Joshua's Orlando Trip Report: Disney's Animal Kingdom and Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show

Walt Disney World: If I could walk with the animals, talk to the animals, grunt and squeak and party like an animal...

From Joshua Counsil
Posted September 24, 2009 at 5:14 PM

Nahtazu Izazu


Don't let Disney fool ya - the Animal Kingdom is most definitely a zoo. It's also a theme park. In true Disney fashion, they cannot seem to accept the prescribed names of things. But I already ranted about that, so let's move on.

Many people complain that the Animal Kingdom is a mediocre park because of its lack of attractions. Let's compare it to, say, a park that opened one year after the Animal Kingdom, which consistently receives higher praise. I will only consider worthwhile attractions. To be fair, these will be defined as attractions that received ratings of 7-Good or higher on this site:

Attraction Type
Disney's Animal Kingdom
Universal's Islands of Adventure
Roller Coasters
Everest, Primeval Whirl
Hulk, Fire & Ice Dragons
Dark/Family Rides
Safari, Dinosaur
Spiderman, Cat in the Hat
Water Rides
Kali River Rapids
Popeye, Ripsaw, Jurassic Park
Thrill Rides
Dr. Doom
Finding Nemo, Lion King, Flights of Wonder, It's Tough to be a Bug
Poseidon, Sindbad
Pangani, Maharajah & Discovery Island Trails
Discovery Center
Children's Rides
Caro-Seuss-el, One Fish...
Children's Play Areas
Camp Jurassic, If I Ran the Zoo, The Olive
Total Worthwhile Attractions for Adults
Total Worthwhile Attractions for Young Children

Seems to me that the only people who should be complaining are children. Disney's Animal Kingdom might have less rides than the average tourist expects, but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. Expedition Everest, Kilimanjaro Safaris, It's Tough to be a Bug, Festival of the Lion King, Flights of Wonder, Dinosaur, and the Pangani and Maharajah trails are all first-rate attractions that scored big points with my group.

You may notice I haven't yet made many of my trademark cracks about the park. Well, to be honest, we had such a perfect day at the Animal Kingdom that I couldn't possibly complain or make cynical remarks.

But I will anyway...

Expedition Everest's yeti is still in Euro-Trance mode. To compensate for this, Disney should offer free ecstasy to any riders over 48" in height, making it a true E Ticket ride.

Yours truly volunteered for a portion of Flights of Wonder.

From Orlando 2009

I had a bird's-eye view of the Flights of Wonder audience.

From Orlando 2009

This is one of the better animal-oriented shows in Orlando. Educational, funny, interesting, and a message with just enough sap to remind you it's Disney. Follow your dreams or or something like that. The important thing is that a huge bird of some variety swooped within an inch of my face, causing me to freak out like a kid experiencing It's Tough to be a Bug. Speaking of which, Disney really needs to increase its warnings about that excellent, albeit kid-horrifying, attraction. Something along the lines of, "Giant freakin' bugs are gonna sting, bite, crawl and fart on you. For the love of all things Pixar, don't bring your kids to this show, you maniacs."

As for the other attractions, Kilimanjaro Safaris should lose the poachers, Dinosaur should lose the stationary pterodactyl, and Hester & Chester's Dino-Rama should lose ... everything.

From Orlando 2009

There really should be a third plate labeled "Hester & Chester's Dino-Rama".

The storyline behind Primeval Whirl is that you are being beaten and eaten alive by a pack of carnivorous dinosaurs. At least, that's what it feels like. Literally every block brake section we passed engaged, causing us to come to several jerking halts. Triceratops Spin is another Dumbo clone, and don't even get me started on the midway games. Let the White Rhinoceroses free on this portion of the park and never speak of it again.


Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show


I like to try and experience something expensive new every time I visit Orlando. Someone in our group had decided that the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show would be fun. At $59.99 + tax, it better be. The cost includes a luau show, all-you-care-to-eat food, and all-you-care-to-drink beer and wine. For a group of nine college kids, that has bad news written all over it.

From Orlando 2009

The night begins with some lovely island women distributing leis. Before seating you, a photographer takes a group shot. After being seated, the show begins. In true Disney fashion, there is a marginal storyline involved. It's not a very complicated one, but in a room of hundreds of hungry, talkative people, it was perplexing. An older Hawaiian lady acts as emcee and indicates that her daughter is going to college come September. As a surprise, she is holding a traditional island party and we're all invited for $59.99 + tax. We then meet the comic relief, a Hawaiian Brendan Fraser, and some other indiscernible crap happens. Then there's some self-plugging in the form of "Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride", the original song created for Lilo & Stitch. There was some other dialogue and plot development, but it was all drowned out by the ongoing gorging. A band then serenades you while you eat.

The first course consisted of pineapple, pineapple and coconut bread, and mango poppy seed and Mandarin orange salad. The second course, barbecued pork ribs, roast chicken, and Polynesian-style rice with assorted vegetables followed shortly thereafter. I really shouldn't refer to them as "courses", as you can get refills of whatever you want. Dinner concluded with chocolate mouse volcano.

