From Screen to Park: Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Updated: Apr 2
by Lyndsey Wells
If you love wildlife, Animal Kingdom is the place for you! Opened in 1998, this is the newest park on Walt Disney World property and the only Disney park worldwide dedicated exclusively to the natural environment and animal conservation – past, present, and fantasy! Besides traditional theme park attractions, this park exhibits hundreds of species of live animals, making it a unique stop on your Disney World vacation.
Want to get up to speed? These movies (and documentaries!) will help you feel ready for Animal Kingdom:
Pandora – The World of Avatar
Avatar – Of course you have to watch the movie that inspired Pandora, the Avatar-themed land in Animal Kingdom! You’ll love the attractions Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey, but they’ll make a lot more sense if you familiarize yourself with banshees, floating mountains and the Shaman of Songs ahead of time.
Any DisneyNature film – These nature documentary films join the legacy of The Walt Disney Company’s love for the outdoors and true-life adventures. You can find a bunch of them on Disney+ -- my boys especially love DisneyNature Oceans and DisneyNature Born in China, but there are plenty that also highlight specific species that you might just see in Animal Kingdom, like elephants and African cats.
The Lion King – This 1994 Disney nouveau-classic is a great one thanks to its setting (Africa -- one of the lands and major cultural influences of Animal Kingdom), its characters featured throughout the park (Rafiki’s Planet Watch is where you’ll find a petting zoo – you might see him hanging out around the park during the day too!), and its influential music (in the beloved stage show Festival of the Lion King).
Up! – You’ll find Up! references in UP! A Great Bird Adventure Show where you can see live exotic birds – but you also might notice it in the Wilderness Explorer booths around the park, where you can join Russell in his quest to collect WE badges (in a free, collectible brochure) as you learn fun facts about all the different animal exhibits. This activity is one of our favorite lesser-known tips for families with young kids!
Dinosaur – This lesser-known 2000 movie loosely inspired the Animal Kingdom ride Dinosaur, but it will get you in a prehistoric mood for DinoLand USA either way! Dino fans will love hanging out in this land, themed around prehistoric life.
A Bug’s Life – Everyone loves a good 3D film, and It’s Tough to be a Bug is a great one to watch at Animal Kingdom! It’s a perfect way to beat the heat on a sunny day or take a break in the afternoon – and the theater is located inside the famous Tree of Life sculpture that anchors the park.
Destination World (Africa and Asia) – These are super short episodes (3-4 minutes each) that highlight different continents of the world, with stunning footage of natural history, wildlife, and culture. It’s a great way to learn a little more about Africa and Asia, two incredibly-themed lands
featured in Animal Kingdom that truly make you feel like you’re traveling the world.
Documentaries are a fun way to get in an Animal Kingdom mood, especially one made about the behind-the-scenes work at the park! Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom helps you get up close and personal with some of the majestic animals in the park, along with the animal care experts who take care of them. You’ll love virtually meeting animals like Kenya, the Masai giraffe – then spotting them in Animal Kingdom!
I hope this helps you feel ready for your adventure to Animal Kingdom! If you have any other questions about the parks, sign up for a vacation consultation with me – I’d love to help you plan a magical Disney vacation. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editors’ note: ConciEARS’ blog series Screen to Park is a guide to the essential movies to watch to understand or enjoy Disney Parks attractions. The series is not a comprehensive discussion of all movie references in every attraction. The next blog in the series, Disney's Animal Kingdom, will be published next Thursday. You can read the previous entry now: From Screen to Park: Disney California Adventure.