Friday, October 23, 2009

Defending Disney's Animal Kingdom!

Animal Kingdom has its detractors. Over the years I've read many complaints on message boards or heard first hand the shots that have been taken at this incredible and underrated theme park.

They say it's a half day park because there aren't enough attractions. They say it's a glorified zoo. They say there aren't enough restaurants and the ones they have are horrible. They say it isn't "Disney-enough".

They are wrong, I say!

In fact, Animal Kingdom has made huge strides in recent years - and perhaps made the biggest strides of all four Disney theme parks.

So let's refute the above accusations one at a time:

"I don't like Animal Kingdom because there isn't enough to do. There aren't enough attractions. I'm not gonna spend $80 on a half day park. Boooo!"
I strongly disagree with this sentiment. The real charm of Animal Kingdom - its engrossing theming and attention to detail - makes it so that if you truly appreciate it for what it is, there isn't enough time in the day to do everything!

There are a several 5 Mouse Ear* rated attractions and shows at this park: Kilimanjaro Safari, Expedition Everest, Dinosaur and The Festival Of The Lion King. There are also several 4 Mouse Ear* rated attractions and shows at this park: Tough To Be A Bug, Finding Nemo: The Musical, Kali River Rapids and Flights of Wonder. And enough walking trails (Pangani Forest Trail in Africa, Maharajah Jungle Trek in Asia, Tree of Life paths on Discovery Island) that just the above attractions/shows would fill up an entire day if one tried to hit them all.

This doesn't even take into consideration DeVine, the Jammin' Jungle Parade, Conservation Station, Rafiki's Planet Watch, the animals and scenery around the Oasis and Discovery Island, The Boneyard, the live musical acts, the shops, restaurants and simply stopping to smell the roses in this incredibly themed park. There is definitely more than enough here to fill up an entire day - especially if you're there for the first time.

"Animal Kingdom is just a glorified zoo."
Name another zoo that features a Yeti that attacks you as you climb Mount Everest (see photos above; my brother Kevin with our dad at Everest during his free birthday day at Animal Kingdom) or dinosaurs that chase after you during a meteor shower 65 million years ago. It also has Safari Mickey. Case closed.

"They have no restaurants at Animal Kingdom. What's that one...the one with the rain storms? That's all they have."
This used to be a valid point. They didn't have much as far as dining went at Animal Kingdom until just a couple years ago - especially table service. Then Yak and Yeti and the renovated Tusker House came into play.

Tusker House has cracked my top 5 restaurants in ALL of Walt Disney World. The place is incredible (see our Taste Of The World article from October 12 for our views on it) and I consider it Boma's little brother. It's a buffet that's open for breakfast and lunch (and dinner when the park is open late enough) and the food is outstanding. I've only been to Yak and Yeti once, and I have to say it was pretty good. Nothing great, but an admirable addition to a park that was basically devoid of table service. The theming is INCREDIBLE at Yak and Yeti, and the food decent. Its prices are outrageous though, but that shouldn't surprise anyone. While Yak and Yeti might not ever crack my list of absolute favorite sit-down restaurants, it blows the Rainforest Cafe out of the water.

And like most counter service restaurants in The Mouse, most here are nothing to write home about. But the Animal Kingdom does feature at least one very good and unique counter service restaurant - the Flametree Barbecue. Nothing else like it in The Mouse.

They also have the brand new "Picnic In The Park" option at AK. We have not tried this yet, but reviews are generally positive.

So while Animal Kingdom is no Epcot when it comes to dining, at least now you have some quality options available.

"Animal Kingdom just doesn't feel like 'Disney' to me. It's just about animals."
Believe it or not, I've heard this one multiple times. Where do we start? Epcot isn't exactly all about "Disney" or the classic Disney movies. Never mind that it was an original Walter Elias Disney idea. So was Animal Kingdom - at least to a degree. Walt originally wanted real animals on the Jungle Cruise until he realized what a logistical and financial nightmare that would have been. He was also the person who basically INVENTED televised animal documentaries with the True-Life Adventures series in the late 1940's into the 50's. Animals have played a central role in almost all of his films since the very beginning.

So if anyone believes animals haven't played a massive role in the life and career of Walt Disney (and then, in turn, deserve a theme park dedicated to them), then they need to remember that it was all started by a mouse.

*See the Around The Mouse attraction rating system on the sidebar.

1 comment:

  1. For the sake of full disclosure, I am a hardcore "Disneyphile" who has visited Walt Disney World at least once a year (usually in January) 10 out of the past 11 years.

    I visit Animal Kingdom only if I have a multi-day Park Hopper; reserving full days for Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Epcot. I've never needed more than a half-day (at most) for Animal Kingdom.

    Although your defense of Animal Kingdom is admirable--in the end, your fondness for this park cannot change the fact that it is both a glorified zoo (part of which is a "ride-through") and a half-day park.

    If you're not into coasters--that pretty much eliminates Expedition Everest from being a major draw. If you're not into wild, dark and bumpy rides, that also eliminates Dinosaur as a major draw as well. Furthermore, you can only do Kilamanjaro Safaris so many times...

    And although Festival of the Lion King is pretty cool, seeing it and any other "major draws" can be done in a half-day or under. I know, because I've done it (repeatedly).

    Speaking for myself--if I didn't have a multi-day Park Hopper ticket, I would not pay to enter and visit Animal Kingdom as a stand-alone park; and neither would many other fellow Disneyphiles.

    In fact--many guests feel rather cheated (or gyped) after paying full admission for Animal Kingdom as a stand-alone visit; hence--the repeated criticisms of Animal Kingdom being a glorified zoo and half-day park.

    Eighty-seven dollars and 33 cents is way to much to pay (even for a hardcore Disney World lover) for a glorified zoo which can be pretty much done in half a day.