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Disney's Animal Kingdom

Disney's Animal Kingdom is an animal theme park located at the Walt Disney World Resort. The fourth park built at the resort, it opened on April 22, 1998, and it is the largest single Disney theme park in the world, covering more than 500 acres (202 ha). It is also the first Disney theme park to be themed entirely around animal conservation, a philosophy once pioneered by Walt Disney himself. Disney's Animal Kingdom is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, meaning they have met or exceeded the standards in Education, Conservation and Research.

The park consists of seven themed areas, with all but one connected to Discovery Island, which contains The Tree of Life, a sculpted 14-story, 50-foot-wide artificial tree that serves as the centerpiece and icon of Disney's Animal Kingdom. A new area based on the 2009 film Avatar and its planned sequels is set to begin construction by 2013. In 2010, the park hosted approximately 9.7 million guests, ranking it the fourth-most visited amusement park in the United States and seventh-most visited in the world.

The Oasis is the park's main entrance. Along with providing various guest services, the Oasis features a number of animal habitats. Guests can encounter muntjacs, spoonbills, ducks, wallabies and giant anteaters, among others. The main paths lead deeper into the park, and onto Discovery Island.
A Rainforest Cafe is also located at the entrance of the Oasis, although technically it is outside the park boundaries. Guests may dine at the restaurant without entering Disney's Animal Kingdom, while guests entering the restaurant from within the theme park are actually exiting the park and must present their admission tickets to return to the park.

Discovery Island
Discovery Island is located roughly at the center of the park, in the middle of the Discovery River waterway. It was originally called Safari Village, as Discovery Island was the name for the small zoological park located in Walt Disney World's Bay Lake. After that facility closed in 1999, Safari Village was renamed Discovery Island. This is the "central hub" of Disney's Animal Kingdom, connecting almost all of the other sections of the park, except Rafiki's Planet Watch. The Tree of Life, the park's visual icon, is located here, surrounded by animal enclosures showcasing kangaroos, black crowned cranes, lemurs and others. The park's largest gift shops and two of its major restaurants are on Discovery Island, each with a different design theme, such as décor based on nocturnal animals, insects and so forth. The island's other major draw is It's Tough to be a Bug!, a comical 4-D film featuring appearances by Flik and Hopper from Disney·Pixar's A Bug's Life.

Camp Minnie-Mickey
Camp Minnie-Mickey is themed as a rustic summer camp. Here guests can meet the Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy and others. Located in the area's main theatre is Festival of the Lion King, a live stage show featuring acrobatics and musical performances inspired by The Lion King.
Camp Minnie-Mickey was built on the spot where the Beastly Kingdom was planned to be.

Set in the fictional east African village of Harambe, this area contains a number of animal exhibits. According to Disney legend, Harambe was once part of a Dutch colony, but a peaceful revolution made Harambe self-governing in 1963. Today, Harambe is the starting point for tourists and students who want to observe Africa's animals in their natural habitats.

The village is the namesake of the Harambe Wildlife Preserve, the fictional home of Africa's main attraction, Kilimanjaro Safaris. Guests climb aboard an open-sided safari vehicle for an expedition to see numerous African animals freely roam through acres of savanna, rivers and rocky hills, including reticulated giraffes, hippos, African elephants and lions. On the adjacent Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, visitors trek into the forest in search of gorillas. Along the way, the guest goes on a nature walk through a verdant African valley filled with Nile hippos, birds and fish.

Rafiki's Planet Watch
The one section of the park not connected to Discovery Island, Rafiki's Planet Watch is instead connected to Africa. Guests board the Wildlife Express Train for the short trip to and from Planet Watch, which consists of three distinct areas. Guests first encounter Habitat Habit!, where they can see cottontop tamarins and learn about the efforts to protect these endangered primates in their natural homes. Along the way, guests can also learn how to provide animal habitats in and around their own homes.

Conservation Station showcases the various conservation efforts supported by the Walt Disney Company. It also gives a behind-the-scenes glimpse into Disney's Animal Kingdom's animal care facilities, including a veterinary examination room complete with a two-way communications system so the veterinary staff can answer guest questions. Outside, Affection Section is a petting zoo featuring goats, sheep and other domesticated animals.

Asia was the first expansion area added to Disney's Animal Kingdom, first opening in 1999. Like Africa, the section's attractions are part of a fictional place, the kingdom of Anandapur (which means "Place of many delights"). Anandapur comprises two villages: the riverside village of Anandapur and Serka Zong, which is in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains. Portraits of Anandapur's royal family, the Maharajah and his wife, can be found in most of the businesses within the two villages, and a map of the kingdom, featuring both villages and their location relative to the mountains and river can be found on the wall of the Disney Vacation Club kiosk located there. Much like Harambe, Disney legend states that Anandapur is now a center of animal research and tourism. At the Caravan Stage, these two "worlds" meet in Flights of Wonder, a live bird show where one of Anandapur's bird researchers educates a tour guide with a fear of birds about natural bird behaviors and the effects of habitat loss and conservation efforts on bird species, such as the Black Crowned Crane and American Bald Eagle.

