Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Disney has created a lot of parks since they launched their first park, Disneyland in California. Eventually, they wanted to follow the lead of quite a few parks around the world and decided to create a park dedicated to animals. Thus Disney’s Animal Kingdom was born and was populated with zoo animals. It was the fourth park built in Orlando and it was dedicated to animal conservation and the natural environment. When they decided to expand the park later, they had a plan for two expansions. They were going to create an attraction called Countdown to Extinction (a dinosaur area) and Beastly Kingdom (a land dedicated to magical creatures). When Disney’s Paris crisis happened, one of the two had to be axed and they decided to stick with dinosaurs.

I still think that this was a complete mistake. Countdown to Extinction was designed as an attraction to teach people about the extinction of the dinosaurs (I mean, obviously). It was later reworked to be themed to the Disney movie Dinosaur which was not as big of a hit as the company expected it to be. It was also opened up two years after Universal Studio’s Jurrasic Park: The Ride which was doing great especially since Spielberg was involved in its creation. The ride is a dark ride full of audio-animatronics. I like dark rides, I am just not as interested in dinosaurs unless there is some cool theming to it.

Beastly Kingdom, on the other hand, was designed as an outdoor river ride much like Jungle Cruise. The trip would have taken people on a trip full of mythical creatures (similar to the earlier Maelstrom). It was actually pretty interesting and some of it was installed but was never fully realized. Some remnants existed for a long time including impaled and roasted knights as part of a dragon attack section. Because of budgeting issues from the fallout of Euro Disney, Beastly Kingdom never came to be. It was unfair and it should not have happened.

Obviously, Disney never wanted to be put in the position of deciding between dinosaurs and dragons. That is a really hard choice unless you are a creationist who believes the two coexisted. Since they did not currently have a dragon movie coming out, they instead picked the DinoLand based on Dinosaur. The thing is, I am not sure I know anybody who saw Dinosaur which I hear has lovely animation. When it came time to expand again, Disney decided to create a land dedicated to Pandora from Avatar. I know Avatar has its fans but at the time Disney did not own the film so it was a weird decision. However, I think it is the kind of direction that they should have gone in the first place.

I believe that the concept of Animal Kingdom was flawed from the start. Disney basically created a high tech zoo but with apparently little experience in maintaining animals. This is a problem that many parks have when they decide to exhibit animals. It leads to a lot of animal injuries and death. This seems kind of pointless to me because there are already zoos which are usually maintained by people who were properly trained in how to care for animals. Animal Kingdom actually had about 31 animal deaths due to animals interacting with other animals or plants they should not have encountered.

I think Disney missed their chance to really do Animal Kingdom right based on their usual recipes. Their mission statement was to teach people about nature and conservation but they are Disneyworld. Disneyworld is devoted to creating real moments in a fake environment. I am not sure why they did not just create fake animatronic animals. The main problem people have with zoos is that you never know if you are going to see the animals in their enclosure because they hide from the sun or the heat. Disney had the opportunity to create animal enclosures or a fake safari through animatronic animal habitats. They could use the opportunity to teach while having more reliable and arguably less complicated subjects.

The park was created in 1998. What came out in 1994? The Lion King. They could have easily done some theming involving The Lion King, using kids’ connection with those characters to teach them about nature and conservation. Of course, that might bring up some unfortunate sociological truths about that movie but it is a thought. There is also The Jungle Book that the park could have been themed on. Of course, the park is starting to trend that way now. They seem to be moving away from focusing on the real animals and instead have attractions based on Lion King, Avatar and A Bug’s Life.

Of course, none of what I said makes Animal Kingdom wrong or bad. It just makes it uninteresting to me. Animal Kingdom is the third most-visited theme park in North America and the sixth most-visited theme park in the world. Obviously, the park has its fans and I cannot call all of those people wrong. They like what they like. My opinion comes from a place of design and a love of fiction. Also, I just really wanted there to be a land of dragons, trolls, and fairies. You know what? I am going to create my own right here just like I created a prison for Disney villains.

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