Disney/Universal - A Novel; pt. 1 Animal Kingdom

Associated parks:

Sunday, May 2, 2004 2:14 AM
Visit: 4/27/04; Written 5/01/04

First off, this TR is long and descriptive, and I'm warning you of that up front. If you just want a summary of the coasters (of which i rode only one anyways), don't bother reading this. That being said, I hadn't written a TR in awhile, so i figured I would as I had such a good time. I hadn't been to Disney in almost 10 years, so I was excited to see what had changed. Surprisingly, not too much, and most of the aspects of the parks were the same, with new attractions here and there. Maybe it's because I'm not a kid anymore, but overall the parks seemed to have lost a bit of luster. But, don't get me wrong, this TR isn't pessimistic. OK, i'll go park by park, attraction by attraction. My rating system consists of three ratings, each on a scale of 10. The first is thrill factor, second is originality, and third is re-ridability. The ratings for all the attractions are at the end of the TR, so you can bypass my babbling and just see those if you want.

Park one: Disney's Animal Kingdom

So my dad is a total Disney freak - he has all the passes and far more merchandise than I'd like to mention here. But anyways, he managed to finagle me a one-day park hopper pass. If I was going to get everything done I wanted to, I knew i had to get moving. Since AK didn't even exist the last time i was in Disney World, it was my obvious choice to start with. I was intrigued with the concept of the park - I like theme parks; I like zoos. On entering the park, I definitely noticed the incredible plant life. They really did a good job making you feel as if you're in a jungle. And as you're walking along the main paths, there are little nooks and crannies that you can explore (I can imagine absolutely loving this if i were a kid), each with the hope that you might see some sort of exotic animal. The park feels really huge (and it is), but the paths are clearly marked and easily negotiable. I purposely didn't get a park map, as I wanted to feel like I was on an adventure where i didn't know what was around the next turn. I thought this added to my experience, but maybe it's just me.

Our plan was to check the safari, which reportedly has the biggest lines, and get a fast pass for that, then go on something else to pass the time. The wait was about 30 min., which wouldn't have been bad, but we figure why wait at all if we don't have to? Let me take a moment to say that Disney has the line-skipping thing on lock. It's easy to understand, it gives you an hour grace period in which you can return to ride, there's people by the machines to help you out if you were confused, every ride has one (not just one or two), and it's FREE! as they all should be. Screw the $80 Q-Bot - this is the luxury sedan of line-skipping systems. So we get our fast pass, and head off to Asia to ride:

Kali River Rapids

So i was probably the most excited to ride this out of anything in the park - I've been on plenty of rapid rides, and figured that the Disney version would have to outdo the rest. Before we went on, my dad pulled a poncho out of his bag, so I was all ready to get soaked. We boarded our raft (there was literally no wait), and yakked it up with the other people on the raft. There were only five of us, and those rafts are huge - probably the biggest I've been on. So I won't spoil the ride by describing it, but I will say i was a bit disappointed. Most of the ride was very tame and there weren't any "rough" rapids (although I surmised that with a full raft it might have been rougher). Overall it seemed shorter than I expected, and there were long stretches without any "action" (i.e. waterfalls or opportunities to get wet). Nor were there any real theme elements or a story or even some animatronics. The only opportunity to get soaked was at the bottom of the drop, which was easily the best part of the ride. The person with their back to the drop (which happened to be my dad) gets the worst of it by far. Other than that, I hardly felt wet at all - the water i did have on me felt good in the humidity.

After the rapids, we decided to walk through the Maharajah trail, which was nearby. The key to this park and the thing that I liked was that you could go on a ride, and then do the trails which were like mini zoos enclosed within the park. This trail had a Kimono Dragon, some bats, and of course, Tigers! The trail is well laid out, nicely themed to make it seem like a part of the natural surroundings, and offers good opportunities to see the animals. Other than the glass that separated you from then, you certainly didn't feel like the animals were in "cages," although it was obvious that most were kept separate from one another (it wouldn't be very economic to let the tigers have free roam of the park, now would it?). When we got to the tiger section, there were a couple sleeping that everyone was looking at. We happened to go to the other side to get away from the crowd, and lo and behold, a giant tiger came walking right up to the glass! I have never been that close to any wild animal, let alone a tiger - he was literally within 5 feet of me (with glass between us of course). It was pretty amazing - I don't know if that's a normal occurrence, but I was sure impressed. Plus, the glass isn't tinted, so he was reacting to our gestures, which made it all the more cooler (although I'm sure we probably annoyed him more than anything). After the trail, it was time to head off to the:

Kilamanjaro Safari

Again, let me stress how great the Fast Pass program is. After we got off the rapids, we could have gone to the safari, but the hour grace period gave us plenty of time to explore at our own leisure and not feel rushed. With the fast pass, we only had about a 5 minute wait (although capacity on this ride seemed to be really good anyways). One thing about Disney as compared to a lot of theme parks is that they not only have the ride-ops, but they have a crew of "crowd control" staff who asks for the number of people in your party and directs you accordingly before its even time for you to board the ride. This greatly maximizes capacity, and makes you feel even more like a VIP guest.

