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Things I Wish I'd Known For My First Walt Disney World Visit

  The first visit to Walt Disney World is stressful, confusing, and a dream come true. I am not the first on...

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Hidden Mickey: History and Facts of Animal Kingdom

When most people think of Disney, Animal Kingdom isn't the first thing that comes to mind. Some people have criticized the park for not being "Disney enough" (whatever that means). But Animal Kingdom is very important to Disney. Walt Disney himself was a big believer in conservation, way before the modern movement of the 1970s started. Conservation was very important to Walt. He once said, "Landscapes of great wonder and beauty lie under our feet and all around us. They are discovered in tunnels in the ground, the heart of flowers, the hollows of trees, fresh-water ponds, seaweed jungles between tides, and even drops of water.Life in these hidden worlds is more startling in reality than anything we can imagine. How could this earth of ours, which is only a speck in the heavens, have so much variety of life, so many curious and exciting creatures?"

Walt also said, "You've probably heard people talk about conservation. Well, conservation isn't just the business of a few people. It's a matter that concerns all of us." This sentiment is the basis of Animal Kingdom. His ideologies live on with the park.

While he is now most known for his animated films, it was his True Life documentaries that gained him most critical acclaim during his lifetime. In fact, Walt never won an Academy Award for his animated films. But his True Life series earned 8 total awards. Walt was also presented with the Audubon Medal for his appreciation and understanding of nature.

When Walt was building Disneyland, he originally wanted real animals to be featured in the Jungle Cruise. Of course, that was impossible. Now there is an entire theme park that features real animals in Disney's name. And this park continues to bring to life one of Walt's many dreams.

The park benches are made out of recycled plastic.

Dinoland used to be a cast member parking lot

If you even been on the Kilimanjaro Safaris, you might have noticed big, bare baobab trees. Some of them aren't real trees at all, but are storage sheds.

DAK is the only park at Walt Disney World where the Cast Members can walk straight through the front entrance in costume. There is a way to enter the park completely out of view of guests, but it takes a while. It is more efficeint to have the Cast Members walk from their parking lot, past the resort buses, and past security check. There is a backstage entrance by the bathrooms just outside of the main gates.

Animal Kingdom was opened to the public on Earth Day 1998. The park was actually built and ready to be opened months earlier. An earlier opening would've made more money for the park. But the message of conservation was so important to the park that they held out for the Earth Day opening.

If you look at the ground outside of the entrance of the park, you will notice two different colors of pavement. It was designed to look like a tree from an aerial view.

The animals above the three ticket booths represent the animals of yesterday (dinosaur), today (elephant), and the animals that never were (dragon).

If you are ever worried about the animal's health - don't be. The animals are usually kept in the park for life. They are retired from being shown to guests on the safari or in exhibits. There is a retirement section backstage just for the animals to chill out. This is better for the animals because they are kept with the same care takers for life.

Just like any other cast member, the animals also get days off. The animals on the safari usually rotate. So you will see one group of lions on the safari one day, and then the next day that group of lions will take a break while another group of lions takes their place on the safari.

Seriously, don't feed the animals.

There is a hidden Mickey on the Tree of Life. Find the buffalo. Near the buffalo will be three black spots. That's Mickey!

If you have any dietary needs, there is an allergy kiosk on Disvocery Island that will provide you will yummy snacks and menus to the restaurants in the park.

As you enter Asia from Disocvery Island, you will notice a prayer tree. It is common in India to tie a piece of cloth to a tree. Once the cloth falls off, your prayer will have been answered. The first cast members of the park actually were the ones to tie the cloths to the prayer tree in the park!

If you do any souvenir shopping in Asia, you might notice a picture of a couple hung up in the shops. That is the King and Queen of Andapour. The picture means that the King and Queen approve of the shop, and the size of the picture shows how rich the shop owners are. The bigger the picture, the more money the shop makes! The merchandise carts have the smallest pictures while the Everest gift shop has the biggest.

A lot of the Christmas decorations hung in the park are made of recycled materials.

