Disney’s Animal Kingdom has the most secrets and hidden details of any park on Walt Disney World Property. The beauty and detail that went into the making of this park is unbelievable. Disney Imagineers went above and beyond in every aspect in Animal Kingdom. There are so many hidden details and secrets, that they can’t even fit into just one article. Here is part one of the hidden secrets and details of Animal Kingdom.
Have you ever looked closely at the logo of Animal Kingdom? At first glance, it looks like a bunch of animals walking in a row. If you look closer, you will notice that there is a dragon in the middle of the logo. Dragons were actually supposed to be a part of Animal Kingdom! They were going to be included in a land within the park called Beastly Kingdom and it would feature mythical animals such as unicorns and dragons. Unfortunately, due to budgetary reasons, Disney ended up scrapping the idea for the land and instead Dinoland USA ended up being built because it was much cheaper. Beastly Kingdom would have been located where Pandora is now. If you’ve ever wondered why there is a Unicorn section of the parking lot of Animal Kingdom, that is why!
Animal Kingdom is home to over 2,000 animals representing 300 species. This is part of the reason why this next secret came to be. Did you know that Animal Kingdom is the only Disney Park with locks on every single bathroom door? This is in case of an animal emergency, such as the very highly unlikely event of an animal breaking loose and running through the park. It is to keep the guests and Cast Members safe.
Did you know that the famed centerpiece of Animal Kingdom, the Tree of Life, is not a real tree? It is actually a repurposed oil rig! It had to be something sturdy enough to withstand hurricanes and inclement weather and strong enough to be able to hold all of the plaster from the animal carvings. The “tree” is 145 feet tall and 50 feet wide.
Tree of Life
The Tree of Life took 18 months to sculpt! There are over 300 animals hand carved into the tree. It is said that three Imagineers and ten artists worked full time over the span of a year and a half to complete the tree. Each day, only 6-8 feet could be completed, and the Imagineers and artists had to work quickly because the plaster would start to harden after about 6-10 hours.
One carving in the Tree of Life was based on a real animal. David Graybeard, a chimp made famous by Jane Goodall can be found as one of the animals carved into the tree. He is famous because he was the first chimpanzee studied by a scientist in the wild.
Have you ever wondered why, even though it’s hot outside, you are almost always able to see lions laying around while on Kilimanjaro Safari? This is because of our next cool hidden detail- the rocks are air conditioned! There are hidden vents inside of the rocks that the lions lay on so that it keeps them cool enough to want to lay out in plain sight. The vents are placed on the rocks that are in the best viewing spots for guest.
While walking around the parks, it is easy to overlook things that you see in all of the parks such as benches, garbage cans, etc. In Animal Kingdom, you should check out the benches the next time you go. All of the benches in Animal Kingdom are made of recycled milk jugs. In fact, 1,350 milk jugs are used to make just one bench!
Flags in Asia
As you are walking through Asia in Animal Kingdom, you may notice a lot of colorful flags with mantras written on them. These are prayer flags, and they are widely used in Tibetan Culture. It is believed that the flags will be blown by the wind to spread the good will and compassion all throughout the land. The colors of the flags also are displayed in order: yellow, green, red, white and blue. This signifies Earth, water, fire, cloud and sky.
There are a few interesting hidden details that you may have missed at Expedition Everest. There are so many hidden details just for this ride alone, but we will focus on a couple of them. First, you may have noticed that walking up to the ride, you see a lot of firewood on a nearby roof. Wood is sacred in the Mount Everest area. The more wood that a person has on their roof, the wealthier they are. You may also notice that there is a lot of red color throughout the queue and the ride. This is because red is thought to be the color of protection and it is used to keep bad energy away.
Have you ever wondered how they keep all of the animals so effortlessly separated on Kilimanjaro Safari? This was no coincidence! There are human-made barriers and boundaries set up all throughout the 110 acres of forests, grasslands and savannas. Whether it be deep trenches that are dug to prevent high jumping animals, or even the chains on the ground to prevent animal crossings, this is all to help keep everyone safe. Another fun fact about the safari is that the Safari vehicles use liquid propane. This is to keep low emissions around the wildlife.
The next time that you are in Dinoland USA, make sure to stop by and say hi to Dino Sue! Dino Sue is an exact replica of the world’s most complete T-Rex skeleton ever discovered. She can be found outside of DINOSAUR. Dino Sue was named after fossil hunter Sue Hendrickson. The replica stands 13-feet tall and 40 feet long! The real T-Rex skeleton is on display at The Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois.
Have you ever noticed road signs around Dinoland USA that say Route 498? This is a subtle nod to when Animal Kingdom opened in April of 1998!
In many of the lands around Animal Kingdom, there are so many details all over that you might be stepping on some! Africa has leaves and animal prints in the ground. In Asia, there are bike tracks on the ground. In Pandora, there are giant Na’vi footprints on the ground.
As you exit the Avatar Flight of Passage ride, you will come across three handprints and initials on the wall. These are the handprints and initials of James Cameron- the director of Avatar, Jon Landau- the producer of Avatar, and Joe Rohde- the visionary and legendary Disney Imagineer behind Pandora as well as all of Animal Kingdom. There is also another James Cameron Easter Egg in the Flight of Passage queue. As you enter, there are caves at the beginning of Flight of Passage, and you’ll see some rusty looking walls. You will see “JC SHORING 08.016.54”, that is Director James Cameron’s birthday.
There are a lot of cool details hidden throughout Pandora. One of them is that there are no big marquee signs to tell you where and what the ride is. Instead, there are handwoven totems outside of the rides that represent what the rides are. There is a handwoven banshee outside of Flight of Passage to represent the banshee that you fly on during that ride. A totem representing the Shaman of Songs represents the Shaman of Songs that you will meet on the Na’vi River Journey.
Another cool and overlooked detail is the RDA remnants. In the Avatar movie, the RDA company or The Resources Development Administration, is the company that is trying to destroy the Na’vi’s sacred land to mine unobtanium. There are subtle signs of mining work all over the land and in an incredibly detailed fashion, the RDA logos are aged and rusted to show that they haven’t been there for a long time and that the Na’vi have returned to their peaceful lives.
Did Somebody Say McDonald’s?
Back in the day, McDonald’s used to sponsor Dinoland USA. You actually used to be able to get McDonald’s French fries at Restaurantasaurus! Perhaps the coolest thing to come from the Disney/McDonald’s partnership (and something that is still around today) can be found in the loading area of the ride DINOSAUR. If you look up, you will see red, yellow and white pipes with some scientific formulas written on them. Since McDonald’s used to sponsor the ride, the red pipe has the chemical formula for ketchup, the yellow pipe has the chemical formula for mustard and the white pipe has the chemical formula for mayonnaise.
One of the most fun and overlooked activities at Animal Kingdom is taking the train over to the Conservation Station. Once you arrive there, you will find one of the biggest hidden secrets at Animal Kingdom. There is a huge mural with a lot of animal faces painted on it. Did you know that there are 27 Hidden Mickey’s in this mural alone? See if you can spot them all the next time you are there! Be sure to also stop by the petting zoo and peek into the vet treatment room as well.
To be continued…
Animal Kingdom has so many beautiful and interesting things to see that it is very easy to overlook the secrets and hidden details. The amount of creativity and hard work that went into perfecting this park is awe-inspiring! There are so many more hidden details and secrets that we are going to do a part two for this article! Which one of these hidden details did you find the most interesting? Did you know any of these prior to reading this article?