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Main page and intro; family links.
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Changes and updates; other links.
DAK - Entrance
The Virtual Tour starts here.
DAK - The Oasis
The entrance to Animal Kingdom.
DAK - Safari Village
The hub of Animal Kingdom; Tough to be A Bug
DAK - March of the ARTimals
The March of the ARTimals parade.
DAK - DinoLand U.S.A.
Countdown to Extinction; the Boneyard.
DAK - Discovery River
Discovery River Taxi (formerly Boat Ride).
DAK - Asia
1999 plans: Maharajah, Kali River.
DAK - Africa
Africa: Harambe village.
DAK - Kilimanjaro Safari
Lots of Safari pics.
DAK - Pangani Forest
Exploration Trail: Gorillas.
DAK - Conservation Station
Take the Wildlife Express to Conservation Station
DAK - Camp Minnie-Mickey
Festival of the Lion King; links
DAK - Guidebook
The front and back of the Guidebook.
DAK - News Links
Web news links about DAK
DAK News Clips 1
News clips opening day.
DAK News Clips 2
News clips pre & post opening.
DAK News Clips 3
News clips post opening 1998/1999
Walt Disney World Visit Tips
Hints and tips on visiting WDW.
Walt Disney World - Hotels
Personal recommendations on staying at WDW
Walt Disney World Prices
Prices for Admission tickets, hoppers and passes.
Epcot's World of Motion
Andrew's Memories of WoM site.
WDW International Program
Andrew's experiences in this program.

Animal Kingdom News Clips - Page 2

More Animal Kingdom News text excerpts from online sites.
Post-opening articles in the next section.
Pre-opening articles (continued)

Disney tree comes towering to life

By Cory Lancaster of The Sentinel Staff
Published in The Orlando Sentinel, February 22, 1998

The Magic Kingdom has the regal Cinderella Castle. With Epcot, it's the gleaming and futuristic Spaceship Earth.
These are Disney's theme park icons, which appear in photographs and advertising so often that they have come to symbolize the parks.
So what almost became the icon for the Animal Kingdom, the more serious, conservation-minded theme park that opens April 22?
How about a giant spear of broccoli as tall as a space shuttle?
The ``broccoli,'' actually a tree encased in a dome and covered with fake plants, was one of the many ideas discarded by Disney during the creation of what ultimately became its Animal Kingdom icon: the Tree of Life.

As they are throughout the park, workers now are rushing to put finishing touches on the tree before the grand opening. The 145-foot structure's evolution led Disney designers on nearly as many twists and turns as the tree's serpentine root system, which covers half the length of a football field.
The story gives an insight into how Disney goes about creating a new theme park and the extraordinary lengths it will go to build a park's centerpiece.
For example, the company went all the way to Houston to hire an oil-field contractor to modify an oil rig for the tree's frame, providing the steel-reinforced strength needed for such an enormous, free-standing structure.
And the company assembled 10 sculptors from around the world -- Hungarian, French, Irish and Native American -- who spent a full year carving the 325 animals that cover the tree's barklike surface.

From the beginning, Disney designers were eager to outdo themselves for the Animal Kingdom, Disney's largest park and the first in Central Florida since Disney-MGM Studios opened nine years ago.
In 1990, when the creative team was assembled to design the $800 million-plus Animal Kingdom, it envisioned the icon as a gigantic carousel with swimming, leaping and flying creatures in which children would sit and whirl around.
That idea was dumped, considered too silly for the untamed atmosphere they were trying to create in lands called Africa, Safari Village and Harambe and filled with 200 species of animals.
In place of a carousel sprouted the idea for a tree.
``A tree, at least, represents a living object,'' said Joe Rohde, the park's lead designer. ``It's a softer, more emotional, more nurturing image.''
Initially, the tree was drawn as a 50-foot-tall banyan tree, fun for children to play and climb on. But designers needed something grand, something big enough to be seen by visitors from almost anywhere in the 500-acre park.
So the tree grew, eventually reaching its current height of 145 feet, so large that a restaurant was suggested for inside its base with tables overlooking Discovery River, which winds through the park with riverboat rides.
In the end, the tree was hollowed out for a 450-seat theater that will show a light-hearted 3-D movie called It's Tough to Be a Bug.