DAK is the only park that has two exits in all bathrooms. This is in case an animal were to ever escape into the park. The guests could hide in the bathrooms and exit to a safe place backstage.

The Cast Member cafeteria backstage is called Pride Rock, in homage to The Lion King. There is also a smaller break room near Resturantasaurous, called Castosaurous.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Disney with a Disability

Booking a Hotel Room
When booking a hotel room, be sure to mention if you need a wheelchair or hearing  accessible room. This will ensure you a comfortable visit.

Visiting the Parks
If you are or visiting with a guest with a disability, the first stop at every park should be guest relations. Cast Members can give you information, tips, and let you know about services the parks will provide to help you have a magical day.

There is a place near the entrance of every park that rents strollers, wheelchairs and ECVs.  Wheelchairs are the cheapest option at $10 a day, but the passenger may be more comfortable in an electrical scooter. ECVs are $50 + a $20 deposit each day. Please note that children under 18 years cannot drive or sit in the lap of and ECV driver. They may need a wheelchair instead.

If you have a child who is autistic, you could bring a child harness to prevent them from running out into a very crowded park and becoming lost. WDW Prep School has a very in-depth article about visiting Walt Disney World with a child on the autism spectrum. Click here to read it.

Service dogs are allowed at the parks. In fact, once I saw a bunch of service dogs being trained at Magic Kingdom. I talked to the trainer and the trainer said that the parks are the best place to train service dogs! The reason for this is that  there are so many things that could be distracting at the parks. Being in that environment helps the dogs learn to focus. Check here for more information on service animals at Walt Disney World.

One of the many services the parks offer are shows with sign language. These shows are often, but not everyday or showing, so be sure to plan ahead. You can email for the sign language performances schedule by contacting WDPRsignlanguageservices@disney.com

Most of the time, there is a place located outside of an attraction queue line to park wheelchairs and ECVs. If you cannot make it through the attraction queue walking, then ask the Cast Member located at the front of the queue line. They will give you further instructions. 

More Info
As always, the Walt Disney World website will have more information. 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

This Week in Disney History (April 2)

April 2 - Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor attraction opens in 2007. The attraction is located in Tomorrowland of the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World. 

April 4 - The Jungle Book has its premiere in 2016 in the El Captain theater. The film will go on to win an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.

April 5 - Marry Poppins is a huge winner at the 1965 Academy Awards. The movie had 13 nominations, including a nomination for Best Picture. Julie Andrews took home the award for Best Actress. The Sherman Brothers won Best Score and Best Song for "Chim Chim Cher-ee". The film also won Film Editing and Visual Effects. 

April 5 - Mary Costa is born in Knoxville, TN 1930. Mary Costa's first role was the voice of Princess Aurora. Walt himself chose her for her "fairytale-like" voice. She went on to become an opera singer. She was hand-picked by Jackie O. to perform at JFK's memorial service. She was made a Disney Legend in 1999. 

April 6 - In 2007, The Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros opens. It is located in the Mexican Pavilion in EPCOT of Walt Disney World Resort.  

April 7 - Expedition Everest: Legend of the Forbidden Mountain opens in 2006. The roller coaster is located in Asia of the Animal Kingdom in Walt Disney World. It is one of DAK's most popular attractions. 

April 8 - Jingles is dedicated to Julie Andrews in 2008. Jingles is the lead horse on the King Arthur Carousel in Disneyland. Andrews was the ambassador for Disneyland's 50th anniversary. Walt himself took Andrews on a tour of Disneyland to convince her to take the role of Marry Poppins, so it's very appropriate that a part of the park is dedicated to her. 

April 9 - Space Mountain: Mission 2 opens in 2005. This attraction was housed in Discoveryland in Disneyland Paris. Unlike the original Space Mountiain in the Magic Kingdom, this attraction is indoors and outdoors, has inversions and has a steampunk theme to fit in with the rest of Discoveryland. The attraction was refurbished to be Star Wars: Hyperspace Mountain in early 2017.