Walt Disney World confirms the closure of one of its lands*

September 25, 2018, 12:25 PM · *Updated [Sept. 28] A Disney spokesperson has backed off the initial confirmation of Rafiki's Planet Watch's closing, now saying that the land will close only temporarily and will reopen next spring.

* * *

One of the lands at Disney's Animal Kingdom is closing permanently next month, as the transformation of Disney World's four theme parks continues.

Disney confirmed to Orlando media today that it will close Rafiki's Planet Watch, with the land's final day on October 20. Named for the sage of the Pride Lands in The Lion King, this area is the home to the park's animal care facilities, which will become backstage-only with the closing of the land.

Wildlife Express Train

Visitors access the land on the Wildlife Express Train from Harambe in the park's Africa section. Once inside the land, they can visit the Conversation Station, the Affection Section petting zoo and the Habitat Habit nature trail. All will close along with the land.

The attractions in Rafiki's Planet Watch have lingered near the bottom of our Theme Park Insider reader ratings for Disney's Animal Kingdom and never have pulled significant numbers of visitors in what is becoming a more and more popular park, following the opening of Pandora: The World of Avatar last year. Disney's Animal Kingdom attracted 12.5 million visitors last year, according to the TEA/AECOM Theme Index attendance report, making it the second-most-visited Disney World theme park, behind the world-leading Magic Kingdom. Animal Kingdom was the fourth Walt Disney World Resort theme park to open, debuting on Earth Day, April 22, 1998.

Disney has not yet announced what the replacement for Rafiki's Planet Watch, if any, will be. Disney last month announced the temporary closure of two Magic Kingdom attractions to accommodate the construction of its TRON roller coaster. Other new attractions under construction at the resort include a Guardians of the Galaxy roller coaster and Ratatouille dark ride at Epcot, and the Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway ride and Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge land at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Replies (27)

September 25, 2018 at 12:53 PM

A relic of the original DAK design. The train ride was totally extraneous, but necessary to increase the time guests spent in the area, attempting to validate the existence of DAK as a full day theme park. If you didn't have to ride the train and end up being held captive for nearly 30 minutes, I think more guests would have spent time here.

September 25, 2018 at 1:00 PM

I remember thinking they could have shifted the train ride to something like "Zootopia" with the screens showing the animated vistas and such. It was always low-key and a bit behind the times but nice to hear the animals stay.

Given the love of IP stuff, I half-expect a Wakanda-themed area but we'll see what develops as long past time for an update to that area.

September 25, 2018 at 1:03 PM

Trade for Bug's Land? Why not? They need to find a place for the leftover attractions. They still have Bugs movie in the Tree.

September 25, 2018 at 1:09 PM

Wakanda and Zootopia are both great guesses. Bugsland is far fetched, it was never one of Pixars more popular films.

September 25, 2018 at 1:23 PM

No loss. I've always thought a goat petting farm was kind of lame. Especially for Disney.

September 25, 2018 at 2:14 PM

I really enjoyed Avatar but I would rather see them take a hard look at South America / The rain-forest and maybe a new Indiana Jones themed exploration concept (Possibly within the South American continent.)

I always regarded Dino land as tacky and lacking story and substance. I thought the Zootopia movie was great but my concerns spill into the same that I have for Dino-land. Make it too "Cartoonish" and you begin to ruin the aesthetic of the the park.

AK to me has done the best job of maintaining harmony while adding the right types of attractions and many done with the absence of IPs. (e.g.; I also think they should try to re-image Dino-land and give it a more vibrant back story. (I know,can't tread to close to Jurras...) I tend to think of Wakanda as technology based culture so, I would love to hear how you would bring something like that to life, make it fit in, and, do it without Black Panther [he cannot be used in theme or attractions]

Just to the east of the planet watch train station lies a large (I believe 11 acre) plot of land which could be used as a new themed area itself. If you can walk between Africa/Asia, why not board a train to South America or even the Australian outback.

September 25, 2018 at 2:15 PM

Wakanda won't happen. Disney cannot use Black Panther in Orlando. he is part of Universal's contract (while GOTG is not)

September 25, 2018 at 2:47 PM

I believe that they can use Black Panther as there is no equivalent at Universal at present, but I'm not sure how the storyline fits.

September 25, 2018 at 3:48 PM

Rafiki Planet Watch was also the park's area for veterinary services, as I understand it. Any change in theming will require either a change in where the vet services take place, or an integration of the services into a new land - In which case, Zootopia makes the most sense. Zootopia must have a hospital, right? Besides, you had to access Zootopia by train, so a new land based on it could work within the existing transport system for Rafiki's Planet Watch.

September 25, 2018 at 5:16 PM

I wonder if Disney will keep the train and modify the track to circumnavigate the park like the Walt Disney World Railroad circumnavigates the Magic Kingdom.

September 25, 2018 at 6:43 PM

Dinoland USA must not replaced from Disney Animal Kingdom I've made a petition to save Dinoland USA from getting replaced by Indiana Jones theme park because I have to save that dinosaur theme park from extinction and it's right here: https://www.change.org/p/the-walt-disney-company-disney-animal-kingdom-do-not-replace-dinoland-usa-with-indiana-jones-theme-park?recruiter=89955974&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=share_petition.

