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Short Disney World Trip, or how I learned to stop worrying and love Animal Kingdom (Day 1)

Edward M

Well-Known Member
This is long and unedited, like all my reports. I had an amazing visit to Animal Kingdom though, and I’m excited to share my opinions. Hope you guys enjoy it!

Well, my father got a last minute work trip to Orlando, and he let me come along. It seemed like the perfect time to go see the new Avatar Land. I had theorized that, with Avatar Land added, Animal Kingdom would be Disney World’s best park. I now believe that is true.

My day started soon after my flight at 3:00. I had one real destination, Avatar Land. I was mixed on whether or not this was right for Disney World. It was obviously an attempt to combat Universal’s insane success with Harry Potter. However, Avatar is not Harry Potter in today’s culture. People like Avatar Land, a lot actually. The reactions of guests were insanely positive. Animal Kingdom had much longer lines than usual, so I would say it is a success. Still, I doubt that this will draw people to Animal Kingdom quite like it drew people to Universal. Nonetheless, it is now built, and it is great. In fact, I think it is better than Harry Potter’s lands at Universal.





The land is the best in America. In fact, it is the same quality as Disneysea’s lands (and if you know me, I hold those to very high praise). It is small, but every single corner has an unbelievable amount of detail. I took some time to explore a bit of the land, but I was in a hurry to get on to Flight of Passage since it had a 90 minute wait. I’d been looking at the average waits, and they seemed to hover around 120 minutes. This ended up being amazing actually because the best views (and photo spots) for Avatar Land are in this queue.

Examples:





The queue itself was also incredibly themed. The best queue I’ve seen I would say. My preference lies with Indiana Jones Adventure, but this queue could be an attraction itself. As I went further into the queue, I found tons of cool details. Each room has some amazing art or effects that you can just study if you needed to fill your time. I ended up being in there for 2 hours, but it really wasn’t too bad. I had downloaded some stand up on Spotify to fill the time which worked brilliantly. I had heard the animatronic in this queue was unreal, and it really was so impressive. It doesn’t have much movement, but it doesn’t really need it. I finally got to the preshow, and I was so excited. There are two awful preshows, not anywhere near the quality of the rest of the ride. The main actor couldn’t care less, and it seemed to go on and on for no real reason. This is my only real complaint with the ride.



Flight of Passage- This is the best non-Disneysea ride I’ve been on. In fact, I don’t really know how to review it. It really needs to be experienced. I don’t want to spoil this at all, just know that the quality is the highest I’ve seen on a ride. There is no break in the immersion; it feels like you are on a banshee flying. I’ve never felt this about another screen based ride really. The only other ride with that level of immersion is Journey to the Center of the Earth despite it being a very different ride. It’s the only ride I’ve ever ridden where it felt like there were no other riders. You are completely in the world they’ve created. If I will go into spoilers, there is an effect to make it feel like a banshee is breathing below you. It’s an effect that is so impressive it truly baffled me. There is also a scene involving the little jellyfish things from the movie that is the most beautiful scene I’ve seen in a ride. In fact, this is the most beautiful ride I’ve ridden. I truly do wish that I could give a better review, but it has to be ridden to know what it’s like. It’s just unreal. It is right behind Journey and Sinbad for my favorite ride ever. 10/10



After Flight of Passage, I got some food at the Saul’i Canteen in the land. The food was alright, but the restaurant interior doesn’t quite match the land. It was about 5:30, and I had a FP+ for Na’vi River Journey at 6:20. I took a bit more time to explore the land and found more cool plants and animals. It’s amazing how much they did with such little land. It is a multi level land with bridges, stairs, and tons of things to see. I just love that they’ve created a place that seems so alive. I haven’t mentioned it yet, but the floating mountains are among the most impressive structures in a theme park. They are obviously connected by the vines that hang to the ground, but there is just something special about walking underneath those mountains. It’s just an incredible experience.



I went on to Discovery Island en route to Expedition Everest. Discovery Island and the Oasis are my favorite opening lands to a park. The way the Oasis builds up so brilliantly to the incredible Tree of Life is one of the best decisions Imagineering has done with a recent memory. My favorite thing about the Oasis is its history as the last remnant of Animal Kingdom’s original idea. The imagineers wanted to have a park that had no park map and was an actual adventure. Guests would just wander onto rides and be able to create their own quest. This was obviously an idea that couldn’t work in real life. However, Oasis keeps this sense of adventure with its choice of two random paths and other paths crossing off it randomly. Some lead to caves, some to animal exhibits, and other simply do a loop to the main path. There is something to this that is so special and unlike any other park that I love it. I spent most of my visit in March just exploring the crevices of Oasis and Discovery Island. It was such a rewarding experience. Discovery Island also carries this philosophy over with its trails all throughout the surroundings of the Tree of Life. It has waterfalls and animal exhibit that weave through the roots of the Tree of Life. It is also an ample opportunity to really look at the bark of the Tree of Life, one of the highlights of Imagineering in my opinion. The entire tree is made up of animals, and it is just amazing the amount of animals on this tree and the level of detail put into every single part of it including the often ignored trails. These are two of my favorite lands of all time. I can also say that Avatar Land continues this with its many options of bridges, paths, and plants to explore. In fact, Animal Kingdom is one of the best parks to be out when it’s packed. You can just enjoy seeing all these amazingly themed trails, corners, and exhibits.




