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The Disney Movies You Need to Watch Before Visiting Animal Kingdom

Excited for your next visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom? As one of the most immersive theme parks at Walt Disney World (and anywhere!), Animal Kingdom does an excellent job of placing Guests not only into natural settings to learn about fascinating animals, but also into the middle of some favorite Disney movies.

Watching Disney movies is always a fun way to get excited for an upcoming vacation, and while anything-Disney would come recommended by us, there are some picks that can help you make the most of your next trip to Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

These are the movies you need to watch before you set out to explore Disney’s Animal Kingdom:

Finding Nemo: The Big Blue...and Beyond

Credit: Disney

Finding Nemo (2003) and Finding Dory (2016)

Both Finding Nemo (2003) and Finding Dory (2006) are now “required” viewing for one of the musical productions at Disney’s Animal Kingdom: Finding Nemo: The Big, Blue…and Beyond. A newly reimagined version of Finding Nemo: The Musical, the show largely follows a retelling of the film similarly to the original production, however, there are nods to Finding Dory that you may get more out of if you have seen the film recently.

Festival of the Lion King

The Lion King (1994)

We would hazard a guess that there are not many Disney fans who have not seen the original Lion King film, but just in case (or if you need a refresher) this movie is a must-see before visiting this Disney Park. Festival of the Lion King, the Park’s other musical production, is not a retelling of the story from the film.

The show does feature characters and hit songs from the 1994 Walt Disney Animation Studios film, but it does not follow a similar plot as it is simply a celebration of the characters and their stories rather than a retelling. You will still enjoy the show regardless of when you have seen the film as the performers are extremely talented and the songs are catchy, but you will certainly get more out of it with a recent movie night.

dinosaur

Credit: Disney Tips

Dinosaur (2000)

Unlike The Lion King, there is a good chance you may have missed the next film on our list- Dinosaur (2000). The current DINOSAUR ride at Disney’s Animal Kingdom was originally called “Countdown to Extinction” when it opened with the rest of the Disney Park in 1998.

When Dinosaur was released as an animated film in 2000, the attraction was slightly re-themed to promote the new movie. The ride vehicles and track are the same (you can even spot “CTX” written on the side of your “Time Rover” as reference to the ride’s original name) but there are some small differences that really only matter if you have seen the film, largely the reasons why Dr. Seeker has you going after an Iguanodon.

pandora-avatar-animal-kingdom

Credit: Disney

Avatar (2009)

James Cameron’s Avatar (2009) is the only movie in Disney’s Animal Kingdom that not only has an attraction (or two) inspired by it, but an entire themed land! Pandora – The World of Avatar is packed with details from the film, and this level of immersion is not limited to the land’s two rides.

Na’vi River Journey, Pandora’s slow-moving boat ride features one of the most advanced Audio-Animatronics that Disney has ever created, but the “Shaman of Songs,” will have a greater impact if you are familar with the story from the film.

Avatar Flight of Passage, the land’s thrill ride, is still one of the most popular rides at Walt Disney World, and even the attraction’s queue is packed with details fans of the film will recognize. And, all of this is without even getting into Satu’li Canteen, Pandora’s quick-service dining location and the thematic elements that make up the land as a whole.

Bonus Tip! Use your Disney+ subscription to watch The Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom documentary series. The series covers many of the animals who reside in this Disney Park, in areas and attractions like Kilimanjaro Safaris, Discovery Island, Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail, Maharajah Jungle Trek, Rafiki’s Planet Watch, and more.

Will you be adding any of these films to your Disney movie night lineup? Be sure to squeeze them in before your next trip to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and have a magical time!

About Brittany DiCologero

Brittany is a New England-based writer focused on the history of the Walt Disney World Resort. She is the author of "Red, White, and Disney: The Myths and Reality of American History at the Walt Disney World Resort," and "Brittany Earns Her Ears."