Today we head out for a pretty thorough look at what’s going on around Animal Kingdom. In addition to what’s happening in the title, we’ll also hop on Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest, try the new-ish Teriyaki Beef Slider from Bradley Kiosk, walk Pangani Forest Exploration Trail and Maharajah Jungle Trek, check out Pizzafari’s new color scheme and the expected restaurant expansion in back, and a lot more!
I’ve been trying to capture the size of the Pandora – World of AVATAR construction for some number of months now and I still don’t think this does it justice. But if you expand the larger image above and click it, I’ve circled the (verified) full size humans standing on top of the building. Get ready to saddle up on that banshee. Disney released some new details on the Na’vi River Journey here. Regardless of what you think you think about the source material, prepare to have your mind blown.
The Hallelujah Islands tower over the entrance:
Keep taking your vitamins and you might live to see the opening.
Work seems to be finishing up on the Disney Outfitters store expansion up here on the right.
Riverside Depot is painted on the side with the building themed to a train station.
The exterior otherwise seemed to be nearly done.
I circled by a couple of times over the afternoon. This is 12:30pm with a blank canvas on the clock tower and no shutters on any of the windows.
By 3pm, painting was nearing completion.
By 4:30pm, the painting was finished and the shutters over the windows were being installed. Slowly but surely…
The Tree of Life looks spectacular in front of what is expected to be a sort of nighttime projection show in this area, in addition to the Night Safaris and a range of other nighttime entertainment that is currently being tested.
Just remember Animal Kingdom was my favorite theme park long before it was yours.
Most of the walls around Pizzafari are down, exposing the new paint scheme and the large addition being built in the back.
Not a lot is known about what’s going in back here.
There was some chatter that the restaurant expansion would operate like Be Our Guest, which serves a quick service lunch and then a fancier sit-down restaurant.
Pizzafari otherwise looks great:
The color scheme fits well with the rest of Discovery Island, which now features an ummmmmmm…”less colorful” aesthetic?
Look closely and you’ll notice that pizza is now “Hosted by Smucker’s.”
The entrance used to look like this with bright pinks, yellows, and reds.
Flik has replaced Daisy Duck in the Discovery Island area in front of Starbucks for one reason or another.
It would make some sense if the Avatar Na’vi costumes are going to be modeled after them, though the aliens are something like ten feet tall. Anyway, if you’re looking for the blue ant, he’s here with very minimal waits. His current meet times are 9am – 12:30pm and 1:40pm – 4:30pm with occasional breaks.
I took a quick walk around some of the Discovery Island Trails.
It was lunch time for the porcupines. You can kind of see the guy is holding a plastic panel to shield him from the quills as he drops food from over the top. This is not unlike how lunch time went growing up.
Across the water at the Baloo and King Louie Meet. Everything is so pretty here.
It’s a requirement.
It’s 12:50pm and Kilimanjaro Safaris is posting a 55 minute wait. Looking over wait times over the course of the day:
Waits are relatively nominal for the most part. DINOSAUR doesn’t really hit 20 minutes until 11am, though some downtime pushes up the peak wait right around when we’re going to visit with FastPass+ ourselves. It takes Everest a full hour to hit anything above 10 minutes and waits fall back to 15 or less for the last 90 minutes. It remains stupid hot in Orlando. Last Monday’s high was the highest since 1929 or something I think I read at 90 degrees. It’s 78 degrees as I type this up at 11pm. Anyway, because of that, Kali waits are higher than they would be otherwise, though significantly shorter than the summer when it gets hotter even earlier in the day. Kilimanjaro Safaris’ waits have suffered more than most headliner attractions that offered legacy FASTPASS, for whatever reason. They may be dedicating even more capacity to FastPass+. With its monster capacity, legacy FASTPASSes were usually available with return times just 40 minutes in the future. FastPass+ availability is also very good for the most part, so there’s still inventory that wasn’t being used before and after the implementation of FP+.
Safaris also tends to have longer FP+ return lines and in turn, longer FP+ return waits. To the point where Disney actually had to reroute the FP+ queue through the old FASTPASS machine hut, where it’s commonly backed up into, like it is right now.
There’s just one person hand-scanning MagicBands and tickets, which doesn’t help the appearance of the line outside the queue. I’ve mentioned before that temporary backups outside the FP+ touchpoints aren’t that big of a deal because you’re going to be waiting for those people in front of you at some point, unless there’s absolutely no wait up through the merge point, in which case you might be delayed two minutes. But actual Safaris FP+ return waits can be as high as 30 minutes. When I get in line at 3:19pm later, I’ll be on the truck and on my way into the savanna in just 13 minutes.
I’ve been a big proponent of Harambe Market’s food since it opened around five months ago. You can view the menu and reviews of most of the items here.
