Storytelling in the details at Disney’s Animal Kingdom: A theme park designer’s perspective.
The world suffers no shortage of theme parks, but few really live up to the name. Simply staging a few old tools in the queue and carving a clever name on the sign doesn’t cut it. A truly thematic experience is designed to immerse guests in a story or place so they believe they are actually there, such as Universal’s Diagon Alley or Disney’s Frontierland. But surely one of the most completely immersive parks with a coherent, all-encompassing theme has to be Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Whereas many parks feature various lands, each centered on a particular theme, everything here supports a common story.
Once through the entry gates, strolling through the Oasis gently transitions you from the bustle and humidity of Orlando into another place—a lush world that is peaceful, yet alive with flora and fauna at every turn. It is an authentic place, with villages transported straight from continents around the world. Evidence of everyday life can be found on each building, signpost, and waterway—aged, worn, and, well, real.
The richness of beauty and detail of this extraordinary park is all too often overlooked by oblivious park guests hoofing it to Kilimanjaro or Everest. On your next visit slow down, as in really slow down—look around, up, down, listen, and then repeat. Take time and dig into each scene and find things you never noticed. Though there are certainly rides, shows, and shopping, the reality is that the park is the attraction.