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Disney's Animal Kingdom celebrates its 15th birthday -- so what should the park do next?

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Published: April 22, 2013 at 10:17 AM

Disney's Animal Kingdom celebrates its 15th birthday today -- the park opened on Earth Day, April 22, 1998. Today, the park is the fourth most-visited theme park in America and third among the Walt Disney World theme parks, trailing the Magic Kingdom and Epcot but placing ahead of Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Disney's Animal Kingdom

Theme Park Insider fans love the park for its Festival of the Lion King show, Kilimanjaro Safaris ride and the Expedition Everest roller coaster, despite the animatronic Yeti that's been frozen in place for years, due to a broken support structure.

If you've visited Animal Kingdom recently, please consider yourself invited to rate and review its attractions and dining facilities on our Disney's Animal Kingdom listings page. But let's also talk about the future of this theme park, the youngest park at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Animal Kingdom will be the home to the new Avatar project, currently underway with an opening date yet to be announced. But Animal Kingdom's been the subject of many other Disney plans and fan rumors over the years.

Looking ahead to Animal Kingdom's 20 anniversary in 2018, what would you most want to see the park have opened by then? Would you like to see the Yeti repaired? Or would you rather Disney focus on Avatar? What about adding a new continent, such as Australia, America, or -- to match SeaWorld Orlando's upcoming attraction -- Antarctica? What about those Beastly Kingdom plans that were once supposed to be included in the park? And now, some fans are talking about Animal Kingdom as a good home for a stateside version of the Mystic Manor ride that just debuted to wildly enthusiastic reviews at Hong Kong Disneyland.

You can't choose "all of the above." To see where's fans' priorities lie, please select the option that's your top pick for this park.


Happy birthday, Animal Kingdom!

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Readers' Opinions

From Sean Huckel on April 22, 2013 at 11:11 AM
Mystic Manor. Mystic Manor. Mystic Manor.
From Jacob Sundstrom on April 22, 2013 at 11:17 AM
Animal Kingdom is my wife and I's favorite park at the Walt Disney World Resort, and a lot of that has to do with the way it is currently set up. I love how different it is/feels from the other Disney parks, it feels very authentic and real (with the exception of that god-awful dinosaur themed area). There was a time when I was dying for a "Beastly Kingdom" type area to happen, but now...I'm glad they didn't pull the trigger.

I voted for Mystic Manor, though I could easily be talked in to adding a new continent (Australia gets my vote). I'm excited for the Avatar project as well, despite it not really fitting into the world Disney has created with this park.

From 65.87.190.248 on April 22, 2013 at 11:23 AM
How come there no option for Eworks village. Now that Disney owns Lucasfilms, they can put Indy ride & exhibit there. Or tour Endor moon on one of those chicken walkers in that forest planet. Also, it's Disney own they get all the money.
From Dominick D on April 22, 2013 at 11:38 AM
MYSTIC MANOR!!!!!!!!
From Michael Owen on April 22, 2013 at 11:44 AM
I voted for Mystic Manor, though all would be great options.

Scrapping Dinoland USA, with the exception of Dinosaur, is a must as well.

From James Rao on April 22, 2013 at 11:57 AM
First things first: FIX THE &^%#$#@ YETI!!!!!

Secondly, get Avatar/Pandora done and done right.

Third: Nuke Dinoland, USA, add Mystic Manor and update Dinosaur to be a "sequel" (not an exact clone) of the Indiana Jones attraction at DLR.

Fourth: Do something, anything, to improve the Rafiki area, and get a REAL train for gosh sakes!

Four steps to making DAK one of the top parks in the world.

But first: FIX THE &^%#$#@ YETI!!!!!

From Tracy Bates on April 22, 2013 at 12:13 PM
Avatar is a movie. If only disney owned a park devoted to movies where they could put a themed world from a movie.

Do something with the yeti. And if all you're going to do is put strobe lights on it, you might as well put up a disco ball and roll some bee gees music during the ride.

Rafiki's planet watch is awful. No one goes there willingly more than once. I mean, if you're going to put people on a train facing sidways, at least have something for them to look at instead of walls of plants and berms. I was expecting something from the train ride and it was a big fat zero. Much like that section of the park.

From Bryce McGibeny on April 22, 2013 at 12:31 PM
Beastly Kingdom.
From Anon Mouse on April 22, 2013 at 1:07 PM
Mystic Manor is my choice. This park is much too hot. It needs indoor rides for people to escape from the heat.

The architecture suggests a mix of English, Indian, and Russan influences. In other words, a perfect fit for Animal Kingdom's adventuring focus that seems a little frayed.

I still think they need to finish the Avatar project.

