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Monday Mouse Watch : It's lights out for DAK's "Rivers of Light" parade, while Beastly Kingdomme makes a character-based comeback

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Monday Mouse Watch : It's lights out for DAK's "Rivers of Light" parade, while Beastly Kingdomme makes a character-based comeback

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For Disney's Animal Kingdom fans ... It's one of those bad news / good news kind of day.

The bad news is ... Plans for DAK's long-in-development nighttime parade -- "Rivers of Lights" -- have been tabled. Not because Animal Kingdom management lost confidence in Steve Davison's original concept. But -- rather -- because the Mouse wasn't willing to make the sorts of physical changes to that theme park that would have been necessary in order to safely operate this after-hours extravaganza.

What sort of changes are we talking about? Ripping out thousands of trees & plants that currently line Animal Kingdom's streets as well as pushing back dozens of walls & fences. So that there'd first be enough room for the thousands of guests who wished to stand & watch "Rivers of Light" (Which was to have been a Disneyfied version of a Japanese Lantern parade). But then -- directly behind those folks -- there'd also be a wide enough pathway to accommodate those WDW visitors who didn't want to watch "ROL." Who were just looking to move through that theme park and get to their next ride, show or attraction while DAK's nighttime parade was still going on.

The belief in-house was that -- were Disney World to make these sorts of changes to Animal Kingdom ... Well, never mind undoing a decade's worth of carefully cultivated horticulture. An effort like this to deliberately thin the foliage & widen DAK's walkways would fundamentally change the look & character of this theme park. Making Animal Kingdom seem far less wild.

 Copyright 2001 Disney. All Rights Reserved

And given that it's this very thing that differentiates DAK from the Magic Kingdom, Epcot and/or Disney's Hollywood Studios ... Disney World officials (to their credit) weren't willing to compromise this aspect of Animal Kingdom just to accommodate a new nighttime parade. Which is why "Rivers of Light" was extinguished.

But the good news is ... Because WDW execs are still looking for ways to extend DAK's operating hours, guess which concept for a brand-new "land" at that theme park has just been dusted off? Would you believe Beastly Kingdomme?

Mind you, you can just forget about "Dragon's Tower," "Quest for the Unicorn" or any other ride concepts that were previously proposed for this Animal Kingdom addition. My understanding is that WDI is now looking to get a fresh start with this part of the park. More importantly, that any shows or attractions that are being proposed for this revamped version of Beastly Kingdomme will have to have strong ties to already well established Disney brands.

I know, I know. Those of you who are already up in arms about those Disney characters that are allegedly going to be added to Disneyland's "it's a small world" attraction now have yet another reason to bitch & moan. But face facts, folks: One of the main reasons that most people go to the Disney theme parks is because they actually want to see the characters. And given that DAK is pretty light when it comes to rides, shows and attractions that prominently feature the Disney characters (To date, there's only seven of these in that entire theme park: "It's Tough to Be a Bug," "Finding Nemo - The Musical," "Dinosaur," "Festival of the Lion King," "Pocahontas and her Forest Friends," "Rafiki's Planet Watch" as well as Camp Minnie-Mickey's character greeting area) ... Reimagining Beastly Kingdomme as a character-friendly addition to that park will probably be a smart move in the long run.

 Copyright 2006 Disney. All Rights Reserved

And speaking of long range planning ... WDW officials have already begun meeting with DAK curators to discuss who'll be staying on at Animal Kingdom and who'll be leaving to go take care of the creatures that will soon be on display at Disney's Night Kingdom. Given the specialized training that's involved here, the Mouse wants to make sure that WDW has enough cast members on hand to properly staff both facilities when DNK opens in the Fall of 2011.

And please note that (in spite of those rumors that are currently making the rounds on the Web about how Disney's Night Kingdom won't be a true 5th gate for the WDW resort. But -- rather -- just an after-hours experience at Animal Kingdom) I did say two separate facilities. And -- again -- in spite of any press reports that you may have read which insisted that DNK will be built right next door to Pleasure Island, this $520 million project won't be built there. Night Kingdom's construction site is actually located in the upper northwest corner of WDW property, to the west of the Magic Kingdom.

Look for more stories here on JHM about Disney's Night Kingdom in the not-so-distant future. About how the Mouse will only need 2% of WDW's annual visitors to visit DNK annually in order for this project to become a financial success. More importantly, how Night Kingdom will mostly become a lifeboat for hundreds of PI employees as Mickey makes plans to close even more of Pleasure Island's night clubs.

