Category Archives: Animal Kingdom
Last year there was a nasty rumor that the Festival of the Lion King was going to be closed in January 2013 to make way for the Pandora, aka Avatar, expansion. While a temporary shutdown would be bad enough many festival enthusiasts feared it would be a temporay closing similar to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage which closed for a temporary renovation in 1994 never to reopen.
Well the latest rumors are good news for Festival fans. The cast has signed a new long term contract and a new location for the show has been found. Not only does that mean the show will not permanently be closed it is a good indication it will not be closed at all. The show will stay in Camp Minnie-Mickey, it’s current home, until the new location is ready.
The new location actually makes more sense. According to sources the show will be located in Harambe Village behind Tusker House. Given that the show is all about Africa that makes a lot more sense than Camp Minnie-Mickey.
This is all just rumor for the moment though so do not be surprised if things do not work out this way.
Of course all this moving is necessary, if it happens, because the rumored location of Pandora is the current location of Camp-Minnie Mickey.
Any one who has been to Camp Minnie-Mickey can understand quickly why it is the prime location for some expansion love. There is nothing there but the Festival of the Lion King and some character meet and greets.
Grumpy is hoping this rumor is one of the true ones. Festival of the Lion King is the best show in Disney property, in my grumpy opinion. The last time I was there I saw it at least twice and I still love it.
Okay maybe a tumble monkey, part of the talented cast of the Festival of the Lion King, did not compete in the Olympics this year. But one of the current tumble monkeys started his career out as an American Olympian. And he did win bronze. It just wasn’t this year.
Joey Hagerty, one of the famous monkeys, actually won a bronze medal in 2008 at the Olympics in Beijing. Watch the video to hear from him.
So I wonder which is more exciting? Competing in the Olympics or working at WDW in the best show they have. I know what I think.
Can you feel the love tonight? Well if you can’t you may be out of luck (at least temporarily) if you are a love the Festival of the Lion King at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Rumor has it that the Festival may be going away at least temporarily.
According to some sources, whether reliable or not remains to be seen, the Festival of the Lion King is scheduled for a temporary shut down in January of 2013. The supposed plan is to make way for Pandora, the Avatar themed expansion.
If this is the case it will be a sad day for Grumpy. The Festival of the Lion King is one of the best shows at Walt Disney World. It is filled with music, acrobatics and drama. There is even a little crowd participation.
It may just be a rumor though! After all Disney went to a lot of trouble to enclose and air condition what used to be an open air theater. So we can hope that this rumor is completely false.
Of course Pandora itself is the source of a lot of rumors.
The rumors include where it will be situated in the Animal Kingdom. Speculation at first was Camp Minnie Mickey. This makes sense because Camp Minnie Mickey was an after thought when the Beastly Kingdom was cut because of budget overruns in the rest of the park.
Then a rumor involving Rafiki’s planet watch emerged. These rumors involved some permits issued for that particular area.
As of now, there is no official confirmation of where the land of Pandora will be.
If the expansion goes on but Avatar is out it wouldn’t break my heart or a lot of others who were never enthused about Pandora. I was considerably let down when they announced the tie-in would be Avatar. Haven’t seen the whole movie. Have no desire to do so. There were so many better themes for a Disney park and the top choices in my book would not have required Disney to shell out so much money for a license.
And Grumpy is not alone in that disappointment.
So if this rumor is true, let’s hope it’s completely true and the closing is only temporary.
Okay maybe this should have been included under Making Disney Magic Part One: The Terms but this one was so big that I wanted it to have its own section. The following is from the book How to Be Like Walt: Capturing the Disney Magic Every Day of Your Life by Pat Williams:
“Normally, the word “plus” is a conjunction, but not in Walt’s vocabulary. To Walt, “plus” was a verb—an action word—signifying the delivery of more than what his customers paid for or expected to receive.
