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Night Kingdom to reimagine the Disney-theme-park-going experience

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Night Kingdom to reimagine the Disney-theme-park-going experience

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TiggerFan452 writes in to say:

Hey Jim,

Just wondering if you've heard anything about these focus groups that Disney World has been recruiting people for. If you take part, you're apparently shown a preview video for something called "Disney's Night Kingdom". Any idea what this project is about and if Disney's actually going to build the thing?

Dear TiggerFan452

"Disney's Night Kingdom" is the Mouse's long overdue response to SeaWorld's Discovery Cove. And -- yes -- the Mouse is actually going to build this $520 million project. Current plans call for this niche park to officially throw open its doors in October of 2011, just in time for the start of Walt Disney World's 40th anniversary celebration.

"Why did you call 'Disney's Night Kingdom' a niche park?," you ask. Well, because -- just like Discovery Cove (Which only allows in a thousand visitors each day) -- DNK will be restricting the number of guests that can enter this park every afternoon. Only 2000 people will be allowed into WDW's 5th theme park at any one time.

 Copyright 2002 Busch Entertainment Corporation

And -- yes -- I said "afternoon." Disney's Night Kingdom's operating hours will be 4 p.m. to midnight (5 p.m. to 1 a.m. during daylight savings time).

Okay. I know. DNK already sounds unlike any Disney theme park that's currently operating on the planet. But there's a reason for that. The Imagineers want your Disney's Night Kingdom experience to be distinctly different. Something that you'll remember for the rest of your life.

How so? Well, let's first start with the extraordinary guest service that you'll experience as you enter DNK. Current plans call for Disney's Night Kingdom to be staffed by 4000 cast members. That means that -- for every guest that visits this theme park -- there'll be two cast members to take care of their every need. So expect to receive a lot of personalized attention & pampering once you arrive on site.

Speaking of arriving ... Guests will enter DNK through a new, super-sized version of the Adventurers Club at Pleasure Island. As you & your family are registering for that night's activities, the club's members will entertain as well as offer hints about the extraordinary adventures that await you.

After you've finished checking in, there's a whole new world to explore. Have you ever dreamed of acting like Indiana Jones and riding a zip line over a pool full of hungry crocodiles? Or hand-feeding a hippopotamus? Well, here you can.

Mind you, Disney's Night Kingdom will have no traditional theme park rides per se. But you'll still be able to get your fill of excitement & adventure as you strap on a pair of night vision goggles and then wander out into a pitch-black African savanna. Where you'll then be able to observe up-close lions & hyenas as they go through their nocturnal hunting routines.

You'll also be able to try your hand at spelunking as you explore a cave full of bats. Or -- if you're not a big fan of bats -- how about rock climbing? Does that sound too much like work? Then why don't you head on over to that South American-themed enclosure where you can frolic with some penguins?

As for the look of Disney's Night Kingdom ... Well, this theme park's horticultural budget will be just about as big as WDW's Typhoon Lagoon is. So expect DNK to look pretty lush.

And once you've had your fill of adventures, why not grab a gourmet meal at one of the park's two highly themed eateries? Or -- better yet -- find a seat inside of Night Kingdom's centrally located main theater. Where you'll then be dazzled by a state-of-the-art stage show which will be produced by Disney Theatrical and feature top Broadway talent.

I know, I know. A lot of you may have trouble wrapping your heads around a Disney theme park that's as distinctly different as DNK is going to be. That's why the business plan that the Walt Disney Company has drawn up for this project calls for Disney's Night Kingdom to operate at only 60% capacity during its first year of operation and then only 80% capacity during Year 2. Starting in Year 3 ... Well, by then, Disney hopes to have all of the bugs worked out (not to mention finally having a handle on the marketing of WDW's newest theme park). Which is why they then plan on Disney's Night Kingdom operating at 100% capacity during its third year of operation.

As for future plans for the park ... Well, DNK's blueprints do include spots for two new hotels. But these resorts will only be built in response to guest need.

Speaking of hotels ... The Mouse expects that Disney World's higher end resorts (i.e. The Contemporary, the Polynesian, the Grand Flo, Wilderness Lodge, Animal Kingdom Lodge, the Yacht & Beach Club, the Boardwalk as well as the Dolphin & the Swan) will be the primary feeders for Disney's Night Kingdom. With DNK drawing most of its visitors from these pricier on-property hotels.

