Animal Kingdom Update: Spring 2019

Animal Kingdom is the next stop in our Walt Disney World updates, and it’s our first time for a photo report from this park in over 5 months. Given that we have been doing monthly updates for every other park (and even Coronado Springs!), this might seem like an oversight.

And it probably is. Our rationale for not covering Animal Kingdom has been because there hasn’t been much construction post-Pandora, and hence no major reason for an update. However, plenty has changed since our last Animal Kingdom update post, and even without these changes, it’s nice to drop in on each park from time to time just to see how things are looking.

So that’s exactly what we’re going to do with this Animal Kingdom update, taking a stroll around the park and looking at what’s changed in the last few months. We’ll aim to do these on a monthly basis going forward. For now, this update will focus on the new Kevin from Up walk-around character, Bollywood Beats, Lion King 25th Anniversary celebration, and other entertainment…

What we won’t be focusing on is construction. The photo at the top of the post is it in terms of work we saw, and that appears to simply be work on the animal habitats in that particular area of the Discover Island Trails. They’re otherwise open.

The suspense is probably killing you, so we’ll start by checking out the Lion King 25th Anniversary celebration…

Starting outside Animal Kingdom’s turnstiles, things look good.

This photo frame is a beautiful frame with a lot of tactile detail, which replaced the also-excellent Animal Kingdom 20th Anniversary frame.

Inside, we’ve got a fun photo op on the way to Pandora – World of Avatar. This is incredibly popular during the day, and regularly sports a long line of people.

This is about as good as it gets for the Lion King celebration.

The major draw for the celebration is the Hakuna Matata Time dance party.

It’s rare for me to say, “skip this and go to Dino-Rama” with regard to literally anything at Animal Kingdom, but when it comes to dance parties, Donald’s Dino-Bash is better and more substantive than this.

In the other direction, both literally and figuratively, is the Pandora Utility Suit, a giant walking mech suit.

It’s a little cheesy, but I like this.

I wonder if Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will have similar, post-opening additions.

There were droids testing last year at Disneyland, and those are rumored to have been cut from the opening day unveiling of Star Wars land. I could see them appearing a year or five later once crowds have finally died down a bit and it’s more operationally-realistic to have roaming droids.

Continuing with entertainment, there’s the new Bollywood Beats show. This is described by Disney as an exhilarating Indian dance experience that brings traditional Indian dance together with the fire of Hindi film in an energetic show.

From classical Indian rhythms of Kathak to the proud folk style of Bhangra to modern Bollywood popular dance, the performers of Bollywood Beats offer a spirited interactive performance on the stage across from the Anandapur Theater in Asia.

We saw the first day of this, and I felt it was a mixed bag. For the first half of the show, the performances were captivating and exactly as described above. Really fun and energetic.

For the second half of the show, members of the audience were asked to come up to the stage. Now, I realize I’m a surly curmudgeon, but I hate audience members being used as substitutes for highly skilled performers. It’s one thing to have a comedy show use interactions as a light-hearted way of picking on guests. It’d be another entirely to find a random dude in the audience and ask them to come on stage to deliver a stand-up routine.

I’m well aware that this is probably an unpopular opinion, as everyone wants to be an active participant in everything, but I don’t. Let talented performers be talented performers without random guests who are totally clueless joining in the entertainment. (Stops shaking fist at cloud.)

While we were standing there, I did notice these hilarious rocks, which I’ve never seen before.

Faces painted on rocks are one of life’s little delights. I will never not laugh and smile when I see them.

This is still a thing.

A strong argument could be made that those rocks are more entertaining than Dug and Russell are in this show.

I love cats of all types. I actually have a Google News alert for news about Southern California’s mountain lions, and highly recommend this long-read from the Los Angeles Times, A week in the life of P‑22, the big cat who shares Griffith Park with millions of people.”

Just as Yossarian often does, I feel like these tigers were trying to stare directly into my soul.

I’m not sure any other park can touch Animal Kingdom in terms of atmospheric entertainment, and the various acts in Harambe are one big reason why.

The Harambe Village Acrobats are fantastic. Really impressive, with a show that’s perfectly-paced. This is also a good example of audience participation, with short segments that are primarily used to poke fun and contrast the abilities of the professionals with audience members.

I’ve been debating a “Best Snacks at Animal Kingdom” post, but the problem is like half the snack stands are closed on any given day. Even when it’s busy, you can be assured that not everything will be open.

I might just go ahead and do it, as there are a few things we really like at Animal Kingdom.

The quiet little walkways between Africa and Asia that lead down to the water offer the best angles for photos of the Tree of Life.

These paths are all unmarked, so you’ll rarely find anyone down there.

Finally, what all of you probably came to see, Kevin from Up!

She is making sporadic appearances throughout the day, currently ending at 4:30 p.m. Note that this is not currently published in the Times Guide.

We can’t say enough positive things about Kevin.

She is hilarious, engaging, and adds some real personality to Discovery Island.

It also appears that the Kevin character is a relatively low-tech thing.

While it’s great to see all of the incredible things Disney is doing with flashy tech in Galaxy’s Edge, Pandora, and elsewhere, but it’s also great to see ‘back to basics’ stuff like this.

To me, this demonstrates that park additions can resonate with guests without costing $100 million or more. Things that are charming, quirky, etc. can connect with guests on an emotional level just as well–or better–than the fancy stuff.

I’d love to see Imagineering take a similar approach with new attractions, at least on occasion. Rides like Storybook Land Canal Boats and Casey Jr. Circus Train would be lovely additions, and could cost very little to build. But I digress.

The point is that Kevin is something pure and special, the kind of silly but memorable thing that I’d love to see more of at Walt Disney World.

To demonstrate, I’ll leave you with this video of Kevin interacting with Dug:

That wraps up our Animal Kingdom update for the month. We’ll be back sooner rather than later, as there’s still a lot we didn’t cover in this post, from delicious new-ish snacks, to counter service menu changes at a number of locations around the park.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!


What do you think of the latest changes at Animal Kingdom? Do you agree or disagree with our reviews of Bollywood Beats and the walk-around Kevin character? Other thoughts about Animal Kingdom? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

19 Responses to “Animal Kingdom Update: Spring 2019”
  1. Lisa B. March 12, 2019
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