998-04-16). "New Disney Kingdom Comes With Real-Life Obstacles". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  9. ^ Dewayne Bevil (2008-07-01). "Baby elephant born at Disney's Animal Kingdom". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2009-07-14. 
  10. ^ Dewayne Bevil (2008-10-10). "Disney's Animal Kingdom welcomes baby giraffe Bonsu". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2009-07-14. 
  11. ^ a b c Dewayne Bevil (2009-07-13). "Landmark rhino has roots at Disney's Animal Kingdom". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2009-07-14. 
  12. ^ Thomas Smith (2010-01-25). "Animal Kingdom Welcomes Endangered White Rhino To Herd". DisneyParks Blog. Retrieved 2010-01-25. 
  13. ^ Shenot, Christine (December 10, 1995). "The Captivity Question Disney's Proposed Park Makes an Attractive Target For Animal-Rights Groups" (Newspaper). Orlando Sentinel. p. 9. 
  14. ^ "Death of Wildlife At New Disney Park Is a Worry to Experts --- Four Cheetah Cubs Succumb To a Chemical, and Cranes Are Killed by Tour Buses" (Newspaper). New York, N.Y.: Wall Street Journal. 7 April 1998. 
  15. ^ Lancaster, Cory (April 24, 1998). "Protesters at Disney Had Sheriff on Guard Talk of A Major Animal-Rights Demonstration Brought Almost 150 Specially Trained Deputies to the Opening of Animal Kingdom" (Newspaper). Orlando Sentinel. p. 9. 
  16. ^ Lancaster, Cory (January 18, 1999). "Tragedy at Disneyland Leads to Beefed-up Checks Here" (Newspaper). Orlando Sentinel. p. 9. 

External links

Coordinates: 28°21′29″N 81°35′24″W / 28.358°N 81.59°W / 28.358; -81.59


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