Disney’s Animal Kingdom has been scrutinized since it opened its gates in 1998. People claim that this is a ‘half-day park’ and that it ‘doesn’t have enough attractions’. While I see where those people come from, I love Animal Kingdom. There is more detail here than just about any Disney park, which explains why this park is made for wandering. Plus, it combines animals with a theme park, two of my favorite things, and does it in a natural way. With that being said, Disney has taken note of Animal Kingdom’s faults and changes are coming. In this post, I’m going to lay out common complaints (they will be in bold text) about this park and give you the ways this semi-expansion is going to fix them.
‘This is only a half day park’
While I disagree with this sentiment for the most part, it’s hard to argue this when Animal Kingdom typically closes around 5 P.M. every night. Now, things are changing. In 2016 a new nighttime show called ‘River of Light’ will debut on the Discover River. From the sounds of it, this show will feature music, lights, mist screens and floating lanterns. I’m guessing, but I think the show will be along the lines of World of Color in Disney’s California Adventure. What’s the best way to keep people in the park all day? Put a show at the end of the day.
On this water in front of Expedition Everest is where the show will take place. Along with a night-time show, all of the attractions will be open later as well. Riding Expedition Everest at night will be fantastic. I don’t know if they’ll keep the shows, like Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo: The Musical, running through most of the evening but I would guess that they’ll stretch out the times a little bit so they’ll run a little later.
The other big part of this nighttime extension for the park is that Kilimanjaro Safaris, an attraction that really embodies this theme park, will now have a special nighttime version. On this attraction, the rider sets out on a safari covering several different areas to see nature and tons of animals. With a new night-time safari there will be a few new animals to see. How are we going to see them in the dark? I’m not sure but I look forward to what the imagineers come up with!
‘Animal Kingdom is too hot and crowded’
This complaint I completely understand. Animal Kingdom doesn’t have many indoor places to rest from the hot Florida sun. The walkways in the back of the park from Africa to Asia are pretty small and it has a tendency to get pretty crowded and crammed there. Disney has done a few things to spread people out in that section.
The first part of this ‘spreading people out’ plan has already been accomplished. Festival of the Lion King (a live stage musical) has been moved from its former spot in Camp Minnie-Mickey (RIP) to the African section of the park, known as Harambe. They have built a new theater here, that’s air-conditioned unlike the old one, and it’s beautiful. It was designed specifically for this show and opened a little bit of a new section of the park that I believe will eventually connect to Pandora (Avatar Land), but more on that in a little bit.
The above photo shows the concept art for another mini expansion that is set to open next year. This place will be known as Africa Marketplace. There will be several shops and a counter-service food location here. Africa Marketplace will also be right by Harambe. This will help alleviate some more of the crowd congestion because there will be more places for the crowd to go in this section of the park, instead of only one or two ways out.
There aren’t enough attractions.
While I’ve never bought in to this idea, I get where people are coming from. There aren’t a ton of attractions to actually ride in this park. There are lots of attractions to walk and explore (if you haven’t done the Maharajah Jungle Trek, do it!) but not many of your standard theme park attractions. This is where the biggest ‘expansion’ of Animal Kingdom comes into play.
The aforementioned Pandora: Land of Avatar is coming to the parks. I’ll be the first to say that I don’t enjoy the movie Avatar. But, after seeing Cars Land and Diagon Alley, I’m really looking forward to what the imagineers can come up with for this land that’s set to open in 2017. Above is concept art of the land. Here’s what we (pretty much) know the land is going to have, after the jump:
- An E-Ticket attraction that is a little bit like Soarin’ but with different ride vehicles. This will take you flying over ‘Pandora’.
- Another attraction the will be a boat ride.
- A restaurant or two.
- The land is supposed to have floating mountains.
Some of these may change a little, but those are pretty well confirmed by Disney themselves. Animal Kingdom is in desperate need of another really popular attraction and that’s what that first one I mentioned should be. This, again, will help spread the people out. I’m cautiously optimistic about this land and look forward to seeing it.
I look forward to all of these changes coming to, what is already, one of my favorite parks. If you have any questions or thoughts about Animal Kingdom and what’s to come leave them in the comments!