There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of examples of Walt “plussing” his products. He constantly challenged his artists and Imagineers to see what was possible, and then take it a step further…and then a step beyond that. Why did he go to the trouble of making everything better when “good enough” would have sufficed? Because for Walt, nothing less than the best was acceptable when it bore his name and reputation, and he did whatever it took to give his guests more value than they expected to receive for their dollar.”
Perhaps one of the best examples of Walt’s obsession for “plussing” comes from Disney historian Les Perkins’ account of an incident that took place at Disneyland during the early years of the park. Walt had decided to hold a Christmas parade at the new park at a cost of $350,000. Walt’s accountants approached him and besieged him to not spend money on an extravagant Christmas parade because the people would already be there. Nobody would complain, they reasoned, if they dispensed with the parade because nobody would be expecting it.
Walt’s reply to his accountants is classic:
“That’s just the point,” he said. “We should do the parade precisely because no one’s expecting it. Our goal at Disneyland is to always give the people more than they expect. As long as we keep surprising them, they’ll keep coming back. But if they ever stop coming, it’ll cost us ten times that much to get them to come back.”
This attitude is kept alive today. One quick example of this is the new interactive queues they are installing at several of the rides at Disney World. The worst part of Disney World, or any other theme park in the world for that matter, is waiting in line. Disney has realized that our patience is shrinking. Instant coffee, microwave dinners, the internet, smart phones and every other convenience in the world has trained us to want it and to want it now. Disney can not make the lines go away all the time but they can entertain us while we are in it. They are trying to make the unbearable at least more bearable. They also dispatch characters to relieve the monotony. They even use parades to draw people from more crowded to less crowded areas. They monitor line size constantly and even launch more boats on Pirates of the Caribbean for example.
Another example can be found in the resorts. They could have just built a bunch of hotels but that isn’t very magical. So each hotel has a theme. Sure the themes at the value resorts is not best in the world but when you move up to the moderate resorts things improve dramatically. If you move to the Deluxe resorts or the the Deluxe Villas they improve exponentially. Even at the moderate resort Port Orleans I love to have one day just to wander around the resort. I could spend a lot of days wandering around the Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Not only are the resorts themselves great once you get there you can put your car keys down. Disney will provide free transportation to the parks and Downtown Disney. In fact you can get almost anywhere you need to go without the hassle of driving or paying for a taxi. Sure some of this is self-motivated because they want you somewhere you will be spending money but it is also a great perk. In fact if you fly into Orlando Disney offers the Magical Express. If you make the appropriate arrangements, which are quite easy to make, they will send you luggage tags to your home. You put them on your luggage and when you hit the airport in Orlando you head straight to the Disney center in the airport. They will take you to your resort for free! But the best part is you don’t even have to worry about your bags. They will claim them for you and bring them to your room. When you are ready to leave they will take your bags back to the airport and make sure they are loaded onto your plane.
While your in the parks Disney wants you to shop. They also know you don’t want to carry your packages around all day. Their answer? They will ship them to the front of the park for you. If you are staying at a Disney resort, on property in Disney parlance, they will ship them to your room if you are staying long enough for it to reach you there.
All of these services are “free” and designed to make you happy while at Walt Disney World. Of course they assume, often correctly, that if they make you happier you will either come back more or spend more money. They hope you will do both! Intend to make their dreams come true because they make so many of mine come true.
For more information check out this article from the New York Times.
Walt did everything he could to help people escape from the real world for a little while and spend some time in a place where wishes do come true. Two prime examples are the fact you do not walk right from your car into the Magic Kingdom. Instead you board either the monorail or the ferry boat. Thus even before you get to gates of the park you begin to leave the world behind.
This is all part of Walt’s magic and vision. That vision could not be nearly as complete at Disneyland as it is at Disney World simply because of space. Walt and the imagineering crew also learned a few things from the California park.
Walt’s vision can be explained in a lot of the terms they use at Disney World. Some of those terms are onstage, backstage, cast members, costume, audience,utilidors, imagineering.
