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Disney's Animal Kingdom
News Clips (continued) Mar 1999+
Back to normal for theme parks
Compiled from staff reports
Published in The Orlando Sentinel on September 16, 1999.
After closing in preparation for Hurricane Floyd, Orlando's theme parks and attractions will be open today as usual.
Thousands of tourists found themselves without much to do Tuesday and part of Wednesday. Walt Disney World, Universal Studios Escape and SeaWorld Orlando closed for the first time in their histories. The same went for Orlando International Airport.
Theme park resorts brought in everything from free food to travel consultants Tuesday to keep guests happy, with guests at Disney's on-site resorts even getting Animal Kingdom to themselves Wednesday.
Disney World theme parks remained closed to the general public Wednesday but are reopening today. Many restaurants, shops and other attractions at Downtown Disney reopened Wednesday, Disney spokeswoman Diane Ledder said.
The changing forecast for Floyd prompted SeaWorld to reopen its park at noon Wednesday. SeaWorld did not open for business on Tuesday, while Disney and Universal kept their parks open until early afternoon on Tuesday.
SeaWorld planned a fireworks celebration Wednesday night at 8 to "celebrate the fact that Florida has been spared the worst of Floyd," SeaWorld spokesman Nick Gollattscheck said.
Tourists said Wednesday they were relieved that the storm that had threatened to make mouse meat of local attractions had passed with little more than squalls. Still, they expressed disappointment that most Disney parks were closed.
"We saved for two years for this trip, but you can't control the weather," said Toy Heverly of Youngstown, Ohio.
Floyd also affected everything from attractions to dinner theaters to shopping centers. For example, Pointe Orlando was closed Wednesday until 3 p.m., except for F.A.O. Schwarz, which was closed all day. Most businesses should be operating as normal today.
Most concerts and other planned events should go on as scheduled. The House of Blues at Downtown Disney West Side announced that it had rescheduled Tuesday's concert by Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers, which was canceled because of Floyd. The reggae group will now perform Monday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $22.50. Tickets bought for Tuesday's show will be honored.
Tourists leaving today out of the Orlando airport should find flight schedules close to normal, officials said.
[Posted 09/15/1999 10:23 PM EST]
Disney's Animal Kingdom® Adventure Outpost Tour itinerary:
The Outpost Tour will be visting the following cities:
April 17-18 Miami- C.B. Smith Park;
April 24-25 Dallas- Fair Park;
May 1-2 Houston- Cullen-Baker Park;
May 8-9 Washington DC- Montgomery County Agricultural Center;
May 15-16 Philadelphia- Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park;
May 22-23 New York/Teaneck-Hackensack - Fairleigh Dickinson University
May 29-30 Chicago- Grant Park;
June 5-6 Boston- MDC Lederman Field;
June 12-13 Hartford- Bushnell Park;
June 19-20 Cleveland- Cleveland Metroparks Brookside Reservation;
June 26-27 Detroit- Southfield Civic Center;
July 10-11 Atlanta- Centenial Olympic Park.
(Performances will be held from 11 am to 5 pm, with a special 1-hour early admission
at 10 am on Saturday for American Express cardholders. First come, first served. No tickets
and admission is free. It is expected that families will spend about 2 hours exploring the Outpost.)
The excitement of Disney's Animal Kingdom® Adventure Outpost is
touring the United States. Presented by American Express® in conjunction
with National Car Rental®, this new traveling extravaganza offers a taste
of Disney's Animal Kingdom Park that is all about whimsical creatures
from dinos to rhinos, and characters from the imagination of Disney.
The entertaining "urban safari" starts with Disney's Animal Kingdom
Caravan stage show, featuring a colorful cast who take you on a fantastic
musical journey to some of the lands -- Africa, Asia, Camp Minnie-Mickey,
and DinoLand, U.S.A. -- in Disney's Animal Kingdom Park.
From there, head for three interactive sites and experience the excitement
of Disney's Animal Kingdom Park in your own backyard. Whether
you're digging for fossils in the sand, participating in the interactive storytelling tent
or coming face to face with famous
Disney characters, you're sure to have a great time. Don't miss the adventure!
The original Sentinel article follows:
Disney will show off the Animal Kingdom in a cross-country safari
The Orlando Sentinel By Cory Lancaster
Disney's Animal Kingdom is going on the road, visiting 12 U.S. cities in coming months to boost interest in the year-old theme park.
The Animal Kingdom Adventure Outpost Tour will be set up in municipal parks and will cover an area the size of a football field.
The show will feature a dinosaur-themed play area, where kids can dig for mock dinosaur bones. A 20-minute stage show will include songs from The Lion King. A virtual tour will give a preview of
park attractions, such as the Kali River Rapids rafting ride, and Mickey and Minnie will be available for photos and autographs.
The publicity tour is similar to the one in 1996 that touted Walt Disney World's 25th anniversary across the country.
