Disney’s Animal Kingdom

I suppose it’s only fair to say we’ve had an absolute fantastic time in Florida. Except of course for the searing pain in my bad ankle, which was completely done being an ankle within approximately the first 10 minutes of the trip, and then screamed in bloody agony when I refused to sit the rest of the trip out. Eventually it was too swollen for shoes and so painful I couldn’t spell my own name and so stiff it lost the ability to ankle. On that day I waved the white flag – I still went to the park, but enjoyed the sit and drink part rather than the stand in line for hours on an ankle that looks less like a human lady ankle and more like a pregnant elephant’s cankle by the minute. And don’t think the hot Florida sun helped. It did not. It was blistering hot for parts of the trip, and we managed to complain not one single iota since reports from back home included ice rain, cancelled school buses, and a word being tossed around with alarming frequency this winter: snowmaggedon.

Anyway, Disney was fantastic, as you’d expect it to be. Thank you to everyone who read along with our adventures. I spent a lot of time in lines reading your posts, often out loud, which helped to pass the time quite nicely. Disney has changed a lot in the 6 years since I last visited, but the lines are still enormous. It’s possible that the tail of the line from 6 years ago was just getting toward the front this time.

‘Disney World’, as opposed to Disney Land, which is in California, is comprised of 4 parks in 2019: Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Epcot. There were Animal Kingdom (4).jpgtwo notable additions since our last visit. Animal Kingdom has built a Pandora, from the movie Avatar. And even though I quite despise the movie, the park was breath taking. It’s not about the rides, which are excellent, or the food, which is deliciously on theme. It’s the attention to small but measurable detail throughout – every plant, every rock. It looks like the beautiful land of the Na’vi, but tainted by the human touch, but being slowly reclaimed by nature. You could spend several hours just drinking in the visuals, and drinking the Night Blossom from Pongu Pongu (limeade with apple and pear flavors topped with passion fruit boba balls). The rides include the Na’vi River Journey, which is a dark little boat ride featuring glowing, luminescent plant and animal life from Pandora, and Flight of Passage, which is the real doozie. It can have up to a four hour wait. You read that right: four hours! That’s even longer that the dang movie, which clocks in at nearly 3. Luckily, we got the elusive fast pass. Unluckily, it was for the evening of our last day – well past my ankle’s expiry date, as you can imagine. I would have gladly skipped the ride and spent the day by the pool, but Sean was anxious to ride it and had contemplated the 3+ hour wait just to ride it 3 days earlier. So we went. And even with a fast pass, expect to spend nearly 30 minutes before you get on the ride. It’s quite a trek up, up, up – and you’ll see why once you get in there. Then you watch videos from the scientists in the Avatar program, who first have to decontaminate you, and then find your DNA match so you can be matched with your Animal Kingdom (1)own Avatar (it sounds good, but it’s just a bit of busy work). Then you get shuttled into an ante-anteroom where there still more videos to watch. I’m positive that Jake Sully received less training than we do. Then, as you finally gain access to the ride, they warn you: the “banshee” you’re about to ride will dangle in mid-air as the floor drops away once you’re on, and the intense VR experience means that anyone with a fear of falling, or of great heights, or of dying due to either one, should not ride this ride. It would be kinder of them to warn you before your 4 hour wait, but alas, some of us found the description just a little too daunting and made a beeline for the exit, bypassing the ride completely. Luckily, there is a chicken bench meant for chicken shits ride outside the ride. I was not alone on that bench. Sean, however, chose to ride, and though it rattled him, he declared it the best ride at Disney, period.

Animal Kingdom is also home to my favourite “ride,” the safari. An huge open-air jeep takes you bumpily along the Harambe Wildlife Reserve, a 110-acre savanna dedicated to the protection of African animals, and home to 34 species of animals, including wildebeest, rhinos, elephants, lions, okapis, giraffes, and zebras.

And it’s also the home base of my all-time favourite movie, Up! You can meet Dug and Russell, you can see their show, UP! A Great Bird Adventure Show. And if that’s not Upenough for you, they’ve got a Wilderness Explorers interactive thing for kids. I’d heard about it prior to going and brushed it off, assuming it was mostly for Florida residents who were maybe getting a bit bored and looking for something extra at the park. I was surprised to find my two nephews, Jack, now aged 5, and Brady, age 7, so into it. You may remember from the movie Up that Russell is a Wilderness Explorer, aiming to get his “helping the elderly” badge. Kids at Animal Kingdom can traverse the park with a little guidebook and earn their own badges. There are dozens of Wilderness troupe leaders identifiable by their authentic uniforms just waiting to be approached. You do a little quest, learn a little something, and receive a sticker to paste in your booklet. The boys learned about Africa, and birds of course, and a surprising bit more. I thought they’d be too shy, and too busy with the flashier attractions, but they loved doing this.