The Maharajah Jungle Trek leads guests through the forests and ruins outside the village, which are home to a number of animal species, such as Komodo dragons, fruit bats, tapirs, and tigers. Nearby, Kali River Rapids is a river rapids ride along the fictional Chakranadi River through a rainforest, past an illegal logging operation and down a waterfall. Looming in the distance behind Anandapur is the Forbidden Mountain, the home of Expedition Everest, a roller coaster ride through the Himalayas.

DinoLand U.S.A.
DinoLand U.S.A. is inspired by the public's general curiosity about dinosaurs. The fictitious Dino Institute and its surrounding facilities attract those with a scientific interest in the long-extinct animals, while Chester and Hester's Dino-Rama recalls the many roadside attractions that were once scattered throughout the United States. Like the other sections of Disney's Animal Kingdom, there are animals on display.

These particular animals, such as the American Crocodile and Asian brown tortoise, have evolutionary links to the age of the dinosaurs. Other plant and animal species that have survived since the dinosaur era can be found along the Cretaceous Trail. At the edge of DinoLand U.S.A. is the "Theater in the Wild," which hosts Finding Nemo - The Musical, a live-action musical stage show based on the story of the Disney·Pixar feature film.

The Dino Institute is the home of DINOSAUR, a thrill ride featuring a trip through time to the Late Cretaceous Period. Just outside the Institute is "Dino-Sue", a casting of a Tyrannosaurus rex fossil that is the most complete yet found. At the nearby Boneyard, children enjoy a multi-leveled playground area complete with a mammoth fossil to be uncovered.

Chester and Hester's Dino-Rama, on the other hand, is about dinosaurs as fun. The TriceraTop Spin is a colorful ride for families, while Primeval Whirl is a spinning roller coaster for thrill-seekers. Throughout the area are carnival games and gift shops, as well as chances to meet Disney characters.

The area was formerly sponsored by McDonald's, until 2009 when the contract ran out.

Disney's Animal Kingdom focuses on three broad classifications of animals: those that exist today; those that did exist, but are now extinct (i.e., dinosaurs); and those that exist in legend and mythology. In the original design for the park, the animals of legend were to have their own section.

The original design for Animal Kingdom included a section called the Beastly Kingdom (possibly spelled as "Beastly Kingdomme"). It was a land devoted to creatures of legend and mythology. Due to budget constraints, Beastly Kingdom never came to fruition and Camp Minnie-Mickey was built as a temporary tenant of the Beastly Kingdom land.

Beastly Kingdom was to have featured mythical animals such as unicorns, dragons, and sea monsters. The land would feature realms of both good and evil creatures. The evil side would be dominated by Dragon Tower, a ruined castle home to a greedy fire-breathing dragon who horded a fabulous treasure in the tower chamber. The castle would also be inhabited by bats who planned to rob the dragon of his riches. They would enlist the guests' help in their scheme and whisk them off on a thrilling roller coaster ride through the castle ruins. The climax of the ride would be an encounter with the evil dragon himself, resulting in a nearly-barbecued train of guests.

The good side of this land would be home to Quest of the Unicorn, an adventure which sent guests through a maze of medieval mythological creatures to seek the hidden grotto where the unicorn lived. Finally, the Fantasia Gardens attraction would be a musical boat ride through animal scenes from Disney's animated classic, Fantasia. The ride would feature both the crocodiles and hippos from " Dance of the Hours" and the Pegasus, fauns, and centaurs from Beethoven's "Pastoral."

Remnants of this planned area were visible when the park opened or are still visible today:

The parking lot contains a section named "Unicorn."
The silhouette of a dragon appears in the Animal Kingdom logo.
There is a dragon-shaped stone fountain near Camp Minnie-Mickey.
A detailed dragonhead statue sits atop one of the ticket booths at the park's entrance.
Blasts of fire would be spewed from a cave at the edge of the water, in Camp Minnie-Mickey. Burnt suits of armor were just outside the cave entrance, and when boats passed this scene in the now-closed Discovery River Boats attraction, guests were told by the boat's captain that the fire was created by a fire-breathing dragon inside the cave. This scene was visible from Discovery River Boats attraction and the Camp Minnie-Mickey bridge for several years.
One of the McDonald's Animal Kingdom-themed Happy Meal toys was a winged purple dragon.
As Expedition Everest features the mythological yeti, a creature that may or may not exist, the park now features at least one attraction based on each type of animal (living, extinct and legendary). As to Beastly Kingdom's future, Walt Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde said in 2000: "We had a vision and now it's become a place holder. We have all kinds of ideas and not all of them fit with the theme of Beastly Kingdom. I'm not even convinced there will be a Beastly Kingdom.".


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