With the tree's towering height came serious engineering problems. A 14-story fake tree, just like a 14-story building, must meet Florida building codes that require structures to withstand hurricane-strength winds of up to 90 mph.
Disney's initial solution: Encase the tree in a geodesic, steel-reinforced dome, similar to Epcot's Spaceship Earth. The difference: Cover the outside with fake plants.
Thus began the ``broccoli'' phase.
``It was getting pretty far along (in the design process), and frankly it was a bit of an aesthetic problem,'' Rohde recalled with a laugh. ``Here we are with this artificial foliage on the outside edge, and it looks like a great big piece of broccoli.
``There was a phase at which we were going to try to grow real foliage on the outside. That went to sleep really fast because foliage, of course, is nothing but a container for water. And water is very, very heavy.''
It was a Disney structural engineer who, using computer modeling, realized the tree trunk and 12 massive branches could be built with so much steel that it could be free-standing.
The idea was a breakthrough but one that came almost too late in the park's development.
``You have to understand, even though this was many, many years ago, it takes many years to build a theme park, and it was very late in the definition of the tree when this revelation came forward,'' Rohde said. ```Even though it was something like 1994, it was late.''

In fact, Disney broke ground on the Animal Kingdom in the summer of 1995 and planned to start pouring the concrete foundation almost immediately for the Tree of Life.
``It was one of the very first things we got started on because of the magnitude of it and the complexity of building it,'' said Jack Blitch, Animal Kingdom's construction manager. ``It was something that's never been done before, so we wanted to provide as much time as we could to get it done.''
So with little time, the tree was redesigned without the dome. When Blitch saw the structural engineer's sketches, he recognized the tree's basic structure as something he had seen all the time while growing up in New Orleans: oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.
That sturdy steel frame solved the tree's structural problems, allowing the project to move rapidly. A Houston company built the six-legged oil rig and shipped it here in pieces, which were reassembled by crane in the middle of the park.
The frame, after being wrapped in a second layer of steel, now was ready for Disney artists to craft the animals on its exterior.

Rohde first saw such carved trees on the Indonesian island of Bali, where he traveled frequently to hire woodcarvers to adorn the Animal Kingdom's buildings and walkways with hundreds of whimsical and colorful animal figures.
Rohde had pictured the animals taking shape among cracks in the Tree of Life's barklike surface. But the designers and artists, led by sculptor Zsolt Hormay of Hungary, convinced him to go with the far more complex textures.
The artists started with a miniature model. Coupled with computerized tools that can bend steel, the model was used to shape 52 steel-and-wire-mesh sections into the forms of 325 running mammals, flying birds, slithering reptiles, even a paramecium cell.
The crew assembled the pieces like a puzzle at a nearby construction yard, making sure no seams were visible and that each animal fit perfectly with the ones next to it.
In the end, they had 12 massive segments, which were carried by a helicopter to the frame and welded together. Scaffolding went up and, in October 1996, the sculptors -- with carving tools in one hand and pictures of animals taken from various angles in the other -- began the tedious process of hand-carving the figures from a thin layer of cement.
``The sculpting process took exactly 12 months down to the day, working six days a week,'' Hormay said. ``We had to work in the rain and the sunshine.
``The sculpting process is a continuous process. You can't take a break. Once you apply the sculpt coat, you're bringing out the shapes and forms in the soft cement, which usually lasts about six or seven hours, depending on the weather. It's almost like a race with the cement.''
When the animals were completed, all that remained was to paint the tree, using shades of brown and gray for a natural look. On top of the paint is a clear varnish, designed to filter the sun's ultraviolet rays and reduce the need for repainting in the coming decades.
To an outsider, the project may sound like an excessive investment of time and money, but Rohde knew the Tree of Life had to be worthy of worldwide attention.
``I expect that it will be one of the most photographed objects in the world,'' he said.
[Posted 02/21/98 8:55 PM EST]

A whole new world. At Animal Kingdom are (from left) Flora Mugai, Kenya; Ishmael Mogamisi, Botswana; Mark Potter, training manager; Hayley Moss, South Africa; and Abel July, Botswana.