From Orlando 2009

Chocolate mouse? You know, I don't mind a few Disney-fied names, but when the name makes me want to spew my dessert all over the stage, I draw the line.

The show improves in the second half, with traditional island dancing and a fire-spinning performer.

From Orlando 2009

They conclude the evening with another performance of Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride before wishing you, "aloha".





Every other reviewer online and elsewhere has already said what I think about the show. Mediocre first half, excellent second half. 'Nuff said.


My parents have run a dinner theater business for over 20 years. If there's one thing I can tell you, it's that you should never serve food while the plot is developing, no matter how marginal that plot might be. I looked around. Not a soul in the room was paying attention to the show when the food was being served, and the clinking and bustle of the servers and diners drowned out the dialogue. Terrible timing. Open the show, develop the characters briefly, then let the band play while the first course is being served. After the first course is cleared, develop the show a little more, but send out the band as soon as the second course arrives. After the second course, diners should be sufficiently full, giving way for some lengthy performances. Have something important or grand happen before serving dessert, and end the show with a rousing number when desserts are cleared. Allow a bit of time afterwards for drinks.

Disney did it all wrong. First course was served immediately after the show started. Second course came during further plot development. About the only thing that went over well was dessert, which was served with grandeur and applause.


The food was surprisingly good. The salad and fruits were fresh, the bread fresh-baked, the ribs tender and juicy, and the cake rich. My only complaint is with the chicken, which was dry, but nevertheless good. And the food kept on coming, even when we couldn't handle anymore. The only pre-paid drink selection included Budweiser and white and blush (Zinfandel of some variety) wine (no vineyards or years were specified). Other cocktails and drinks were available at an extra cost.


The absolute highlight of the show. Our server, David, was great. Friendly and on-the-ball. He knew we were going to take advantage of the all-you-can-drink, so he was very prompt in bringing us more than we needed. At one point in the dinner, I had three glasses of wine lined up around my plate.

From Orlando 2009

He even had fun with us, mocking me for not finishing my last glass by the time he brought the new one. The next day, I looked somewhat like this:

From Orlando 2009


I'm done ranting for now. Tune in next time for my hung-over adventures at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Previously on Josh's Orlando Trip Report:

Pre-Planning and Suggestions
Departure and Arrival
SeaWorld Orlando
Epcot and Downtown Disney

From Anthony Murphy
Posted September 24, 2009 at 8:32 PM
Glad you liked the Luau. Go to the 9:30 hoop de doo! Very fun!

As for your comparision to AK and IOA, you forgot the Tricera-Tops in Dinoland. Still right on! AK has gotten better and better every year. I have to say their two major animal areas and the shows.

Go to the Hoop de Doo.

And its pronounced "MOOSE"

From Bruce Lane
Posted September 24, 2009 at 11:22 PM
That bird which practically landed on your head looks like a vulture, but I can't be certain which specific species from the picture. I will say it's definitely not a turkey vulture. They don't have the white wingtips. It may be an American Black vulture.

I can certainly understand how something like that could be a reason to freak. Those birds are just plain HUGE, with wingspans to match. I was a little nervous the first time I was working with a ferruginous hawk, and they only have about half the wingspan and body size of the bird in your shot.

With that said: Not only are vultures harmless to anything other than a decomposing carcass, I find it difficult to believe Disney would do anything truly dangerous in those shows.

Happy travels.

From James Rao
Posted September 25, 2009 at 10:00 AM
Josh, since this thread was posted prior to you having lost your TPI Badge of Honor, I will state it is yet another excellent trip report. Funny and honest, with that patented dose of Counsil Angst, and a total absence of anything resembling a Vekoma Boomerang.

I totally agree with your assessment of DAK... it is a brilliantly flawed, but totally underrated park. Problem is, most folks are conditioned (by Disney no less) to just rip through sections of a theme park hitting attraction after attraction, but at DAK the reward is in slowing down and enjoying your leisurely day at the theme park zoo. Sure, you have to hit a few headliners quickly (ABBA's Dancing Yeti Queen being one example), but for the most part DAK is more like Epcot (stop and smell the World Showcase) than Magic Kingdom (hurry up and wait). For people like me who enjoy zoos almost as much as theme parks, DAK is a near perfect amalgamation of everything good in this universe.

Discovery Island - I thoroughly enjoy the Tough To Be A Bug show, however, it definitively can be a bit frightening to kids. I have read rumors about Disney changing this show to be more "Earth-centric" and better suited to introduce folks to the park's theme. If that happens, I hope the show currently in place makes it to DHS (Pixar Place) where it probably belongs. Also, the exploration trails on Discovery Island are a nice addition, something too few guests appreciate, sadly.

DinoLand USA - Disney should keep Dinosaur and Finding Nemo (although it really does not fit into the theme of this section of the park), and lose everything else. Chester & Hester's DinoRama, as Josh implied, should be leveled with a tactical nuke and renamed "The Crater Formerly Known As Chester & Hester's DinoRama" - then it might be worth visiting. The DinoRama area of DAK is embarrassingly bad.

