Dave's Trip Report of Disney's Animal Kingdom Safari

Dave and Allie (his daughter) trekked out to Disney's Animal Kingdom Adventure Output in New Jersey. If you're not already aware, Disney has a traveling show to promote their newest theme park: Disney's Animal Kingdom. You can read more about it in Orlando Sentinel's article.

Here's the remaining schedule for Disney's Animal Kingdom Adventure Outpost tour:

May 29-30 Chicago Grant Park
June 5-6 Boston MDC Lederman Field
June 12-13 Hartford Bushnell Park
June 19-20 Cleveland Cleveland Metroparks Brookside Reservation
June 26-27 Detroit Southfield Civic Center
July 10-11 Atlanta Centennial Olympic Park

Updated 11/21/03

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  Hi gang,

I just got back from a visit to Disney's Animal Kingdom Adventure Outpost tour, which was visiting my neck of the woods this weekend. The tour is a free, promotional event intended to share a taste of the Animal Kingdom park with folks around the country (and encourage them to visit WDW, of course.) American Express and National Car Rental are also sponsor/participants in the tour, as befits their status as the official credit card and car rental companies for WDW. Just to get the disclaimers out of the way quickly.... There are no live animals at the Adventure Outpost tour, unless you count Mickey and Minnie.

The tour is just about at its halfway point, with weekend visits still scheduled for Chicago, Boston, Hartford, Cleveland, Detroit and Atlanta (see the schedule below). The gates are open from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Saturday and Sunday. American Express cardholders can enter at 10:00 AM on Saturday if they show the card.

If you use your Amex card to buy $50 or more in Disney merchandise at the show you'll get a 10% discount, too.

The tour is a version of the classic small-town traveling circus, minus the Big Top show and the scent of the menagerie. Disney took over a college athletic field, set up around half a dozen khaki-colored tents painted with a variety of safari-themed objects, and hired the local police to ride herd on the traffic.

I gathered-up my 6-year-old daughter and her grandparents for a late Sunday morning visit. A 20-foot tall inflatable Explorer Mickey in pith helmet and khaki safari clothes greeted us at the gate, which sported a classic Disney queue. Due to the light rain the queue was empty and we breezed right in, where a cast member complimented my tasteful Wilderness Lodge sweatshirt.

To the right as we entered were several small pavilions for a local ABC-owned radio station and a local newspaper. Then, in a semi-circular arrangement came a much larger tent housing the DinoLand U.S.A. Fossil Dig Site; another large tent (with queue) for a Camp Minnie-Mickey character greeting; a small, outdoor stage for the Animal Adventure Caravan show; another tent for the Animal Adventures show; an Animal Kingdom merchandise area; and several more small pavilions offering Animal Kingdom vacation information and National Car Rental info.

Food and drink were available outside the gates, in several large tents. From the looks of things Disney engaged local concessionaires, so the menu offerings may change from city to city. In our case they had sausage and peppers sandwiches and grilled chicken cutlets, among other things. There was outdoor seating, but nobody wanted to sit in the rain for some reason.

My daughter wanted to head to the DinoLand dig site first. Like the Boneyard at Animal Kingdom, there are fiberglass dinosaur bones buried in the sand, which the kids uncover with their bare hands. With Disney's characteristic attention to detail, that sand is made of very small, rounded pebbles which are less likely to stick to the kid's skin and clothing than regular sand. Several TV monitors play a DinoLand U.S.A. video prepared especially for the tour, featuring a group of enthusiastic singing and dancing pre-teens. Buried in one corner of the tent is a small exhibit of fossils, photos and various humorous items which is reminiscent of the decorations at Restaurantosaurus at the Animal Kingdom.

Next we queued-up to meet Explorer Mickey and Explorer Minnie. While we waited for our chance for a hug and picture with the mice we watched a video featuring Flik from A Bug's Life. The video was a musical tour of all the lands of Animal Kingdom, which intercut live action with clips of new and classic animation. Among the song-and-dance numbers was a very amusing "It's a Bug's Life After All" that coupled a fun, "follow the bouncing ball" adaptation of that oh-so-familiar tune with some very entertaining animation.

The character meet-and-greet went as smoothly as they always do. Mickey and Minnie were in great spirits and spread lots of hugs and happiness. The cast members in attendance offered to operate cameras and camcorders so moms and dads could get into the picture. Unfortunately, they didn't permit autographs, "so that everyone has a chance to meet Mickey and Minnie."

Due to the rain, they had canceled the outdoor Animal Adventure Caravan Show. Shows are scheduled every 90 minutes throughout the day, so if the rain let up some folks may have seen the show later in the day, before Disney packed the tents. All I can report about the show is that the tour does not feature live animals. If there are any animals onstage, they'll be costumed Homo Sapiens.

Our next stop was the Animal Adventures stage show, another in-tent event with 15-minute shows every half-hour. We sat on mats spread on the ground. On a stage decorated with old luggage, packing crates and three TV monitors, a live cast member in safari gear took us on a lively and humorous jaunt. First stop was Kilimanjaro Safaris, where we were encouraged to bounce up and down as the screens showed a shortened trip through Animal Kingdom's Harambe Wildlife Reserve. We then took a brief tour through AK's recently-opened Asia attractions, culminating in a ride on the Kali River Rapids. In true Disney style we got a little bit wet when our raft went over the big drop. By the way, did you know that "Chakwandi" means "the river that runs in a circle"?

Also in classic Disney (and P.T. Barnum) fashion, the egress from the Animal Adventures show led into a merchandise tent, where we were met with a small selection of Beanie Babies and other Animal Kingdom merchandise. They even sell the classic Animal Kingdom cheap vinyl ponchos.

All-in-all, we spent about two hours at the Adventure Outpost Tour, and had a fine time. My WDW-veteran daughter had fun with the bones and danced with glee when she hugged Mickey. Still, you shouldn't expect the kind of immersion in delight and detail you'd encounter at a Disney park. Although it's obviously a promotional event, the "sell" is a touch less obtrusive than an afternoon of watching the Disney Channel.

A cast member told me that the previous day's fair-weather crowd was about 30,000, but today's attendance must have been much smaller. I suspect that if you add longer queues and the one rained-out show, under "better" conditions our visit would have lasted three hours or more. That sounds just about right for a spur-of-the-moment, free-admission, weekend family jaunt. However, I'm not sure anyone but a true WDW fan would think it was worth a long drive.


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