An Ode to Animal Kingdom

Overcast at Animal Kingdom

In the midst of discussion of Venn diagrams and sets in my math class the other day, this thought process went through my head: “What park do I want to go to on Saturday? I’ve been wanting to Everest lately and I still haven’t been to the new Festival of the Lion King theater. Oh, and I miss Dinosaur. And Finding Nemo the Musical. And Primeval Whirl. And somehow, I’ve never done the Maharajah Jungle Trek. Should be a little rainy on Saturday too, and I’ve heard those are some of the best safaris. Oh my God…Animal Kingdom is my favorite park.”

It hit me like a freight train. Well, more like a Wildlife Express train. I hadn’t been to the park in a few months, but the emotions and thoughts about it were at an all-time high. First and foremost, the theming just grabs you and never let’s go. The intricacies of Harambe or Anandapur are outstanding, creating a sense of escapism that is not available in either North American Disney park. It’s the best park to people watch in, as not only do you have the very eclectic group of Disney tourists, but the added benefit of being able to take in the Rhode way of doing a theme park (Joe Rhode, that is).

The attractions are also some of the best Disney has to offer. Expedition Everest is a crowning achievement for Disney Imagineering as far as thrill rides go. A highly themed, highly immersive and highly excitement trek through the Himalayan mountains that bridges the gap between classic Disney storytelling and roller coasters. Dinosaur is a pretty impressive attraction too, as it took the fan favorite ride system from the stellar Indiana Jones ride from Disneyland, and instead of doing a carbon copy, created another fun, immersive, and entertaining experience (Let us all agree though, what is that Carnotaurus’ problem? I’m just trying to grab an Iguanadon, so you go on your merry way you stalkerish dino).

The piece de resistance of the park, however, deals with animals of the present. Kilimanjaro Safaris is the BEST safari attraction anywhere around the globe. The immersion, the amount of animal interaction, the peacefulness of looking out onto the savannah…it is breathtaking. The soundtrack isn’t half bad either.

Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo the Musical both show clearly that Animal Kingdom is the park to beat as far as live entertainment goes. The former, a theater in the round setting aided by acrobatics, aerial work, floats, and the fantastic soundtrack to The Lion King creates “The Best Disney Attraction at Disney World” billed by everyone and everything that discusses FOtLK. Nemo creates an original musical based on a beloved property with exceptional original music and puppetry that makes you feel like you’ve dived into the Great Barrier Reef.

Add in wonderful food and shopping, a strong love for water (water features and bodies of water make me happy) and the best icon Disney has ever built (Yes. Better than Tokyo Disneysea. I said it.) to get my favorite Disney park around. What is even more exciting is what’s to come. The park that has always been seen as “Half Day Central,” will be getting Avatarland, which I am absolutely thrilled about. I hate Harry Potter, repeat, HATE the wizard boy, but I have to admit, the two lands decidicated to his story are fantastic. Avatar was a movie I thoroughly enjoyed and one where I verbally said “It would be cool to go there,” so seeing the concept art and noticing the park is getting A BOAT RIDE, among other things, excites me to no end. (Simplified: If I hate Harry Potter and love the land, and I enjoy Avatar, I should ADORE this new land!)

Not only do we receive a new and immersive land, but we also receive nighttime entertainment. The thought of being able to trek through the stunningly beautiful park in the evening, seeing the Tree of Life lit up, and get a nighttime extravaganza that seems to be a mix between World of Color and Fantasmic, minus the characters, makes me not only thrilled to be a Disney fan at this time in its history, but excites me as someone who cares so much for Animal Kingdom. People will finally, hopefully, call this park what it so truly deserves to be called: A Full-Day Park.

I leave you with something to make you appreciate it just a little bit more, Dan Gooding’s fantastic 25 minute Music of Animal Kingdom medley. Try not to imagine being in the middle of the Oasis by minute 2.

(P.S. Nahtazu is the best marketing Disney has ever done. If you don’t agree, you’re lying to yourself. BRING IT BACK!)

Marshal Knight
Marshal Knight is a pop culture writer based in Orlando, FL. For some inexplicable reason, his most recent birthday party was themed to daytime television. He’d like to thank Sandra Oh.