Category Archives: Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom Theme Park

Trip Report January 2016 – Day 4

Day 4 of our January 2016 trip started in Animal Kingdom.  We had an easy drive of less than 15 minutes and were in one of the first few rows of parking.  It took about 20 minutes from parking to entering the Kilimanjaro Safari Fastpass line.  We had an excellent crisp early morning safari with lots of animal sightings.

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They stood so still they looked fake peeking above the bushes

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Snoozing hippos

Up next I rode Expedition Everest by myself with a Fastpass and then again as a single rider.  Since I’m the only one who rides this in our group and it has a single rider line, the Fastpass was not necessary.  Next we child swapped Dinosaur with Fastpasses.

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Indoor Walt Disney World Character Meet and Greets

Visiting Walt Disney World in Florida is usually an adventure dealing with weather. Whether it’s 95 degrees and humid, raining buckets, or cold enough to frost the windows, you may search out indoor activities. I prefer indoor character meet and greets not just for the character experience itself, but also for the more comfortable queue.

Ponchos are not good meet and greet fashion! Avoid this with indoor meet and greets

This list of character meet and greets is accurate as of May 5, 2016. Characters and locations change often, so always check your Times Guide or My Disney Experience app and Park Map once inside the park. Extreme weather can also move some outdoor meet and greets inside, but these won’t be published. This list excludes any meets that happen as part of a character dining experience.

Magic Kingdom

  • Town Square Theater on Main Street – Mickey, Tinker Bell – Fastpass Available
  • Princess Fairytale Hall in Fantasyland – Anna and Elsa, Cinderella and Rapunzel – Fastpass Available
  • Ariel’s Grotto in Fantasyland – Ariel – Fastpass Available
  • Pete’s Silly Sideshow in Storybook Circus – Goofy, Minnie, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck

Epcot

  • Character Spot in Future World – Mickey, Minnie, Goofy – Fastpass Available
  • Character Spot in Future World – Baymax
  • Character Spot in Future World – Joy & Sadness
  • United Kingdom – Pooh and Tigger

Hollywood Studios

  • Red Carpet Dreams on Commissary Lane – Sorcerer Mickey, Minnie
  • Celebrity Spotlight – Olaf
  • Pixar Place – Wood and Buzz Lightyear
  • Star Wars Launch Bay – Chewbacca, Kylo Ren

Animal Kingdom

  • Adventurers Outpost – Mickey and Minnie – Fastpass Available
  • Rafiki’s Planet Watch – Rafiki

Indoor meet and greets are just a fraction of all of the meets available in the parks. Some characters, like Russell and Dug from Up, only meet in one outdoor location so you may not be able to avoid them completely. Character meals, especially if you have a Disney Dining Plan, are another great way to meet multiple characters from the air conditioned comfort of your dining table.

Disney Recruits Rockwork Specialist for Avatar

A few days ago we broke the news that Disney currently has contractors putting together preliminary budgets for the much anticipated – and highly doubted – World of Avatar project for Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

To further solidify the rumor that the Avatar project may indeed come to fruition, we understand that Disney has recruited Zsolt Hormay back to Walt Disney Imagineering.  Hormay is a legendary faux rockwork and environment specialist.

His next task will be to create the immersive environment of Pandora, in the area formerly housing Camp Minnie-Mickey and Festival of the Lion King.

Some of Hormay’s spectacular work for Disney can be seen at Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea, the Tree of Life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the Tower of Terror exterior in Florida, and Big Thunder Mountain at Disneyland Paris.

Zsolt Hormay will of course be working with Joe Rohde, the creative leave on the Avatar project, and the Imagineer responsible for the Animal Kingdom park.

Is the World of Avatar Finally Coming to Animal Kingdom?

It appears that the Avatar franchise will very likely make its way into Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World.

A partnership between James Cameron and Disney was announced last September, but then things fell silent.  There were a couple mentions at Disney events and shareholder meetings, but not much more than “we’re still working on it” comments.

However, Disney has been working diligently on blueprints behind the scenes.  Yours truly had the privilege of reviewing the conceptual floorplans, building sections, architectural narratives and mechanical/electrical scopes for a new mini-land in Animal Kingdom.

