If you haven’t been paying attention to the crowd calendars for March and April of 2011, you might not have noticed that the Animal Kingdom does not have evening Extra Magic Hours scheduled at any time in March or April of 2011. Instead, we have morning Extra Magic Hour scheduled twice per week. While it’s well known that easyWDW does not recommend the Animal Kingdom’s evening Extra Magic Hours, they are still to our advantage because Disney resort guests absolutely love the Animal Kingdom when it’s open later “just for them.” We can visit on the Tuesday between the Monday morning Extra Magic Hour and the Wednesday evening Extra Magic Hours and be happy that we are visiting during the day with the lowest crowds of the week. The removal of the evening Extra Magic Hours means that each of the morning Extra Magic Hours will be moderately attended by Disney resort guests. It still leaves Tuesday as an ideal day, but Wednesday night won’t be the poisoned apple it once was.
The good news is that Disney did lengthen the Park hours at the Animal Kingdom by one hour on most days in March and April. For example, if Animal Kingdom was scheduled to close at 5pm each day, it now closes at 6pm. This is beneficial to us because we know that many people leave after the 3:45pm Parade and any time after that is an excellent opportunity to head back to the headlining rides.
The bad news is that we don’t know when Disney will start scheduling evening Extra Magic Hours at the Animal Kingdom again.
The worse news is that the lack of evening Extra Magic Hours may foretell the lengthy refurbishment of Kilimanjaro Safari, the Animal Kingdom’s most popular ride. I’m not a big rumors guy, but Kilimanjaro’s refurbishment was first reported at Stitch Kingdom about a month ago. Stitch is usually right about these things and is usually the first to report about ride and resort refurbishments. I would recommend either signing up for his Refurb! tool or bookmarking his refurb page, available at http://www.stitchkingdom.com/refurb/.
The closure of Kilimanjaro Safari for any amount of time would be a tragedy, especially if it reopens with an automated voice track rather than the live actor. I don’t get too concerned about the closure of Mad Tea Party or Winnie the Pooh, because in my opinion they don’t “make the Park.” For you, the closure of it’s a small world may be as substantial as Kilimanjaro Safari. However, a lot of people are “on the fence” so to speak about visiting the Animal Kingdom in the first place. After all, if your vacation is four days long and you want to spend two days at the Magic Kingdom, you’re going to skip one of the Parks or opt for the costly Park Hopper upgrade. With Kilimanjaro Safari closed for refurbishment, we’re left with just Dinosaur and Expedition Everest as headliners. Since Dinosaur isn’t that popular (or awesome), we would only have one “GEE WHIZ!” ride at the Animal Kingdom open. People would naturally pick Hollywood Studios over Animal Kingdom, where they can ride Toy Story Mania, Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and see popular shows like Beauty and the Beast, Indiana Jones, and Voyage of the Little Mermaid.
While a revamped, longer Kilimanjaro Safari might be better, its closure is going to be extremely disappointing to anyone visiting while Kilimanjaro Safari is closed.
Of course, this assumes the “rumors” are true and Disney is planning such a refurbishment. If they do, they’re going to have to offer something pretty special to make up for it.
Speaking of rumors, my all-time favorite Disney rumor is Jim Hill’s announcement of “Night Kingdom.” This was to be a new theme park in Downtown Disney where guests (who paid $300 per person or more) could ride ziplines over crocodile ponds, feed hippopotamuses, and wear night vision goggles to follow hyenas as they hunt their prey. Sound ridiculous? Jim followed it up with a proposed name change to “Disney’s Jungle Trek.” To Jim’s credit, maybe “the economy” canceled Night Kingdom.