Tuesday, March 1, 2011

19. O.T.D. - 3/1/99 - Asia Opens at Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom opened on April 22, 1998.  It was the largest Disney theme park in the world at over 500 acres, but there were still plans for expansion. The first major addition to the park happened 12 years ago today, on March 1, 1999 when the Asia area debuted. It included two new attractions as well as the already established Flights of Wonder show.

The first new attraction that we are saying happy 12th birthday to is the Maharajah Jungle Trek. This walking trail leads guests through the forests and ruins outside the Disney created Asian village of Anandapur.  It is an amazing series of natural habitats where you can see animals such as tigers, Komodo dragons and fruit bats.  It is a self guided tour with Disney cast members stationed along the way to answer any questions and provide fun facts. Disney does an incredible job at getting you close to the animals while still preserving their surroundings and keeping you safe. This is especially prevalent in the bat "house." The only things between us and these relatively scary looking creatures are thin wooden poles placed about 6 to 8 inches apart! We are told by the educated sounding cast member that the bats' wing spans are so large that they could never fly between the poles. To my knowledge, there has never been a tourist attacked by a Disney fruit bat!
The second attraction that opened on March 1, 1999 is Kali River Rapids.  This is an exciting 12 passenger raft ride through the rainforest on the Chakranadi River.  As with every attraction at Disney World, this rapids ride has a story behind it.  It starts in relatively calm waters showing you the beauty of the lush jungle complete with jasmine-scented mists.  However, things take a turn for the worse as the water gets choppy and you come upon evidence that logging companies are threatening the wildlife and ruining the landscape.  Kali River Rapids culminates with an exhilarating drop down a 30 foot waterfall. This attraction is great on those hot Florida afternoons because you WILL get wet.  There is a pretty good chance that you'll get soaked!  An interesting note about Kali River Rapids is that it was originally going to be called Tiger Rapids Run.  The rafts were going to pass through the tiger enclosure so that guests could actually see the big cats while on the ride.  However, animal behaviorists pointed out that screaming wet tourists would drive the tigers towards the back of their habitats and they would surely be out of site.  The Imagineers smartly decided to feature the tigers in the walk-thru Maharajah Jungle Trek instead.

This is only my second O.T.D. - "On This Date" article on the Digital Disney World blog.  It is actually the first one that is celebrating the anniversary of an opening in a Disney World park.  I plan to continue to include these type of stories mixed in with the modern technology postings.   I'd love to hear if you think the O.T.D. articles are interesting enough to keep writing.  Thanks for the feedback!

Have a Disneyriffic day and remember to keep moving forward.  See ya real soon!


  1. I love the OTD posts!! It is very interesting to hear the different events and get an idea of the timeline of these amazing parks. Visiting Disney World is easy to forget how it all started and how much has been added. I remember one trip where I went to the roof of the Contemporary Resort and could barely see in the distance the beginning construction of a giant tree. Now over a decade later it is hard to image Disney World without the Animal Kingdom and the awe inspiring Tree of Life. Keep these great posts coming!!!

  2. Thanks for the feedback.....anonymous!