African students will be on the job

By Lesley Clark of The Sentinel Staff
Published in The Orlando Sentinel, February 15, 1998

Imagine the Chinese pavilion at Epcot staffed with New Yorkers.
The Walt Disney Co. did. And that's why the company goes to great lengths to staff the miniature nations at the theme park's World Showcase with people from the 10 countries.
Its newest theme park will be no exception.
A number of Animal Kingdom's ``cast members'' -- as Disney calls its employees -- were recruited from nations in Africa to work in the African-themed portions of the park.
``We can put millions of dollars into building the village of Harambe, but it doesn't come alive without people who know what it's like to live in an African village,'' said Greg Morley, manager of international recruiting at Walt Disney World. ``It's like the French pavilion at Epcot. You can teach someone from Kissimmee to speak French, but they don't have the French experience. This is one of the things that gives the real big wows for our guests.''

Disney recruiters traveled to Africa in August to interview college students, many of whom are studying the hospitality industry at African and European colleges.
They hired 82 Africans from countries including Uganda, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Botswana, Cameroon and South Africa.
All of them speak English and most speak Swahili, Morley said. Several of the South African students are white and others are Indian, Morley said. The traditional Disney name tags worn by employees will include nationality and hometown.
``I think guests are truly going to be wowed,'' Morley said. ``One of the things guests will say when they leave is that they really loved meeting someone from somewhere else.''
Most of the students arrived last month. A problem with visas has slowed the arrival of a handful. Morley said he expects them to arrive this week.
Some of the students have never left home, but Morley said they were intrigued by the Disney name. Students spend the first week in the United States shaking off culture shock, said Carolyn Argo, human resource manager at Animal Kingdom.
``When they come in we realize they're coming from a very different place, and we help them to do everything possible to acclimate,'' she said. That includes trips to Publix and the credit union.
The second week, they learn Disney culture, including Disney slang that turns customers into ``guests,'' and the company's strict dress code. Job training starts the third week.

The Africans are hired for one year as full-time employees, with health benefits and salaries. They live in Disney housing with other international employees and college students working for Disney.
Because of visa regulations, they cannot work at behind-the-scenes jobs, such as working in kitchens or stockrooms.
Instead, they will be in the shops selling T-shirts, serving food and driving vehicles across the park's African safari.
That will give the park more authenticity, Morley said.
``Like at Epcot, we could just put people in French waitress costumes and think that would do it, that would mean France,'' Morley said. ``But the whole basis is people. We can have these real-looking places, but there's no magic in that.''
[Posted 02/14/98 9:44 PM EST]

DAK News - Post-Opening

Text from online press clippings on Animal Kingdom - post April 22nd opening.


Streaming in. Visitors pour through the gates of Disney's Animal Kingdom Wednesday morning on opening day of the park. Judson Green, president of Walt Disney Attractions, said last week that it is unlikely that the 500-acre park will be replicated at other Disney theme parks, such as in California, Japan or Paris, because of higher land costs in those areas.
Photo: Gary Bogdon/The Orlando Sentinel

With Animal Kingdom open, what's next for Disney?

By Cory Jo Lancaster of The Sentinel Staff
Published in The Orlando Sentinel, April 27, 1998

With the opening of the Animal Kingdom last week, speculation already has begun about what will be Walt Disney World's fifth theme park.
Disney executives, including Walt Disney Co. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael Eisner, said they have ideas for a fifth theme park but aren't ready to disclose them publicly.
``I don't know when it (Walt Disney World) will get its fifth theme park,'' Eisner said last week. ``I'm just barely getting over its fourth theme park. And it's too early for me to say what I think it will be. I have some ideas. I haven't told anybody in the company about them yet.''

Eisner ruled out an all-thrill-ride park for Walt Disney World. Some Disney insiders had speculated such a park may be coming in response to Universal Studios Escape's Islands of Adventure park, which opens summer 1999. That park will have six thrill rides.
``I've seen the pictures of the preview center, what the public has been allowed to see,'' Eisner said about Universal's Islands of Adventure. ``It does not look like the kind of park that we would do. But it looks like they're certainly making a big effort there.''

Disney's night ride
Disney has said for months that its Animal Kingdom theme park will close earlier than the other parks to suit the schedules of the exotic wildlife.
But last week, a Disney executive said lights already have been installed in the park's 110-acre African savanna, which would allow the safari ride to operate at night.
During peak periods, such as the summer months and Christmas, the lights will allow the park to stay open later, said Marty Sklar, vice chairman and principal creative executive for Walt Disney Imagineering.
The park currently is open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
``We have provided night lighting out there so that on certain peak days, we can operate all the time,'' he said. ``We did a test on a large ranch in Los Angeles about how to light that whole savanna. All that's built in.''
The safari ride, Kilimanjaro Safaris, likely will be the most popular attraction in the Animal Kingdom. The ride takes people through a savanna where giraffes, zebras, lions, elephants and other animals appear to roam free.