Operationally, it’s got a lot of problems, particularly in the afternoon from 12pm-2pm when it gets slammed with people like it is here. It may be difficult to tell, but there are about 25 people in the grill line and another 25 people in the sausage line (no jokes please). Then there’s literally nobody in the drink line and maybe ten people in the ribs line. With just one cash register at the front of each line, you’re looking at a solid 25-minute-plus wait for food, which is far too long to wait hungry out in the sun. And then on top of that, if you were to wait, there probably wouldn’t be anywhere to sit and you’d have to take your food elsewhere. I had planned to grab the Chicken Skewer here, but the wait wasn’t happening and I elected to search out alternatives. This is 12:50pm so we’re right in the middle of the lunch rush.
If you do plan to visit (and you should), consider dinner or as late of a lunch as possible. This is the scene at 4:15pm with a 6pm close – one person in line for sausages, one person in line at the grill, and nobody waiting for ribs, though the wine line is now a bit longer. I’d probably be looking at a meal around 3pm, which is right around when the crowds typically begin to drop off substantially. That way, by the time you’re done around 3:45pm, you’ll be looking at significantly lower waits at the majority of attractions. Anyway, the usual hours are 11am-Park close, so try to get there as close to open as possible or try to eat late.
What’s in the case at Zuri’s Sweets:
The “Caramel and Marshmallow Zebra Spiral” in the middle right looks a little conspicuous.
Animal Kingdom continues meddling with the menus of the various kiosks that make up Discovery Island. Bradley Falls is currently serving a “Teriyaki Beef Slider with Pickled Cucumber” for $4.99 or a snack credit.
It’s served in a brown to-go box. As there isn’t much seating in the area, you’re probably going to be walking it somewhere.
Longtime readers may remember that I have unusually dainty hands, which should accentuate the small size of the sandwich. We’re talking four or five bites depending on your tolerance for salt. I thought the sandwich was dominated by the too-thick slice of pickle, which just added more sodium to what is perhaps the most salt-laden preparation of beef known to (wo)man. The beef was otherwise sweet with a syrupy sauce not unlike what’s served at Katsura Grill in the Japan Pavilion. The bun was about as fresh as it gets with a nice soft chewiness. Overall, it was probably a waste of money. Five bucks is about half of the cost of an entree and this is far less food than just about any quick service entree at the Park. As a snack credit, it may make sense if you’re looking for something “savory.” As I mentioned before, I was planning to have lunch at Harambe Market and this held me over until I could make it over to Flame Tree. So in some ways I guess you could say this slider saved my life.
Kali is posted at 60 minutes. Last month, the “attraction” underwent what was supposed to be a 1-week test where no personal belongings were allowed on the ride. Everybody riding was supposed to store their stuff in the lockers across from the entrance.
I’m not sure the person in charge of initiating that test realized that you’re looking at the entire supply of lockers. Even if you’re talking about 100 lockers, which seems generous, it’s still nowhere near enough to house the backpacks, purses, stuffed animals, bags, etc. of everyone in line at the attraction. Do you want to guess how many days that 7-day test actually lasted? If you guessed one, you’re on the right track.
I took a walk through the Maharajah Jungle Trek, where these three water buffalo were recently installed.
It’s about as exciting as you’d imagine seeing three cows in the distance would be. A few more while we’re here:
It’s a pigeon.
Walls continue to line much of Asia through DinoLand.
Construction continues on what is expected to be a permanent food and beverage installation on the left.
Everest is posting a relatively nominal 20-minute wait at 1:46pm.
The single rider line is located down to the right of the standby/FP+ entrance. There is a posted wait here, but you can easily gauge how long the line is by looking at it from afar, unlike Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster where you have to commit and won’t know how long the actual line is until after the pre-show video and right before boarding. The posted wait was ten minutes but with only 14 people in front of me, I boarded in less than three.
This is a lousy shot of Avatar construction in the distance.
Primeval Whirl continues its refurbishment with an expected re-opening on the 13th.
Scaffolding was still up as work continued.
Per the wait times chart above, DINOSAUR had suffered about a half hour of downtime earlier in the day. Everybody with a FP+ window around the downtime should receive a cancellation email indicating that the user can return at any time in the future after the attraction is back up and offers alternative experiences to use at any time. Downtime at FP+ attractions typically pushes up standby wait times for the rest of the day as you have even more FastPass+ returners returning into a smaller window of operation. This post covers which attractions you’ll be offered should yours be cancelled. The wait is otherwise pushed up to 40 minutes at 2:08pm from 20 minutes just five minutes earlier.
This is about as many people as you’ll ever see inside the DINOSAUR queue.
