Observations from Disney’s Animal Kingdom: May 8, 2013

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010Yesterday Animal Kingdom celebrated International Migratory Bird Day. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t that exciting…but it was different so I decided to check it out and do a couple of other things in the park. I decided to get to the park early and actually made Rope Drop! Crowds were supposed to be fairly low according to the Crowd Calendar and I was looking forward to a quiet day.

When I arrived I headed straight for Kilimanjaro Safaris. I love to visit this attraction in the morning before it gets too hot and the animals are more active. I only waited about 10 minutes, but then the actual ride took over an hour! Apparently an Addax was in the road and caused a huge back up. None of the vehicles could move for over 30 minutes. This could have been really fun if we were stopped near the elephants or hippos. However, we were in the White Rhino area and they were all hiding so we just stared at dirt the entire time. Luckily the rest of the safari was great and we even saw the cheetahs up and running around.

023After the Safari I grabbed a quick breakfast and then wandered around the Tree of Life Trails for a bit before hitting the first International Migratory Bird Day station near the flamingos. Here I was “banded” (given a wristband) just like a migratory bird (females banded on the left wrist, males on the right). I was also given a bookmark with blanks that would need to be filled in at each station around the park so I could be a completely classified bird. This first station measured how far I had “migrated” to be there. The Cast Member thought that a 15 minute drive didn’t make a very good migration, so we decided to say I had traveled 50 miles. I learned that this is about how far a Mountain Bluebird travels and that is what was written in the space on the back of my bookmark. I had now completed that activity and had 4 more to go.

026Since the Migratory Bird stations were scattered throughout the park I decided to do some other things in between. My next stop was Camp Minnie-Mickey to meet a few characters. It was still early and lines were short. In just about 15 minutes I got my picture taken with Mickey, Minnie, Chip, and Dale. I know I’m an adult…but I adore meeting characters! Chip and Dale were being silly and fighting over which one of them was my favorite (for the record, it’s Chip, but I didn’t tell them that). I also watched Mickey take about 50 pictures with his biggest fan ever who was in line in front of me…characters all have such unique interactions with people and I love it. I considered meeting Donald as well but his line was so long, easily twice as long as Mickey’s line, so I decided to move on.

When I read Brian’s blog post about Finding Nemo: The Musical earlier in the week I realized it had been quite a while since I had seen the show. It was about 30 minutes before the show was due to begin so after a quick stop at my second Migratory Bird station to get my feather color registered (they literally just wrote the color of my shirt on my bookmark) I went over to grab a seat. It was so early there was still a ton of space up in the front section. I had never sat there before and wanted to see what it was like from so close so I sat there.

044Fairly quickly I remembered why it had been so long since I’d seen the show. First of all, the seats are incredibly uncomfortable. They are hard slat benches that dig into your legs and offer no padding. Between waiting for the show to begin and the show itself I sat there for over an hour; it was downright painful! Secondly, Nemo is a fantastic and very well done show, however I find it to be emotionally draining. Like many parents I often struggle with trying to figure out what is the “right” way to do things. Finding Nemo is so much about the balance of protecting your children and giving them freedom. Every time I see it I think about my kids and if I’m being too much like Marlin and smothering them or if I’m being too “Crush” and they could get hurt. That balance is so difficult to achieve and watching the show always reminds me of the struggle. There is a scene in the show where Gill tells Nemo his dad is probably coming to rescue him and Nemo responds that he knows his dad isn’t coming to help him because he isn’t brave enough. Whoa. That’s heavy. Every time I hear that part of the show I lose it. It’s one of my worst parenting nightmares to have my kids think that I won’t help them if they are in danger. I want them to always know I will be there, no matter what, and to hear Nemo’s doubt kills me. Every. Single. Time. Honestly, I know I’m over-thinking it, and it’s just a show…but it still gets to me.

066I needed to cheer myself up a bit after that so I hit the next Migratory Bird station. Here they had a big sign set up showing different birds and their wing spans. I had to spread my arms out and compare myself to each bird til I found the one I was closest to in size. It was determined that I was a Whooping Crane and my card was filled in. Here Cast Members seemed to be discussing birds a bit more with the guests. They were talking to people about the largest and smallest migratory birds and how fast they fly and whatnot. They were also giving out Migratory Bird temporary tattoos! The quest to fill in my bookmark still wasn’t that exciting, but at least here they were trying a harder to make it an educational and fun experience.

067On the way to Africa to finish up my migration I stopped by King Louie and Baloo’s meet and greet since they didn’t have much of a line. While I only waited a couple of minutes, during that time a large group had formed in a big blob and after me there wasn’t really much of a line. Just as it got to be my turn the character attendant wandered off to try and organize everyone and I was left with no one to take my picture. I sort of just stood there for a minute holding up my camera unsure of what to do until Baloo made gestures suggesting we take a selfie (a picture of ourselves using the iphone’s front facing camera). I am a huge fan of selfies and thought this sounded like a great idea! It sounds silly…but this is honestly one of my favorite pictures ever taken with Disney characters. It’s so casual and fun and reminds me of the pictures I take with my friends all the time. Eventually the attendant returned and took a normal picture for me, but it still didn’t top our selfie.