Onstage refers to anything the audience can see. Walt did not just want a theme park he wanted to create the illusion that the audience was in another world. To make sure that the onstage area is always in good order Disney spends a load of money on maintenance. Streets are steam cleaned nightly. Things are constantly being repainted. To give some scope to the onstage idea and how important it is to Disney consider the following facts taken from wikipedia:
In a March 30, 2004 article in The Orlando Sentinel, then-Walt Disney World president Al Weiss gave some insight into how the parks are maintained:
- More than 5,000 cast members are dedicated to maintenance and engineering, including 750 horticulturists and 600 painters.
- Disney spends more than $100 million every year on maintenance at the Magic Kingdom. In 2003, $6 million was spent on renovating its Crystal Palace restaurant. 90 percent of guests say that the upkeep and cleanliness of the Magic Kingdom are excellent or very good.
- The streets in the parks are steam cleaned every night.
- There are cast members permanently assigned to painting the antique carousel horses; they use genuine gold leaf.
- There is a tree farm on site so that when a mature tree needs to be replaced, a thirty-year-old tree will be available to replace it.“
Backstage is something that is not intended for audience viewing. Anything that would lessen the Disney illusion must be kept backstage. In fact, at cast member entrances to the onstage area there are verbal reminders that the cast is about to go onstage. There are also mirrors for a last minute inspection to make sure your costume is in order.
Cast member is the Disney name for employees. They are called cast members because they are not just doing a job they are staging a show for the audience. They are meant to be part of the illusion Disney is trying to create.
Costumes are the uniform that cast members wear. Sure its a uniform no matter what you call it just as cast members are employees. But by constantly reminding the cast members that they are staging a show they reinforce the idea that they need to be in character all the time. Personally I think they do a great job!
The audience, put simply, is anyone who is in the park but not part of the cast. They are the guests and are sometimes referred to as such. Either term you use they are still the beneficiaries of a lot of work Disney is putting into making sure we forget our troubles for a while and can dream about a better world.
Utilidors are part of how the illusion is maintained. Story goes that Walt saw a cowboy walking through Tomorrowland as he headed to his post in Frontierland at Disneyland and did not like how it ruined the staging of his illusion. There wasn’t much he could to about it at Disneyland but he filed the thought away for his new project in Florida.
To make the Seven Seas Lagoon a lot of earth had to be moved. Of course even Walt could not make it disappear but the imagineers came up with a use for it. As the Magic Kingdom was being built the entire first floor was designed as a system of tunnels dedicated to utility functions. The dirt was then piled over the the tunnels. Therefore what most guests consider the ground level at the Magic Kingdom is actually the second, and sometimes third, floor. Some of the tours at Walt Disney World will even let you catch a glimpse of these Utilidors. Note you must be 16 or older to get in! For more information on the tours click here.
Imagineering (or Imagineers) is a term originated by the Alcoa company. Put simply it is two words slammed together. Those words are imagine and engineering. Walt adopted the term and the philosophy. He wanted people who could not only engineer he wanted people who could imagine! The sky was the limit. In fact in the creative process of Disney Imagineering the first stage of the project is called the Blue Sky phase. So Walt may not have originated the term but he sure came nearest to perfecting it and we are still reaping the benefits, smiles and memories today.
So now you know some of the terms. Look for grumpy’s follow up articles on the Magic of Disney in
Number 1: Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
This should come as no surprise to fans of grumpymickey.com. I have posted several stories already on Kilimanjaro Safaris. It is quite simply, in my grumpy opinion, the best ride Disney World has to offer.
To understand why you have to understand some things about me. First I am not only grumpy I am a nerd at heart. Second I love animals. this ride combines both of those parts of my personality into one ride. The nerd gets to learn about animals!
The ride premise is nothing spectacular. You are leaving Harambe Village for a tour of the Harambe Wildlife Reserve. The tour is scheduled for two weeks. I have taken this safari numerous times and though it is one of the longer rides at Disney World it has never been two weeks! During your tour you will be in constant contact with warden Wilson Matua who is patrolling the reserve for poachers. Your particular tour has the call sign Simba 1. Okay its not an original name but the theme behind the ride is not the impressive part. It is the ride itself.
