Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Disney's Animal Kingdom

It was sweltering, sizzling, scorching, and unbelievably fun.  Disney’s Animal Kingdom mixes the theme park formula with a zoo – the results are largely impressive.  In terms of design, it’s a beast and a beauty to behold.  The meticulous detail in determining plants, animals, and decorations is overwhelming to comprehend.  If you go when it’s hot, like I did, be prepared for a lot of walking, as you’ll literally feel like you’re managing your way through a jungle.

Below is my comprehensive review of everything Disney’s Animal Kingdom has to offer.  The photographs used are of the highest quality, loading times may vary depending on your connection speed, but, I felt it was the best way to showcase the beauty and breadth of this amazing place.  I’ll do my best to offer rich analytical commentary, and, there’s a couple video clips thrown in for fun, too.  Enjoy!

Disney's Animal Kingdom

This photo of me was snapped almost instantaneously upon entering the park.  We wanted to be there bright and early, right when the gates were opened to the public.

This parrot beckoned me with its beautiful and vibrant colors.  He squawked out some advice to me, suggesting which direction to head first, and where to get a good drink later that night.

Tree of Life 

I can’t seem to pull my eyes away from the image above – it’s stunning and just a perfect display and visual summarization of the awe of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  After a bit of a walk, it’s straight ahead from the front entrance, and as you can see, we’re part of the humongous crowd that was there when the park opened.

If you look at the tree itself, you’ll notice there are over a 100 unique animals carved into its surface.  It’s a visual marvel, something that you almost can’t believe upon viewing it.  This is an iconic feature of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and something that left an undeniable impression upon me. 

Grade: A

It's Tough to be a Bug! 

Inside the famed Tree of Life is another attraction entirely.  There’s a theatre in the tree, where you’re treated to a spectacle that you experience not just visually, but through your other senses as well, like smell, touch, etc.  You’ll wear special glasses, that make the images pop out right in your face, which will likely be sporting a goofy expression.  The bugs on the screen make their presences known in other ways, too; like the bees which physically sting your butt, and, the skunks that spray you with an awful odor.  It’s a very fun time, for kids and adults alike, and not to be missed. 

Grade: A-

Kilimanjaro Safaris 

Kilimanjaro Safaris is arguably this theme park’s most respected and beloved attraction.  You’ll board a jeep, driven by your host, with several other park goers.  The jeep takes you through a safari, or a pretty good facsimile of one, where you’ll be able to see a lot of animals.  There’s a, rather hokey, in my opinion, plot that appears halfway through the ride, too.  There’s dangerous poachers picking on the poor animals, they’ll end up shooting machine guns at your jeep, but in the end, the day is ultimately saved.

This is a view of the inner-jeep, where it’s often handy to rely on others’ help to spot animals on the prowl.

Here’s one of several amazing views that are evocative of the lush scenery you’ll see amid your stroll.

This tree, the way the light hit it, the breathtaking sky, etc.  Everything about this photo is amazing to me.

You never know what's around in the corner during Kilimanjaro Safaris.

Looking from your seat in the jeep, you’ll often be greeted by views similar to the one above.

There are always several jeeps taking the trek simultaneously, as this ride is extremely popular, and the lines can be monstrous.

Don’t know what particular animal this is – but I did have a dream that night, of him (or her) riding a surfboard in a sea of grape soda.

This clip’s only like, four seconds, but it gives you an idea what it’s like to creep up on the animals – plus the little kid going nuts is sort of cute.

Here’s another unrecognizable, to me, animal doing their thing.

This baby elephant stole the hearts, and wallets, of several people onboard our jeep.

These rhinos make Aleksei Sytsevich (Rhino from Spider-Man lore) look tame by comparison.

Look, it’s Aslan!  I think.

This zebra struck a pose for us as we drove by, then, he went and totally gnawed some grass.

Waterfalls are abundant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom – but come on, seriously, who doesn’t love and/or appreciate a waterfall when they see one?

This was one of the most surreal animal viewing experiences we had, as this amazing creature, so powerful and imposing, was right near us.

The experienced soured quickly, as I yelled out at him to give his reaction to the much-maligned 1995 film Congo

Grade: A+

Pangani Forest Exploration Trail 

This attraction was basically a glorified zoo, but, a good opportunity to get to see and be near a lot of spectacular species’.

Not sure what this animal is, honestly, but it had the ass of a zebra, and that made it totally okay with me.

We were then being huddled into a sketchy edifice of some sort.  Point of interest to me is the girl with the shorts that have writing across the ass cheeks; it always befuddled me why someone would choose to wear something that directs others’ eyes directly to their buttocks.