I continued on to Asia, which is another one of my favorite lands in Disney World. The level of detail is just fantastic; there is such a sense of realism to the land. There is just something so lived in about it. I love it. The Kali River Rapids area is probably my favorite of all the areas. While I didn’t ride the ride this time (I’m not a big fan), the theming is continued into the queue, which is fantastic. Asia is just a fantastic land. I got to Everest’s single rider line and got a second row seat pretty quickly.

Expedition Everest (Daytime)- Everest isn’t looking too hot these days. During the days, the ride is fun but lacks much thrill or wow to it. The wow factor was supposed to be the amazing Yeti animatronic. Sadly, that is not doing very good. It is a huge animatronic that still looks great in its “Disco Yeti” mode with the strobe lights. For some reason, there was no strobe light during my ride and just a bright construction light on it. This made it obvious that the animatronic wasn’t operational and hurt the ride as a result. However, I’m hoping that construction light means they will be fixing it soon. I think that, with a working yeti, this has the potential to be Disney’s best coaster. The yeti is built up so much from the queue and during the ride that it’s a shame it doesn’t have that amazing animatronic to anchor it. It’s thrilling, fun, has amazing theming, and is a fantastic example of Disney’s storytelling and buildup. It just needs that animatronic “wow" factor. At night though, it’s a whole different beast. More on that later. 8/10

Well, it was nearly 6:20, so I decided to go back to Avatar Land. One issue with Animal Kingdom is that it can be very hard to get from one side of the park to the other. However, this is a problem with every Disney park that aren’t castle parks I’ve found. Maybe it’s just me; I don’t really know. Anyway, I went back to Avatar Land and went straight into the station with my FP+.

Na’vi River Journey- This is a ride that has had pretty bad reception mostly, and it is pretty earned. It is short, doesn’t have much going on, and is not worth the near constant 60+ minute wait it has (it would barely be worth a 30 minute wait). However, I loved it. Its effects are very simple and screen based in many cases. This should bother me more, but it blends very well into the environment most of the time. I just enjoy a Disney ride without conflict oddly enough. Flight of Passage also had no real conflict, and I loved that. Often, I just enjoy being put into an exotic location or scenario and just enjoying that. You are simply tranquilly going through a forest. I’m fine with that. The issue lies with waiting over an hour for this short and simple ride. It is not worth that. I think that over time the waits here should get shorter. Next year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this averaging out at about 30 minutes. Now, I’ve been postponing the absolute highlight here, that animatronic. Just, oh my gosh. It is undoubtedly the best Disney has ever made. Even with the amazing work at Disneysea and the incredible animatronics in Shanghai, nothing ever seems like it isn’t an animatronic. This doesn’t feel like an animatronic. Its motions are so lifelike that it kind of hits that uncanny valley. It is so human, yet it obviously isn’t. It is just jaw dropping. While my personal favorite animatronic is still Journey’s Lava Monster for just how imposing and central it is to my favorite ride, this is definitely better overall. It’s just incredible. In a sense, it isn’t even really worth the ride it is in. If you like animatronics, this is an absolute must. 8/10

After this, I had an hour until my FP+ for Kilimanjaro Safaris. I saw Dinosaur had a 45 minute wait, so I decided I ought to go ahead and just use my hour there. However, there was literally no one in the queue. The FP+ queue had about 10 people though. Still, I wasn’t complaining. I practically walked on although I still had to sit through that irritating preshow.

Dinosaur- I’ve been a defender of Dinosaur. Sure, it isn’t Indiana Jones, but it still has its own charm, story, and tone. When I rode it in March, I was blown away by the improvements the refurbishment had. The ride had always felt pretty empty and dark with only a few setpieces. They seemed to add in a lot more foliage and improved the animatronics, and the experience was fantastic as a result. It was one of my favorites in the resort. Now, it is looking as bad as it used to. I think Disney was running it in a cheaper mode since I’ve heard they aren’t doing as good as usual with attendance lately (you could have fooled me with the insane crowds though). The whole ride seemed nearly pitch dark. The motions seemed rougher. The animatronics seemed to have almost no movement at all, and it just seemed to be in bad shape. I still enjoy it a great deal, but my two rides both were just so lacking. I thought maybe it was a wrong seat or a bad one off ride, but I had two meh rides. I’ve heard similar opinions from others over this summer. It’s really a shame because only about 4 months ago it was one of the best Disney World rides. It was running just brilliantly. I just don’t know what happened! Still, it remains great fun. I love the ride nonetheless for its still memorable moments. Those Carnotauraus encounters are amazing. Those are some of my favorite animatronics out there. That thing runs at you! 8/10