Asia - Expedition Everest, Maharajah Jungle Trek, Flights of Wonder, and Kali River Rapids - I have zero issues with this area of the park, except for the broken Yeti and that Flights of Wonder, while good, is not a must do on every visit.

Africa - Kilimanjaro Safaris needs to lose the storyline altogether as Josh mentioned, and the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail could use some better crowd management, but otherwise I have no issues here. Now, if you throw the Rafiki area into the mix as part of Africa, then I have some huge issues: the train ride to that section is dull and lifeless, and the actual exhibits are bland and almost too similar to the not-for-profit cheapness of my local zoo. I expect more from a Disney park, and think Rafiki's Planet Watch is an area ripe for opportunity as a place for families with young children to spend a few hours and lengthen their day at the park. I am not asking for a bunch of midway circle rides mind you, but some top notch omnimover dark rides would be welcomed, as well as some beefed up real-life animal exhibits and demonstrations. Plus, there needs to be a way to get to the Watch without riding the train... or the train needs to be revamped into something a bit more entertaining and (dare I say it?) fun.

Camp Minnie-Mickey is basically a one stop shop now for the Festival of the Lion King, which is a brilliant show. Too bad that's all you get for your walk. A few more attractions would be welcomed, or perhaps the Beastly Kingdom expansion could be moved in to round out the park.

Anyway, I like DAK a lot. It is a perfect example of the best and worst of Disney Imagineering. But, with some TLC and a Fantasyland-like expansion, Animal Kingdom could easily be the greatest of all Disney parks

Nice report, Josh, though you're still partially in my dog house for that Vekoma Boomerang crack in the Epcot thread. ;)

From Rob P
Posted September 25, 2009 at 6:43 AM
I really like Animal Kingdom too. The recent addition of Everest has obviously expanded it's appeal to the thrill seekers. But even before that Animal Kingdom had lots to offer. I have to agree that it does fall between 2 stools. Is it a zoo or a Theme Park ?
Well the answer to that is that it really is of no consequence. I can't say it's unique because Busch Gardens and Seaworld also have feet firmly set in this genre.
What I can say is that it adds a dimension to Disney that sets it apart from the other WDW outlets.
The often maligned Kali River Rapids is also going to get a mention here because I disagree with those that don't rate it too highly. I think it's well themed and has all the elements I look for in a ride of this type.
One area that will get a mention for being poor is the Discovery Area. The open sided train ride is good but what a disappointment when you arrive. There's little of interest for anyone over the age of six and even they're bored rigid after 5 minutesl.Escape isn't easy either. Once there you are a prisoner of the train schedule. They should have an alternative way back. My home park ( not theme park) in London used to have a "Tree Walk" which was a meandering walkway high in the trees. How good would that be at Animal KIngdom. Just a thought.

From Joshua Counsil
Posted September 25, 2009 at 11:25 AM
I avoided Rafiki's Planet Watch, knowing how mediocre it is.

I also agree that Kali River Rapids is a good ride. It doesn't pack the punch that most water rides do, but the theming is excellent. If they could add jets of some variety to speed up the whole process, it would be great.

From James Rao
Posted September 25, 2009 at 4:16 PM
Calling Rafiki's Planet Watch mediocre is somewhat generous, don't you think, Josh?

From Bruce Lane
Posted October 7, 2009 at 3:57 PM
Joshua, in case you were curious: I've confirmed that bird you were so close to in the show is indeed an American Black Vulture, Latin name Coragyps atratus. More specifically, according to DAK's entry for that bird in the ISIS holdings database, it's a male.

They're sometimes referred to as 'carrion crows' (a misnomer, as they aren't even part of the Corvidae family). They're a fairly common bird, found throughout the southern US and as far down as Patagonia.

They have a typical wingspan of nearly five feet, which looks amazing from as close as you were, and they tend to tip the scales around four pounds. Average lifespan in the wild is five years (captive birds will usually live much longer).

Although carrion is their normal diet in the wild, they probably do quite well on a standard raptor diet of various rodents, quail, etc. They've also been known to eat the fruit of oil palm trees.

Happy travels.

From Rob P
Posted October 8, 2009 at 2:52 AM
Thanks Bruce.

This is why I like TPI so much. Learning interesting facts about things such as the wildlife within the Parks adds an extra dimension when you next visit.

From Joshua Counsil
Posted October 8, 2009 at 11:30 AM
Thanks, Bruce. For all I know, it could have been anything.

From Bruce Lane
Posted October 8, 2009 at 2:56 PM
Oh, you're most welcome. And who knows... Next time, it could well be ANYthing! Perhaps a radio-controlled animatronic version of one of the stretcher-bearing vultures from "Bedknobs and Broomsticks?"

Frell, I think I just dated myself...

From Rob P
Posted October 9, 2009 at 1:47 AM
I love that scene from B & B.

I'm going to have to get my copy out and watch that football match again.

This discussion has been archived, and is not accepting additional responses.

Park and Hotel Reviews

What's New and Under Construction

Universal Orlando

Walt Disney World