Animal Kingdom Opening Show

As some of you early birds might know, Disney presents a short “Welcome to the Animal Kingdom” show each morning. However, there has been a slight change. But before I get to that, let me tell you how it used to be.

Each morning, about fifteen minutes before the park’s official opening, a “family of the day” was introduced to all the guests waiting behind the turnstiles. This lucky group helped with the count-down and officially opened the park. Soon after, the gates opened and everyone rushed to a restraining rope near the entrance of Discovery Island (in front of the Tree of Life).

About ten minutes before the park opened, several youngsters were selected to crank open the Tip Board. A big “to-do” was made of this mini-ceremony and the kids seemed to love it.

Tip Board Ceremony

Five minutes before the park opened, a flatbed truck drove up carrying Minnie, Goofy, and Pluto. The group welcomed everyone to the park and reminded us to use our sunscreen, take lots of pictures, and don’t forget our guide maps.

Flatbed Truck with Minnie, Goofy, and Pluto

Then a radio dispatch came in from Mickey and the group eventually spotted him rising in front of the Tree of Life. After a few more welcoming words, the restraining ropes were removed, the park opened, and everyone walked (yeah, right) to Expedition Everest and Kilimanjaro Safaris.

Mickey at the Tree of Life

I was at the Animal Kingdom today and was first in line at the turnstiles. I noticed cast members stringing restraining ropes across the opening of The Oasis (about thirty feet on the other side of the turnstiles). About fifteen minutes before the park opened, everyone was allowed through the gates and up to the ropes. Shortly thereafter, the same, brightly colored flatbed truck appeared, only Goofy was missing and was replaced by Mickey. Once positioned before the crowd, the same basic opening skit was performed. However, there was no “searching for Mickey” since he was already on the truck. When the show was over, the truck drove out of sight, the ropes were removed, and we were free to enter the rest of the Animal Kingdom.

Characters Arrive on Truck

Minnie, Mickey, and Pluto

I asked a cast member when this change took place. She said management tried this new procedure out during the Christmas season and they liked it enough to make it permanent. I then asked her what motivated the change. She didn’t know.

I suspect the reason is that more people can see the truck and characters with this new arrangement. When the show took place on Discovery Island, space was limited and only the people near the rope could see the goings-on. This new arrangement plays to a larger audience as the area in front of The Oasis is much broader.

Although I personally couldn’t care less about the “family of the day” and the children selected to unveil the tip board, I suspect this was a Magical Moment for those chosen and it’s a shame this portion of the show has been eliminated for their sakes. Also, I thought it was cool seeing Mickey appear in front of the Tree of Life. I suppose it’s a trade off so more people can see the show and I believe management felt the disadvantages were worth the gains.

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19 Replies to “Animal Kingdom Opening Show”

  1. Jack,

    My family loves all your posts, but we were especially enamored with your series on Benches and your series on Lamp Posts. Your blogs inspired us to look for some small detail that is often overlooked. We took a weekend trip in February and decided that Ceilings would our focus. We knew they would be good, but we were surprised at the amazing detail and diversity of Disney ceilings. Many times we would be staring up at the ceiling and a crowd of other people would also stop and look up in awe. Many commented that they had never even thought about looking up except in hotel lobbies.

    Our family would love you to do a series on ceilings, we thought about doing it ourselves, but we all agreed that none of us can tell a story with words and pictures like Jack!

    Thanks again for all of the hard-work you put into your blogs… it is VERY appreciated. Every weekend my wife’s parents come over and we display your blogs on the TV so everyone can very the pictures and read along. Your work brings much joy to Ohio every week! Thanks again!


    Matthew Herman

  2. What a shame! My children were choosen to unveil the tip board and then were also give VIP seating at the Lion King of their choice as a reward for ‘helping’. It really made their day and they talked about it to all thier friends when we got home. It really was a magical moment for them.

  3. I think the change might also have to do with the fact that the AK Character Breakfast is now at Tusker House. The old pattern had the truck drive all the way through Harambe and out the gate between Tusker and the entrance to the Safari. With breakfast in that area, there was a potential safety issue with guests already in that area. Before the breakfast was moved, all guests were behind the truck by design. Breakfast guests would have been over in Dinoland.

  4. I always read about the “family of the day” and the opening day show in every park, but I always had the same question….this opening ceremony (when the park has early magic hours)between the EMH and the official park opening??

  5. Jack, thanks for the update and pictures of the AK opening show. I try on every trip to get up and out early enough to see these shows, but for whatever reason I’ve never made it. It is an experience missing from my Disney portfolio 🙂 It does look like Mickey rising from the Tree of Life would be a cool thing to see, but you’re right, they do need to change things up.

