Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Weekly Topic: 10 Years of Animal Kingdom

Well today is April 22nd 2008, which means Disney's Animal Kingdom is now 10 years old. I have been to the park three times, once during its opening year, a second time in 2005 and then a final time this past January. All three times I had different opinions of the park. Let me start at the begining.

When I first visited the park all the way back in 1998, I had some mixed feelings. I absolutely loved a few things. First off it was clear a lot of the 800 million that it cost to build the park went into the parks atmosphere, the lush greenery is better then any park on the planet and the tree of life is a work of art. I have always enjoyed The Festival of the Lion King for both the music and the acrobats. I think Countdown To Extinction / Dinosaur is a fantastic ride and highly underrated by Disney Fanboys, and even though I hate things touching me "Its Tough To Be A Bug" was very well done.

The only problem with my first visit was there wasn't a lot to do there. As much as i enjoyed what i mentioned earlier, I had a bad ride on Kilimanjaro Safaris. Found the train to rafikis planet watch an incredible waste of time and i don't even want to get into waiting 45 minutes for the discovery river boats. On top of that the park is always really hot with very few indoor attractions.

Thoughts after the first visit: Showed promise, but needs expansion.

My second visit in 2005, wasn't an improvement. The park was still hot with not enough to do. While I still enjoyed the atmosphere/Dinosaur/Tough to be Bug, I didn't like the improvements. The big Asia expansion was underwhelming. The Jungle Trek was okay, but something I can see at a local zoo. Kali River Rapids I found one of the most dissapointing Disney rides, it was very short and not very entertaining.

And then there is Dino-Rama, a very cheap looking and I imagine cheap to build expansion. An area themed as a cheap rodeside carnival, is not cool. If I am dropping the kind of cash to go to a Disney park, then I want Disney quality, if they were charging cheap carnival prices I'd be cool with it.

There were two gleaming rays of hope from this trip. The first was I got the oppurtunity to see Lucky The Dinosaur. This was a very cool feat of Imagineering that I really wish was put to use more frequently in the parks. And the other ray of hope was the massive mountain being constructed in Asia.

Thoughts After Second Visit: 7 years later and they have only done THAT?!?!

The visit this past trip was much better. Expedition Everest lived up to the sky high expectations I had for the attraction. I have considered it to be a Matterhorn done 50 years later and the folks at WDI knocked it outta the park. The mountain looks incredible and the Yeti is arguably the greatest animatronic ever made.

The real surprise of the trip was Finding Nemo: The Musical. I have only seen Nemo once, and really didn't care for it. I am also generally indifferent on musicals. So I think it says a lot when I say this was the greatest theme park show I'd ever seen. The puppets, the music, the sets all worked together perfectly to put on this spectacle.

Thoughts after this trip: This is finally a true Disney park

Now today, I started thinking a little bit about the future of the park and what I would like to see added. I know a lot of 'Disney Purists' cry for the Beastly Kingdom to be added, but my thoughts are that if you want a section of a orlando park themed to dragons and unicorns head over to Lost Continent (for now) at IOA. There are two things I would like to see, the first is a nighttime outdoor spectactular like the Wonderful World of Color being added to DCA. The park has the lake for it and if its just fountains & music and not fireworks, it won't disturb the animals.

But what i would really like to see is a colorful dark ride themed to the move The Jungle Book. This would fit perfectly with the Animal theme and provide a fun, song filled, family friendly good time.

So what are your thoughts about Animal Kingdom? How the park opened? The expansion its seen? What you would like to see in the future?

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