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Special Report by Guest Writer Loren Javier - Walt Disney World Trip Report Sept 2010 Part Four
DisneyDan  Monday, October 25, 2010 9:30:56 AM

Hi all,

Welcome to part four of our friend Loren’s WDW trip report. In this section he talks about his day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park.

As with the previous three parts I will provide some commentary along the way.

Like Jon and I, Loren documents all his Disney adventures on Flickr, and his WDW set can be found here.

Part one of Loren’s report can be found here.

Part two can be found here.

Part three can be found here.

So here is part four! I hand over now to Loren…

The next day was Animal Kingdom and perhaps, the park I was most excited to see simply because I've only been to it once. And that was back in 1998 when it first opened. The last time I was there they were still developing the Asia section with the Flights of Wonder stage being the only thing in that area. Thankfully, Animal Kingdom did not disappoint. In fact, I think it is my favourite of the parks at Walt Disney World. To simply call it a zoo would do it a disservice because it is so much more. I LOVE the San Diego Zoo, but Animal Kingdom is so much more than the San Diego Zoo. It is completely immersive. For me, I saw animals in an entirely different way... as if they were just walking around amongst us. (For the first six years or so of it’s life, Animal Kingdom’s guide maps used to display the slogan “Nahtazu!”, which was meant to sound African or something, but when spoken correctly actually was a play on words - Not A Zoo! Sometimes the CM’s would use this phrase too around the park, like when exiting the Safari’s they would use this word like it was a farewell or something - I.E. - “thank you for visiting, and remember, Nahtazu!”. They haven’t used it for some time now though, to my knowledge - Dan)

We got to the park at opening and were greeted by Minnie, Mickey and Pluto who proclaimed "Let the Adventure Begin!" With that, we raced off to Asia to get fast passes for Expedition Everest. Then we raced over to Africa and got in line for the Kilimanjaro Safaris. The last time I went on the safari, it was again, when the park first opened. And I don't remember seeing a lot of animals. And the ones I did get pictures of turned out blurry because that was before the advent of digital cameras (one of God's finest inventions!). At first, as we raced around muddy pathways, I thought the Kilimanjaro Safaris might not have improved. But, as we got deeper into it, we saw so many animals and came so close. I really did feel like we were on safari! (The storyline of the Safari’s has changed in the last couple years from what it used to be. They have gotten rid of most of the spiel about the poachers, and the ending is different now, too, but for the life of me I cant think how it is different right now! I’ll remember, eventually… lol - Dan)

After the Safari, we went through the Pangani Forest Trail. This was equally impressive as the safaris for me as again, you could see the animals up close. In fact, there was one moment where we came across some young male Silverbacks and it was amazing just watching them for awhile. They just seemed so close and it truly felt like you were out in the jungle and had just spotted some gorillas. There's something just so magical and thrilling about it all. 

From Pangani Forest Trail, we took the Wildlife Express over to the Conservation Station at Rafiki's Planet Watch. We walked into the Conservation Station and I immediately saw Pocahontas and Jiminy Cricket doing meet-and-greets. While I had met them both before, it is very rare for us to see them at Disneyland. So we jumped into line to meet them and get our pictures. I would have liked to have met Rafiki as well, but, knowing that you can see him quite often at Disneyland and that we still had many parts of the park to explore, I decided to skip him. If I had more time too, I'd have liked to have explored more of Conservation Station, but after the meet-and-greets, both of which had semi long lines, we hopped back on the Wildlife Express for Harambe (the fictional village around which all the African attractions are set).

From Africa, we walked the trail back into Asia and made our way to Expedition Everest. I simply love this walk with all its attention to detail. I kept thinking that, if I were an Annual Passholder at Walt Disney World, I would spend most of my time at Animal Kingdom just because all of the wonderful details. And it all seems so seamless, too. One minute you're exploring the African village of Harambe and then next moment you're in the fictional town of Anandapur. Every step you take just leads from one gorgeous photograph to another.

