Travel back in time -- way back -- to a world of ferocious dinosaurs. Surround yourself with the music and magic of a Broadway-caliber performance in the "Festival of the Lion King" show. Hop aboard a real safari to capture poachers and explore the wilds of Africa. Ride raging rapids through a threatened rainforest, or marvel at tigers, fruit bats and other creatures amid the ruins of an ancient Asian village.
Lace up your walking shoes and prepare to explore Disney's Animal Kingdom, where the exciting worlds of wild and whimsical creatures come to life on thrill rides and on an authentic African safari, in theaters brimming with colorful entertainment and through up-close meetings with the animal stars of Disney feature animation classics.
Laid out in a classic hub-and-spoke Disney style, this newest and fourth major theme park at Walt Disney World Resort first welcomes guests into The Oasis, a lush gateway to adventure populated by deer, anteaters, tree kangaroos and other animals. The park's fun-filled lands radiate from the centrally located Discovery Island, where The Tree of Life park icon towers 145 feet above guests and houses the hilarious 3-D film and special effects attraction, "It's Tough to be a Bug!" From there, guests can explore:
Africa, home to Kilimanjaro Safaris; Harambe village; Pangani Forest Exploration Trail; and Rafiki's Planet Watch and the Wildlife Express steam train.
DinoLand U.S.A., with the new "mini-land" Dino-Rama! featuring Primeval Whirl and TriceraTop Spin; the DINOSAUR thrill ride; The Boneyard excavation play area; Cretaceous Trail; and Theater in the Wild, featuring a Finding Nemo stage show.
Camp Minnie-Mickey, with "Festival of the Lion King" stage show; Pocahontas in "Pocahontas and Her Forest Friends" stage show; and Disney character meet-and-greet pavilions featuring Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Winnie the Pooh and other favorites.
Asia, featuring Kali River Rapids, a white-water raft adventure; Maharajah Jungle Trek with tigers, gibbons, Komodo dragons and other creatures; and "Flights of Wonder," an exotic bird show.
"Nothing like Animal Kingdom exists anywhere else in the world," says Joe Rohde, Walt Disney Imagineering executive designer for the new park. "Our guests journey into the last wild sanctuaries of the planet -- vast forests and grasslands where the great herds of Africa surround them. And they race against time into the darkness of a prehistoric world where gigantic dinosaurs literally shake the earth around them."
Bugs are another matter. They may not shake the earth, but they know how to shake up an audience in "It's Tough to be a Bug!" at The Tree of Life Theater. With advanced 3-D and Audio-Animatronics® technology combined with surprising special effects, this insect adventure leaves guests laughing and screaming for more.
The magical music of the Disney classic "The Lion King" combines with dance, acrobatics and elaborate staging and costuming to inspire one of the theme park's most talked-about shows, "Festival of the Lion King" at Camp Minnie-Mickey. And at Theater in the Wild outside DinoLand U.S.A., guests are swept away on a theatrical thrill ride in a high-energy 30-minute stage musical, "Tarzan Rocks!"
At the heart of DinoLand U.S.A., guests discover DINOSAUR, where they board time-traveling vehicles to zoom back 65 million years on a twisting, lurching journey to save the last dinosaur from extinction before the crash of a fiery asteroid. A busy paleontological "dig," The Boneyard, provides plenty of fun activity for children as they climb, crawl and slide throughout the well-preserved skeletons of triceratops and Tyrannosaurus rex. The new Chester & Hester’s Dino-Rama! captures the essence of a campy roadside fair. Guests can take a spin on Primeval Whirl, a fun-filled family coaster, or TriceraTop Spin, a playful open-air, toy-top attraction. Old-fashioned amusement games round out the fun.
From the thrilling era of the dinosaurs more than 65 million years ago, Disney guests can travel on to an African savannah of today, where rare and wonderful creatures such as black rhinos, hippos, African elephants and lions roam openly. On Kilimanjaro Safaris, passengers experience a true African safari in vehicles that bounce over rutted roads, ford through pools of hippos and pass herds of zebra, giraffe, gazelle, elephants and other animals. But beware! Lurking in the tawny grasslands are ivory poachers, and it's up to the safari passengers to help save the herd from poachers' guns.
At the end of the 20-minute safari, visitors can follow Pangani Forest Exploration Trail into an Eden-like world of streams and splashing waterfalls. Pangani Forest is home to a troop of endangered lowland gorillas. Hippos -- viewed from under water -- meerkats and tropical birds live along the shady walking trail.
On another "continent" nearby, guests encounter the thrill of Kali River Rapids, a white-water rafting expedition in the new land of Asia. Guests are launched on 12-person rafts into the turbulent Chakranadi River for a wet journey of twists, turns and fiery adventure.
A surprise awaits around every turn, including an abrupt drop into racing, splashing waters.
Asia's other main attraction, Maharajah Jungle Trek, is a breathtaking journey through the lush home of myriad animal and bird species.
In this rainforest environment, Nepal, India, Thailand and Indonesia all are represented through architecture, animal carvings and ruins scattered throughout the village. The exotic animals are visible from the top of a parapet, through a stand of bamboo and from a bridge that stands amid the ruins near an old herb garden.
"Flights of Wonder," a humorous show highlighting the beauty and diversity of birds at Caravan Stage outdoor amphitheater, is also a part of Asia. The setting for "Flights of Wonder" is a crumbling Asian town where macaws, ibis, pelicans and other birds emerge from their alcoves to soar overhead.
Which birds show off on any given day is part of the surprise, but all birds are being taught to show off their natural talent, not "do tricks." Trainers demonstrate how birds respond to special audio or visual clues, how they hunt and eat. "Flights of Wonder" is one of many shows and demonstrations in Disney's Animal Kingdom designed to entertain while inspiring guests to a greater awareness of animals and what threatens them around the world.
For an up-close look at more of the real animals inhabiting Disney's Animal Kingdom, guests can board the Wildlife Express steam train to Rafiki's Planet Watch. An interactive backstage look at how the park's animals are kept happy and healthy, Rafiki's Planet Watch features: Animal Cam, with a peek into animal care areas; hands-on displays for the opportunity to participate in conservation and species-survival efforts; and The Affection Section, where guests can meet and pet small domestic animals. A wondrous audio experience transports guests into a threatened rainforest.
Animals have played an important part in Disney stories from the earliest Mickey Mouse films to the "True-Life Adventures" television series in the 1950s to "The Lion King" in feature motion pictures.
"Disney is all about storytelling," says Rohde. "And now, for the first time, real live animals help tell the story as their fascinating families play out real-life experiences on nature's "stage."
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