While the plans do not come out and refer to Avatar in any way, the code name for the project is “Morpho”.  There are a number of hidden connotations to that, which we won’t go into here.

After some additional fact checking today, it was confirmed that these plans – which are currently in the hands of a number of contractors who are assisting Disney in creating a preliminary budget for the project – were drawn with Avatar in mind.  Granted, if Disney and Cameron can’t come to terms, these plans could be repurposed for just about anything.

Some highlights of this project, should it see the light of day:

  • It will be built where Camp Minnie-Mickey is now. Festival of the Lion King is slated to close and supposedly move to another location in the park.  This new land would encompass most of that area, and likely extend further south into some cast parking behind the Rainforest Cafe
  • There will be a main show building which will house what Disney is calling an E-Ticket attraction, as well as part of a C-Ticket attraction.
  • The E-Ticket attraction will be much like Soarin’, but in 3D.  Guests will climb a winding path up through a mountain and into the show building. From there, they will be directed up or down a ramp to one of three levels of ride platforms.  There are four theaters, each with 3 levels of seating, so the line should move fairly smoothly. It’s unclear what type of ride apparatus or vehicle they’ll use – but it will be substantial and heavy based on the foundation drawing we saw.
  • The first two floors, under the 3rd floor queue for the E-Ticket, will be an indoor part of the C-Ticket boat ride (or at least what appears to be a boat ride).  It will also venture outside, or perhaps travel within the lower levels of the mountain/rockwork under the sloping outdoor queue.
  • Not yet drawn, but noted as “Under Development” are retail locations, area restrooms and a quick service restaurant.
At this time, we don’t know much more than this.  These documents are highly confidential, and seem to have slipped through a few slippery contractor fingers.  Our guess is that Disney is quickly figuring out a price tag for this land, so they can finalize negotiations with Cameron before the big December 7 “announcement”.  If they fail with Cameron, we’re positive they have a Plan B up their sleeve that will use the same ride systems.
If we hear more, we’ll keep everyone updated. Until then, watch for hints on the Disney Parks Blog.

Avatar Project No More?

It’s being reported online by IGN that there may be some indefinite delays in future Avatar projects – including movies and theme park additions.

In June, James Cameron announced that he would shoot the next three Avatar movies at one time.  According to IGN, Indie Wire is reporting that Avatar 4 will not be part of the group filming.  It’s also uncertain when filming would begin for Avatar 2 or 3, since Avatar 2 isn’t even slated to release until at least 2015.

What does this mean for the proposed World of Avatar land for Animal Kingdom, which Disney CEO Bob Iger announced a year ago?  The word on the web is that “due to creative differences between Cameron and Walt Disney Imagineering,” the project may be delayed indefinitely.

Other sources say that Imagineering never wanted the project to happen, so there could be some truth to these rumors. A similar situation is what sent Potter over to Universal – after Disney and J.K. Rowling could not come to terms.

Granted, this entire story is an assembly of rumors, but if this is true, it likely means good things for Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which would receive much-needed attention from WDI – and all the funds.

Scene Change Coming to Kilimanjaro Safaris

This fall, guests will see a new habitat toward the end of the Kilimanjaro Safari ride at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

The attraction, which carries guests in safari jeeps around a 100 acre savannah, currently features 34 species of animals. Along the trip, guests follow a story line of poachers capturing “Little Red”, an elephant. This spring, Disney will be removing this scene and storyline from the ride.

In place of this scene, a new savannah will be created, which will have a watering hole for zebras, which are hard to see on the safari because of their location.

Work is slated to begin in March, and be completed this fall. The attraction will not close during this time.

Animal Kingdom Hours Increased for March

The operating hours for Disney’s Animal Kingdom have been increased for most days in March.

On average, park operations have been extended by 2 hours on most days, with the majority of days having 8:00pm closings.

March 2011 is the first month to not have any evening Extra Magic Hours, so perhaps the extended standard operating hours are their compromise.

Download park hours, up through September 2011, from our website.

Wild Africa Trek Begins This Sunday

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Navigating a rickety footbridge suspended over a river chasm can be a white-knuckle experience. For explorers on an all-new Disney adventure, what lurks below their bridge may quicken their step to get to the other side: crocodiles!