A one and only
A frequent question for Walt Disney Co. executives last week was whether they would build an Animal Kingdom in other locations if the park proves successful.
Judson Green, president of Walt Disney Attractions worldwide, said that would be unlikely.
The 500-acre park would require too much land to be replicated in places with expensive real estate, such as Southern California, Japan or Paris. And the weather in Japan and Paris doesn't lend itself to recreating African savannas with African wildlife.
``Frankly from a strategic standpoint, this theme park belongs here because we have the land, we have the climate and it is appropriate given the other entertainment offerings we have here,'' Green said.

Briefly ...
DisneyQuest has set an opening date of June 19 at Downtown Disney. The attraction, billed as a small, indoor theme park, features interactive games... .

Lesley Clark of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report.
[Posted 04/25/98 5:53 PM EST]


Protesters at Disney had sheriff worried

By Cory Lancaster of The Sentinel Staff
Published in The Orlando Sentinel, April 24, 1998

The Orange County Sheriff's Office confirmed Thursday that it sent almost 150 deputies to the opening of Disney's Animal Kingdom this week to prepare for a big animal rights demonstration that never took place.
The heavy manpower came in response to rumors that hundreds of protesters might picket at Wednesday's opening of the park, sheriff's officials said.
Instead, two dozen people showed up to protest, claiming Disney has mistreated animals at the park. Since last fall, 12 animals have died. But federal investigators cleared Disney of any wrongdoing.
The protest lasted about two hours. There were no arrests.
But expecting a big demonstration, the sheriff sent a small army to cover the event.
One hundred deputies, dressed in black and accompanied by an armored rescue vehicle, were standing in a hotel parking lot near Black Lake Road and U.S. Highway 192, said sheriff's Capt. John Tegg.
They are members of the sheriff's Emergency Response Team, which specializes in crowd control and riots. They waited from 6 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., when the protesters left.
Another 20 deputies and detectives, dressed in plain-clothes, were assigned to the Animal Kingdom's security office in case protesters bought tickets for the park and were disruptive inside. The remaining 20 deputies were assigned to traffic detail.

``When you look at what animal-rights activists have done around the country and the world ... you have to go with a worst-case scenario,'' Undersheriff Rick Staly said.
Staly said he does not know how much the staffing cost. The Sheriff's Office rearranged the deputies' schedules, so overtime pay was kept to a minimum, he said.
Disney did not request the extra manpower, although it did pass on media reports to the Sheriff's Office about the planned protest, Disney spokesman Bill Warren said.
``We never asked them to bring that kind of complement down,'' Warren said. ``But we appreciated the help.''
Sheriff's officials said they heard rumors about a big demonstration at the Animal Kingdom while arresting animal-rights activists outside SeaWorld Orlando earlier this month.
Those activists were charged with protesting without a permit. Because the protesters at Disney didn't have a permit either, they stayed along U.S. 192 in Osceola County.
``Where they came up with hundreds of people and (park) infiltrations, I don't know,'' said Joe Taksel, who helped organize the protest and is with the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida. ``It was a small, peaceful demonstration.''

[Posted 04/24/98 12:15 AM EST]

New investigation sought into Animal Kingdom deaths

Associated Press
Calling a prior investigation a ``whitewash,'' an animal rights group on Tuesday urged federal officials to begin a new probe into the deaths of 30 animals at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

In a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida criticized the agency's initial report, which cleared the new theme park of wrongdoing in 29 of the deaths. The USDA's findings were released April 22, the same day the park opened.

``Not only does the result of the investigation have the appearance of a whitewash, but the announcement ... on the same day as the park's opening is extremely coincidental,'' said the group's lawyer, Timothy Ross.

Twenty-nine animals, including cheetah cubs, otters and a rhinoceros, died at or en route to the park between September and April. The causes ranged from maternal neglect to fights among animals trying to establish territory or dominance.
Since the report, a 13-year-old hippo died of bacterial pneumonia.

USDA spokesman Jamie Ambrosi said the agency was awaiting a report on the 13-year-old hippo before deciding whether to begin another investigation.
Disney spokeswoman Diane Ledder couldn't be reached for comment.

[Posted 06/10/98 12:52 AM EST]

More DAK News Clips post-opening 1998/1999
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