• Welcome to the WDWMAGIC.COM Forums!
    Please take a look around, and feel free to sign up and join the community.You can use your Twitter or Facebook account to sign up, or register directly.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Was a Mistake

lebeau

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
I recently posted an article on my blog explaining why I think Disney's 4th park was a mistake:

"Disney opened its fourth theme park in Florida in 1998 to mixed reviews and confusion regarding what the heck Animal Kingdom was supposed to be. Marketing for the newest addition to Walt Disney World insisted that whatever it was, the park was “nahtazu”. What’s that? It’s an attempt to make the phrase “not a zoo” seem like an African word. (Yeah, it hasn’t aged well.) But here’s the thing. When it opened, Animal Kingdom was totally a zoo. It was a beautifully themed zoo with two Disney-caliber rides, but the primary draw was the animal exhibits making Animal Kingdom “azu”, I mean, a zoo.

Few would argue that mistakes were made with the opening of Animal Kingdom. For at least a decade, it was stuck with the dreaded label of a “half day park”. Since the park opened, Disney has slowly addressed those concerns. As it exists today, Animal Kingdom is arguably a full day experience and worthy of being included in Walt Disney World Resort. Even so, I think it was a mistake."



At a high level, I argue the following points

1. WDW didn't really need a 4th park
2. If you were going to build a 4th park, a zoo wasn't the way to go

I also discuss some of the more common "mistakes" like opening the park with only two rides and miscalculating the expense and difficulty of dealing with live animals.

I can't imagine anyone here will feel otherwise. ;)
 
Last edited by a moderator:

seascape

Well-Known Member
Respectfully I disagree. This park is amazing.
I agree. AK is my wife's favorite park because of the Safari and Animal trails along with Pandora. It is my second favorite park behind the Studios. I am a Star Wars fan and love it. Epcot is our third favorite park as we love the Festivals and World Showcase. Believe it or not, that puts MK last on the list but above the water parks.
 

NelsonRD

Well-Known Member
It seems like you do not understand Animal Kingdom, and you have your opinion. My guess is that you never spent considerable time enjoying the park. If you rush to Expedition Everest, Fight of Passage, view a few birds on the way in, and skip the rest, you will form a different opinion than my family, who has spent hours on the treks and trails alone.

But, I wouldn't expect much agreement on your view from these boards, or anything anybody says, changing your made up mind, that Animal Kingdom was mistake.
 

bdearl41

Well-Known Member
It seems like you do not understand Animal Kingdom, and you have your opinion. My guess is that you never spent considerable time enjoying the park. If you rush to Expedition Everest, Fight of Passage, view a few birds on the way in, and skip the rest, you will form a different opinion than my family, who has spent hours on the treks and trails alone.

But, I wouldn't expect much agreement on your view from these boards, or anything anybody says, changing your made up mind, that Animal Kingdom was mistake.
I think you hit a key point. AK is a park designed for strolling, exploring and discovery. Hitting an agenda here makes you miss far too much.
 

Marc Davis Fan

Well-Known Member
I certainly consider DAK to be WDW's best park. What separates Disney (when at its best) is immersion into other places, and IMHO, DAK consistently does that better than any other theme park in the United States. I've heard from many other first-time visitors that DAK was the park they were the most impressed with.

That being said, it was a mistake to cut the original plans for DAK so severely. It was going to have a full roster of theme park attractions, to be complemented by the trails and exhibits. I think it has only just achieved that withe the opening of Pandora in mid-2017 - and even now its just barely (though like many others here, I can easily spend a day soaking in the theming and immersion).

Also, DAK's name might have been a mistake. It was going to be called "Disney's Wild Kingdom," which was a brilliant way to make it a Magic Kingdom counterpart and to emphasize the theme of nature. The theme is not really animals, but nature. This is important, because I think including" animal" in the name is a big part of what promoted the notion that it's a zoo. Unfortunately, they were unable to use "Wild Kingdom" due to the television show (ironically, there is now a show called "Animal Kingdom," but I digress). I wish they had come up with something else that didn't have "animal" in the name - "Disney's Earth Kingdom" or something?
 

aliceismad

Well-Known Member
AK is the best (U.S.) Disney park other than Disneyland. It's stunningly beautiful, immersive, a place where one can be amazed, entertained, and educated. It's a place to relax as well. And Everest is one of the best rides in any park anywhere.

The only complaints I have about AK are 1. Kali should've been longer, 2. Hester & Chester/Primeval Whirl area need to be replaced with something higher quality, and 3. They need a water parade or show or something to make use of the open air auditorium seating.

Should AK have been built with Beastly Kingdom? That was a missed opportunity to really flesh out the experience perhaps.
 

ilovelabs2021

Active Member
We had one of the best experiences at Disney ever when we did the Caring for Giants tour at AK in 2019. I know these tours aren’t running currently. It was AMAZING. We learned so much about the elephants at the park (you get so much closer to them vs the safari), plus we had a fabulous CM from Tanzania who talked to us about his country’s efforts to conserve elephants. I would definitely recommend it to anyone once it starts again. That tour is one of the things that truly reflects the spirit of this park.
 

JIMINYCR

Well-Known Member
You have the right to post any opinion you like. But I also have the right to disagree. Ive never found AK to be a half day park or found it to be boring. Those who continually criticized AK in the past and still do so today were upset that this park wasnt full of attractions, parades and characters to join with the others. Maybe Beastly Kingdom being left out was a mistake and would have brought the missing elements they gripe about. But I still dont see the addition of this park as a mistake made. It was designed to give guests an alternative experience to explore and enjoy. I'm sorry it doesnt contain the components that you would find interesting, but many of us see it as a nice change that only adds other types of pleasures to our Disney vacation time.
 

