The holidays hit Animal Kingdom
Disney World kicks off the holiday season with traditional, new fare.
The holiday season officially kicked in at Walt Disney World on Nov. 8 with traditional and new Christmastime fare across the property, including fresh — and some may say enchanting — elements at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park. Here’s some of what we experienced, including our first awwwwww moment of the season.
They got us almost right from the start. In the Discovery Island area that fronts the park’s Tree of Life are costumed cast members stationed with lifesized puppets representing cold-weather creatures. Think Julie Taymor-ish, but more opaque and in shades of icy blue and white. They roll around and interact; it’s an instant photo op. Arriving folks were delighted and, if my Twitter feed can be believed, people want to buy one.
The puppetry happens in shifts, and we were happy that the birds on poles were the last for us and they were a fitting/ soaring climax.
The area has luminariesesque structures lining the roofs of stores there. They are boxy and animal-inspired, of course. They look good in the day but really shine after dark. And that’s when you’ll gather for the latest editions of Tree of Life Awakenings, the projections upon DAK’s centerpiece. These are wintry and what we’ve come to expect from the shows, which are gentle and nature-loving. It’s not all icy and the featured animals really pop on the tree (an orange fox, a bright red cardinal, for example).
For the first time, we also watched the projections from the back side of the park, which should alleviate foot traffic closer to the park entrance. Go to the bridges of Africa for clear views.
The character meet-andgreet areas of Dino-Land also got eye-catching upgrades. Go see Scrooge McDuck’s golden theme, which looks brilliant at night, but my photos turned out better during the day. Daisy Duck’s area is extra pink, and Launchpad McQuack has an aviation theme and a tower of lights.
You can’t miss the flashinglights enhancements to the dinosaur structure that spans the dig/entrance to the area. By
day, you see he’s got a Santa hat. At night he turns into a pulsating show, a sort of prehistoric nod to the late, great Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It’s not the same, by any means. We didn’t even hear “Feliz Navidad.” But it’s worth the walk over.
It blends in (even in Pandora)
To be clear, the holidays aren’t dripping from every post at Animal Kingdom, but each land has something to admire. The theming is so well-integrated that you might think “Was that here already?” The lights in Asia, a reference to the Diwali celebration, are a good example of that. In Africa there are more lights and lots of naturalmaterial wreaths (plus one made of beer bottle caps). Stop and absorb, but don’t expect a red-and-green theme to alert you.
I’ve heard pushback regarding the very idea of Christmas in “Avatar” land like it was somehow besmirching the vision of director James Cameron. The Disney story has Earthlings working in Pandora celebrating the season using available materials to style décor of their upbringing. It’s a small area of the land and doesn’t screw with the bioluminescence. (Check out the diversity of holiday gear in the windows of
Pongu Pongu too).
So, exhale and take an extra cup o’ kindness.
Other Disney World holiday festivities have arrived as well, including the first Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, featuring new holiday styled attractions at Tomorrowland Speedway and elsewhere at Magic Kingdom. Also on the calendar now: a couple of projection shows at Hollywood Studios and the global approach at Epcot.
Life-size animal puppets are part of the new holiday festivities at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is decked out in holiday decor for the first time.
Stay tuned at night for holiday light shows on the Tree of Life.
Character meet-and-greets in Dino-Land have new holiday overlays, including a golden one for Scrooge McDuck.