Five Wild Facts About Animal Kingdom

Melissa WrightsonAnimal Kingdom, Blog

Facts about Animal Kingdom entrance

I don’t know about you, but there’s something about Animal Kingdom that just puts it at the top of the list for coolest places on the planet. And there are so many wild facts about Animal Kingdom to explore!

It truly feels like you’ve traveled to Africa and Asia. And just steps later, you’re back in sunny Florida.

From the stoic Tree of Life standing at the center of the park, to the sound of birds flying overhead as you walk around and the feeling of space in a crowded park. You enter Animal Kingdom in need of fun and maybe a connection to the world around you, and you get that in one park.

I will never forget when Animal Kingdom opened in 1998. I was about to turn nine years old and knew growing up that I loved animals, conservation, a sense of adventure and being outside.

Elephant at animal kingdom

There’s so much to see at this amazing zoo! Photo by Brett Svenson

That is the definition of this theme park. It’s a combination of a glorified zoo, an African safari, a trek back in time to the dinosaur age, an opportunity to get in touch with the creatures and life forms that maybe we don’t always see in our own backyards.

And over the years, the park has grown with attractions like being chased by the Yeti on Expedition Everest and the newly created Pandora.

But besides the obvious attractions you can see right in front of you, how did this land come to be? Who made the decisions on what Animal Kingdom was going to look like, what it was going to offer and what kind of experience it was going to showcase for all guests?

THE TEAM BEHIND THE MAGIC

In researching my favorite park, there are some stand out facts about Animal Kingdom you may have even learned. Like the Tree of Life is 14 stories tall and features over 300 animals carved into the artificial bark. Pretty cool!

But there are more things I’ve learned just by watching TV. I know, not what mom and dad probably advise, but trust me, it’s educational!

If you are a Disney+ member, then you’ve probably seen The Imagineering Story. It’s a six-episode documentary portraying the creation of Walt Disney’s empire and growth through the brilliance and utter genius of imagineers.

In one episode, there’s a section that talks about the beginnings of Animal Kingdom. These are some interesting facts I learned from the documentary!

1. Jane Goodall was on the team

Apes at Animal Kingdom

Jane Goodall studied apes as her life’s work. Photo by Laurie Sapp

Yes, THE Jane Goodall was on the team that decided how to best support the wild animals brought into the park.

You know her for her 60-year conservation and welfare work for animals, specifically studying chimpanzees. Or if you’ve watched George of the Jungle, you’ve heard George’s buddy “Ape” mention how “he knew Jane Goodall.”

Either way, she had a hand in helping Disney’s crew create a safe and thriving environment for these animals.

2. If you plant them, they will grow

In order to make a habitat that would work for the animals coming into the park, Imagineers had to make the land suitable. But how do you do that in the middle of Florida?

The documentary highlighted that luckily where Animal Kingdom was located there were natural swamps, farmland and sinkhole.

foliage inside the park

So much foliage was brought into Animal Kingdom to make it suitable for the animals. Photo by Laurie Sapp

The cow pasture was transformed into a planted rainforest and a savannah environment.

The biggest challenge for park designers was to bring in plant life that could create this habitat for animals. So one team member actually traveled to places like Botswana and Tasmania to collect seeds, exotic flowers, and trees for the park.

3. Imagineers had to travel

That’s right, pack your bags team, we’re going on a trip!

The designers needed to make the park look authentic and figure out how to create artifacts and structures that would withstand rain, hurricanes, and high winds.

Guptas Gear at Animal Kingdom

Imagineers traveled all over in order to bring authenticity to areas of the park. Photo by Judd Helms

Creators went to parts of Asia and Africa not just to get inspiration for animals, but to collect or mimic props they found like ancient pots and the blueprints of marketplaces.

They also studied color palettes and architectural details to recreate throughout the lands.

4. Authentic builders helped

Artists sent ideas to Indonesia, where woodcarvers made animal statues to be displayed throughout the park.

For example, ever notice the cute bird pointing his wing in certain directions in the park? You can thank Balinese crafters.

Also, the straw-like roofing on some of the buildings in Africa was put together by the hands of South African thatchers.

5. You can learn while having fun

Conservation station

Conservation Station at Animal Kingdom. Photo by Brett Svenson

Much like a zoo or aquarium where your kids can see handlers get up close and personal with animals, the same goes for Animal Kingdom.

Hidden in Rafiki’s Planet Watch, there’s the Conservation Station. It’s an opportunity to see things like veterinarians at work on some of the animals at the petting zoo on property.

Also watching experts prepare meals for animals or see what resident scientists are working on. It’s an amazing opportunity for kids to watch some “magic behind the scenes” but to also get inspired in their own lives to love animals and be curious.

LOOK BEYOND WHAT’S OBVIOUS

So, the next time you walk around Animal Kingdom, look a little closer and explore beyond the obvious—there are so many wild facts about Animal Kingdom!

It’s easy to be in awe of the standout attractions like The Tree of Life, The Festival of The Lion King and Mount Kilimanjaro. But next time, maybe take the extra few minutes to appreciate the detail of buildings, decor and the layout of the park.

And hey, while you’re at it, share some fun facts about Animal Kingdom with the friendly face next to you on your next Simba One safari ride. In the meantime, if you want to binge-watch The Imagineering Story to get your Disney park fix, go for it!

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About the Author

Melissa Wrightson

Melissa Sheketoff is a contributing writer for the WDW Magazine blog. She has worked in broadcast news for 10 years, most recently as a full-time on-air radio host in Connecticut. Her brother is a Cast Member, giving her even more of an excuse to spend all of her vacation (and sick time) at Disney. Melissa is also a DVC member, Silver Castaway Club Member and a runDisney participant. Check her out on Instagram.