  6. Hi!
    Back in 2006 during the opening ceremony our family was chosen to be the first to go on the safari ride. This was part of the year of a million dreams campaign.
    This was our first time at AK and we were so excited to be there to see the opening. A cast member asked if this was our first time there and said follow me. No explanation. He took us through the ropes while the ceremony was going on and we had no clue what was going on. When we arrived at the attraction he then told us we were going to be the first family to ride and then have a fast past to ride as many times we wanted that day! Also the cast member who led us was also the driver!!!
    What an exciting moment! The animals were all out and afterwards he took a picture of us in the vehicle. It was thrilling! Our 3 kids were so excited!
    That was our experience of the opening ceremony at AK!

  7. I really enjoyed the opening ceremony with Mickey appearing in front of the tree of life, but I guess they have to switch things up abit all the time to keep us all coming back for more! Enjoyed the Blog, thanks for the update!!

  8. Interesting article Jack 🙂

    I also remember the ‘old’ opening ceremony which took place at the turnstiles – Rafiki, Timon, Mickey and others would come to the front and dance with CMs to ‘The Circle of Life’.

    In Oct’08, we saw the opening ceremony at Discovery Island, but Mickey was on the truck.. then we saw it again in July’09 and Mickey was back in front of the Tree of Life?!

    I do like how each park has a different opening ceremony 🙂


    Jack’s Comment:

    Things at WDW are always changing. This is necessary to keep things fresh and encourage guests to return again and again. I’m not always happy with the changes, but they’re a fact of life so I might as well get used to them.

  9. Hi Jack, thanks for the description of the old opening ceremony (I haven’t been to Florida in a few years and have never seen Mickey rise up before the Tree of Life–very cool). By any chance, do you remember the very early years (well, not too long ago, I suppose) of AK when they opened the park with the song Circle of Life? I distinctly remember hearing it over the sound system while wandering through The Oasis, but none of my family members recall this. Was this just a 90’s thing?
    Love your blog, thanks for all of your insights!

    Jack’s Comment:

    I don’t remember the details, but I do remember the Circle of Life being played near the turnstiles at opening time. So you’re remembering correctly.

  10. Thanks for the update Jack. It won’t be a change for me but I’ll be looking for it when we’re down in March. It’ll be my first time to see AK as I haven’t been to the World in about 13 years!! I’m pumped. On a smaller note, thanks for phrasing things properly. “I could care less” is wrong and it gets on my nerves to hear it that way. Now we know for sure that the “FOTD” and tip board are truly at the bottom of your list!

  11. Hi Jack – I was at the AK on MLK Jr Day and saw the new opening. Once the characters drove off and the “rope drop” took place, I started to head towards Everest. As I came around each turn, I kept expecting to run into a wall of people waiting at another rope. I never did. When I got to Everest, people were in line, and at the FastPass machines but not moving. Less than 5 minutes later, they must have started up the first train of the day, because suddenly, the line started moving. I do agree that spotting Mickey at the tree in the morning was a cool feature. But I also felt it was way less congested & crowded in the park walking to Everest. I imagine it was less congested on the Safari side too. So the change might not be all bad.

  12. hey jack
    thanks for the info on the new opening ceremony at Animal Kingdom. I remember the old ceremony and I liked it. It was fun and simple. I am interested to see what changes they made on my next visit. Once again, can’t wait for your next blog.

  13. How exactly does (did) Mickey appear before The Tree of Life? Is it a hydraulic lift that is normally used by maintenance/service people to reach the upper levels of the Tree and hides within the trunk at the base of the tree when not in use? From your photo, it looks somewhat substantial and too heavy to roll in and out of a “service locker/closet” every morning…

    Jack’s Answer:

    Mickey was lifted by a hydraulic device, but I have no idea if it has other uses. However, I suspect it was constructed for this one purpose only.

  14. I don’t like the change from the sound of it either. I saw the original opening last year, and we were one of the first ones, so I guess seeing everything made it a better experience, but the unveiling of Mickey Mouse is such a cool moment. It just makes people smile and cheer. It also takes a little bit away from people who want to be near the front, but like to check out The Oasis. With rope drop on the inside of the park, you can browse a lil bit and still get to the front relatively easy.

    Now, if you stop at The Oasis at all, forget it. You’re at the back of the pack.

  15. It may be that the cute show at the end of the day uses the same characters on the same truck,with more CMs and dancing and singing. They just drive the truck off stage in the morning and at the close of the park, drive it back out and do the late show in the same spot. Easy/breasy…….

  16. Thanks, Jack – I saw this too and was appalled by the change. One of the very few things Disney has done that I really, really can’t stand. And I even got used to the announcement change on the WEDway…

  17. We were at AK last week and noticed these changes too. We enjoyed seeing Mickey rise from out of the tree of life, it was so fun and exciting, my kids loved it. It seemed to me that they do still choose a family of the day though. We were on the second safari jeep and the first was used for the family of the day, I heard a cast member say.

  18. Thanks for the update Jack! We were just there in December and we enjoyed the opening ceremonies especially seeing Mickey in front of the tree. I would agree with Deb that I just don’t like this change.

    Thanks again for the update!