"This will showcase everything that goes on in the Animal Kingdom," said Bob Lamb, the park's vice president.
Lamb said most Americans know about the Animal Kingdom, which opened last April with 1,000
animals. The tour isn't intended to build name recognition but to let people see what's inside the park, he said.
Industry observers estimate 6 million people visited the Animal Kingdom in its first nine months of operation. Disney executives have said the park met its attendance goal. In contrast, 15.6 million
people visited the Magic Kingdom last year and 10.59 million visited Epcot, according to industry estimates.
No live animals will be used in the show, which Disney calls an "urban safari camp." But animals will
be portrayed by live performers and in paintings, carvings, giant balloons, totem poles and videos.
The show will be presented in conjunction with Disney World corporate partners, American Express and National Car Rental.
©1999 Orlando Sentinel Interactive
Open with a roar
By Cory Lancaster Of The Sentinel Staff
A whole new continent has opened inside Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Asia, billed as a pastiche of five Southeast Asian
countries, features a self-guided walk through Asian wildlife, a bird show and a rafting ride.
Disney expects the Asia section to add another note of eco-awareness to the theme park. Many of the animals, including Asian tigers, are endangered. The rafting ride takes passengers through a logging operation, showing the crater-like landscape left behind by clear-cutting.
Asia, which has been open for weeks but has its grand opening Thursday, is the first addition to Animal Kingdom since the park opened last April. It is the park's fifth major land, located between Africa and DinoLand U.S.A.
As with the rest of the park, Disney designers have gone to painstaking lengths to bring the architecture, animals, birds and vegetation of Asia to this theme park.
A 100-year-old white gazebo was shipped from India and stands not far from the brick bridge leading from Safari Village -- the hub of Animal Kingdom -- over the Discovery River and into the fictional Asian village of Anandapur.
A ceiling inside the queue line for the Kali River Rapids ride was hand-painted by a 76-year-old artisan in Bali and designed with scenes from "Jataka tales," or Asian fables of greed and honor.
Some of the building facades are made of hand-carved wood from Nepal. Asian architecture is everywhere, from replicas of Thai temples to 50-foot towers that rise from a habitat for gibbons, a long-armed Asian ape. The towers look like free-standing columns and are built throughout Asia in honor of a person, battle or deity.
"We tried to make a collage architecturally and thematically," said John Kavelin, a senior show producer for Walt Disney Imagineering, Disney's ideas division, who traveled through Asia to create the new land. "You would know you're in Asia but not quite where."
Once inside Anandapur, visitors come first to the Flights of Wonder bird show, which opened with the Animal Kingdom last April. Around the corner, they pass the habitats for the gibbons, who climb on what look like the ruins of a Thai temple. The gibbons have a loud, distinct cry, which carries throughout this section of the park. In the background, visitors also hear the sounds of chain saws from the Kali River Rapids ride.
From here, paths lead to the Maharajah Jungle Trek or to the rapids ride, the second thrill ride for the park, along with Countdown to Extinction.
Disney warns that riders will get wet on the ride, and most do although the amount can depend on where you sit. In pure Disney style, an employee sells ponchos outside the ride. Cost: $5.
The queue line is among Disney's most elaborate.Video monitors show a tape about the dangers of cutting down rain forests. Visitors wander through fake shops, filled with Asian artifacts, a temple and a rafting office, filled with oars and backpacks, before reaching the loading platform.
Each raft holds 12 people. There are seatbelts to hold people in and a waterproof compartment in the middle, where riders can put backpacks and pocketbooks.
Then the raft takes off, twisting and turning through bubbling water. At first, riders pass lush landscaping, showing the beauty of undisturbed rain forests. But then, the raft turns a corner and riders see a logging operation. The earth is black, and fires are burning here and there. Next comes the best part of the ride -- a big drop that is sure to get most people in the raft soaked.
On the other side of Asia, the jungle trek is a self-guided walking tour through dense vegetation and Asian wildlife. There are tapirs, a cross between a horse and a rhinoceros; Komodo dragons, a type of lizard; giant fruit bats; and various herd-type animals.
Stealing the show are the Asian tigers napping in the sunshine behind Asia-styled ruins. Disney has six of the tigers, and crowds usually are pushed against the glass windows looking at the majestic creatures.
Past the tigers, visitors walk through an aviary filled with colorful Asian birds. Giant bamboo, banana palms and other tropical plants fill the aviary, which is filled with the sounds of small waterfalls.
As with the rest of Animal Kingdom, Disney hopes visitors have fun in Asia but leave with a heightened awareness of conservation.
"When you really think of the animals of the world, there are a lot in Asia that are in need of conservation activities," said Bob Lamb, vice president of the Animal Kingdom. "Building a land of Asia was a natural way for us to go."
Orlando Sentinel, Calendar online Sat March 20
Disney park turns 1
Catherine Hinman of The Sentinel Staff
Published in The Orlando Sentinel on April 22, 1999.