From KJ Simpson on April 22, 2013 at 2:06 PM
Mystic Manor looks absolutely incredible, but I can't see how it would mesh with Animal Kingdom- at all. I'm voting Beastly Kingdom!
From Brian Bauer on April 22, 2013 at 2:30 PM
Build some Fantasyland style dark rides based on Bambi, the Jungle Book and the Lion King.
From 75.118.86.171 on April 22, 2013 at 2:35 PM
Avatar. Avatar. Avatar. And do it right!
From Thomas Caselli on April 22, 2013 at 2:38 PM
What is with all you and Dinoland USA. I love Dinoland USA along with everything else in Animal Kingdom. I voted for Beastly Kingdom, although I could go with almost anything, as long as they do some good things to add to what is already at AK.
From Gabriel Schroll on April 22, 2013 at 2:44 PM
I really think Animal Kingdom should add an Australia "continent" and allow park visitors to see Kangaroos up close and personal, as well as Koalas and other animals we don't normally get to see. It'd be better than an Australia pavilion at EPCOT (they should add Russia, anyway).

Another roller coaster would be great, though I can't think of anything that would be Australia-themed in that regard.

Give up on Avatar. It's not going to happen.

From TH Creative on April 22, 2013 at 4:37 PM
Gabriel Scholl writes: "Give up on Avatar. It's not going to happen."

I Respond: That's incorrect.

From 206.29.182.202 on April 22, 2013 at 4:58 PM
Fix the yeti.
Build attractions/ dark rides based on Disney's numerous animal movies.
Build a north America land with a Grizzly gulch type ride.
Move avatar to Hollywood studios where it actually fits the theme of the park.
For a roller coaster, how about one based on Rescuers down under with a theme like you are flying on the golden eagle...just an idea and could go in an Australia land.
There's so much they could do in this park I don't understand why they're forcing avatar where it doesn't really fit.
From Jim Omans on April 22, 2013 at 5:54 PM
I'd add another continent, or more appropriately, a subcontinent. India-based attractions, proximate to Expedition Everest with a tie in to the Jungle Book seems like a natural. A Bollywood show would be a hoot.
From 71.2.241.10 on April 22, 2013 at 6:37 PM
It absolutely shocks me that Disney hasn't cut the cord on this Avatar project. Just because it was a successful movie doesn't guarantee success at a theme park. Disney would be MUCH MUCH MUCH better off adding 1 of the 3 following attractions in Animal Kingdom and it would be an instant success.

ONE OF THESE ATTRACTIONS WOULD EASILY GET THE JOB DONE

1. INDIANA JONES RIDE

2. MYSTIC MANOR

3. JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH


...my personal vote goes with Indiana Jones though

From Ryan Spann on April 22, 2013 at 7:26 PM
I would love either an Indiana Jones Ride, Beastly Kingdom, or a Mystic Manor! Or all of the above!... But NO AVATAR!
From AJ Hummel on April 22, 2013 at 7:44 PM
I've never been to Animal Kingdom, but from the map it seems like they could stick a new area in between Africa and Asia by removing Rafiki's Planet Watch. Thus, my first choice would be a new continent located between those two.

Other options, in order of preference, would be:

-Beastly Kingdom replacing Camp Minnie-Mickey or Dinoland USA
-A new E-ticket using technology not seen in the US Disney Parks
-Major overhaul of Expedition Everest
-Avatarland

From what I've heard, Animal Kingdom is the weakest of the four Disney World parks (although it does have a couple of the best individual attractions), so it definitely needs something new. I just don't think building an entire land themed to a non-Disney movie that somewhat copied a Disney movie is the smartest move.

From Phil B. on April 22, 2013 at 10:11 PM
I have no issues with Avatar coming to AK. The movie preaches very strong ideological views of living harmoniously with the world you are presented, and being at one with nature. How is this not a fit for many of the concepts already expressed in this park. Seeing what Disney has done recently with Carsland, New Fantasy Land, Mystic Manor and Grizzly Gulch, I'm all in on letting the Imagineers conjure up a world class E-ticket based off of this property. Plus, with Cameron on board, you know he will not settle for a sub par experience, so whether you liked the movie(s) or not, there is a high probability of you being wowed by the finished product regardless.

That being said, I voted for a new land (Australia Mate). If I was king of this kingdom, I would get Avatar up and running by 2015. All the while, there would be some quiet movement as far as site prep and ground clearing would be concerned for the new land. With Avatar up and running, things start to pick up on the Aussie expansion pad, but with no official announcement until 2016, so Avatar land does not have it's thunder stolen for a good year.

Once the 2016 announcement is made for Australia to open in 2018, things kick into high gear. A version of Mystic Manor easily fits in Australia for all of you pining away for it, as the story could revolve around a world renowned explorer from the land down under and all of the artifacts he's collected in his travels. Prep begins to move the Nemo show over to the new land since this only makes sense. A great barrier reef as well as outback attractions are no brainers here. At the same time, the Yeti FINALLY goes under the knife, with Avatar land now in place to pick up the slack.