Your ride vehicle is a rather large open-sided truck. All seats are bench seats that hold up to six people. Unlike many of the rides at Disney World, including even the Liberty Square River Boat which actually runs on a rail, these trucks are true trucks. The driver can take them anywhere he or she wants. Don’t bother trying to bribe them into taking you off the prescribed course though. I have tried and it doesn’t work. For the best view, of course, try to get a seat on the outside.
Disney has pulled out all the stops to recreate Africa on this one and it is very much appreciated by me! You get to see a lot of different animals some of which I had never heard of before. Having been to Africa myself, the real one I mean, the road is especially authentic. There are bumps and potholes everywhere and the ride can be a little rough at times but don’t be discouraged it is worth it.
The animals are the stars of this ride and they are not hid behind cages as they would be in a zoo. Many of them roam quite freely through their designated area. On more than one occasion the entire system has had to be shut down because an animal has chosen to stop right in the middle of the road. I had the unique experience of staring at a giraffe’s butt on one trip because he was blocking our path. He eventually tired of eating leaves and moved out of the way as if he really had no where else to go. Even white rhino’s are allowed some freedom to roam. They can come right up to your truck!Dangerous animals of course cannot get close to you! Ignore the rumors about guests being lost to the great cats. It never happened. At least not to me. The dangerous animals are kept separated from all the guests by trenches and other systems that have been built into the environment in such a way you never see them!
Even keeping the animals in their respective areas has been tackled with typical imagineering skill. You will notice from time to time that you come to what looks like a gate. In fact it is but it is always open when the ride is running. As you pass through the gate you will notice chains on the road. For whatever reason the animals do not like the chains and will not cross them!
Keeping animals separate and guests safe is not the only way the imagineers outdid themselves though. Many of the bushes and plants you see are actually feeders only pretending to be normal plants. Keeps the animals in better range for your viewing pleasure!
One other fact you may not know. The animals do not actually sleep on the open savanna. They are brought each night to their respective homes, which are much more like the zoo you might expect. There is no ranger who goes out to gather them up though. Each of the different animals has been trained to respond to sound and when they hear the appropriate sound for their species they head in all on their own! For the most part that is!
Of course all those little imagineering tricks go unnoticed for the most part and the ride is exceptional. Keep your camera ready for some excellent shots!
If you missed part one of the Disney World Top Seven Must Sees click here.
If you missed part two of the Disney World Top Seven Must See click here.
If you have stayed at a Walt Disney World Resort you know that Disney has got it down when it comes to shameless self-promotion. Every time you turn on the TV it defaults to a specific channel. It does not matter what the last channel you were watching was. The TV has been bribed to keep your mind focused squarely on getting you back into the park where chances are you will spend more money. I am not judging. Just saying.
That channel is an endless loop of the Top Seven Must Sees at Walt Disney World. It updates from time to time as new rides open and old ones close but whenever you turn on the TV you are going to see it first. In honor of the Top Seven Must Sees at Walt Disney World I am going to create my own. Feel free to add your own in the comments section.
Of course the hardest part of any “top” list is figuring out what belongs there. Sometimes its just hard to find anything that would make the list. Fortunately I do not have that problem at Disney World. My problem is narrowing the list down to only seven. But I am up to the task. Of course there are a few things that won’t make my list simply because I have not done them, like Cirque Du Soleil (an official winner on the Disney generated list.) I have completed almost every ride and experience in the parks though. In fact one of the only thing that comes to mind that I have not done is The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. I was going to ride it last time I was there but it just did not work out.
So without further delay here is my list. I hope you enjoy it!