But -- for now -- let's turn our attention back to Disney's Animal Kingdom. To be specific, that theme park's upcoming 10th anniversary. To date, nearly 350 people have signed up for that "A Wild Decade" event that WDWCelebrations will be holding in that theme park on April 22nd. And if you'd like to get in on the fun, then I suggest that you click on over to the WDWCelebrations website and register for this 10th anniversary event ASAP.

Copyright 2008 WDWCelebrations.com. All Rights Reserved

Beyond that ... Do you respect WDW's decision to not rip out hundreds of Animal Kingdom's trees & plants in order to accommodate that proposed "Rivers of Light" nighttime parade? More importantly, what do you think of WDI's plan to reinvent DAK's proposed Beastly Kingdomme addition as a character-based "land" ?

Your thoughts?

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  • I really liked the River of Dreams night parade idea, but I actually wondered about the space issue during my last visit to DAK.  The decision feels right.  DAK has, moved in recent years, to become a "must visit" for my family during our time at WDW.  We still believe that they need more to do and always schedule ourselves from 9-3 in the park, and combine it with another activity.  A new family friendly area like Beastly Kingdom would be a great decision.  

  • The idea sounded great, but if it would have reeked havoc on the horticulture, I'm glad they though otherwise. DAK had a huge problem when it first opened with insufficient shade and overheated guests. Now that the place has finally grown in, it would be a shame to remove the plantings.

  • It's good they decided not to rip out all the scenery that makes Animal Kingdom so unique from other Disney parks. As for Beastly Kingdom, wasn't the original plan centered around dragons and mythical creatures? Which Disney characters fit that bill? It's probably too much to ask for a non-Epcot Figment attraction.

    This is exciting! With the addition of a new land, DAK is just going to get better and better.  

  • I agree with and respect the decision they made to not tear out a lot of AK's lush and beautiful greenery to make way for guests to watch a parade on the water. From the sound of it though, it was shaping up to be a great parade. Perhaps they could squeeze it in somewhere else on property, like maybe seven seas lagoon?

    I am quite curious about the re-birth of the plans and ideas for Beastly Kingdomme, nice tease there. It sounds like things are very early in this process, so I'm sure if it turns out to be true, we'll be hearing more to come further down the road.

  • I'll take new attractions over a parade, any day.    I'll re-ride attractions over and over.  I'll see a parade once (if ever).

  • I'm glad they didn't rip out the plants for the parade, but why couldn't they just move the parade to Epcot?  

  • I'm so glad that they nixed ROL at AK.  Of all the parks, AK has the best "feel" for me.  They should save ROL for when they build DisneySea at WDW :)  .   As for characters in Beastly Kingdom, my hope is that they will go with Maleficient's dragon over Pete's Dragon.  Anyone else think that Belle's Beast will become the new land's mascot?

  • I agree, the parade description sounds like a great concept.  And the EPCOT would be a great alternative choice.  I still miss Tapestry of Nations.  They just need to work on the "rivers of light" name.  It just sounds like it should take place on the water.  John Q. Public would be very confused by that name.  I know I would be if i were a casual park visitor.

    Joe Rohde continues to impress me.  I'm sure he lobbied hard to avoid having some "entertainment suit" come in and rip up his park.  Thank god for that.  I think Beastly Kingdom is better suited in Joe's hands.  My head swims with the knowledge that he could guide this expansion project.  Unfortunately, Disney has now dragged their feet too long on this project and the casual observer may now see this as Disney's attempted answer to Universal's Harry Potter.

    I'm still not behind this whole Night Kingdomn concept.  They will really need to wow us with some incredible experiences to pull it off.  The Disney Institute sounded great in theory too but the execution didnt match the publics interests and quickly folded.  It's interesting to hear the Downtown Disney location floated as the proposed location of this "5th gate" considering the history of the Disney Institute in that area.  And now it sounds like the new "Downtown Disney", Flamingo Crossing will serve as a gateway to Night Kingdom.  Hey, maybe they can relocate The Adventurer's Club to Flamingo Crossing!!!!

  • Okay...so what kind of process is Disney using anyway?

