Extinct Attractions – March of the ARTimals

Welcome to Extinct Attractions. This week, I’ll be jumping back to the earliest days of Disney’s Animal Kingdom to take a look back at the first parade in the park’s history.

Avatar: The Way of Water officially grossed $2 billion worldwide last week, becoming the sixth film to ever reach that milestone. The film has kept on trucking, moving up to fourth all-time, with Titanic being the next film in sight. James Cameron is in a race against himself, becoming the only director to ever have three films gross over $2 billion, and who knows, by the end of the four extra sequels, he could be up to six.

When Disney announced that Pandora – The World of Avatar would be coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, it was met with a lot of apprehension. Needless to say, anyone who was worried had nothing to be concerned about because Pandora is generally regarded as one of Imagineering’s greatest creations. It truly feels like one is transported to another world as soon as they step foot in the land, and with the success of this newest film, I wouldn’t be surprised if new adventures on Pandora come at some point.

This Day In Disney History: Disney's Animal Kingdom Opened in 1998 | Disney  Parks Blog

This Day In Disney History: Disney's Animal Kingdom Opened in 1998 | Disney Parks Blog

Via Disney Parks Blog

Of course, Pandora wasn’t there on the park’s opening day of April 22, 1998, which is when today’s story begins. From the start, Animal Kingdom was a park unlike any other in that the star of the park was not the intellectual property. The real life animals that could be found nearly everywhere drove people to the park, especially with the early days of the park being practically devoid of Disney characters.

When it came time to design the first parade in Animal Kingdom, the entertainment team decided to stick with that motif of naturalism and create a parade with no Disney characters. Instead of Mickey Mouse and Pluto, we got frogs and elephants singing and playing their trunks. Each of the characters in the parade was supposedly a resident of Safari Village (the name for Discovery Island at the park’s opening), who had created a costume of their favorite animal for the celebration.

March of the Animals opened along with the park on April 22, 1998 and guests were immediately … confused. The parade was extremely artistic, with each of the animal costumes full of color and life (almost feeling like a Meow Wolf experience for those familiar). The entire parade was created as a showcase of art, with the floats relatively modest and feeling like art deco pieces as opposed to anything grander.

Via Saito News 

To be honest, the parade felt more akin to something you would see at a zoo than a Disney park, so I can see why guests were confused when they lined up for the parade expecting to see their favorite characters and were instead treated to an abstract concept of a parade. To try and help guests understand what they were getting into, they changed the name to March of the ARTimals, while adding an introductory storyteller and some more live music to spruce up the entire show.

The music itself was one of the standout elements of the show because even though the soundtrack was just made up of instrumentals, the show’s creators specifically chose songs that had some type of animal in the title. It was a fun little element, albeit one I never would’ve noticed if it hadn’t been pointed out to me.

DAK - March of ARTimals Non-Parade

DAK – March of ARTimals Non-Parade

Via Saito News 

But of course, the highlight of the show was how many different animals were represented throughout. We had frogs singing literal gibberish, a colony of paper-mache bees making their way before their queen and even a giant bird that strolled around like Kevin from Up.

Via AllEars

The outfits on the lions were awesome and made me think of Broadway’s The Lion King, especially since you could clearly see the performers’ faces through them. They were juxtaposed with one of the oddest moments of a bunch of creepy looking bugs just shaking maracas with no accompanying music until a spider appeared, and let me say that spider was grooving to the music.

Via The Mouse Minute 

But to me, the highlight was easily the elephants who were playing their own trunks. It was such a brilliant idea and they were so brightly colored that it was really hard to beat their unique blend of fun.

Via Disney Wiki

As a whole, I think March of the ARTimals was a bit misplaced as an opening day Animal Kingdom attraction, but is a parade that could have gained a bit of a following if it opened today. It was just so weird and fun that I found it really hard not to love them trying to do something new (just like Tapestry of Nations). Unfortunately, guests of the time didn’t agree, but the parade did at least last a year until June 9, 1999, though another parade did not make its way into the park until 2001. Alas, March of the ARTimals was ahead of its time, but it can march on in our hearts.

Via Memes 

As always, don’t forget to check out my interactive maps of the Disney Parks throughout the years where you can watch or learn more about all the attractions from every Disney park around the world.

Thanks for reading and have a magical day!

Cole Geryak
Cole Geryak is a childless millennial making his way through the world. He has ridden every single ride in Disneyland in one day, all while wearing a shirt and tie. Imagination is his middle name, and his heart truly lies in the parks.