Number 7:Flights of Wonder at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Okay so it’s definitely not flashy and the story is especially hokey. A tour guide who happens to be terrified of birds finds his tour group (you the audience) has left him behind and has stumbled into, of all things, a show on birds. The tour guide, the last several times I have seen the show it was Guano Joe, spends the rest of the show learning about birds and at the same time overcoming his fears.
This show is not like a lot of animal shows you might have seen. Birds will be flying right over your head. Well that is the hope at least. They come so low you have to wonder if they ever hit anyone in the audience. There are singing birds, birds who can “do” math and a bird who literally takes money right out of an audience members hand and delivers it to the show host. Don’t worry the bird brings it back. Last time I saw the show I made sure I took cash so I could volunteer and low and behold I was picked. Unfortunately my wife was too close to get a good picture.
I really enjoy the whole show but what earns its spot on this list is the closing. They bring out a real bald eagle. Now I have loved the American bald eagle since I was a child. They were once on the endangered list but aren’t any longer. To see one up close and personal like that literally brought tears to my eyes. Don’t skip this one. You will be missing out.
Number 6: Soarin’ at Epcot
Okay I have to admit up front one of the reasons I picked Soarin’ is location. It’s in EPCOT and I didn’t have anything from EPCOT and I would have hate to have left out a theme park completely. That being said it does not mean this is not a first class attraction.
Guests on Soarin’ strap into what looks like a row of theater seats. In fact you are in front of a large movie screen. But do not be fooled. Once everyone is seated and ready to go your seats get whisked up and into the air and the show begins.
The show is a tour over California and it’s coast. (Soarin’ is a transplant from Disney’s California Adventure at Disneyland.) The seats move and tilt. Obviously this show has a visual impact but there are also cool breezes blowing in your face, the smell of pine trees and the salty pacific. The “movie” will drag you in to the point you will lift your feet to avoid clipping the trees.
Number 5: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
The story goes like this, years and years ago some people at a hotel were in the elevator when lightning struck it and they disappeared as a whole wing of the Hollywood Tower collapsed. As the name should imply it happened because of the Twilight Zone.
After winding your way through the abandoned hotel you will enter the last stage of the queue. Here you are crowded into a room with a bellhop as you watch a video that could could be an introduction to the original TV show the Twilight Zone. The narrator even sounds like Rod Steiger. Then you have one more little queue till you enter your elevator car to excitement. They give you a seat but you won’t always need it. You are also given a seat belt. You do need this and I highly recommend you use it!
The car then moves along some dark tunnels. You catch glimpses of the missing guests and then the fun starts. You move into final position and are raised and lowered multiple (and a random amount) of times. This is where you will not need your seat and be thankful you are strapped in. It is an odd feeling to be floating in one direction while you realize the car is moving in the other but don’t worry you will come back together one way or the other! At multiple points in the ride you will be stopped as windows open up and you get a first class view of the rest of the Studios.
Because of its nature I was at first reluctant to try this one out. But my niece was going to ride and I overcame my shame. I am glad I did! You are enclosed for the whole ride for those who do not like standard drop rides and if you are healthy enough I recommend you try it at least once. It’s a must see after all!
Can’t wait to find out what grumpy’s number one is? Click here.
Deep in the wilds of Disney’s Animal Kingdom is what I consider the greatest attraction in the park. In fact my wife and I love it so much it we may consider it the best attraction in the World! True it is not the fastest ride on property. It does not have the big drop of say a Splash Mountain or the animatronics of Pirates of the Carribean. It does not rely on speed, height or technology to thrill. The stars of this show are the animals. If you love animals you will love this. Even if you don’t you have to try it at least once.
True to Disney form there is a back story behind the attraction. You, the guests, are embarking on a two week guided safari of the Harambe Wilderness Reserve on your safari truck, Simba 1. Throughout the ride you will be in touch with warden Wilson Matua who is patrolling the reserve from the sky keeping an eye out for poachers. Thus your ride begins.