On safari recently, tourists on the bumpy trek through Animal Kingdom's African wilderness were rewarded for their long wait with closeup views of virtually all the compound's animals.
Two hippos and their babies nuzzled in a pond. On the savanna, giraffes reached for tree leaves, mandrills roamed rock mounds and cheetahs stared from a shady hillside.
Today, the first anniversary of the opening of Walt Disney World's fourth theme park, the success of this safari is significant. When the park first opened, visitors who paid $45 to see wildlife often were disappointed as some animals hid from view.
In its ambitious 500-acre new park, it seemed, the animals just weren't as eager to please visitors as the typical Disney employee. But Animal Kingdom's staff is trying other ways to coax cooperation out of those who don't take home a paycheck. Animals are getting more shade where visitors can see them, and food is being delivered in ways that prompt more open romping.
Improved animal viewing is just one of several changes at the park in its first year. The park's animal population has increased from about 1,000 to 1,700. The employee population is up from 3,000 to 4,000, many of whom are on hand just to provide people with information about the animals.
Visitors who sweltered in the heat last summer are finding more shade in line and in theaters. And there are more performers wandering around the park to keep visitors entertained.
The foremost addition has been Asia, a fifth "land" that brought with it tigers and a river-raft ride.
Making sure that Animal Kingdom is more rewarding for visitors involved changing some of the animal habitats.
For example, the cheetahs, which were particularly shy in the beginning, got more shade trees in open view. The lion habitat is being made similarly "cooler" so they will rest in view of tourists.
Other tricks include strategically placing frozen blocks of fruits in mandrill and gorilla habitats to stimulate foraging behavior. Fruit and spice scents are being distributed around habitats to encourage animal browsing. For elephants, antelopes and giraffes, there's more fresh willow, hibiscus and banana-tree cuttings -- ice cream to these guys -- among the flora and fauna.
The tweaking of Animal Kingdom is part of the company's plan to establish the park firmly as part of Disney World and to keep visitors on the property longer. That's likely to become more difficult as theme-park competition heats up next month with the official opening of Universal's second park, Islands of Adventure.
With an estimated 6 million visitors last year, Animal Kingdom provided Disney World with record attendance in 1998, according to the trade magazine Amusement Business. But for the first time, this new Disney park stole visitors from its sister parks.
While not unexpected, business analysts would like to see better numbers.
"They are definitely drawing new people, but the incremental number of people is not what we had hoped," said Linda Bannister, who follows Disney for Edward Jones.
The Orlando theme-park market has fundamentally shifted with the opening of Animal Kingdom and Islands of Adventure, said John Robinett, Senior Vice President of Economic Research Associates. He thinks there will be fewer new visitors and more repeat visitors now.
"There are so many things going on now," he said. "It takes more than one week to see it all," he said. "That's the upside in the market."
Analysts expect Disney's attendance to continue upward as the Animal Kingdom park expands. "There is not enough to keep people there for a full day," said Jessica Reif Cohen, an analyst with Merrill Lynch Global Securities.
With Asia's opening behind them, Animal Kingdom officials are focusing on the July debut of a live show based on Disney's upcoming animated release, Tarzan. The park's Lion King show, with its acrobatics and fire handlers, has been one of the park's most popular attractions. The show's theater has been expanded by 25 percent to about 1,400 seats, and park executives expect Tarzan, with aerial artists and in-line skaters, to have a similar draw.
In addition to the show, the number of street performers, from a six-piece African band to costumed "vine" who now regularly startles visitors, has increased from about 40 to 63.
Other changes: adding comedy to the Flights of Wonder bird show and bringing out A Bug's Life characters and the daily parade's "Artimal" characters to mingle in the park. These are the touches that make a Disney experience for visitors, said Animal Kingdom Vice President Bob Lamb.
"As different as this park is from anything else in the world, the one thing it has to be is Disney," Lamb said. " There are certain expectations you have when you enter a Disney park. . . I think the park's personality has come out."
[Posted 04/21/1999 8:40 PM EST]
Disney to roll out ride reservation system at Animal Kingdom
Published in The Orlando Sentinel on July 7, 1999.
Starting early this month, Disney will use a ride reservation system for some of its most popular attractions in Animal Kingdom: Kilimanjaro Safaris in Africa, Countdown to Extinction in DinoLand USA and Kali River rapids in Asia.
The system could expand to popular rides such as Space Mountain and Splash Mountain at the Magic Kingdom and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster at MGM Studios as early as the end of the month.
Disney did a trial for its FASTPASS system at Space Mountain in April and got mixed reviews from visitors.
The way it works is this: Visitors pick up a FASTPASS by feeding their park tickets into a machine, which in turn spits out a pass that lists a one-hour window later in the day that should involve only a five- to 15-minute wait.
[Posted 07/07/1999 1:07 PM EST]
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