Animal Kingdom is full of intricate detail and elaborate backstories to go along with the rides and all the animals. Here are just some of the little known secrets you’ll find in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Perhaps the most elegant and graceful secret in all of Disney World is DiVine. Part human, part tree, she is often found slowly moving her long limbs through the vegetation on the walkway between Africa and Asia. Most guests walk right by, not even noticing she’s there. DiVine is like nothing else you’ll see in the parks, and worth the effort to find her.
There are often long lines to enter Animal Kingdom, especially at opening. To avoid them, head into the Rainforest Cafe entrance to the far left. From there, go through the gift shop and enter the park through this secret entrance.
The photos above are no exaggeration. There is often no wait at this entrance even when the lines are very long at the main gates.
Number and letters around the park are sometimes random, but more often than not the Imagineers have put a hidden meaning behind them.
Towards the end of the DINOSAUR attraction, look for the red, yellow and white pipes with chemical names and formulas scrawled across them. Those are the chemicals names for the ingredients of Ketchup, Mustard and Mayo. Why? No one really knows. Though, McDonalds used to be a sponsor of the ride.
Also in DinoLand USA, you’ll see several US Route signs. Notice that in the land dedicated to fossils, you are in Diggs County. But more importantly, its US Route 498 that runs through Diggs County. Animal Kingdom opened April ’98.
Animal Kingdom was originally designed to exhibit 3 types of animals: real, extinct and imaginary. The latter were to be in a section of the park called Beastly Kingdom. Unfortunately it was scrapped for budget reasons. But it was nixed late in the planning process, long after it was already incorporated into the design of the park. Notice the dragon on the welcome sign and the section of the parking lot named Unicorn.
Avatar Land is being built on the site originally set aside for Beastly Kingdom and fulfills the original concept of showcasing imaginary creatures.
Tree of Life
No, its not real. You’d be surprised how many people ask if it is.
Its a tribute to the imagineers hard work on the 14-story structure. The tree contains over 7,000 branches, many with joints that allow them to sway in the wind. The branches are covered with over 100,000 fake leaves. And yes, it can withstand hurricane force winds.
The core of the structure is actually an off-shore oil rig, turned upside down. It was just the right shape and strength needed to support the tree. But it is just a bit ironic to have the icon of a park with an environmental message built upon an oil rig.
Hard to see on a map, there are several ‘hidden’ trails crisscrossing the area around the Tree of Life. These make for good shortcuts from one side of the park to the other and are lined with animals.
Over 300 different animals are carved into the Tree of Life. The most famous is the likeness of an actual chimp named Greybeard, who was studied by Jane Goodall herself. Greybeard was the first chimpanzee to be observed by a scientist using tools in the wild, a major breakthrough in the understanding of animal intelligence. You’ll find the carving near the entrance to Tough to Be a Bug.
For many this attraction is the highlight of a day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. But it takes a few secrets to make the experience so magical.
One of the dramatic experiences of the safari is drive past Pride Rock. There its common to see a lion or two perched on a picturesque ledge. To make this a recurring reality, the imagineers have piped chilled air through tiny holes on the ledge in order to entice the lions to hang around that perfect spot for a photo.
Likewise, food is hidden in trees, and behind hallowed out logs and rocks all along the path the safari vehicle takes. This encourages the otherwise shy animals to get up close and personal.
While the savannah may look cozy, the animals are required to spend the night in the safety of their pens. Rounding up the animals each day would be no small task. So the animal trainers instead conditioned each species to respond to a specific sound. When they hear it, they magically walk back to their pens for the night.
Its very unlikely any dangerous animal could escape its confinements. But the astute observer will note that Animal Kingdom is the only Disney theme park with doors on the outside of the restrooms. These are in place to offer shelter should any escaped predator turn guests into prey.
Hidden Mickeys are scattered throughout Animal Kingdom. Here are a couple easy ones…
And a couple harder ones…
Going on a Hidden Mickey safari is a great way to spend time in Animal Kingdom. Luckily there is a Hidden Mickeys Field Guide because just like a real safari, its pretty tough to do on your own.
Most people see Animal Kingdom as simply a top notch zoo, unaware your ticket also comes with free admission to two very high quality musicals.
Finding Nemo – The Musical
Finding Nemo is an elaborate musical directed by Tony-Award winning director Peter Brosius. It features the cast of Nemo come to life as gigantic puppets, carried around by the actors. But for many, the 16 original songs by Kristen and Robert Lopez are what make this show a best kept secret.
You may already be familiar with some of their work. This is the same husband and wife team that wrote Let It Go from Frozen.
Festival of the Lion King
Another Broadway caliber musical. It follows the story of the Lion King, with a mix of new and familiar songs. The show is highlighted by impressive acrobatics and even a fire dancer. Children are invited to dance around the stage during one part of the show.
Kali River Rapids Button
Press button. Make elephant squirt water onto unsuspecting riders. Repeat. Great for a little sibling too small to ride to to get in on the fun. The buttons are located on the bridge near the exit.
The fun can’t last forever. Some Animal Kingdom secrets are short lived, some disappear without warning. Enjoy what you read above while you can, Disney World is always a work in progress. Here are few secrets that have been retired…
Pipa The Talking Recycling Bin
Guests used to be surprised to find a talking Recycling Bin in Animal Kingdom. Named “Pipa”, the recycling bin would move and interact with guests. Pipa was a cousin to PUSH the Talking Trashcan in Magic Kingdom. Sadly, both were retired in 2014 over a contract dispute. Hopefully they’ll return one day.
Bamboo was a “living statue”, similar to DiVine. Using long poles to help walk about, Bamboo was more interactive with guests, seen at times posing for pictures. Bamboo had a more masculine look, rather than the graceful, feminine look of DiVine.
No word on why Bamboo was retired, but make sure you check out DiVine while she’s still there, because you never know when she’ll join Bamboo on the list of retired Animal Kingdom secrets.