Some rides proclaim never to be the same twice. This ride delivers because the animals on the reserve are not in traditional cages. Instead the wonderful imagineers have recreated Africa in painstaking detail. It does not take much imagination to believe you are really in Africa. This of course, leaves you the guest at the mercy of the stars of the show and sometimes they are very shy while at other times some of the more peaceful ones will walk right up to your truck. On some occasions they will even stand right in front of your truck. During these occasions your truck will stop and your experience will be even longer. I have heard that on at least one occasion a baby giraffe was very curious, stuck its head in the vehicle and licked a guest! I am not sure whether that would be a thrill or not but you will come away with a once in a lifetime story.
Your vehicle will wind its way past various animals. Some of them you will be familiar with such as hippos, elephants and giraffe. Some you might not have encountered before such as the endangered Okapi and the Thomson Gazelle, called Tommies for short. Taking pictures can be a challenge because the vehicles may slow down a little but they never truly stop, unless one of the animals is blocking the way. If you want to take pictures try to get a seat on the sides of the seats and not in the middle. Your driver will help spot animals and educate on some of them. If you are a nerd like me, sit up front so you can ask questions.
As the ride nears its conclusion, which is considerably shorter than the “planned” two weeks but is still one of the longer rides at Walt Disney World, warden Wilson radios in that poachers have been spotted. Your truck jumps into high gear as you help keep them from harvesting elephants to sell their tusks.
Kilimanjo Safaris fills up quick. Head their first thing in the morning to get on quickly or use a Fastpass. The animals tend to be more active during the morning. This is especially true in summer when the heat sets in and many of them hide in the shade. If your first ride doesn’t thrill you don’t be too worried. Try it again and it will be totally different. If you love animals the way my wife and I do, you cannot miss this one!
As you exit the vehicles you will be right at the entrance to the Pangani Forrest Exploration Trail. I recommend not rushing away, unless you have a Fastpass about to expire. The trail offers views of several animals including hippos but the stars of the show are silverback gorrillas.
Jambo! The Animal Kingdom is probably my favorite park at Disney World. There are many reasons it is. One is the buildings and environment are authentic enough to really draw you into another world. It is not hard to forget you are in central Florida and think you really are walking down the streets of Asia or Africa.
This is particularly true of the Africa section if you happen to be there in the summer. Walt Disney World has been called the happiest place on Earth and I tend to agree but there is something else they don’t advertise. In Summer, it seems like the hottest place on earth! Especially in the Animal Kingdom for some reason. With the architecture and the heat you will believe you have been transported from Orlando to Harambe no problem.
My favorite ride at the Animal Kingdom is the Kilimanjaro Safaris. I love seeing the animals but don’t confuse this ride with a zoo tour. The imagineers have done a wonderful job recreating Africa. The animals are kept in areas that resemble their native habitat. There are no cages and bars. Only “open” savanna. Of course it is not as open as one would think. Predators are kept separated from prey and from guests! It’s just done in such a way that you don’t really notice.
The ride would be quite dull of course if you did not see the free roaming animals. Here the imagineers have stacked the deck in your favor. Using hidden feeding stations they increase the odds you are going to get a good view of the main attraction. Remember all those rocks and clumps of grass? Well behind a lot of them are food bins which keeps those animals close by.
That is not their only trick though. How many times have you been on the safari? Have you ever noticed that the star of the whole show, the male lion, is almost always on Pride Rock? There is a reason for that. You never see the surface of Pride Rock. Only the sides. If you did see the top you would notice something very out of place for an African savanna. Right there, for mr lion’s convenience, is an air-conditioning vent! So while you are panting away in the “African” heat he is up top getting a fresh breath of air. Now ask yourself a question. Given the options where would you be?
Just another way Disney has pulled out all the stops to create a great show for us because a lion walking around in the grass hidden would just be boring. When we see him on Pride Rock, though, it’s hard to not start singing “The Circle Of Life” from the Lion King.
Now if they could just get him to stay awake and active all day long! Alas, lions sleep a lot and I am afraid short of shooting him full of double expresso we have to settle for a sleepy lion.