The final phase of my plan would be to take a tactical nuke to Chester and Hester's Dino-Crap-O-Rama. The Bone-Yard and dig site stay, as well as Dinosaur, but the carnival, midway games, spinner and off the rack coaster are removed and the dust is blown off for the plans for the excavator attraction, and revamped. This will allow the park to still have a family coaster, but at least this one will be up to Disney standards. The final piece of the puzzle would be for Disney to strike up some type of deal with BBC Worldwide, to bring a scaled down version of there incredible Walking with Dinosaurs arena show to the park. The Nemo theater, which is basically a part of Dinoland anyway, would once again need to go under the knife to accommodate the show, but what a spectacular thing for all to be able to see, as that show and the animatronics in it are truly amazing and lifelike. This would bring us right up to 2019-2020. I know it doesn't fit all nicey nice into the 2018 schedule, but a lot will have been done by that point, with Dinoland finishing up this 7 year plan. That's the Animal Kingdom Park I would like to see, and would absolutely love to visit!

From Daniel Smith on April 22, 2013 at 11:20 PM
Why not create "Australia" and morph it with Beastly Kingdom? Stop creating rides based on movies. We have many mythical beasts from the "Australian Dreamtime" - this name fits perfectly with Disney! How about a water ride based on Tiddalik the Frog? Google this story! Or a coaster based on the story of the Rainbow Serpent? A fantastic theme for a Mystic Manor could be based on the scary Australian monster, the Bunyip! or the Yara-ma-yha-who! Really, so many great ideas for attractions with just these four Australian creatures! I'd love to hear some ideas of rides from you all based on these! Then of course, Wallabies, Koalas, Emus, Wombats, Echidnas, Platypus', so many fantastic animals, most which you can touch, feed and cuddle :) I think this would be AMAZING :)
From Zena Sharpe on April 23, 2013 at 2:21 AM
BRING BACK TARZAN ROCKS!

I loved that show and never missed it when I visited AK.

The park is lovely and as another guest wrote earlier, its so different to the other parks but it could do with an addition of something new.... but what.... gee, let me think.

From Mark Kausch on April 23, 2013 at 2:37 AM
This:

"Move avatar to Hollywood studios where it actually fits the theme of the park."

Followed directly by this:

"For a roller coaster, how about one based on Rescuers down under with a theme like you are flying on the golden eagle...just an idea and could go in an Australia land."

No disrespect, but I needed this laugh.

I voted for Beastly Kingdom. Would like to see the Yeti get back on his "feet", but I would build something first to swallow people before closing this for the time it would take to redo him. (Her?)

From 98.227.60.180 on April 23, 2013 at 3:27 AM
I have two things that I want to see happen: add the continent of Australia and also create an attraction based on Mystic Manor (but slightly different). What I propose is this:

* Australia section will have all the expected Australian animals (kangaroos, wallabees, koalas, emu, crocdiles, kiwi, tasmanian devils, etc).

* There will be an Outback Railroad Station

* There will be a Great Barrier Reef section with a Nemo dark ride...as well as a Great White Shark E-ticket ride of some kind. Since a real Great White will probably never be exhibited in captivity in our lifetimes, what if they did a 360 degree movie attraction like exists for sea turtles (at Sea World, I think) and guest could feel like they are on the bottom of the ocean surrounded by great whites swimming

* The Adventurers' Club is reborn but as an attraction based on Mystic Manor. It would be pretty easy just to tweak what is in Hong Kong...remove Albert the monkey and replace with a different character and include in the ride all the different props that used to be in the Adventurers Club restaurant at downtown Disney. Have all sorts of mythical animals featured in the ride so this gives people a taste of mythological animals. The Adventurers Club outpost could very easily be located near the Outback railroad station...and there could be an Adventurer's Club restaurant attached like the 'Explorers' Club' restaurant in Hong Kong.

Alternatively, you could also do lots of the concepts above in South America by exchanging "Nemo" for "UP" and you could just do a South American version of the Adventurers' Club base.

From Matt Babiak on April 23, 2013 at 4:11 AM
I voted something like Mystic Manor, because I considered Journey something like it (A fabulous overseas ride with stateside rumors). In reality, if we're talking first thing they should do, it's the yeti no doubt. But that's not a long term project or adding anything new, so it's not what most people are voting for. The average man will say "fix that **** yeti, then give us Australia/overseas ride/Beastly Kingdom".
From 137.191.228.131 on April 23, 2013 at 4:19 AM
I'd love to see AK live up to the original vision. It's still a great(half) day park, but there's no getting away from the feeling that you're in a park that's been compromised. When you see the original plans it's hard not to feel short changed e.g. Kali could have been great, but the budget offering we got is an extremely dull affair - which further suffers from effects being turned off or not working.