This lizard was equally as intimidating as The Lizard of comic book fame, minus the ripped white lab coat, and ludicrous origin.

This lowly little creature was shy, as shy as me, the first time I was out on the floor doing the Electric Slide.

Like I stated earlier, waterfalls are aplenty here, but great places to stop and rest for a minute.

These little creatures were adorable.  I had a hard time getting a good picture of one, because they were so quick, still, they’re a lot of fun to watch.

Here’s another example of monkey business in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

He looks a lot like Gorilla Grodd – the celebrity cameos just keep coming! 

Grade: B-

After having forestry fun in the park’s Africa section, we made our way to the exotic attractions of Asia.

A sausage tree!  I love these things – they’re so absurd.  I first encountered one on a previous Florida vacation, while exploring Parrot Jungle Island in Miami, FL.

They really did a great job designing and decorating the park, especially in the Asia section.

Some of the areas felt like a set of a movie.

Everywhere you looked were startling and sensational views.

The detail in the buildings is phenomenal.

Just like this guy with the biceps, walking around, you truly feel like you’re in a completely foreign place.

This little area was reminiscent of a small cemetery and very enchanting.

Can you imagine if the neighborhood ice cream man drove around in a truck like this?

Expedition Everest 

Expedition Everest is one of Disney’s newest attractions, a beast of a roller coaster, and something that you can positively not miss.

This behemoth pales in my eyes to only one other mountain, that being the infamous Aggro Crag of Nickelodeon GUTS fame.

This isn’t just any normal roller coaster, either; halfway through your wild ride your cart suddenly stops, and you see that the track has been broken and mangled.  As your brain starts pondering what could have caused this catastrophe, your cart starts going backwards into a dark cavern.  This is where you meet the mighty Yeti, or, “Abominable Snowman.”  I won’t say anymore than that, but, be prepared for one of the most fun and exhilarating ride experiences you’ll ever have.

Grade: A+

Kali River Rapids 

I’ve rode rides similar to Kali River Rapids before, but never any done so splendidly.

Still, know what you’re getting yourself into, because, there’s a chance you’ll get absolutely soaked.  During our ride, sharing a raft with us was a park employee enjoying a day off with her family.  She said that the way it’s designed, two people usually get the brunt of the aqua assault – I immediately knew it’d be me.  Sure enough come nearing the end of the ride, the waters got rough, and a gigantic wave came over my head from behind me, leaving me totally drenched.

I was wetter than Aquaman at a southern California gangsta pool party.

Amanda wasn’t as happy about the unexpected shower, but she survived.

Grade: B-

Maharajah Jungle Trek 

This attraction is another akin to a zoo, like the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail in the Africa section, but certainly worth your time.

This sign, near the entryway, promises rare creatures and plenty of high-five opportunities.

Here’s a truly dangerous dude, the legendary Komodo dragon.

This musty swamp, and lush tropical scenery, is very common surroundings during your trek.

There’s a bloodsucker, and I’m not talking about Walt Disney!

The fact that I can’t look at a bat and not subconsciously think of Batman is a testament to my being a supreme nerd.

This is just an overall cool place to stop and take a break at, relax and reflect, and splash some moderately dirty water on your face.

Here’s another fantastic example of the excellence in design at Disney’s theme parks.

When I saw this tree lying uprooted on the ground, I spent some time meditatively pondering on its past, present, and future.

I caught these people enjoying some shade and discussing a recent episode of My Name Is Earl.

This statue would make a great centerpiece to any room – even if it does look like two turtles fu*king.

The tigers are easily one of the most fun animals to just stand there and kind of stare at for a while.  We see them so much on television, etc. but it’s not every day you get to be so close to any in-person.

This statue looks like something Poison Ivy would have on display in her hideout.

I tried to throw a penny in this fountain, but Mickey Mouse appeared and dropkicked me.

This is one of my personal favorite pictures I took during the entire trip.  I love the way the light hits the leaves, and the bricks in the background.

Even though it’s kind of blurry, I still wanted to include this picture, if for no other reason than to immortalize that weird doorway of chains.

This looks like some kind of ritualistic torture hut that reminded me of Apocalypse Now.

In conclusion, I think the Maharajah Jungle Trek is a nice little detour from the more popular attractions.  You can stroll at your own pace, plus, the exhibits are designed superbly and the selection of animals is impressive.

Grade: B+

Next, we ventured over to DinoLand U.S.A., which is a bright section of the park dedicated to… dinosaurs!  It’s designed like a carnival, which is a lot of fun; in fact, there’s even a section called Fossil Fun Games where you can play carnival-style games with a “prehysterical dino twist.”

