Parkeology has been quiet lately, as we gear up for WDW47, the most challenging, self-serving, borderline stupid theme park encounter ever attempted. Preparations are now more than a month underway, and while we think we have gone further than any run-of-the-mill Wilderness Explorer has ever gone before, there remain several insurmountable obstacles that must be solved before the big day, still a month away.
But as Walt says, it’s kind of fun to do the impossible. Even if it’s silly.
Nevertheless, the show must go on, and I finally made my way over to Animal Kingdom this week, where construction cranes have moved in and mounds of dirt have moved out. The picture I took apparently got munged up, but if one were to view the Africa bridge from the Asia bridge, while playing bridge and listening to a musical bridge and wearing britches, one would see the familiar brown walls of a major undertaking. The whole area behind the Tusker House and Dawa Bar is now hidden from view, and they are clearing out a whole lot of space.
That, my friends, is the first real Avatar activity we have seen since James Cameron paraded through the park with a host of Disney execs over a year ago.
Is it Pandora? Are the Hallelujah Mountains being constructed just beyond that wall?
Actually no. The internet rumor is this is merely the construction of the new theater for Festival of the Lion King. Disney — surmising that an African-inspired musical show fits better in Africa than in a rustic summer camp — is in the process of relocating the show. And thus clearing the way for the Na’vi to move in.
This strikes me as rather commendable. It’s not often you see them go through such efforts. Shows have been moved around before to temporary locations, or had their theaters enhanced. It’s happened quite a bit at Animal Kingdom. The current Lion King theater has already undergone one major renovation to better enclose it from the elements, as has the Theater in the Wild over in Dinoland. We’ve posted before about the revival tent that housed Flights of Wonder for one season.
Other attractions have been packed up and moved across the country, such as when Carousel of Progress moved from Disneyland to the Magic Kingdom, or when the Mickey Mouse Revue relocated to Tokyo, or when the Iguanadon became a zombified corpse in Paris.
But I can’t think of too many times when Disney has simply built an entirely new facility to relocate a major attraction only a few hundred feet away from its existing spot. The few times they have done it, the rides were rather portable to begin with. Disneyland’s Teacups, being the Wonderland deadbeats that they are, have been evicted to a new home at least once. And Dumbo recently relocated at Magic Kingdom. The Festival of the Lion King requires a much larger footprint than any of those. I’m impressed that they’re going through the effort.
It’s a wise first step, since it makes sense to have Simba in Africa regardless of whether Avatarland actually comes to fruition. If you want to get super technical, it’s actually step #2 for clearing out Camp Minnie-Mickey. A character greeting area is under construction in one of the old Discovery Island shops, to relocate some of the more popular character trails. But Lion King’s switch is the first earth-moving project.
There’s been a lot of speculation that Disney doesn’t need Avatar, since it bought the ultimate Potter-killer last year in the form of major action adventure franchise Red Tails. But at least this proves that they’re serious about making room in Animal Kingdom for something. I wonder if they will find new ways to improve Festival of the Lion King even more. It has to be the most successful live stage show in theme park history, and now that they’re starting from scratch, I wonder if we’ll see a more elaborate set up. One hopes they at least improve the seating. I’m so tired of the theme park torture benches (looking at you, Fantasmic and Beauty and the Beast).