A ravine of menacing-looking crocs, pools of hippos, bushwalks along untracked terrain and other thrills await guests on Wild Africa Trek, a unique wildlife experience into the deepest, most-remote reaches of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Reservations can be booked now for the three-hour, expert-led adventure that immerses guests in the realms and wildlife thrills of far-off Africa – without leaving Walt Disney World Resort. In small groups, guests on Wild Africa Trek enjoy an “up-close-and-personal” experience with African wildlife species that make their home in Pangani Forest as well as other areas of the park’s Harambe Wildlife Reserve.

As part of the adventure, guests clip onto a lifeline as they step to the very edge of a cliff to get amazingly close to the hippos and crocs waiting just below. Talk about cliff-hangers!

“Adventure-minded guests will have the experience of a lifetime as they get immersed in an authentic African safari experience that only Disney can deliver,” said Michael Colglazier, vice president of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. “We are thrilled to be offering this unique outdoor adventure aimed at active vacationers, taking interactions with the incredible animals that inhabit the Harambe Reserve to the next level and literally blazing new trails in our park.”

Highlights of what’s in store for guests on this add-on adventure:

  • Trekking with experienced guides through areas of Harambe Wildlife Reserve that aren’t explored during regular Disney’s Animal Kingdom experiences.
  • Navigating winding pathways through dense fern, bamboo and vine forests on a bushwalk that sets a course for adventure.
  • Clipping into a harness attached to a safety line, crossing a seemingly precarious rope bridge over the Safi River and cliff-hanging at the edge of gullies that are home to hippos and crocodiles.
  • After pausing at an overlook above the grasslands for breathtaking views, boarding customized open-air vehicles that course through the vastness of a magnificent savanna. Extended time is allotted for animal viewing with expert guides.

Unwinding from an unforgettable adventure at a private safari camp for viewing of wildebeest and giraffe, elephants and gazelles, eland and antelope. At this station elevated above the savanna, guests savor this panorama of wildlife and sample tastes of Africa as their adventure draws to a relaxing and satisfying close.

Wild Africa Trek is offered several times daily at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Groups are kept small, consisting of no more than 12 trekkers per safari.

Reservations for Wild Africa Trek (ages 8 and up) can be arranged by calling 407/WDW-TOUR (939-8687). Pricing for this unique adventure will vary seasonally. Included is a Disney photographer who will provide each trekker with select photos of their experience. Guests who wish to experience Wild Africa Trek between now and Feb. 26, 2011, may take advantage of an introductory offer starting at $129 per person.

Behind-the-Scenes Tours at Animal Kingdom

Check out some of the amazing behind-the-scenes tours offered at Disney’s Animal Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

Backstage Safari at Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park

(8:30 am – Monday, Wednesday, Thursday & Friday – 3 Hours)

Guests are invited to find out what happens behind-the-scenes at Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park. During this in-depth 3 hour program they’ll get an insider’s look at the innovative ways that Disney Cast Members are meeting challenges in areas such as conservation, animal nutrition and medicine, animal care and behavioral studies. This program takes place entirely behind the scenes and includes visits to backstage animal housing areas. Animal viewing is extremely limited. No photography is allowed backstage.

Guests must be at least 16 years old to attend this program. Guests are required to have a photo ID in their possession during the program. This is an outdoor program, including moderate walking and stair climbing. Guests with special needs can be accommodated with prior notice. For more information and reservations call (407) WDW-TOUR, (407) 939-8687. For group reservations please call (407) 566-2620.


Wild by Design at Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park

(8:30 am – Tuesday, Thursday & Friday – 3 Hours)

Wild by Design presents Guests with an opportunity to learn some of the stories behind the making of Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park. Guests learn how art, architecture, historical artifacts and storytelling are combined to transport them to exotic lands filled with wild animals. This 3 hour on-stage, walking tour will provide insights into the design and building of this new species of theme park as well as a glimpse into the complexities of caring for animals and habitats. A light continental breakfast will be served midway through the program.