As I mentioned, we had FastPasses for Expedition Everest. There was part of me that wished I could have gone through the full line as I understand there are lots of great details there to take pictures of. But still, the FastPass line had lots of interesting things along the way. I just wish I didn't have to rush through there. Part of the difficulty with going with a lot of people is that not everybody wants to stop for every photo you take. So you either find yourself way behind and/or lost from your group or you get lots of blurry photos later because you're snapping as you're walking fast.

The ride itself was simply incredible and nothing like any ride I've experienced before. This ride goes forward and backward in the dark. So much fun. The only sad part is that the Yeti, which I understand hasn't been operational for a while, still was not operational. I'd seen it in a video and looked so awesome. But regardless, the ride is fun and I highly recommend it to anyone.

After Expedition Everest, we got some lunch at the Yak & Yeti Local Foods Restaurant (the quick service version of the Yak & Yeti). Again, I have to ask how we got short changed at Disneyland in terms of food. This quick service restaurant's food was probably better than some table service restaurants at Disneyland. And it just tasted so different from what I would expect at Disneyland. (Just as a point to note, both the Yak and Yeti’s that you experienced this day - the quick service and full service, later on - are not actually Disney owned, but instead owned and operated by Landry’s, which is the same company who own Rainforest Café, and the T-Rex Restaurant in Downtown Disney. At WDW alone, Landry’s now have five restaurants onsite, as well as the Yak and Yeti retail store that is in the same area as the restaurant - Dan)

From Yak & Yeti we took the Maharaja Jungle Trek which was just wonderful. Again this was a fabulous way of walking amongst animals in a completely immersive environment. And the detail in the architecture and landscape is simply fantastic. You really feel like you're walking through Asian ruins with animals just roaming about. One of the best parts of the Maharaja Jungle Trek, to me, was seeing the bats. There was just something so thrilling about seeing them hanging about so close. I think the Maharaja Jungle Trek was one of my favourite things at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

From the Maharaja Jungle Trek, we walked down the path from Asia to Africa and saw there was a short line for Baloo and King Louie. I was excited to meet-and-greet with these characters as I had never gotten to meet them before. I had seen Baloo out and about at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure a few times but always had the darned misfortune of just missing him. But I'd never seen King Louie out and about. I love the fact that they have this area specifically for character meet-and-greets and getting to meet Baloo and King Louie just made a lot of sense. (Just an observation really, but being the Character freak that I am, I couldn’t help but laugh at the ridiculous fact that Disneyland still doesn’t have such basic Characters as Baloo and King Louie on a regular basis. Florida, Paris and Tokyo have all these out fairly often and it is just sad that the original park gets so left behind all the time. Although one thing I will say is that the walk from Asia to Africa that you mention is technically part of Africa… and Baloo and Louie are Asian! In fact, it used to be even worse because they used to meet IN Harambe itself, but at least now they are in the “wild” a bit more along the trail! - Dan)

After meeting Baloo and King Louie, we walked over to ride Dinosaur. I remembered really enjoying this ride the first time we came to Disney's Animal Kingdom. The last time we were there, it was still called "Countdown to Extinction", but knew they had since incorporated characters from the Disney computer animated "Dinosaur". It was a fun ride not unlike the Indiana Jones Adventure at Disneyland. But I wish they had incorporated "Dinosaur" a little more. We don't see Aladar until the end and there are no other characters that appear, save the Carnotaurus that jumped out at every corner. Where are the lemurs? Neera? Baylene? Eema?