    Seems that from the pretty early stages, it would have been apparent to just about anyone that to pull off a for-real pagent in DAK, pathways would have to be widened, trees would have to go, and much of the park's "character" would be lost.  

    This being the case, why in the heck has Rivers of Light been bandied about for as long as it has?  Was there some kind of internal fight going on--some people pushing to do this show and rip the park apart, others putting up barriers?  I'd be interested in knowing.

    Either way, I think the WDW people need to wake up and realize that there is a vocal part of its audience that recognizes the unique character that DAK's trees, narrow paths, etc. bring to that park.   And those people HATE the trees, narrow paths, etc., citing that walkways are always crowded, that foliage blocks sightlines and makes the park a mess to navigate.  Those folks would have loved to see a new parade that opened things up.


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  • I'm thrilled to hear that Disney kept the park's (and therefore the guests) best interests in mind with this decision. Whomever is responsible for this should be applauded.

    I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the Beastly Kingdom plan goes through!

    And I agree with Pudge the Fish, this whole Night Kingdom thing just doesn't do it for me. Maybe I just don't get it, but so far, from what I've heard... I don't like it.

  • Not doing the Rivers of Light sounds like a good idea.  It seems that the World of Color show is going to really be an unpleasant intrusion into DCA with a Mickey face staring at you all day.

    But...more cartoon characters?  I don't care if they have surveys saying people want to see them, because common sense is going to tell you those surveys are wrong.  The park is filled with people anyway.  Somehow they are going to attract more with this sort of thing?

    It's enough.  Who is running this place now?  They are so single minded and unable to do anything that is not character based?

    STOP with this line already.  Can't Disney figure out that doing things to death is not the best way to go about things?

    What DAK needs is an Australia and a South America section, long before they need to add Beastly Kingdom.  This place could be their greatest park, but instead, they're now going to crap it up with these cartoon shenanigans.

    What a shame that the place is run by people who are so blatantly inept.  It is absolutely appalling how terrible a job they are doing.

  • I'll agree with most evryone so far that ditching the idea of a night-time parade seems sound. I just hope that the characters are woven into the theme and character of the theme park well. I have high hopes, as Animal Kingdom has done a good job of using characters tastefully so far.

  • Parades are a dime a dozen at the Theme Parks; they are well done parades but over used events. I think it was a good move to eliminate DAK's nigtly parade especially since it would destroy the atmosphere of the eco-friendly wild theme there.

    "Beastlie Kingdomme" sounds like something unique for that park and hope it fleshes out. Each park needs its unique drawing points and not a redundant set of events that get stale. However, I do think that the intergration of Disney characters throughout DAK and all parks is important. The children want the warm, fuzzy characters and baby-boomers want the nostalgiic presence of childhood favorites. Intergrating them into "It's A Small World", however,  is a bad idea in my opinion.  

  • Allow a clarification. I am for the Disney characters apppearing in the parks, but in smallways. They do not need plastred everywhere you look. Some  costumed animal characrters are appriopriate and a ride maybe, but not added ad nauseam.

  • CHARACTER-based Beastly Kingdom? Hmmm...

    You're right, the Mouse hasn't made too many films with unicorns or dragons in them. But the way I see it, there's two kinds of nerds in the world - those who like to SOLVE problems, and those who like to simply point out that they exist. As a member of the former group, I'd like to list a number of Disney films that COULD potentially spawn Beastly Kingdom attractions (some by the skin of their teeth), listed from most to least likely.

    - THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA series. Sure, not all the animals were terribly mystical (lion, badger, mouse, wolves) but they also had minotaurs, centaurs, unicorns and fauns, and the stories and universe are CERTAINLY fantastical enough to spawn several potential thrill rides or dark rides. I'd say it's more than likely, especially if "Prince Caspian" does well, that Beastly Kingdom will become a Narnia-based land.

    - MONSTERS, INC. Technically, monsters ARE fantastical creatures. Maybe a clone of DCA's "Mike and Sulley to the Rescue?" Or even better, an EPCOT pavillion-esque replica of the Monsters, Inc. factory, with a thrill ride through the big door room, and a central atrium complete with animatronic Celia going "Monsters Inc., please hold, Monsters Inc., please hold..."?

    - THE LITTLE MERMAID. Maybe a whole land devoted to mermaids and the undersea kingdom? Maybe with a clone of that Mermaid dark ride they're building in DCA?