But even so, I was past the merge point and in a pre-show video room in just four minutes.
You’d think with so many people that they’d be quickly filling the pre-show rooms, but that didn’t seem to be the case as the video had already started before a dozen people could fill the room.
Despite no scheduled refurbishment, DINOSAUR looks and sounds outstanding with many of the effects now working again. It’s almost a completely new attraction. I took a video, but it really doesn’t do the ride’s effects any justice. With recent major upgrades at Pirates and Splash, I envision some rogue ninja Imagineer sneaking in after hours and tirelessly working on the animatronics before narrowly escaping again at the crack of dawn. There’s probably a movie plot there.
Pocahontas continues meeting near the bridge over to DINOLAND in what was once Winnie the Pooh’s spot and then Daisy’s.
The expansion on the opposite side of Disney Outfitters across from Flame Tree is almost done.
Flame Tree Barbecue remains my favorite Animal Kingdom quick service. It’s the whole package from good food to reliably speedy service to a beautiful seating section overlooking the water. The full menu and reviews of everything I’ve eaten is available in this post.
After being denied a speedy lunch at Harambe, I needed to be fed pronto lest I go 90 minutes in a Disney theme park without eating. I went with the $16.19 Ribs & Chicken Combo “Direct from our Kitchen’s Smokehouse” with “Homemade Baked Beans and delicious Jalapeno Cornbread.” Pricing here is somewhat absurd, but for about five dollars more than your average quick service entree, you get a lot of food and it’s very good. On the Dining Plan, it’s an obvious no-brainer. Quality on this plate, which is also available at Cosmic Ray’s at Magic Kingdom after 4pm and all-day at Fairfax Fare at Hollywood Studios, is uniquely higher, though the days of getting a large chicken breast are long gone. It’s still a lot of food that you could probably split between two people with smaller appetites, though I of course had no problem finishing it.
A lousy picture, but it’s hard to beat the picturesque waterfront view…of the Rivers of Light construction across the water.
One thing I wasn’t too wild about is the jalapeno cornbread. I like cornbread a lot – it’s delicious at places like Boatwright’s and Trail’s End, but I think fewer people are going to like the sort-of artificial taste of the jalapeno that really cuts into the sweetness of the cornbread. I still ate it of course, but would have preferred a more standard version. Your preferences may vary.
It’s hard to tell, but those are actually projectors inside the rock work inside the circle on the left. You can see the state of the bleacher seating in the other circle.
I caught some of the construction workers boating over to the projector installations during lunch.
You may remember from our last visit that Beastly Kiosk was behind walls for its update to the current Discovery Island color palette.
It used to look like this.
The Lobster Mac is up 50 cents and what was previously called “Baked Pasta Marinara with Mozzarella” is now “Baked Three-Cheese Pasta” for the same money.
I was surprisingly high on the Lobster Mac – it’s a hearty, creamy portion of pasta baked with some sizable hunks of lobster. $6.49 is a rough price out of pocket, but those with quick service snack credits might consider piecing together a meal here while saving a quick service credit for a breakfast or something.
Gardens Kiosk across the way has already switched out the previous “Farmers Salad” with goat cheese and blueberries for the “Poached Salmon Salad” described above. Another excellent use of a snack credit for something hearty. For three snack credits, you could order $18.67 worth of stuff if you went for the Lobster Mac and these two salads. That would be a nice lunch that you could easily carry over to the nearby Flame Tree seating.
Another kiosk behind walls.
I meandered back to Africa to use my Safaris FastPass+ around 3:20pm to a 60-minute posted wait.
By this time, it was a straight shot to the FastPass+ entrance.
Everybody’s a photographer. It’s kind of surprising how much better the view is from the driver’s left hand side. Just about everything of interest, from the rhinos to the elephants to the crocs to the hyenas, are over there.
The baby giraffes wait patiently at the crosswalk.
The hyena enclosure has been installed and the animals are out. This is not a picture of either of those things, but it illustrates how close the animals approach the trucks.
African poaching is up 317.4% since Disney removed the Wilson storyline. Coincidence? I think not.
The three lions get along surprisingly well or they may just be too lazy to bother fighting. You want to budget 40 to 60 minutes for Safaris even with FastPass+. With a relatively short FP+ return line, my ride took about 42 minutes after all was said and done.
I popped through next-door Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. The meerkats here are awfully cute.
The little guy on the rock on the far right is looking out to protect the babies from line jumpers at nearby Kilimanjaro Safaris.
You can’t be too careful in the FP+ era.
The gorillas were entertaining guests.
A quick nap after a long day at the Park. I wonder how many DVC points they have to stay here year-round.
Anybody up for a game of gorilla frisbee?
That’s a pretty good look at what’s fresh at Animal Kingdom.