From Dinosaur we walked past Chester and Hester's Dino-Rama which just seemed weird. In fact, all of Dinoland USA seemed like this weird mosh of things. Here you have this wonderfully designed park with details that just make you weep. Everything seems so well thought out and beautifully put together. Then, you get to Dinoland USA and it seems so random and, at times, ugly. Chester and Hester's Dino-Rama was not there the last time we were there and honestly, I can't remember what was there at the time. I don't totally object to kid friendly rides, but this literally looked like somebody went to a local carnival, bought a couple of rides and added them here. At least at Flik's Fun Fair at Disney California Adventure, where all the rides are kid friendly, the area is nicely themed. Because of this lack of cohesion in this area, we decided not to explore it too much. (Overall I do not find Dinoland USA too offensive. It is tucked away over a bridge, and set back past the Boneyard area. I agree it isn’t the most themed place in the world, but then I would much prefer to ride Primeval Whirl any day than the God-awful Mulholland Madness at DCA! At least Primeval Whirl has some theming to it, and spins. Triceratop Spin is much akin to Dumbo at the Magic Kingdom, so one can’t complain too much about that. What really lets the area down are the carnival style games that are more fairground-ish than Disney. Of course, they do not help the area by having the Nemo musical down there, which makes one wonder what on Earth that has to do with dinosaurs! All in all though, with Nemo, the Dinosaur attraction, and the Boneyard (yes, we’ve been in!), the area, I think, is rather fun - Dan)

Plus it was getting close to Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade. Of all the parades in all of Walt Disney World, this was the one I wanted to see the most just because, from the pictures, it looked so different. We managed to find a spot where our view would be unobscured and waited for the parade. The parade did not disappoint either. I loved the colourful floats and the way they were designed. I loved characters I hadn't gotten to see before or that I rarely get to see, like Bre'r Rabbit, Timon, Terk, Baloo and King Louie, and it was fun seeing the Fab 5 in their safari best.

After the parade passed, we went to watch "It's Tough To Be A Bug”, which is set inside the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life is something that is truly a marvel and just so interesting to look at. The Imagineers were clever in designing this tree because the animals become apparent depending on where you stand and what lighting you have. I could sit and stare at it for hours. It's truly beautiful and, while it blends into the surroundings, it also stands out as something truly majestic.

Anyway, we made our way to the "It's Tough To Be A Bug" theatre. The queue is vastly different from the one at Disney California Adventure. While I love the opportunity to look at the different animals in the Tree of Life from different perspectives, I like the way you feel you're making your way into an ant hill or bug sized ground opening at Disney California Adventure. At Disney's Animal Kingdom, the lobby area comes up on you very abruptly and there isn't a lot of detail there. Even the posters in the lobby don't seem as nice at Disney California Adventure. In California, you get this nice stroll into the depths of the earth and the lobby looks like you’re under some kind of tree. There's even a ball of dung to pose next to at the one at Disney California Adventure. (I must go in there next year when we visit, to get a picture. I had no idea they had a ball of dung… my life long dream!! - Dan)

As for the show itself, both Kurt and I agreed that Florida has a much crisper copy but the audio-animatronic Hopper and flea that gets exterminated by the Termite-nator are much better in California. The Flik audio-animatronic seemed about the same though.

From there I wanted to see if we could get into "Finding Nemo: The Musical." But not knowing that you couldn't just waltz in there 30 minutes ahead, we missed the last show of the day and I was bummed. And looking at the clock and given that you have to get to the shows much earlier than in California, it looked like I'd miss the "Festival of the Lion King". Knowing how sad I was, Kurt said that we could come back on our free-for-all day at the end of our trip (which I'm glad we did... but more on that later).

So we decided to walk through Asia and stop in the bar at the Yak & Yeti restaurant. I must again say how awesome the restaurants are in Florida. You'd never see anything like this at Disneyland or Disney California Adventure and I'm not sure why. We had a couple of drinks and some appetizers which were just lovely. After our drinks and snacks, we walked around a little more and did some shopping at the stores on Discovery Island. (Like I said before, there really can be no excuse for Disneyland. They have a massive AP audience, and attract a good tourist market too. With DL being smaller also, you would think that the food standards would be higher! - Dan)

As we walked out we took a picture at the Tree of Life and I was sad to be leaving this park just because I loved it so much. But I was happy to know that we'd get to come back for a little while later in the week.

Coming up in in the next few days we have reports on Loren’s experiences at the Magic Kingdom again, Epcot World Showcase, Animal Kingdom Part 2, Downtown Disney and some Walt Disney World Resort Hotels.


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