Dinoland USA screams budgeting and has the same nasty cheap feel - hello Imagination in Epcot - that's still far to pervasive in WDW. It's signature ride "Dinosaur", has been so toned down, that it has lost it's thrill leaving only the unpleasant jerky ride.

Camp Placeholder should been levelled years ago.

I see that others have mentioned Rafiki. The tree of life netting futher symbolising Disney penny pinching.

The park desperately needs another land and at the very least two e-tickets and I don't think Avatar is the solution. It's funny but the only place I ever see that movie mentioned is in themepark blogs, beyond that it seems to have completely disappeared from the public conciousness.

I'd love to see Beastly Kingdom, but the likelihood of seeing that come to fruition is about the same as seeing the creatures it was meant to represent i.e fantastical.

From 85.150.173.168 on April 23, 2013 at 4:59 AM
I voted for Avatar land because I love to see Disney fail again and again. We know it'll have a e-ticket ride no one will care for like Epcot's Mission: SPACE. We know they'll cut costs somewhere so a part would look like an amazing compliment to DinoLand U.S.A. and we know they'll probably put something in there that is talked up by Disney but brake's down sooner or later and that would fit The Tree Of Life and the Yeti.
From TH Creative on April 23, 2013 at 8:26 AM
Regarding the addition of an 'Avatar' attraction to Disney's Animal Kingdom, the anonymous poster (^) writes: "We know it'll have a e-ticket ride no one will care for like Epcot's Mission: SPACE."

I Respond: Referencing the comments on the 'Mission: Space' page at TPI (where the ride has earned a rating of 8 out of 10) not sure what you mean by "no one."

"Awesome ride! Orange is the way to go!" - David L.

"Perfect thrill ride. Orange Team was intense. Feeling all these G's is realy nice and their extended G's aswell." - Justin Knight

"Great ride, especially the strong one ..." - Jose Carlos Mahbub

"A fun and visceral thrill ..." Sean Huckel

"A first of its kinds simulator, packs a good punch of G-forces for those thrill seekers. Definitely a recommended experience if you want a simulation of lift-off..." - Kevin Connor

"This ride is world class! In all my life have I never been on a space launch simulation such as this! It feels like you are really expirencing this!" - Adam O'Malley

From 199.184.122.7 on April 23, 2013 at 9:29 AM
For everyone calling for Beastly Kingdom--if you read up on your Disney history--the imagineers that designed Beastly Kingdom were let go from Imagineering and took their ideas to Universal/IOA. One of the main attrations planned for Beastly Kingdom was a rollercoaster through a ruined castle inhabited by a Dragon--this became the old Dueling Dragons coaser at IOA. I dont the Beastly Kingdom will ever see the light of day

As for the Yeti...Disney is in the business of making money--fixing the Yeti is not going to make people book new vacations to WDW. What will bring people in is big new attraction or even more, big new lands with several attractions. Universal has changed the game for theme parks waning to add a big new land--this is probably why Disney added "cars land". Avatar is basically Disney's answer to Potter--a completely imgainary world that could just as visually interesting to look at inaddition to the rides and attactions. The problem is Avatar is not Potter. It might be an interesting template for an immersive enviroment, but there is not the love out there for Avatar as there is for Potter...not even close!

From TH Creative on April 23, 2013 at 11:54 AM
I'll bet the Yeti will be up and running in time for the 50th Anniversary in 2021.
From Sylvain Comeau on April 23, 2013 at 3:44 PM
I chose Beastly Kingdom, because they will complete Avatar anyway. As for Everest, the current situation is unacceptable, even if the ride is still fun. I would be in favor of them closing it for however long it takes to bring the Yeti back to his A game.
From 70.125.26.125 on April 23, 2013 at 7:35 PM
Let's get the remaining contients that the equator crosses their own sections at Animal Kingdom, namely South America and Oceania (Australia/New Zealand/South Pacific).
From 98.17.119.12 on April 23, 2013 at 9:58 PM
I want them to do something with the 10,000 league vehicles, but with real animals somehow safely involved since the park is animal themed.

Also, really..... if given the choice of a new E ticket, a new land.... etc. over fixing the Yeti..... I'd rather get a new E-ticket or area..... I can still ride Everest fixed Yeti or not..... and as much as it costs to get into a theme park they need more experiences to offer guests.... and maybe stay open an hour or two later.

From TH Creative on April 24, 2013 at 10:14 AM
"10,000 league vehicles"?!

Man, these cutbacks at Walt Disney World are BRUTAL!

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