Here’s another look at DinoLand U.S.A.  I asked the man on the far left if I could get on his shoulders for a ride like his little boy – I think he thought I was joking.

Primeval Whirl 

This ride actually has a pretty unique and awesome premise.  It’s a roller coaster, however, your cart spins constantly as you ride!  The coaster isn’t that big or anything, but it’s still worth checking out for bizarreness alone.

Here’s Amanda waiting patiently for her opportunity to whirl. 



Dino-Sue is the largest and most complete T-Rex ever found – that alone scores this attraction some serious points.  I’d rank this with some of the most amazing things I’ve seen, like the Hollywood Sign, Sears Tower in Chicago, and this time at a party where a guy got naked and did a backflip in the middle of a backyard while shitting. 


The Boneyard 

This attraction is essentially a playground with a dinosaur theme.

Visually, like most things at the park, it’s definitely impressive.

As well as hosting its own dinosaur, kids also get an opportunity to slip, slither, slide, and crawl.  One small child looked at me dumbfounded, as his parents came to retrieve him, I assured them that “my mammoth isn’t wooly.”

Maybe exhaustion from the heat and a ton of walking hampered my spirits, but honestly, I think after seeing Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure at Disney-MGM Studios this playground paled in comparison. 


Some performing group was trying to rap about animals to passerby – the only thing more amazing than the guy’s beastiality question is the dude on the right and his extremely over the top reaction.  Priceless!


Amanda had been to this park before, and talked rather consistently in the weeks prior to our trip, almost exclusively about this ride and the amount of awesomeness it contained.

While you’re inside waiting in line, which is generally gigantic, there’s a lot of really neat stuff to look at.

Here’s some more of the stuff you’ll see on display while waiting to ride the beastly DINOSAUR.

I’ve got to be honest – this ride is completely insane!  I loved it, but wow, I never expected the intensity it provides in droves.  You zip back 65 million years to the Cretaceous period, where darkness, loud roars, and some of the most frightening prehistoric beasts you’ve ever imagined greet you.  I definitely wouldn’t take a young child on it, but, if you like excitement and being thrilled, then you’ve definitely got to experience DINOSAUR.  Then, when you’re finished, check out the gift shop for all kinds of prehistoric paraphernalia. 


I didn’t eat there, but according to my guide map, Restaurantosaurus serves McDonald’s fries, freshly tossed salads, amongst other things.  I asked the guy with the outrageously big top hat what he ate, his response was “cocaine’s a hell of a drug!”

There are all sorts of shops all over the park – if you get some spare time it’s a lot of fun to look around and maybe even buy a souvenir or three.

We then began our trek over to Camp Minnie-Mickey.

This is the section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom most designed for small children.  There’s not a lot to actually do there, with the exception of meeting characters, and it hosts two live shows.

Still, as always, its design is immaculate and a pure joy to behold.

I knew it was a very touristy thing to do, but, I had to take a picture of this.  Come on, you know you’d have done the same thing!  Stop judging me.

Festival of the Lion King 

If you want to cool off a little, plus, be thoroughly entertained then you’ve got to catch a showing of Festival of the Lion King.

Just look at this picture and let me assure you… yes it really is that amazing.

The show features music, dance, and specialty performances, including my favorite, some astounding acrobatics.  There’s really no reason, if you’re spending a day at the park, that you shouldn’t fit some time into your itinerary to witness this spectacular show. 


Other Stuff: 

Of the four Disney theme parks we attended, we generally hit almost every attraction they offered; but, due to largely heat exhaustion and general fatigue, we missed a handful of things at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Among them are: two live shows, Tarzan Rocks! and Pocahontas and Her Forest Friends, TriceraTop Spin, another Carnival spin-off over in DinoLand U.S.A., and Flights of Wonder, a bird show I was looking forward to seeing.  Also, we missed an entire area, Rafiki’s Planet Watch, which hosts Habitat Habit!, Conservation Station, and Affection Section, and more.  It’s essentially an area designed to showcase how they care for their animals, as well as their commitment towards conservation.

In conclusion, Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a really great theme park; although it can’t compare to Magic Kingdom and its, well, magic, nor Epcot and its diversity, or Disney-MGM and their powerful pop culture tie-ins, it still manages to be impressive, and offer its own individual appeal.  If you like the outdoors and/or animals, than you can’t miss it.  However, if you’re on a budget, or can only do a couple parks, this one likely takes last in overall appeal and value.

Overall Grade: B