Photo Credit: Parker Diakite
The African Influence Inside Disney’s Animal Kingdom
You don’t have to travel far to experience some of Africa’s treasures. In fact, you can skip a 20-hour plane ride and leave your passport behind thanks to Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Walk across the bridge from Discovery Island to the theme land Africa where you will enter the fictional East African village of Harambe. It’s an exquisite parkland and for a moment, you will forget that it’s fictional. The community is a melting pot of experiences, adventure, and traditions inspired by various cultures in Africa.
Harambe is where you will venture through the wild savanna on Kilimanjaro Safaris, be wooed by a lush tropical forest and African wildlife at the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail. You can also indulge in the bold flavors of African cuisine at Tiffins Restaurant, and appreciate African-inspired music and clothing at Disney’s most popular stage show: “A Celebration of Festival of the Lion King” at Harambe Theatre.
“There are a lot of African influences in the Festival of the Lion King that have been reinterpreted to exist in an animated world,” said Reed Jones, director of creative development. “You’ll notice that the costumes are iconic to a variety of African cultures but in color palettes to match a talking lion-like Simba.”
Disney’s Imagineering Design Team has dedicated years of research to bring park-goers an authentic African experience that even trickles down to the architecture that appropriately leaves out structures that represent a dark colonial past. One example is when you look up, you’ll notice the roofs in the village were thatched by people from Zululand in South Africa.
Meanwhile, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, the resort hotel was inspired by the traditional African kraal. Found primarily in South Africa and native to the Zulu people, kraals are traditional circular village huts surrounded by a fence of branches.
Another highlight is the rutted roads on Kilimanjaro Safaris. Hold on tight and place your camera on sports mode so you don’t miss capturing the moments when you see African lions, hippos hiding in the water, or the various giraffe species standing tall in the “wild” during this incredible bumpy experience.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a world of discovery and the trip to Africa you always dreamed of without traveling far.