Disney’s Animal Kingdom has just celebrated its 25th birthday. Having opened on Earth Day, April 22, 1998, the Disney Park has provided guests with magical memories, wild encounters, and plenty of fun since then. As the Disney Park reaches its quarter-of-a-century milestone, let’s look at its hidden details. Most Guests don’t know about these details until now!
Every Guest should stroll around the Discovery Island Trails at the base of the Tree of Life. While the Tree of Life is a beauty to be admired from a distance, viewing it up close allows you to admire its intricate details. The Tree of Life is an artificial baobab tree. Each leaf was hand placed on the tree that is 145 feet tall, with a trunk of 50 feet wide and branches spanning 165 feet. More particularly, 325 animal carvings feature on the tree. Have you identified each animal?
Expedition Everest Temple
When strolling through Asia from Kali River Rapids to Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain, you will pass a statue of a temple. Usually, a Disney PhotoPass Cast Member is nearby, taking photos with the beautiful backdrop of Expedition Everest. The temple statue has a hidden detail, but once you’ve seen it, you will always see it.
Stand directly in front of the temple to see the mountains behind it. You should see that the temple outline exactly mirrors Expedition Everest, which can be seen in the distance. The shrine has been created to pay homage to the mountains and the Yeti.
The Walt Disney Company is known for its stories, extending to the attractions and experiences in the Disney Parks. We love that your experience of an attraction begins as you enter the line. In Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park, Guests shouldn’t miss two attraction lines.
The line for Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain is an experience. You will walk through a temple area, at base camp, before making your way through a museum of the Yeti. The line is filled with statues, artifacts, information, and more. You’ll likely find that the line moves too quickly for you to enjoy it all.
Similarly, the line for Avatar Flight of Passage is an immersive experience. Venture into the depths of Pandora, where you will see more of the wildlife. Soon enough, you will enter the caves of the Na’vi. Admire carvings and paintings on the wall before you reach the RDA mining facility. You will then navigate the research facility before reaching the ride preview.
Many Guests miss the details in these attraction lines due to using Disney Genie+ or Lightning Lane. While you will want to reduce your wait time, experiencing the full attraction line at least once will add to your Disney experience.
A Secret Entrance
Did you know that Disney’s Animal Kingdom has two entrances? Most Guests only know about the main entrance. However, there is also a second entrance. It would help if you walked towards the Rainforest Cafe to use the additional entrance. Doing so is an opportunity to dodge crowds entering the Disney Park.
When riding Dinosaur in DinoLand U.S.A., pay close attention to the pipes you will see as you approach the ride vehicle loading area. You will notice that they are red, yellow, and white and have writing on them. The writing contains ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise ingredients on the corresponding colored pipe. These details link back to when McDonald’s was the sponsor of DinoLand U.S.A.
A Rock with Air Conditioning
If you’ve taken a ride on Kilimanjaro Safaris, you’ll know that the lions have their own Pride Rock on the savannah. The lions occupy the space throughout the day and lay on those rocks even in the hottest parts of the day. While you may question how comfortable they are, you can rest assured knowing they are well-looked afterward. The rocks are actually air conditioned to help keep the lions cool throughout the day—no wonder they are happy to laze around there from early morning until late each evening.
When passing through DinoLand U.S.A. you may notice a road sign for Route 498. While this isn’t an actual highway, it is a nod to the opening date of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park. The 498 represents April 1998, when the Disney Park opened to Guests.
Working Veterinary Surgery
During your next Disney vacation, make sure you visit Conservation Station. Upon catching the Wildlife Express Train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch, follow the path and enter the building at the end. There is a working veterinary surgery inside, where Guests may find themselves viewing a surgery to help an injured or sick animal that calls Disney’s Animal Kingdom home. While the theatre is only sometimes in use, you never know what you may see.
The Second Discovery Island
Discovery Island in Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park is the second island with the name. The original Discovery Island was a zoological park located in the middle of Bay Lake, behind Disney’s Contemporary Resort.
The original Discovery Island had previous names, including Raz Island and Treasure Island. Several nature trails were part of the Park, home to the dusky seaside sparrow. Unfortunately, the last sparrow died in 1987. Discovery Island was open until 1999 when it was closed as it had outlived its purpose.
If you choose to wait in the general line for Avatar Flight of Passage, you don’t have to worry too much about waiting to use the restroom. The Disney attraction has restrooms that Guests can use once inside the line. You may find them helpful if you have to endure a particularly long line for the popular Animal Kingdom ride.
The Show Most Guests Miss
We’re not talking about the Festival of the Lion King or Finding Nemo: The Big Blue… And Beyond! There is another show in Disney’s Animal Kingdom that most Guests miss out on viewing. Winged Encounters – The Kingdom Takes Flight takes place throughout the day on Discovery Island, in front of the Tree of Life. Find out about the macaws that call the Disney Park home. See them fly down to the statues in front of the Tree of Life and then take flight back to their backstage homes. It’s a beautiful view to see the sky fill with their colors as they fly above Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
You may be familiar with this name. Joe Rohde is a lead Imagineer who helped create Disney’s Animal Kingdom and other elements of the Walt Disney World Resort. As such, multiple details in the Disney Park pay homage to him. You’ll find his handprint on a wall in Pandora – World of Avatar, with the initials J.R. next to it. In Africa, Tusker House features a poster for ‘Jorodi Masks & Beads.’ Watch for even more tributes to the Disney Imagineer when exploring Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Pay close attention around Asia too. You may see a nod to other Disney movies, including The Princess Diaries (2001).
There’s a giant hidden Mickey in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but most Guests don’t know about it. The main reason for this is they can’t see it. Expedition Everest forms the hidden Mickey, with the mountain being the face and the two loops you circle when riding the attraction creating the ears. When flying into Orlando, keep a lookout, as this may be the only opportunity you have to see it!
Look out for all these hidden details during your next Walt Disney World Resort visit. There’s always something new to see in Disney’s Animal Kingdom!