Disney’s Animal Kingdom has been making magic since it opened in 1998!
There are just so many cool details in Animal Kingdom that really help make the park one of Disney’s most immersive. And, although you might love traveling to Asia or hopping on the back of a Banshee on Flight of Passage, there are A LOT of hidden gems you DIDN’T know about tucked away in Animal Kingdom!
We’re going to show you a few hidden details and tell you some AWESOME stories you may not know!
This is one of our favorite parts of Animal Kingdom so get ready for a wild ride! Back when Expedition Everest was built, the Yeti was a one-of-a-kind audio-animatronic that had never been done before. In case you never got the chance to experience it (don’t worry — not many did!), the Yeti actually used to swipe down at guests as they passed underneath him on the ride (ooh, scary!). Although this was CRAZY cool, there were a few major problems in store for the attraction.
When it was built, the Yeti animatronic made up a key structural component of the ride. Sooo, what does that mean?? Well, the more the Yeti tried to swoop at guests, the more Everest’s frame would shake. Eventually, the framework started to break apart because of this, which could have spelled disaster for the whole mountain if the yeti was left operational.
So, the Yeti was turned off from action mode or “A mode” to a restful state in “B mode.”
But here’s where the Disco part comes in! To give the illusion that he is moving, strobe lights were added to the ride, so fans have lovingly dubbed him “Disco Yeti.” Although it’s been YEARS since the Yeti has been in action, it’s not likely we’ll see a fix anytime soon. When asked if the Yeti would be repaired during the Disney World closure, Joe Rohde, one of the creative minds behind the attraction, simply responded, “No.”
It would take some pretty intense construction since Expedition Everest would literally have to be taken apart to rework the framework and change how Disco Yeti operates. While it doesn’t look likely we’ll see Yeti swingin’ anytime soon, it’s possible that one day the repairs could be made.
Road Less Traveled
The Asia section of the park takes you on a visual journey when you’re walking through the area but you have to look down to see it! You’ll find bike tracks embedded into the concrete where villagers have traveled through the mountains. BUT, the cool part is that you can also spot the transition from bike tracks to footprints once you get closer to Expedition Everest.
This is supposed to represent that the terrain got too difficult to take bikes in, so visitors had to walk on foot to be able to see Expedition Everest in all its glory. Wow, Imagineers really do think of everything, don’t they??
Special Guest on the Tree of Life
The Tree of Life features over 300 hand-sculpted animals in the base of the trunk. While you’re trying to spot as many as you can, you might be able to spot a famous little chimpanzee in the tree carvings by the name of David Greybeard. If you’re not familiar, he was one of Primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall’s favorite chimps she studied over the years.
Goodall had some input in the creation of Animal Kingdom, so this was a special nod to her and her work. She has even continued being a part of Animal Kingdom since its park opening by speaking at the 10-year anniversary alongside Joe Rohde!
When you first enter Pandora, it might be easy to get pretty blown away by all the amazing details of the Valley of Mo’ara (umm, giant floating rocks, you guys!!). BUT, before you enter the area, you might spot a MASSIVE plant that honestly just looks awesome.
Since the Na’vi have a very strong connection with nature in Avatar, the Imagineers thought it was important for guests to be able to fully immerse themselves in the land.
So, before you walk past this plant or just take a quick photo, you can actually connect with the Flaska Reclinata like the Na’vi! All you have to do is place your hand in the center (pinkish blobby-looking) part of the plant, and it will respond to your touch by glowing from within, spraying water, and making noise!
This is an especially fun way to get your kids excited about entering Pandora (even when it’s early in the morning and you’re rushing to get on Flight of Passage 😉 ).
Flight of Passage Handprints
Speaking of Flight of Passage… After you’ve had an AMAZING time soaring around Pandora on a “living, breathing” Banshee, you can spot some homage to the ride’s creators!
As you exit the ride on the lowest level corridor, there are three handprints and initials on the walls belonging to James Cameron (Avatar’s director), Joe Rohde (Pandora’s lead designer), and John Landau (Avatar’s executive producer).
We can’t blame them for wanting to leave their mark on the most popular ride in Animal Kingdom!!
Shrine to the Yeti
On the bridge across from Animal Kingdom, you can get a great view of Expedition Everest and some epic PhotoPass shots of the whole fam.
But, what you might not notice is that unique structure sitting there is actually a shrine to the Yeti built by the “villagers” in the shape of the mountain!
You can find different offerings like beads, goblets, and fruit placed all around the shrine. It’s too bad that Disco Yeti doesn’t seem to appreciate the sweet gesture. 😉
You Won’t Find a T-Rex in the Dinosaur Ride!
Since there is a VERY big franchise right down the road housed at Universal Studios (cue the Jurassic Park theme), Disney wanted to separate themselves from those movies when they built Dinosaur, which was originally called Countdown to Extinction.
