Animal Kingdom, like all of the Disney Parks, has countless hidden and obvious treats and treasures to behold and bits of knowledge to be obtained. Did you know that the benches at Animal Kingdom are made of recycled milk jugs? Did you know that as you walk through the Oasis, there is a slight incline in the path which is designed to encourage you to slow down and notice that animals and nature around you? Did you know that the impressions of the leaves in the path were made with molds from actual leaves? Here are some more details about a few interesting things. Maybe you know about all of them. Maybe you know about none of them. Maybe you will pick up a nugget or two for your next trip!
1. As you come around the Oasis and walk across the bridge, there it is. Behold, Animal Kingdom’s Tree of Life, with over 300 animals displayed on it, stands at 145 feet tall right in front of you with its over 8,000 branches and over 100,000 handmade leaves. Wow! Think about the enormity of that project the next time that you see this tree.
Did you ever wonder how they created a tree so huge? Would it surprise you to know that supporting this massive beauty is the base of an oil rig? The Imagineers put an incredible amount of thought and effort into creating this lifelike and sturdy tree. The next time you see it, really see it and think about all of the details that went into the eighteen months that it took to build this Tree of Life.
By the way, did you know that this carving is of an actual chimpanzee who was dear to Jane Goodall? I wonder how many other animals on the tree of life, if any, are modeled after actual creatures.
2. Have you been to the Boneyard in Dinoland? We stop here for some smiles, and you might get a kick out of it if you are a child or a child at heart. When you enter the Boneyard, there is a Jeep off to your right. Well, it is to most people’s right. If you choose to walk into the Boneyard backward because that is the kind of person you are, then you will see the Jeep to your left. Beyond the Jeep is a rock formation with what looks like the fossil of dinosaur ribs. When you find that, you will have discovered the xylobone! Go see what kind of tune you can play by touching the rib bones.
There are actually a bunch of hidden sights and sounds to entertain throughout the Boneyard, yet I do not want to spoil the thrill of seeking out all of the fun. (Look at the chalkboard, too, for some chuckles.) When you are there, you can ask a cast member to point out more of them to you.
3. Speaking of interesting things in Dinoland, did you know that when Animal Kingdom opened in 1998, McDonald’s sponsored Dinoland? Maybe you have seen Test Track sponsored by Chevy or the Cool Zone sponsored by Coca-Cola at EPCOT. An entire land sponsored by a corporation was big. That sponsorship was a ten year sponsorship and ended in 2008, yet there are still remnants of it that can be seen.
When you are on line to board Dinosaur, the ride, notice the red, yellow, and white pipes. There appear to be chemical formulas written on each pipe. Are they for fun, or are they simply for display? Actually, they are the chemical recipes for ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise. That is the kind of clever attention to detail that you see all over Animal Kingdom.
Do you have a picture of these pipes with the chemical formulas written on them? After I wrote this, looking through our thousands of pictures from Walt Disney World, I could not find one. I would like to include your picture with credit if you send me a good one!
4. Do you like to ride Expedition Everest? This is one of the must ride attractions for my family at Animal Kingdom. We also wait our turn to ride in the front of the coaster. There are several rides where we have preferences for where we like to sit. For Expedition Everest, we enjoy riding in the front because when you get to the top, you have an incredible view. You can see Epcot, Swan and Dolphin, Hollywood Studios…miles of scenery! If you have never ridden Expedition Everest, or never ridden in the front, it is worth doing at least once so that you can see that view. It is brief, though because you will be heading back down almost as quickly as you got to the top. Be sure to take it all in while you can.
5. Have you taken a ride on the Wildlife Express Train to Conservation Station and visited Rafiki’s Planet Watch yet? This is an interesting place for those of you who like learning. There are environmental exhibits, a petting zoo, and even a game on the path from the train to the main area. This is a place that is not a secret yet so many people tend to miss. When you are inside of the building, ask a cast member at the desk to tell you about how the bees saved the elephants. It is brilliant!
For added fun, we often find characters in the area who will share laughs and take pictures.
6. This is especially fun for children, yet we have seen adults doing it, too. All ages can learn new things about nature and our world! As you come over the bridge heading toward the tree of life, there is a small hut on the right where you can sign up to be a Wilderness Explorer. Ask a cast member for a booklet to use to earn your badges. There are thirty-two — if I remember correctly — different badges that can be earned all over Animal Kingdom.
As you are enjoying your day wandering around the park, there will be booths with the Wilderness Explorer badge. Stop at each booth that you can. The cast member there will have a fun activity, an interesting lesson, or simply some fun facts to share to help you earn your badge. If you do not finish the whole book in one day, you can bring it back another day. When you do collect all of your badges, go back the headquarters hut on the bridge by the Tree of Life and show your book to a cast member. When you have completed your book, they will have a special song for you. If they forget to do it, you can ask them.
7. When you visit Animal Kingdom, you may see remnants of what never was. You may be thinking, “What?!” Have you ever wondered why you see a unicorn and a dragon among various Animal Kingdom signage? Did you know that there was originally a plan to have a land at Animal Kingdom that featured mythical and fantasy creatures? Can you imagine what that would have been like? These days you can still see things like the unicorn parking lot, the dragon on signage, and now elements of Beastly Kingdom within Pandora — The World of Avatar. For more of the history associated with Walt Disney World’s Beastly Kingdom, check out this excellent video from Yesterworld Entertainment on YouTube.
Hopefully you have enjoyed these secret — or not so secret — tidbits that I have shared with you. Be sure to comment below and tell us what you learned. What is another special thing about Animal Kingdom that you like? I look forward to your thoughts!
BONUS TIP: Doing school at home, we follow the public school calendar and enjoy going to Walt Disney World when school is in session. No middle of summer, spring break, or Christmas break trips to Disney are on our calendar. However, a majority of families with children do have abide by that calendar. With that in mind, if you go to Animal Kingdom during a super busy time, you might find that the crowds to get in to the park are large and the lines are longer than you would have imagined. This might be an option for you. You can enter the Rainforest Cafe, go through the gift shop, and exit right into the park. Of course, there will be a cast member there, so have your passes ready!