"And why is that?," you query. Because just like Discovery Cove (which charges $269 - $289 for a one day adventure that also includes a week's worth of free admission to either SeaWorld Orlando or Busch Gardens Africa), admission to DNK is going to be pricey. Right now, Mickey's leaning toward charging guests $250 - $300 per person in order to gain entry to DNK.

Now keep in mind that this admission fee will also cover the cost of the gourmet meal that you'll be consuming while you visit Disney's Night Kingdom. Plus any non-alcoholic beverages that you quaff over the course of that evening. More importantly, that your admission fee to WDW's newest theme park will be considerably lower should you purchase it as part of a Disney World vacation package.

Another thing that you need to be aware of here is that the Mouse also plans on making DNK available to convention groups. So WDW's newest theme park could wind up being sold out for weeks, if not months in advance. Which is why -- if you really want to visit Disney's Night Kingdom -- advance reservations will definitely be recommended.

As to when the Walt Disney Company will be revealing that this project is actually in the works ... Next month's annual shareholder meeting in Albuquerque is a possibility. Though it's far more likely that Mickey will wait 'til the fall. So that Disney's Night Kingdom can then be announced as part of WDW's annual press event.

So there you have it, folks. Disney World's next theme park will NOT be Villains themed and/or loaded with lots of coasters. But -- rather -- it will be an intimate, natural environment that then offers you the chance to have lots of personalized, hands-on, once-in-a-lifetime adventures.

So now the big question is ... Come 2011, will you actually be willing to pay $250 - $300 to experience something like this while vacationing at Walt Disney World?

Your thoughts?

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  • richkoster, I hope you are right. If that is the case, then I do not care what lies beyond the AC. If it is accessible say after 5 or 6 o'clock, then I would agree that it is a good plan to keep the AC alive. The problem is that Disney's track record of demolishing fan favroites is not favorable. So, here's to hoping.

  • Oh, I hope so much that RichKoster is right, and that we won't have to pay 250 to 300 bucks each time we want to visit Perkins, Hathaway, Fingers and the gang at the (new) Adventurer's Club!!  That Club (and Comedy Warehouse) are the only thing we liked about PI during it's hayday.  Please, Please, Please do save the AC, even if you have to move it, but do not destroy it!

    The new park itself seems "eh", but Up and Down,

    North, South, East and West...an Adventurer's Life IS Best!


  • Whoa, scary hyena! And if that guy leans any farther forward, that hippo won't be hungry hungry anymore!

  • It really doesnt matter how well this park is themed if the experiences are not truly special.  Discovery Cove has a Dolphin experience.  This is a rare once in a life time experience

    The crowd that can afford this park can go do several of these activities For real.

    Zip Line.  just in the United States alone there are many Zip line destinations going over real scenic wonders.  If 600 bucks for 7 hours is nothing to you wouldn't you rather zip line in the mountains or for that matter zip line in Hawaii.

    Many Zoos with membership have behind the scene activities for their members.

    Disney is not gonna be able with letting captive lions and hyenas hunt live game supplied by Disney.

    For the clients that can afford the price they go to real professional plays on and off Broadway.

    Gourmet Dinner included.  This level of guest has probably already eaten at Victoria and Albert's.

    Could Disney make this work.  Yes but they better be real careful choosing their activities.  

  • Zip line.   How special is it.

    Well here a small list of the places you can Zip Line just in the United States

    Canopy Tours / Zip Line Tours in the United States

    S.T.E.P.S. Bonsai Design built Alaska Canopy Adventures - Juneau

    Canopy Tour / Zip Line Tour located in Juneau, Alasak, Canopy Tour in the United States of America USA

    S.T.E.P.S. Bonsai Design built Alaska Canopy Adventures - Ketchikan

    Canopy Tour / Zip Line Tour located in Ketchikan, Alaska, Canopy Tour in the United States of America USA

    Alpine Adventures

    Canopy Tour / Zip Line Tour located in Lincoln, New Hampshire, Canopy Tour in the United States of America USA

    Alaska Zip Line Adventures

    Canopy Tour / Zip Line Tour located in Juneau, Alaska, Canopy Tour in the United States of America USA

    Breckenridge Resort

    Canopy Tour / Zip Line Tour located in Breckenridge, Colorado, Zip Line Ride in the United States of America USA

    Captain Zip Line

    Zip Line Tour in Salida, Colorado, USA

    Carolina Adventure World

    Canopy Tour near Columbia, South Carolina, USA

    S.T.E.P.S. Bonsai Designa built Cypress Valley Canopy Tours

    Canopy Tour / Zip Line Tour located in Spicewood, Texas, Canopy Tour in the United States of America USA

    Hocking Hills Canopy Tour - COMING SOON!