Animaniac93-98

Well-Known Member
I recently posted an article on my blog explaining why I think Disney's 4th park was a mistake:

"Disney opened its fourth theme park in Florida in 1998 to mixed reviews and confusion regarding what the heck Animal Kingdom was supposed to be. Marketing for the newest addition to Walt Disney World insisted that whatever it was, the park was “nahtazu”. What’s that? It’s an attempt to make the phrase “not a zoo” seem like an African word. (Yeah, it hasn’t aged well.) But here’s the thing. When it opened, Animal Kingdom was totally a zoo. It was a beautifully themed zoo with two Disney-caliber rides, but the primary draw was the animal exhibits making Animal Kingdom “azu”, I mean, a zoo.

Few would argue that mistakes were made with the opening of Animal Kingdom. For at least a decade, it was stuck with the dreaded label of a “half day park”. Since the park opened, Disney has slowly addressed those concerns. As it exists today, Animal Kingdom is arguably a full day experience and worthy of being included in Walt Disney World Resort. Even so, I think it was a mistake."

(full article)

At a high level, I argue the following points

1. WDW didn't really need a 4th park
2. If you were going to build a 4th park, a zoo wasn't the way to go

I also discuss some of the more common "mistakes" like opening the park with only two rides and miscalculating the expense and difficulty of dealing with live animals.

I can't imagine anyone here will feel otherwise. ;)

Looks like some people have already not bothered to read or understand your points. Consider me shocked. ;)

I don't think AK was a mistake or bad idea on paper. The problem was that everything they did for the park was done with about 70-80% effort and not going that extra mile to deliver on ideas like the Rapids, or only having 1 AA each on Everest and Navi River Journey really hurt the park because of it's limited attraction menu.
 

The Empress Lilly

Well-Known Member
So why do I think Animal Kingdom was a mistake? To sum up, I think there are two main reasons. One, the resort would have been better off if it had grown more slowly and organically. We could possibly be up to four parks by now but with better infrastructure to support them. And two, the zoological elements have proven to be more cost and trouble than they are worth. You will notice that the attempts to fix Animal Kingdom have focused on adding more traditional theme park elements rather than expanding on the animal exhibits.
I did you the courtesy of reading your full thoughts on your blog so I quoted that here.

Nice piece, btw. You hit the mark about WDW taking two decades to turn their park into a full day park. (Longer than it took permanently cash strapped Walt to go from Snow White to Disneyland!) And also about the general mess WDW turned itself into. Its sprawl is an unforgivable error that will never be corrected anymore.

1 Was DAK to blame? Currently. DAK feels like the last retreat from stressful WDW. It would be ironic if DAK, which feels like a temporary breath of fresh air, were indeed a very cause of the stressful, ugly, sprawling WDW. But I think that argument is thinly stretched. Bad planning would not have been prevented with a tighter build WDW built out over three parks.

2 I love DAK as a zoo. My animal experiences are the heart of my DAK days. I am proud to say that I have yet to spend a day at DAK without doing the safari! I would visit this park with E:E, Dinosaur, FoP closed, but not with a closed Trek, Trail and Oasis.
Well animals, and DAK's design, which endlessly enthralls me. The one park that does not address me as a five year old, and a dumb one at that.
 

The Empress Lilly

Well-Known Member
I certainly consider DAK to be WDW's best park. What separates Disney (when at its best) is immersion into other places, and IMHO, DAK consistently does that better than any other theme park in the United States. I've heard from many other first-time visitors that DAK was the park they were the most impressed with.

That being said, it was a mistake to cut the original plans for DAK so severely. It was going to have a full roster of theme park attractions, to be complemented by the trails and exhibits. I think it has only just achieved that withe the opening of Pandora in mid-2017 - and even now its just barely (though like many others here, I can easily spend a day soaking in the theming and immersion).

Also, DAK's name might have been a mistake. It was going to be called "Disney's Wild Kingdom," which was a brilliant way to make it a Magic Kingdom counterpart and to emphasize the theme of nature. The theme is not really animals, but nature. This is important, because I think including" animal" in the name is a big part of what promoted the notion that it's a zoo. Unfortunately, they were unable to use "Wild Kingdom" due to the television show (ironically, there is now a show called "Animal Kingdom," but I digress). I wish they had come up with something else that didn't have "animal" in the name - "Disney's Earth Kingdom" or something?
But I like the wordplay with 'animal kingdom', the biological concept. It fits so perfectly with 'Magic Kingdom'.
 

erasure fan1

Well-Known Member
Not only does WDW need a fourth park, I’d argue they now need a fifth one, especially with the continued hotel construction and growth of Universal.
I would argue that a 5th park is needed, only because the capacity of the parks they have are so lacking. The studios and animal kingdom are still lacking in the rides department. Epcot also could use a couple more rides. If we had the ride capacity In all the parks, a 5th park wouldn't be needed in my opinion. The other issue is Disney seems to have enough issues with running 4 parks. I'd hate to see what adding a 5th would do.
 

LittleBuford

Well-Known Member
I think Animal Kingdom is an amazing park, but I agree it’ll prove to be a mistake in the long run simply because of what it is—a zoo, albeit a very nice one. As the reactions here show, most people are still OK with zoos, but I personally think opinions will change in the decades to come, at which point Animal Kingdom may have to be reconceptualised. (Full disclosure: I belong to the minority who find zoos troubling, and I wish Disney had steered clear of the genre.)
 

Register on WDWMAGIC. This sidebar will go away, and you'll see fewer ads.

Top Bottom