    - UP! I know, nobody quite knows the plot of Pixar's 2009 animated Pete Docter-helmed release yet...but apparently it has something to do with an old man fighting off mystical beasts. This could maybe qualify.

    - ALICE IN WONDERLAND. If the 2009 Tim Burton film actually INCLUDES things like the mock turtle, the gryffin and the jabberwock, they could certainly fashion "Wonderland" around that (the 1951 animated version not so much...though I suppose if they cloned the Disneyland dark ride as well, it wouldn't be TOO out of place).

    - FANTASIA. Specifically the Pastoral Symphony. THIS would undoubtedly make the most logical sense for theming...though Fantasia isn't exactly recognized as the Platinum title it deserves to be (besides, I think a Pastoral Symphony theme was the original plan for Beastly Kingdom, and now that they're starting fresh, out the window it goes).

    - PETER PAN. With the Tinkerbell movie coming out, pixies are expected to get hyped up the wazoo. But do pixies really count as "animals"?

    - BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. The beast is a mythical creature...kind of...maybe? No.

    - ENCHANTED. Specifically, the animated world in the first part of the film. It's a nice big recent hit, and it had that big ogre thing, that's kind of mystical, right?

    - HERCULES. Barely makes it by the skin of its teeth by nature of Pegasus. But Hercules is hardly considered an A-list Disney classic these days, so I don't think it's terribly likely.

    - ATLANTIS: THE LOST EMPIRE. See last paragraph, replace Pegasus with The Leviathan.

    - PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN series. Maybe do something with the Kraken?

    - SLEEPING BEAUTY. Maybe do something with the Maleficent dragon?

    - THE SWORD AND THE STONE. Maybe do something with the Wizard's Duel and the Madam Mim purple dragon?

    - MULAN. Technically, Mushu WAS a dragon. But the architecture of a Mulan-themed land might be redundant with EPCOT's China pavillion, and an excessively Mushu-based attraction might be redundant with the Magic of Disney Animation show at Disney-MGM...er, Disney's Hollywood Studios (I will NEVER get used to calling it that). Which wouldn't matter if Mulan were a more ubiquitous Disney franchise (along the lines of Lion King or Nemo), but it's not.

    - PETE'S DRAGON. Not too many young people remember this movie (for good reason), but still, it DID have a dragon. Maybe just a dragon-based attraction about all the Disney dragons, combined?

    - THE RELUCTANT DRAGON. See last paragraph.

    - THE MANY ADVENTURES OF WINNIE THE POOH. Maybe they could turn that area into the Hundred Acre Wood, move the Pooh dark ride there, and put Mr. Toad back in Fantasyland where it belongs. (Hey, a man can dream, right?)

    - THE BLACK CAULDRON. Absolutely not. If Disney hasn't based an attraction off this 1985 bomb by now, they never will. Just thought I'd mention it because it DOES have mystical creatures in it.

    - THE SANTA CLAUSE series. Unlikely. Got reindeer and elves (stretching it, I know) but nobody wants to ride a Christmas attraction when it's not Christmas.

    Lilo and Stitch and Treasure Planet don't count because those were ALIENS, not mystical beasts.

    Of course, the problem with ALL of these options is, WHAT'S TO BE DONE WITH FESTIVAL OF THE LION KING? It was originally intended as a cheap stopgap attraction, but it's grown into one of DAK's most popular - so much so that they cloned it in Hong Kong Disneyland, right in the heart of Adventureland. On the one hand, it's too popular to be torn down willy-nilly...on the other hand, it wouldn't fit with ANY Beastly Kingdom theming (of course Finding Nemo doesn't fit with Tomorrowland either, but let's stick to one thing at a time here). I think I might have a solution, though...just MOVE it! Let's face it, the design of FOTLK doesn't involve heavy architecture or anything...it's basically a big tent-like building with bleachers in it, in which performers perform. It seems to me that if they could move the Mad Tea Party to the other side of Fantasyland in Disneyland in 1983, I don't see why they couldn't dismantle the Lion King show and reassemble it somewhere in Africa (perhaps to replace Flights Of Wonder?)

    Just my two cents. Keep the change.

    P.S. Disney characters in It's A Small World? Boo freakin hoo. That's always been the worst attraction in any park (I went on it ONCE when I was six and never again, and I've been to the parks dozens of times)

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