Guests must be at least 14 years old to attend this program. This is an outdoor program, including moderate walking. Guests with special needs can be accommodated with prior notice. For more information and reservations call (407) WDW-TOUR, (407) 939-8687. For group reservations please call (407) 566-2620.


VIP Tour Services

(Daily, 6 hour minimum)

Experience the VIP treatment as only Disney can provide. Our VIP Tour Services team customizes your vacation so you spend your time playing, not planning. From the moment you arrive, your personal VIP Guide is there to take care of everything – from creating your ideal itinerary to getting you the best seats in the house for live shows, parades and nighttime spectaculars. Prepare to be pampered with a Disney VIP Tour.

VIP Tours cancelled with less than 48 hours advance notice are subject to a fee equal to 2 hours at the booked rate per VIP Tour Guide. To Schedule a VIP Tour, call Disney VIP Tour Services at (407) 560-4033, or e-mail us at WDW.VIP.Tours@Disney.com.


Wild Africa Trek

Led by specially trained guides, the three-hour experience begins with a trek through the Safi River valley where expedition harnesses will allow guests to cross precarious rope bridges and enjoy up-close views of hippos and crocodiles. The journey continues through a wide-open African savannah onboard a specialized vehicle. The adventure concludes with a 30-minute stop at a private safari camp where guests will be offered extended animal viewing and a sampling of authentic African cuisine.

Reservations can be arranged by calling 407-WDW-TOUR (939-8687). Pricing for this unique adventure will vary seasonally. Guest reserving a booking from January 16 – February 26, 2011, may take advantage of an introductory offer. Park admission is also required for participants.

Wild Africa Trek Debuts at Animal Kingdom

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Navigating a rickety footbridge over a river chasm can be dicey enough for explorers. In an all-new Disney adventure, what lurks below that bridge may quicken their step to get to the other side: Crocodiles!

A ravine of menacing-looking crocs, pools of hippos, bushwalks along untracked terrain and other thrills await guests on Wild Africa Trek, a unique wildlife experience scheduled to launch in early 2011 into the deepest, most-remote reaches of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Reservations can be booked beginning Oct. 15, 2010, for the three-hour, expert-led adventure that will immerse guests in the realms and wildlife thrills of far-off Africa – without leaving Walt Disney World Resort. In small groups, guests on the Wild Africa Trek will enjoy an “up-close-and-personal” experience with African wildlife species that make their home in Pangani Forest as well as other areas of the park’s Harambe Wildlife Reserve.

As part of the adventure, guests will clip onto a lifeline as they step to the very edge of a cliff to get amazingly close to the hippos and crocs waiting just below. Talk about cliff-hangers!

Adventure-minded guests will have the experience of a lifetime as they get immersed in an authentic African safari experience that only Disney can deliver,” said Michael Colglazier, vice president of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. “We are thrilled to be offering this unique outdoor adventure aimed at active vacationers, taking interactions with the incredible animals that inhabit the Harambe Reserve to the next level and literally blazing new trails in our park.”

Highlights of what’s in store for guests on this add-on adventure:

  • Trekking with experienced guides through areas of Harambe Wildlife Reserve that aren’t explored during regular Disney’s Animal Kingdom experiences.
  • Navigating through fern and vine forests on a bushwalk that sets a course for adventure.
  • Clipping into a harness attached to a safety line, crossing a seemingly precarious rope bridge over the Safi River and cliff-hanging at the edge of gullies that are home to hippos and crocodiles.
  • Experiencing the thrill of “over-landing” in customized open-air vehicles following the edge of a magnificent, wide-open savanna.
  • Unwinding from an unforgettable adventure at a private safari camp for wildlife viewing.  At this station elevated above the savanna, guests savor sample tastes of Africa as their adventure draws to a relaxing and satisfying close.

Wild Africa Trek will be offered several times daily at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Groups will be kept small, consisting of no more than 12 trekkers per safari.

Reservations for Wild Africa Trek can be arranged by calling 407-WDW-TOUR (939-8687). Pricing for this unique adventure will vary seasonally. Guests who reserve a booking from Jan. 16-Feb. 26, 2011, may take advantage of an introductory offer starting at $129. Park admission is required for participants.