September 25, 2018 at 7:48 PM

Even if not exactly in there, a Wakanda section somewhere in the park would be incredible (how they would do that with that whole Universal/Marvel thing, I don't know. But if they could find a way with Guardians...)

I agree that Zootopia would be a great fit. I remember rumors from months ago that the train and that section would be getting a Zootopia makeover, so it does fit.

September 25, 2018 at 7:51 PM

I am soooo going to miss 'Grandma Willow and the Song of the Rain Forest'. After a long,crowded,hot park day, stopping by Rafiki's Planet Watch was like BLISS! Going into the cool,dark, sound proof booth was just what I needed to charge my battery. I loved just listening to the audio track and actually feeling the sounds of the Rainforest!

September 25, 2018 at 8:24 PM

Any word on what will happen to the animals back there? My kids love the petting zoo area, and the part inside with all the huge bugs is always cool to see. I hope they are able to relocate those somewhere else (maybe along the Exploration Trail?) so guests can still see them.

September 25, 2018 at 9:54 PM

I would like to have the Indiana Jones Adventure it will be great addition to animal kingdom since the new movie comes out in 2021

September 25, 2018 at 10:50 PM

Wow, i agree with Dinoland being tacky. I wish they would do away with crappy Dinoland and keep the animal attraction at planet watch. At least the animals stay, but the tacky fair rides will always be an eyesore.

September 26, 2018 at 5:21 AM

Of all WDW parks I found AK the least complete and value for money. However I really enjoyed the Planet Watch. We talked a lot with the cast members there and I found the train ride a useful and an unexpected part in a theme park.
Sad to hear it go without knowing what's replacing it.

September 26, 2018 at 7:24 AM

How long before Animal Kingdom changes its name as it will not be representative of the park?

September 26, 2018 at 7:34 AM

Beastly Kingdom ... Just you wait!

September 26, 2018 at 7:34 AM

Beastly Kingdom ... Just you wait!

September 26, 2018 at 10:29 AM

Zootopia doesn't fit in DAK, which as a park exists to celebrate the intrinsic value of nature. For this reason Avatar fits with the parks mission really well, Zooptopia is a big metropolis of a city and isn't really about animals, its more of a human social narrative.

To be honest Rafiki's was pretty dumb and low budget for that reason I won't miss it as long as its replaced with something good, but it is an extremely important part of the park because of the vet procedures. People really like watching the vet procedures and listening to the animal care experts. I hope that if it gets replaced whatever they put up there is centered around zoological components and not just more rides. Even the petting zoo, while cliche, people really liked it and it was fun.

September 26, 2018 at 11:15 AM

This was always a waist. The train ride was boring as hell and the destination was a pathetic petting zoo and some cheap educational stuff great for a local park but not with the Disney price tag on it.
I hope the train will get an extended track trough the whole park.
As much as I hope they put a real world continent in there (or sea) like Asia and Africa, I'm afraid they put in some Disney crap thing like ZooTopia or Black Panther to cash in.

September 26, 2018 at 12:55 PM

This Absolutely blows....

We always go over to this area when visiting AK... I understand it is not popular but that's why we like it...

Gives you a nice break away from the huge crowds...

September 26, 2018 at 2:06 PM

THC - you've nailed it!

September 27, 2018 at 3:14 PM

TH's suggestion has a lot of merit. The Beastly Kingdom concept got left on the table. It would have allowed Disney to take a concept of the land of mythical creatures not bound by IPs. I'm all for giving imagineers a task that is not confined or bound by an existing story.

If you look closely at Galaxies Edge, they do not want it tied to an existing story but someplace where a guest creates their own new story. They worked very hard to keep Avatar from the heavy influence tied to the movie story lines.

I see I somehow started a trigger [#anonpetitioner] on Dino-Land. I can only say I feel how I feel... I was serious when I said it's concept could be re-imagined (meaning significantly improved) and was not implying nor stating that it be removed. If you [anonpetitioner] interpret it as such..that's all on Y. O. U.. While your comments are both respected and appreciated, at this time they are unwarranted.

YOU also ignored that I DID NOT EVEN imply an expansion be in the area of Dino land NOR Rifiki's Planet watch. The existing rail system could still deliver guest right to the eastern area of the park where I suggested that expansion take place. This not only re-utilizes the rails, train, and station, it delivers them right to the plot of land where they should expand.

I think the consensus is that many want to see a new area developed not necessarily at the expense of an existing one.


September 27, 2018 at 3:31 PM

Anon 68, no disrespect but your post is completely irresponsible. This was not an accredited media post nor has it been validated by a known media outlet nor has someone responded to this or previous rumors.

People post here to offer opinions and from my perspective every one shows respect for all the contributors. Launching a petition when Disney has not formally made an announcement is conjecture.

September 29, 2018 at 3:22 PM

Anon 66, it might be a bit premature to make a petition when no formal announcement has been make, but 'completely irresponsible' seems a bit OTT.

I'd suggest that less than 500 signatures in 6 months gives a reasonable reading on people's apathy for Dino-Land.

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Park tickets

Weekly newsletter

New attraction reviews

News archive