071Now it was time to head to Rafiki’s Planet Watch for the next station. Every time Animal Kingdom does something like this where you visit different spots to collect things, they always include Planet Watch. And every time I feel defeated before I even begin. To get out there you have to wait in line, ride on a hot train, get off the train, walk all the way back to Conservation Station, complete your activity, walk all the way back to the train station, wait in line again, ride the train again, and then finally you’re back where you began. Although parts of the train ride are interesting, if you aren’t already planning to visit Conservation Station it adds a lot of time to your adventure. The trip took half an hour and I spent literally 20 seconds identifying a bird call…it was a duck. They played a “quack” and I said it was a duck. That was it. I schlepped all the way out there for that.

075At this point I was almost done, only one station to go! In the bird area of the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail I found the last table and figured out which migratory bird I was most similar to in height. It was now time for my big prize…a button! Seriously. All that and I got a button. In all honesty, I like buttons and felt it was worth it, and I appreciated something different to do. I wish the Cast Members had been more into actually teaching guests about birds at each station. My bookmark had several suggestions for helping to protect Migratory Birds, like buying Shade Grown Coffee, but I wish Cast would have elaborated on that or provided activities teaching kids how to plant trees and shrubs. Overall, it was a nice distraction but could have used more substance.

One quick note about Animal Kingdom in general…there are constructions wall up everywhere! At Theater in the Wild, Anandapur Ice Cream Truck, Africa…there is a lot going on! I can’t wait to see what’s coming.

 

 

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Posted on May 9, 2013

13 Responses to “Observations from Disney’s Animal Kingdom: May 8, 2013”

  • Great post Scarlett – very thorough. I felt like I was there. Would you say the crowds were in line with the Crowd Calendar’s forecast?

    • by Scarlett Litton on May 9, 2013, at 7:25 pm EDT

      It didn’t feel crowded. I had no trouble getting around at all. That being said with the exception of Kilimanjaro Safari I didn’t really go on any rides with a queue.

  • I think it’s Avatar that’s coming next ….

  • I struggle with being a fan of Animal Kingdom. I like the attractions, but I have never been there when it didn’t feel overly crowded. I think Disney does a good job at introducing educational ideas, but they don’t seem to do much of the educating. Either way I love being at Disney. I also like Rafiki’s Planet Watch. I have visited the Animal Kingdom at least once a year as long as it has been open, 15 years now, and October was the first time I ever heard of Planet Watch. My kids, 16 and 12, my wife, and I spent about 2 hours at Conservation Station just looking at stuff, and learning. That is where the educating is happening. I felt that the cast members there knew there stuff and were more than willing to teach you something new. We will be back there in 10 days and I hope there is something educational going on, but I fear the crowds. It’s odd that I hate crowds, but love Disney, the happiest (most crowded) place on earth.

    • by Scarlett Litton on May 9, 2013, at 7:26 pm EDT

      I think the park can easily feel crowded even on a slow day…especially when it’s very hot. But when it’s cooler out and the crowds are low I find it can be very pleasant.

  • Hi Scarlett!
    Just wanted to leave a comment to say that the Jungle Book selfie is one of the awesomest character photos I’ve ever seen! It’s like you’re hanging with two buddies rather than having a posed photo session – very refreshing. I might see if I can persuade any characters to do this on my next trip…

    • by Scarlett Litton on May 10, 2013, at 10:15 am EDT

      Thanks so much. That’s why I loved it so much too! I’m sure characters would happily take selfies with you.

  • Your Observations posts have become my favorites. I make it to the parks about once a month but I still love to hear about the stuff going on when I can’t be there. I also choke up watching Nemo. In fact, I choked up just reading your thoughts about it.

  • Wow! We were at AK the same day! Funny thing is, we didn’t hear ANYTHING about International Migratory Bird Day! We did see the station where people were comparing their heights to birds, but we thought it was just something new they were doing. Great post, by the way!

    • by Scarlett Litton on May 11, 2013, at 6:42 pm EDT

      That’s a good point…they don’t usually do a very good job promoting these events. But don’t worry, you didn’t miss much. Thanks for reading!

  • Thank you for the lovely post. I was wondering how you knew they were doing something special for migratory bird day? Is there a schedule of special days for AK anywhere? We don’t go often because we live next to Lowry Park Zoo and have Busch Gardens, but if I knew they had special little events like that we might be more likely to go. thanks again for sharing.

    • by Scarlett Litton on May 17, 2013, at 3:12 pm EDT

      I had seen a few people talking about it on Twitter and then honesty kind of forgot until I saw signs that morning at the park.

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