So, instead of a familiar T-Rex chasing after you, guests have to avoid the Carnotaurus during their search for the Iguanodon.
This big baddie might look similar to a T-Rex, but this real-life dino actually has horns on its head that were used to head-butt enemies. It may be smaller than the T-Rex, but it was still a distant relative of the famous dino (we can only imagine how scary those family gatherings are!).
Dinosaurs Eat Ketchup??
While you’re about to board Dinosaur and go on a blast to the past, be sure to look up in the loading dock of the ride. You can spot yellow, red, and white pipes with chemical formulas written on them — but, these aren’t any regular ol’ formulas!
McDonald’s used to sponsor Dinosaur (weird flex, but okay) so the pipes actually have the formulas for ketchup, mustard, and mayo!
Do you think they’re nice enough to send some of those condiments over to Pizzafari and Restaurantosaurus? 😉
Interact with Kali River Rapids
While Animal Kingdom’s water ride is a GREAT way to cool off on a hot Florida day, did you know that you can actually interact with the attraction?
If you stand on the bridge overlooking the portion of Kali River Rapids surrounded by elephant statues, you’ll find buttons that spray water out of the elephants’ trunk onto the guests on the attraction.
It’s a fun little surprise for anybody riding (and a last attempt to get everyone soaked!).
When Animal Kingdom was being dreamed up, Imagineers planned to create a Beastly Kingdom, which would have been a section dedicated to mythical creatures (we’re talkin’ dragons, unicorns, and anything else you can dream up!).
There would have a good side and a bad side to the land with the magical Fantasia Gardens and wicked Dragon’s Tower.
However, due to budget problems, Beastly Kingdom was put on the back burner. Instead, Camp Minnie-Mickey was placed as a “temporary” spot that ended up making a permanent home in the park until Pandora and the world of Avatar took up residence in the location.
Yet, there are still bits and pieces of Beastly Kingdom throughout Animal Kingdom!
You can find hidden dragon statues and dragons on different signs, benches, and light fixtures, especially at the entrance to the park! The parking lot also used to have a “Unicorn” section, but it was changed to Butterfly to fit better with the current Animal Kingdom theme.
Joe Rohde Masks
On the backside of the popular character meal, Tusker House, located in the Africa section of the park, you can spot a few masks on the wall that have a lot of cool shapes, colors, and designs.
If you look closely, you can spot a small sign underneath them that says “Jorodi Masks and Beads” as a little reference to the Imagineer who helped make Animal Kingdom the amazing park it is today!
Hmm, which mask do you think would look the best on us??
Specialty Beers ONLY Available in Animal Kingdom
We’re BIG fans of all the tasty sips you can get throughout the park when you’re visiting (Dawa Bar is where it’s at, folks). But you might not realize Animal Kingdom has a bit of a specialty when it comes to beers since there are brews that you can ONLY get in the park and nowhere else in the world!
You can find the exclusive Kungaloosh Spiced Excursion Ale at Nomad Lounge, and the Hawkes’ Grog Ale at Satu’li Canteen or Pongu Pongu in Pandora.
Anyone else want to go on a little Happy Hour hop with us?
We never fail to be blown away by all the incredible details in Animal Kingdom. And, this list doesn’t even scratch the surface!! When you head back to this jungle of a park, let us know how many of these hidden places and awesome items you find while you’re there. Want to learn EVEN MORE? Check out our video below!
See you in Animal Kingdom!
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What’s your favorite hidden detail in Animal Kingdom? Let us know in the comments below!
I saw a rumor recently that Beastly Kingdom (Dominion) would be made into it’s very own park.
It would have a similar layout to it’s sister park Animal Kingdom. With a mix of real and fantasy animals throughout the property.
The lands would consist of a central Dragon section (Discovery Island), an Egypt section (Africa), Australia (Asia), a Stars Wars snow planet (Dinoland) and Fantasia (Pandora).
I was at animal kingdom today (January 12, 2021) and there is still a unicorn section of the parking lot, which we parked in.
There still is a unicorn section in the parking lot. If you walk past the busses, through cast member parking (DAK CMs have the best parking), you will be in the unicorn section.
Great article! I believe Jon Landau is the producer of Avatar tho…
DFB Sarah says
Unicorn lot is definitely still there. (To Katie: cast have the “best” parking because they have to walk 15-25 minutes to their work locations from that spot, including many of the disabled and elderly cast. Plus, the afternoon shift cast usually have to park in Unicorn.)
There’s also a hidden “Joe” on Maharajah Jungle Trek.
mary annd says
I was disappointed you did not mention “Sue.” There are only three castings of the actual fossil and she sits without fanfare near the Dino ride.