So we board the Safari, and our tour guide starts the story part of the ride. Again, I won't describe the ride totally so as not to spoil it, but I will say that it's incredibly long. It was at least 20 minutes from start to finish. Our tour guide definitely seemed very knowledgeable, and made the ride seem unique by pointing out the specific animals that we happened to see. I will say that the story part of the ride seemed a bit obvious and forced, and I could have done without it, but at least it promoted a positive message against animal poaching. My dad commented that he had never seen so many animals on the ride before, so I guess we got lucky. But it definitely seemed that around every corner were animals a-plenty. Some highlights were when we passed a giraffe and he lowered his head to get a good look at us, and especially when we passed the elephants. There was a mother with about 4 or 5 calfs bathing in the pond - and one of them even sprayed us with a little water - i couldn't believe it! It was like they were trained to do that, but my father assured me that he had never seen that before. Although there were beautiful sights, my main complaint was that I wished the car could have stopped for longer to let us see certain animals, but I know that would slow the ride down considerably.

After exiting the safari, you can immediately enter the Marambe trail, which boasted a closer look at some of the safari animals, plus the primate section. Aside from the tigers, my other favorite animals to see are the gorillas, so we had to do this. Again, the trail was informative and well-themed. But it was kind of boring until we got to the gorillas. There were three that we saw in the first section, and looking at them through the glass it seemed as though they were performing for us. There was a staff member there with a microphone who gave relevant facts and described what their behavior meant, as well as answered questions from the audience. I thought this was a nice touch, and it seemed as though the staff genuinely enjoyed discussing the animals with the guests. On the way out, we saw another gorilla section (there was a sign explaining why the two sections were kept separate due to mating issues, which we all got a chuckle out of). Although in this section, we only saw one gorilla, and he was passed out on his side next to a jug. Several jokes ensued about how he must have been out drinking all night. =) After this, we had pretty much done all of Asia and Africa, so we headed over to Dino-Land USA for:

Primeval Whirl

We had already seen signs posted at the front of the park that said Dinosaur would be closed that day. And when we got to DinoLand, we saw a huge fence around the entire attraction. Whatever they were doing to it, it wasn't routine maintenance. Although this was disappointing, when we entered the section called "Chester's Dino-Rama," and saw PW, I quickly forgot about Dinosaur. I've read people complaining about the theming of this ride, and I will admit Disney got away rather cheap by buying two Mack spinning mice and mirroring them, but still, I thought the theming to this ride was absolutely awesome. The whole "carnival" atmosphere was very well done. It added a much needed bit of whimsey to a fairly serious park, and I couldn't have imagined the park before it (especially if i were a kid, because i probably would have been bored out of my wits by this point).

As for the ride, Fast passes were offered, but the line was miniscule. I had never ridden a spinning mouse before, but to be honest i wasn't expecting much. Well, i was pleasantly surprised! The first series of hairpin turns is controlled so that the cars don't spin. At first I was disappointed by this, but once we hit the second set and the car started spinning, I realized that was probably a wise choice on Disney's part. Once we started spinning, we were spinning out of control, with each hairpin turn whipping you around like a tilt-a-whirl or a whip. I was impressed with the thrill factor of the ride, and was left laughing the whole way. The best part was the last straightaway with little bunny hills in it that we took spinning wildly - I can only imagine what it would be like if the whole ride were like that! I don't know if i'd be laughing, or be puking - and i have a strong stomach. Overall, a very pleasant surprise and a good addition to the park. I would have ridden again, but my dad was a little queasy and we were getting anxious to get on to the next park. So we headed out toward the exit, but on the way we decided to see:

It's Tough to Be a Bug

This is a 3-D attraction that is shown in the theater underneath the Tree of Life (the giant man-made tree in the middle of the park). Even though the line was minimal, it was still cool to walk through the queue which winds in and out of caves and the roots of the tree. Several animals are carved into the tree - i forget how many total - but in the queue you really get a sense of how massive it is and how much effort must have gone into making it. As for the film, it was fun, similar to "Honey I Shrunk the Kids," with several effects aside from just the 3-D to compliment the film. It also features the best animatronic i've ever seen as part of the show. Even though there's no height requirement for the show, I definitely wouldn't recommend it for very young children, as even I was scared by some of the sudden effects of the show. Overall, short but sweet and definitely worth checking out if the line's small (even if it's not there's that Fast Pass again - yes!).

So after this, we had spent about 4 hours at Animal Kingdom, and I pretty much felt as though we had seen all there was to see. If you're interested, there is the Lion King show as well as "Camp Minny-Mickey," which is sort of a discovery center for children. It's definitely worth spending a whole day here for a whole family, although I left feeling as though there could have been more to do in between the animal viewing aspects of the park. I certainly wouldn't call the park "boring," but when you go, expect to spend a good portion of your day on self-guided activities and waiting around to see the animals appear - there's nothing in the park that could be considered a "white-knuckle" experience. Although, it seems Disney has recognized this and construction has already begun on a new thrill ride, which will supposedly be themed to a mountain with a roller coaster - sort of like the Matterhorn on steroids. But you can read the threads on Coasterbuzz for that.

Thanks for reading part one of my novella here, and if you enjoyed it, just remember: this was only three hours of one day. =) Up next? A short but sweet visit to Disney/MGM Studios...


Ride Ratings

Kali River Rapids:
Thrill Factor: 5
Originality: 5
Re-Ridability: 6

Kilamanjaro Safari:
Thrill: 2
Orig.: 7
Re-Ride: 7

Primeval Whirl:
Thrill: 6
Orig.: 4
Re-Ride: 7

Bug's Life:
Thrill: 4
Orig: 5
Re-Ride: 3 *** Edited 5/2/2004 6:16:58 AM UTC by nelson324***

S:ROS; SFNE. Ride it, and you'll understand.
Friday, May 7, 2004 7:28 PM
Nice TR. Just so you know, Primeval Whirl isn't made by Mack, it's a Reverchon coaster.

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