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.
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.
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.
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.
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.