    Canopy Tour located near Columbus, Ohio, Canopy Tour in the United States of America USA

    Just Live, Inc.

    Canopy Tour / Zip line Tour located in Kauai, Hawaii, Canopy Tour in the United States of America USA

    Kipu Falls Zip Line Safari

    Canopy Tour / Zip line Tour located in Poipu Beach, Hawaii, Canopy Tour in the United States of America USA

    Moaning Cavern Zip Line

    Twin 1500' Zip Line Ride located in Vallecito, California Zip Line Tour in the United States of America , USA

    Screamtime Zipline

    Zip line Tour located in Boone, North Carolina, Canopy Tour in the United States of America USA

    Skyline Eco-Adventures

    Canopy Tour / Zip line Tour located in Pukalani, Hawaii, Canopy Tour in the United States of America USA

    Spring Mountain

    Canopy Tour / Zip line Tour located in Spring Mount, Pennsylvannia, Canopy Tour in the United States of America USA

    Tamarack Resort

    Zip line Tour located in Tamarack, Idaho, Canopy Tour in the United States of America USA

    Zip Adventures

    Zip line Tour located in Wolcott, Colorado, USA

    Zip Rider

    Zip line Ride located in Park City, Utah, USA Canopy Tour United States  

    Now If you have the Money to spend on a location to Zip Line would you rather do it over a fake scene or a real location.

  • Yikes, all this talk of zip-lines!!  

    If, at this Disney "Night Kingdom" park concept, just one of the many things that I can do is something like zip-line right through the sails and rigging of the IdeaWicked Wench[/i] overlooking a recreated scene from Potc, or zip just barely past the outstretched hands of the Everest Yeti, then that would be a zip-line adventure like no other; do-able only at Disney.

    Jim's descriptions remind somewhat of the now defunct IdeaCeasar's Magical Empire[/i] attraction at Ceasar's Palace in Las Vegas.  It was a pretty neat, 3-hour, hard-ticket experience which combined themed dining, exploration, and live entertainment.  I did it once (I believe it was $135.00, including all the wine you cared to drink) and had a blast.  It reminded me somewhat of the Adventurer's Club, but probably owed more to the Magic Castle/Magic Island dinner & magic show clubs that were in operation in various places at the time.  I also remember thinking that something like this would be great if done by Disney.  

    I think the already existing storyline of the Adventurer's Club would serve as a natural jumping-off point, or hub, for a multitude of different experiences like this.

    I guess I am not so excited by the apparent overarcing theme of 'adventures with animals' that Jim seems to be mentioning here, but if "Night Kingdom" ends up co-existing within Disney's Animal Kingdom facility (Nocturnal Kingdom, anyone?), then I guess that would make some sense...

    I anxiously await more official information.  

  • bonk! said:

    "I anxiously await more official information."

    I anxiously await ANY official information.

    Given Jim's track records with rumors, I'll believe this one when I hear it from Rasulo's lips and not before.

  • I have enjoyed reading everyone's comments on this rumored, fifth park... and it's quite obvious that fellow Disney fans' opinions are both passionate and mixed!

    I have one main concern.  Hopefully, this 520 million dollar investment will not postpone/deter capital investments in the other four parks, especially when it comes to the quality of new attractions/ride and MAINTENANCE.  As someone mentioned earlier (or above), we WERE promised "Beastly Kingdom", and it would be nice to have a fully-developed Animal Kingdom Park before spending so much money on a totally new venue.  After all, AK could become a night park if it had two more E-ticket attractions to keep people there through the evening (and spending money in the parks on meals, snacks and souvenirs).  It's okay if Kilimanjaro Safaris and the trails have to close at 5:00 p.m. And it's okay if we can't have a fireworks display at AK because of the animals.  Just give us another land to explore in place of Camp Minnie Mickey or next to it.  But please keep Festival of the Lion King!  Everyone, look to the right when you cross the bridge into Camp MM and you'll see a rock formation in the shape of a dragon.  I haven't given up hope on Beastly Kingdom, yet.

    We've come to see a fully-mature Disney Studios Park (thanks Imagineers for Toy Story Mania), and let's not forget that there's prime real estate still in World Showcase at EPCOT (another country or two?), and a spot at MK where 20,000 Leagues once stood.  Can we please develop our existing parks?