I sadly had to walk through the blight on the beautiful face of Animal Kingdom, Dinoland USA. The area with Restaurantosaurus and Dinosaur is fine; it’s just that disgusting carnival. It could maybe work in another park, but it simply doesn’t fit for Animal Kingdom. It is just crap. I hate it so much. I just loathe it. It doesn’t fit with the natural beauty look of Animal Kingdom. It just ruins the amazing flow of the park. In fact, I want it demolished. I don’t even care if they replace it with something. I would rather have a field of grass than what is there now. It’s just awful. I’ve heard some defend it since it has a cool story involving a carnival owner dressing up his old carnival to fit with the new Dino Institute. That’s just trying to cover their obvious mistake. [/rant]

I continued on from Dinoland to Africa. I thought about waiting for my FP+, but Kilimanjaro was at 10 minutes right now. Why wait? Africa is another example of amazing Imagineering. Walking through it feels so real. You see these little details in the second story windows that just make it. There’s such a great small village feel to it. I especially appreciate it since I’ve read about the amount of work that went into making it as insanely accurate as possible. It’s a bit small, but the work really shows there. I went to the Safaris and walked right on.

Kilimanjaro Safaris- This is one of the best rides at Disney World. It is long, large, and feels as genuine as it gets for Disney. It’s as close to an African safari as I can get in America, and I love it for that. It’s hard to review though since every ride is inherently different. Vehicles take different paths, narrations are different, conditions are different, and, more than anything, the animals are different. My safari didn’t have many animals, and we were informed that they had decided to go in for the time being. It was dusk, and the animals out there were very active. I guess I just love seeing the animals. I can’t really say why I love it so much. It’s just such an impressive ride with so much to see. 10/10



I went back to Avatar Land and explored there for a while. Day was slowly turning into night, and I decided to go ride Dinosaur again while waiting for it to officially turn to night. After I left Dinosaur, it was very dark. I went towards Avatar Land where I saw a Tree of Life Awakenings starting.

Tree of Life Awakenings- I love this show. It’s so genuine, so pure. There are many different shows, and they are all very easy to see. Even on a busy day like this one, I was able to wander up right before it started and get an ideal view. I’ve always loved the Tree of Life, as I said earlier. While my love will always remain with Cinderella Castle, this may be the best park icon at Disney World. Watching the bark of the trees come to life and interact with other animals is just such an experience. It is a quality show that I’ve seen many times and have seen a different show every time. It’s just so nice that Animal Kingdom has this incredible show playing all night with little crowds. Just adds even more to the list of things to do here at night. 10/10

Well, it was on to Avatar Land at night, and, wow, it is so much better at night. All the plants light up and become bioluminescent. It makes for a beautiful sight. Wandering through the gardens and seeing the different plants and animals come to life and change colors is just breathtaking. Even the ground is bioluminescent with its own colors lighting up. The mountains also just look incredible. There is no real lighting on them which makes the whole area seem all the more natural. It’s just something to behold. I’m sorry if my report seems to be all praise, but there will be plenty of problems to talk about with day 2. Despite how great Animal Kingdom is doing, the other parks need some serious help and fast. Luckily, it looks like they will all be getting it, but that is a topic for another day.



I decided to leave Avatar Land but not before catching the amazing sight of hundreds of simulated lightning bugs flying through the bushes in the area. It’s those little details that really separate Disney from any other park for me. I headed on to Asia for Rivers of Light soon. However, I had enough time for a quick ride on Expedition Everest.

Expedition Everest (Nighttime)- Everest at night is a whole different beast. Everything feels much more ominous and thrilling. The lighting is brilliant, and the lack of it is even more brilliant. Most of the ride you can’t even see where you are about to go which makes it so much more exciting. The yeti still looked bad, but this was mainly because of that construction light. I thought it had looked pretty good on earlier visits. I’m just hoping this means we will see the fully animated Yeti again soon. Oh do I wish! The ride is so amazing at night, check it out then. 9.5/10

Well, I saw the long line filling up for Rivers of Light and hopped in. It ended up that Rivers of Light actually had more people on the FP+ side than the standby side. A man working there had told me that, but I still went with FP+ cause, I mean, I had one. I can’t complain though since I had an amazing view in the middle and straight on.

