Bold New Worlds – Harambe Theater District

In 1998, I flew down for a long week at Walt Disney World. My third such long week trip in as many years. Only this time was different. This time, there was a whole new theme park waiting for me.

People say Animal Kingdom is a half day park. That trip, I spent half the week there. That sounds nuts to the average tourist, but I got lost in the details. We spent days just diving into everything. I rode Countdown to Extinction seven times on that trip. I can’t remember how many Safaris. For a Disney fan accustomed to soaking in the atmosphere, it was exhilarating to have that much new territory to explore. It didn’t matter that there were only three rides.

When Everest was being built, I haunted the construction site, celebrating each new bathroom as it opened, each cleared path, each planted rice field. It was an ancient kingdom being unveiled before my eyes. It’s a different sensation than when they simply refurbish an existing area. It’s a movement into the frontier, into virgin Walt Disney World territory, never before developed. When you practically live in the parks, it’s hard to describe how strange it feels to suddenly have a new place to go.

The Harambe Theater District (aka the new home of the Festival of the Lion King) opened a few weeks ago. I was there the day after the walls came down, and I am happy to say, it is a perfect, seamless addition to the original Harambe village. It feels like a part of Opening Day 1998–as rustic and timeworn and meticulously detailed a section as you will find.

Harambe Theater District

Favorite details include:

  • An operating license for the theater, issued by the fictional Harambe government and displayed on the wall near the Stand By queue for Lion King.
  • In the new gift shop, there’s an old tape deck on a top shelf, loaded with a cassette of the Lion King.
Were they even still making tapes in 1994?

Were they even still making tapes in 1994?

  • On the balcony overlooking a theater sits a large boombox, whose owner must have wandered away. And if you stop and listen, you realize that’s where the area music is coming from.
Apparently Harambe is able to get more radio stations than the Safari trucks

Apparently Harambe is able to get more radio stations than the Safari trucks

  • Then there’s this view of the old geyser field, not visible since the Discovery Riverboats made their final journey around Safari Village more than a decade ago. You can see the geysers here at about the 6:30 mark.
No longer spouting fire

No longer spouting geysers

  • And finally there’s this path, still off limits to the public, wrapping around behind the exquisitely themed restrooms.
Like the tunnel to Toontown, a world of blue cartoon figures awaits just beyond.

Like the tunnel to Toontown, a world of blue cartoon figures awaits just beyond.

You know where this path goes. To the next bold new world. Pandora in 2017.


Comments (10)

  1. Now that the geysers are visable again are there any rumor of Disney turning them back on (or ripping them out)?

    • No rumors one way or the other. It’s very doubtful that they still work and I doubt they would spend the money to fix them.

  2. I was 9 when the Lion King came out. I listened to or so much, I wore out that cassette tape of the soundtrack! So yes, there were still cassette tapes then!

    • It*

  3. Had the soundtrack to Lion King on cassette as a kid in 1994. Played it over and over until the tape wore out. I can still hum the orchestral tracks from begining to end. Loved it so much, I bought the Pocahontas soundtrack (also on cassette) before I even saw the movie. I was extremely disappointed.

    I’m at WDW now with my wife’s family. Only spent one day at AK and didn’t get to see as much of the new Harambe as I would have liked and missed a couple of these great details. Have to check them out next time. Thanks for pointing them out.

  4. You whippersnappers and your digital music. I had cassette decks in my cars up through a 2001 VW Beetle.

    • Nothing wrong with that, Dean. We know that German technology usually lags behind.

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