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12 Amazing Facts About Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom

There’s adventure galore waiting at Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom.  There are also lots of secrets and facts just waiting to be discovered.  Here are just a few amazing facts we uncovered about the park – they’re sure to enrich your next Animal Kingdom expedition!

1. Elephant Experts

Scientists at Disney’s Animal Kingdom know a thing or two about elephants – after all, they’ve been studying their vocalizations at the park for almost a decade!  They’re even credited with discovering two complete new vocalizations that hadn’t been heard before among elephants.

2. Tree of Life

Animal Kingdom’s iconic Tree of Life may look real, but it’s a man-made work of art that took a year and a half to complete.  A team of international artisans created the tree, which stands 145 feet tall and incorporates over 300 animal carvings.  The tree’s base is 50 feet wide, and it contains over 8000 branches with over 100,000 artificial leaves – all of which were attached by hand.

3. Nocturnal Safaris

It’s now possible to ride Kilimanjaro Safaris at night, to get a whole new look at African animals who aren’t active during the day.  This attraction, and Animal Kingdom in general, have previously been off-limits to guests after dark, so there’s a whole new world to explore!

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4. Hidden Barriers

Speaking of Kilimanjaro Safaris…  The next time you ride, keep your eyes peeled when you leave each habitat – you’ll notice your vehicle travels over chains in the road.  These chain road sensors, coupled with bars, keep animals safe in their own sections of the attraction.  You won’t see any fences, but Disney employs creative, often hidden, boundaries like moats, natural barriers, and water features to prevent animals from leaving their sections.

5. Disco Yeti

The Yeti in Expedition Everest is over 20 feet tall, and was built with a full range of motion, making him the biggest and most ambitious of any animatronic figures in the parks.  But just after the ride opened, technical issues forced the Yeti into “B Mode”, and since then, strobe lights behind him have made it appear that he’s moving, instead of the animatronics that used to animate him.  The Yeti is now – unofficially – referred to as “Disco Yeti”.

6. Beastly Kingdom

Disney’s Animal Kingdom originally was designed to involve mythological creatures as well as existing and extinct animals, but this section of the park (to be called “Beastly Kingdom”) was never built.  You can see remnants of the initial plan to include these legendary, fantastical creatures in Animal Kingdom’s parking lot signs and even in its logo.

7. Masquerading Trees

You may have wondered how Disney got acacia and baobab trees, native to Africa, to grow in Florida.  In fact, throughout Animal Kingdom, oak trees are trimmed to resemble acacias, and baobobs have been created by Imagineers (and often have surveillance cameras in them!).

8. Authenticity

Disney Imagineers traveled across the world to research wildlife and landscapes in various countries in preparation for the creation of Animal Kingdom.  They ended up travelling more than 500,000 miles, which is the about the same distance you’d travel if you circled the globe 20 times.

9. Wild Africa Trek

Can’t get enough of the animals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom?  You can opt for a (separately priced) safari with a knowledgeable guide who can answer all of your wildlife questions.  The 3-hour Wild Africa Trek allows you to get much closer to all your favorite African animals than you could as an average guest – including walking along safari grassland and along a rope bridge – and the cost includes having a Disney photographer snap unforgettable moments for you, as well as gourmet snacks.

10. Secret Homage

Animal Kingdom’s Dinosaur ride initially opened as a ride called Countdown to Extinction in 1998 (the name and some ride elements were later changed).  Look closely, and you’ll be able to spot some evidence of the ride’s former life.  When you’re in the loading area, look for a wall that reads “SECTOR CTX-WDW-AK98”.  This is the Imagineers’ homage to the ride’s previous name (CTX), Walt Disney World (WDW), and the year the park opened (AK98).

11. Safety First!

Plastic straws, lids and balloons are not permitted in Animal Kingdom, for the protection of the animals.  The park does provide paper straws to guests, but you won’t find balloons anywhere, and you won’t be allowed entry if you have one with you; you’ll want to stop off at your resort to drop off any balloons you’ve acquired before you head to AK!

12. Glow-in-the-Dark Fun

Make sure you check out Animal Kingdom’s newest section, Pandora – The World of Avatar, at night, when it transforms into a colorful, glow-in-the-dark spectacle.  You’ll feel like you’re on another planet when you wander among Pandora’s bioluminescent waterfalls, plant life and pathways.  Insider tip: there’s a face painting station in Pandora, and the paint glows in the dark!

About Jason Dick

Jason is a Disney addict. Walt Disney World trips are an annual occurrence that his partner has had to come to terms with. In between Disney trips, he spends his time running the theatre company he started in 2007. As Artistic Director, he picks musicals to bring to his hometown of Hamilton, Ontario Canada that have never been produced in the area. Traveling is definitely a passion and in addition to his trips to the happiest place on earth, he and his partner also travel the world, most recently to India and Nepal. A carnivore by nature, Jason loves the incredible amount of steakhouses Walt Disney World has to offer - they are always at the top of his list for each and every visit.