Rivers of Light- This is not Disney’s best night show. It has some inherent flaws and really lacks a real “WOW” ending that most of them have. However, it is my new favorite. Why? It is because it is perfect for its park. It is so beautiful in a different way than other night shows. While most others rely heavily on Disney movies which, while I love them, gets boring after a while. This show explores the beauty of nature and its animals. I just love seeing these original concepts done at Disney, and it was especially nice to see it done on such a grand scale. The show has tons of amazing effects, amazing floats, and so many beautiful sequences. It was just a pleasure to watch. The mist screens were mixed well with individual fountains, individual mist screens, and amazing floats of animals. It just all worked so well. This is the perfect way to end the day at Disney World’s best theme park. 10/10

On that note, I do believe this is Disney World’s best theme park. Its only real competitor right now is Magic Kingdom, and it is very close. However, Magic Kingdom is feeling very old. I’ll talk more on this later, but it is downright unpleasant to be in at times. The crowds there make it to where it is hard to ride anything, and they make it even hard to walk! Tokyo Disney had its fair share of crowds, but everyone was organized. No one bumped into me there. 5 people bumped into me at Disney World. It isn’t only the crowds though. New Fantasyland is already feeling older. Tomorrowland is looking sad despite being the best version I’ve seen of them. Frontierland seems to be deteriorating. Adventureland is the eternal bottleneck. It still has an extreme amount of charm that keeps it going strong, but it is showing that it needs help. Even its best rides have quite a few animatronics that weren’t even working (more on that later). Animal Kingdom has some of these problems, namely animatronics. However, I just found it much more pleasant to be in. The theming there is better. It is more impressive to be in. Everywhere you look, there is an area to explore. I would say this is now Disney World’s Disneysea. It's an endlessly rewarding experience to be there. You can ride their amazing ride collection or choose your own paths that will lead to who knows where. I love it so much. I do hope Magic Kingdom gets some needed help, but it looks like Epcot and Hollywood Studios are going to be getting some sooner (they certainly need it more). Disney World is an amazing resort, arguably my favorite Disney resort. The things to do there seem endless! However, it is in an awkward transition period right now. Traffic is horrible as they prepare for Star Wars Land. Hollywood Studios can barely even be considered a theme park. Epcot feels like it’s on its last breath. The resort is getting some needed work. I just hope it will be enough.


Part 2: Fun Spot Kissimmee (quickie)

No, I will not go into rants about the complexities of the theming of Fun Spot America Kissimmee. In fact, I’m gonna keep this part very direct.

Mine Blower- This is an amazing coaster. It actually reminds me a lot of a tiny Voyage. It is brutally rough and throws you around constantly. It is relentless in its onslaught of ejector airtime to the point where you are almost happy to see the brakes. In fact, it is on the verge of being unpleasant. However, it is so much damn fun. The hills are just insanely airtime packed. The turns are great fun (though not as substantial as Voyage’s). The highlight though is the drop and inversion. That drop seems to just drop out under the train, and you are caught so off guard. The inversion is the most insane part. It doesn’t feel like but an insane pop of ejector air. I got no feeling of hang time really. It’s just an insane coaster I would highly recommend. Like Voyage, it is infinitely rougher in the back but also infinitely better. 9.5/10

Rockstar Coaster- Ouch. I’m usually fine with spinning wild mouse coasters, but this was genuinely unpleasant. I want my $9 back. 2/10

Sea Serpent- 3 word review: a kiddie coaster. 3/10


I will continue on with Day 2! Sorry that the photos were so Avatar Land-centric. I just always forget to take photos of places I already know.
 

Hixee

Flojector
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Say what you will about the IP that is Avatar, every time I see pictures of the place I'm blown away. It looks marvelous. I hope I can get to visit while it's still quite 'new', so I can see it in all its glory.
 

Edward M

Well-Known Member
^ It truly is just incredible. The land was so fantastic that it actually made me love Avatar. I'm planning on rewatching the movie soon just because I loved the world they created so much. While the movie doesn't have much longevity, it is known for creating an amazing and unique world. Disney took full advantage of that world. Hope you can get there soon!
 

Pink Cadillac

Active Member
Great report! It truly looks magnificent! I've heard people's reactions to Flight of Passage have be insane but I can't quite contemplate how a simulator can be that good! There's so much to do in Animal Kingdom at night, I don't know how I'd fit it all in! Expedition Everest, Pandora, Rivers Of Light, Tree of Life show and are they still doing those night rides on Kilimanjaro Safaris?
 

Edward M

Well-Known Member
Are they still doing those night rides on Kilimanjaro Safaris?
Yes! I wasn't able to do it with so much else to do, but I've heard mixed things. I would also add Kali River Rapids to that nighttime list. No wait usually, and they don't really turn on any lights. As a result, there's something so cool and mysterious to it. Nighttime elevates the ride a lot, just be sure to wear a poncho.
 
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