Thursday, April 22, 2010

heri ya siku kuu!

That means "happy birthday" in Swahili! Today is Earth Day, and it's also the twelfth birthday of Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park! (Coincidence? No! The Imagineers planned it that way, of course!)

I'm one of the first people to admit that AK is my least favorite of the four parks. I'd much rather immerse myself in the wonder of the MK or the glamour of DHS - although lately I find myself appreciating Epcot much more than I used to. I'm one of those people who is usually content with spending half a day at AK before scooting off to an afternoon at World Showcase.

Today, however, I find myself reflecting on WDW's newest park and appreciating the little things about it. My friends Rikki and Katie both posted their thoughts on AK, and I think they capture the park's essence perfectly. AK is a very interesting park in terms of statistics: it's the largest of all four parks, and its symbol is the "Tree of Life," a majestic manmade tree that towers over the park on Discovery Island. Over 300 animals are carved into the "tree"'s base by a number of incredibly talented artists.

There are those who believe that Disney is run by a group of money-hungry vultures, but AK is proof against that. The park was inspired by Walt Disney's passion for animals and conservation. For example, you won't find drinking straws at the restaurants inside AK, because they are harmful to the animals if swallowed. Disney is very careful to protect the wildlife inside the park.

AK gets a bad rap for being a zoo. Actually, its motto is "nahtazu" - not a zoo, get it? It's a park teeming with animals, yes, but it's also filled with thrill rides like Dinosaur and Expedition Everest. The park offers some of the best counter service restaurants in the World. And of course, it's Disney, so the attention to detail goes above and beyond. A cult favorite "hidden gem" is DiVine, a woman wearing stilts who blends into the background of the trees so well that you might not spot her until she decides to surprise you!

I will always have fond memories of my very first Internet Disney community meet at Flame Tree Barbecue in January with the BOGP group!

In addition to having an entire park devoted to animals and conversation, Disney also continues Walt's passion for the environment through the Walt Disney Conservation Fund, the Disney Wilderness Preserve, the Disneynature series for Imax, and Disney Friends for Change: Project Green, which collaborates with Disney Channel stars like Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato.

Some interesting facts about Disney's efforts to reduce their eco footprint can be found at the official Disney Parks blog.

I hope everyone has a magical Earth Day!

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