18 March 2009

Place of all delight

A little less than eleven years ago, Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened with a roar. It was the last park to open, to date, in Florida. As with all Disney properties, nothing ever opens in a completed state, or will ever be complete. For the second phase of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the park would move beyond the heart of Africa to the “population explosions” and “wild places” of Asia.

Asia opened to guests on March 18, 1999. It would include the Maharajah Jungle Trek and Kali River Rapids (or what was planned as Tiger River Rapids), both of which would be take place along the Chakranadi River in the village of Anandapur. Additionally, the village would house a temple under renovation that had been overrun by gibbons. Of the gibbons and the temple, Joe Rohde relates this tale:

“This is just another example of starting from a real experience. In this case, we have the gibbons who are on the islands, you know, in Asia. And we know that they need something to swing on and climb on, that’s what they want to do, they live in trees. So, we’re trying to figure, ‘Well, what in the world could we possibly build that doesn’t look like a jungle gym, that makes sense out of an environment where these gibbons would be climbing and playing, and blah, blah blah.’ And we just happened on one of our research trips to see this temple under restoration. The one in the upper left hand corner, that’s a real temple, in Nepal, under restoration, and that became the inspiration for what we ultimately built as the gibbon temples, because it solved a problem that, frankly, we didn’t know how to solve until we came across this example.”

Like the poachers that invade the reserve in Harambe, Anandapur has its only illegal activities that harm the environment and fortify the message of conservation. Kali River Rapids, as planned and executed, would have an illegal logging operation occurring down river. The meticulous planning of the queue, as would continue throughout every corner of Asia, would include a trip through the rafting company’s office, where a radio would dispatch warnings about the loggers too late.As for the Maharajah Jungle Trek, this tour would include glimpses into the habitat and disposition of animals such as tapirs, tigers, bats, Eldt’s deer, Komodo dragons, and over fifty variety of birds. According to the account given to Melody Malmberg in The Making of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Them Park, the story behind this walk is:

“The tiger exhibit devolved from a ruined hunting-lodge palace to an even more ruined hunting lodge at the behest of the Advisory Board. They asked the Imagineers not to present guests with walls, as that design called up visions of dreary old-fashioned menageries. Instead, they encouraged the Imagineers to tear down visible barriers to give the illusion that the tigers are freely roaming in a preserve with hoofed animals…”

Today, Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s Asia turns ten. The past decade has brought many wonderful interactions, experiences, and insights from Asia to the many guests of Serka Zong and Anandapur. Anandapur, in Sanskrit, means “place of all delight.” A meaning Asia has certainly lived up to over the past ten years, and a tradition that it will carry with it for many more decades. Happy birthday Asia!

1 comment:

black743 said...

I wrote about this in my blog as well, as this date has a personal connection for me. March 18 is also my Father's birthday. We were actually there for the opening day of Asia and to celebrate his birthday. Unfortunately, this would turn out to be his last, as he passed away in June of that year. For that reason, Asia has a very personal meaning for me.