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Earth Day & Animal Kingdom

In honor of Earth Day, I wanted to pay tribute to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which opened on Earth Day, April 22, 1998. As Disney states, you come to “behold the magic of nature with rare animals and wild entertainment,” which is completely true because where else can you go from a roller coaster on Mt. Everest to a riding along on an African safari viewing exotic wildlife to enjoying live stage shows?

The Tree of Life

At the heart of Animal Kingdom is the iconic Tree of Life. It’s not surprising that Disney created the 145 structure to be hurricane-proof; however, I never knew that at its core is a massive oil rig skeleton! Attached on over 8,000 branches are over 100,000 leaves with each leaf being more than a foot long! Upgraded over the years, the leaves’ LED effects light the skyline from across the parks to create an awe-inspiring sight.

Cleverly made of concrete and colored to resemble aged tree back, embedded into the tree’s trunk can be found over 350+ animals. To gain a better vantage on the carved animals, be sure to pay attention on the path to check out the “It’s tough to be a bug” show within the Tree of Life.

For more secluded moments of sightseeing, follow the path that can be found as you leave Harambe, to the right of the tree but before the bridge. Look closely though because an abundance of greenery make this path easy to overlook.

Beastly Kingdom

Below the Tree of Life, notice all the creatures on the logo of Animal Kingdom: an elephant for Kilimanjaro Safaris, a dinosaur representing Dinoland, and…a dragon? Originally, the park was intended to have a Beastly Kingdom land which would have focused on mythical beings, such as unicorns, dragons, etc..

Although the project was shelved and the area received a temporary solution, the area is now home to beautiful Pandora. However, you can still find various hidden dragons interspersed throughout the park on signs and other features, so Beastly Kingdom still lives on in spirit!

Pandora–The World of Avatar

Pandora combines the best of both the natural world and magic of Disney. Much of the beauty of Pandora lies in the over 10,000 shrubs and 500 live trees incorporated into the landscape.

Built into the mountains, waterfalls gently cascade off, yet some of the waterfalls are not actually real! Towards the top of the mountain area, some of the waterfalls are expertly crafted illusions. With a combination of a cycling wheel covered in mesh which gives the effect of running water; at the bottom, white mesh appears to be mist as the water crashes to the ground.


Over in DinoLand U.S.A., you can find a replica of the largest Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil ever found. The original Sue was found in South Dakota with over 90% of the bones having been excavated, and she can now be found in a Chicago museum.

Dino-Sue, an exact replica, is 13 feet tall and 40 feet long, so be sure to scope out the best vantage point before trying to pose your squirrelly kids!

Kilimanjaro Safari Safety

A day at Animal Kingdom between days at the busier parks is a perfect break. The 18 minute Kilimanjaro Safari ride allows you to truly feel immersed in the African savanna. The exotic locale actually is larger than the entire area taken up by Magic Kingdom.

Animals appear to be allowed to simply roam as they please, with less aggressive animals being quite close to the safari vehicles. Never fear though because these animals are actually contained with cleverly embedded water features, natural barriers, and cattle guards which keep you safe from the animals and animals safe from one another.

The Disco Yeti

If you have done even the slightest of fact finding about Expedition Everest, you have undoubtedly heard about the Disco Yeti. Fans of years past tell of the Yeti being a much more animated creature with quick movements, including an attempted swipe at passing guests.

Apparently the motions were so intense that it was actually damaging the structural integrity of the ride itself. To allow the Yeti to remain at its early days’ activity level, Disney would have to dismantle a portion of the ride for structural work. Apparently, that was deemed unfeasible as strobe lights were installed to mask the Yeti’s stationary position.

For those like me who never were able to experience the Yeti in its original glory, we will gladly take the Disco Yeti to the alternative–ride threatening malfunctions due to an out-of-control Yeti!

In case you are wondering, we were posing as Yetis about to attack :)


Hello, I'm Kelly Nixon

I'm a Disney-loving mom and teacher who has dedicated a ridiculous amount of time to researching the best way to do Disney-to maximize the quality of time and minimize the dollars spent!

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