When we visited, Animal Kingdom was celebrating the 25th anniversary (!) of The Lion King. Animal Kingdom is always home to the Tree of Life, an enormous, impressive, Animal Kingdom (3)picturesque 145 feet tall and 50 feet wide sculpted tree featuring 300 meticulously detailed animal carvings throughout its massive trunk, all celebrating the place we all share in the Circle of Life (cue Elton John). Animal Kingdom has a wonderful Lion King show, you can meet Rafiki on Discovery Island and visit his Planet Watch to learn about animal conservation. And right now, there are special photo-ops around the park to celebrate this special anniversary on top of all the usual stuff, so if you love Lion King (and who doesn’t, you heartless bastards?), it’s a great time to go. Oh heck, it’s always a great time to go.

Pandora:

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Animal Kingdom:

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25 thoughts on “Disney’s Animal Kingdom

  1. kmSalvatore

    Sounds like a great time… minus your ankle of course. And yes,snowmageddon is the perfect word . It’s been miserable here , this is the 1 st year in. Along while I haven’t been in Fl. , I won’t make that mistake next year:)
    Ps… we like the Epcot

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  2. Lorna Cunningham-Rushton

    Well, you are affecting my anti-Disney glumminess with both your words and your photos. I had been thinking of taking my younger grandchildren and my daughter, but not with anticipation. I have to thank you for making me remember how even my This-is-Gruesome son changed his attitude once we got there and he could see that kids his age were not wearing full-face masks so they couldn’t be recognized. You look so happy together, too and that warms my heart.

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  3. Sean

    Animal Kingdom is a great park. I love the safari too, since every ride is a chance to see different animals, but the Avatar section was the highlight. The banshee ride was amazing. Not sure how much movement was real and how much was simulated but it was a rollercoaster ride through Pandora complete with wind and ocean mist. It was definitely the best ride of the week!

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  4. EclecticMusicLover

    I feel your pain Jay. I have a bad knee, and despite wearing my lovely orthopaedic brace (which I wear only when doing a lot of walking), I was in searing pain by the time we finished our visit of the San Diego Zoo. I honestly don’t think I could handle Disneyland or Disney World anymore.

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    1. Jay Post author

      Ooof, yeah, we’re talking the same sad language.
      I had orthotics made, but they didn’t help, or their help couldn’t be registered because i was in so much pain anyway. Had to try.

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  5. curious•pondering

    Wow! This sounds like a great trip! I was told last night that I might possibly go to Disney world for the first time ever this March!

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  6. Liz A.

    I’m surprised you didn’t rent a wheelchair or something. I thought they had such things for those who find they can’t do the grueling walking (and it is a lot over several days).

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  7. Robyn

    Awesome! So glad you had such a great time. We went around 5 years ago and I loved the safari as well. I don’t ride rides – I don’t like the “thrill” but was completely thrilled riding in the open jeep seeing the animals. We love Up too – we all sit around ready to laugh at our favorite lines which mostly happen when Doug comes into the picture. Loved the pictures too! Looks like a wonderful time (minus the ankle – ouch!).

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    1. Jay Post author

      I’m glad I’m not the only non-thrill-seeker. Honestly, we did lots of rides because the kids were of course drawn to them, but I’d be 100% happy just snacking and shopping!

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  8. Brittani

    Lovely photos! I’m sorry your ankle had to be a pain. I’ve only been to Disney World once and that’s coming up on 20 years ago. Eventually I’ll see how everything has changed.

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    1. Jay Post author

      Thank you! I lugged my very heavy Nikon around the whole trip, so glad it was worth it.
      We also did Memory Maker – there are tonnes of staff photographers who’ll take your picture, and with a scan to our magic bands, they’re uploaded to our accounts, which is why there are actually photos of me for once.

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    1. Jay Post author

      Thanks. I picked a dress to go with each day’s outing. Was super glad I could buy Up ears to match my Up dress – and even accessorized with Up pins.

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  9. Widdershins

    Wot fun!!! 😀 … apart from the ankle. which I hope is getting bettered by now, or at least well resteded. 😀 … I can’t quite make out the mouse ears, which ones were they?

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