    As far as the concept for this fifth theme park (IF it will be a separate theme park), it sounds like the latest step in Disney's "return to the roots" campaign, per say.  Let's think about it: 1. they are retheming the entrance to California Adventure, 2. the company is going back to higher-quality animation and movie production with a family focus,  instead of worrying about large quantities of films each year (and less of the morally offensive Miramax films of the past... yes, there were some pretty bad ones!), 3. they are slowly but surely pulling out nightclubs at Pleasure Island, and now... 4. there is rumor of a fifth park... putting in something that resembles Disney's "True-Life Adventures" series , which captivated America and some international audiences via television for a few decades.

    I don't know if Walt would like the proposed price for admission ($250-300 per person), but the concept sounds very much like "True-Life Adventures".  Hence the need to move the Adventurers Club and make it what it should have been from the beginning!  It's sort of like the Haunted Mansion rehab in 2007.  The story makes much more sense now that the attic scene has been added.  Perhaps the Adventurers Club will develop in its story, too... with the addition of several environments that people can choose to experience as part of the story line.

    I see the Broadway show and meal as lagniappe to help justify the price and help to WOW the audience with a dose of Disney magic.  Otherwise, it wouldn't seem like a "Disney" attraction.  Sort of like how the characters are omni-present in EPCOT now (in Future World), because the park seemed "too adult" without them.

    Jim, you certainly wet our appetites.  Perhaps you could speculate on where this 5th park might be placed??  You didn't mention anything about that, and no one seemed to mention this lack of information in the preceding comments.  Let's turn the question around, then.

    Jim--what are your thoughts/comments on the location??

  • Does anyone know how successful Discovery Cove has been?  I never hear much about it one way or another.

    I haven't been to the Adventure's Club in years....but as others have said, I would sure hate to have to pay $250-300 to visit it again...well bottom line is, I wouldn't.  Adventureland or DHS would be a suitable new location.

    I had a thought...since so much of the concept seems to involve animals and "adventure"...wasn't Austrailia rumored to be the next major "land" added to AK?....an outback adventure perhaps?  Like some theories suggest...that this DNK could be a piggie back attraction at AK....is it possible it could be tied into the addition of Australia...seems like a "out of left field theory".....but if you told me I could go to Disney world and feed a hippo I would have said you were crazy...


  • Thanks for appreciating my thoughts, folks!

    Here's another one, just throwing it out off the top of my head (no rumor or anything to base it on)...

    What if this boutique park thing will actually just be a nighttime adventure at the existing Disney's Animal Kingdom? If the rumor is true that the Adventurers Club would be moved to the gateway to the park, where would it be put near the entrance?

    My thinking is, I wonder if the days of Animal Kingdom's Rainforest Cafe are numbered? Could it be that Disney knows the lease on that location won't be renewed, so they're thinking of using that building, after refurbishment/reconstruction, as the new and larger Adventurers Club?

  • "I think Curmudgeon had the right idea.  Something immersive beyond anything that Disney had done before, that builds on what Disney really truly knows how to do.  Telling stories, and getting people involved in these experiences."

    Building on the whole "Thunder Mesa" idea, I know I would love an immersive, personalized sort of Wild West park that had things like a performance rodeo and showpiece "working" ranch, stagecoach and mule rides, Native American village with authentic dancing and cultural exhibitions, saloon stage and outdoor gunslinger shows, live steam in the form of trains and riverboats... Wait, this is starting to remind me of something... Okay, so basically a tricked-out version of the original Frontierland, maybe with a zoo of North American wildlife. And the Western River Expedition. And a walk-through Phantom Manor. Oh yeah, and that could totally have zip lines and rock climbing too!  

  • You know, I'd buy the idea that this is probably going to be an add-on feature to Animal Kingdom rather than a stand-alone park, except in that case, the Adventurers' Club shouldn't be a part of it.  Animal Kingdom is about conservation, respecting and learning to share the planet with animals, with the theming mostly designed to accurately represent the Africa and Asia of the real (contemporary) world.  I love the Adventurers' Club, but its 1930's British/European/American "big-game hunting" theme is just a poor fit.

  • While this may be a great thing to some folks, I don't see our family ever doing this.  I personally have no interest in the things mentioned in the article, with the exception of a great show.  But the biggest thing is the price tag - no way would we pay $300 per person for one evening at a park when we can get park hoppers for a week for the same price.  I can't believe this would pay off, but I could be wrong.

  • The idea sounds interesting, but they'd have to have a HELL of a lot more than what's listed to get me to spend that kind of money.

  • RichKoster, I love your idea and hope that it is true.

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