I have an idea for a new land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I love the park and I do feel it is a full-day experience, but an addition to it would be most welcome. This is a long proposal, beginning with a section filled with detail on my rationale for a new land and its features; readers who want to avoid the involved set-up should skip to the section titled ‘My Proposal For A New Land’. I have included images of diagrams I have drawn for the new land’s arrangement.
RATIONALE FOR A NEW LAND AND ITS FEATURES:
The most likely areas for new lands vary in size. The smallest area would be the space between Dinoland USA and Asia’s Expedition Everest. This would be the most challenging site since it is bisected by a backstage canal connecting boat docks to the onstage Discovery Lake and River. Also, much of its land would have direct views to the tall unthemed backside of the Expedition Everest show building which would be a challenge to hide. Demolition of the relatively unthemed large theater building that currently shows Finding Nemo – The Musical would be likely to provide access and space for any addition here, or the building would need to be rethemed and closely surrounded by other features. I think it is best to use this parcel for any additions to Dinoland USA or an addition to Expedition Everest’s Serka Zong village. The medium-sized parcel is the area behind Camp Minnie-Mickey, which is a bit larger than the currently developed area that Camp Minnie-Mickey occupies. This is the land that was originally conceived as the Beastly Kingdomme, including the land that Camp Minnie-Mickey occupies currently. With so few current attractions, the Camp could either be demolished or expanded. I do not feel that the resort needs another North American wilderness-themed area, or that Camp Minnie-Mickey is inspiring, so I would not recommend expansion with that theme. I am also not a fan of the Beastly Kingdomme concept in this park; I would prefer the focus to remain on animals both extant and extinct rather than imaginary (even if some of those real animal depictions are anthropomorphized versions, as featured in It’s Tough To Be A Bug). I feel that the Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios are the perfect places to showcase imaginary animals. At any rate, this site is a good candidate for a new land. However, the largest likely site is the area between Africa and Asia and Rafiki’s Planet Watch; although access to it is a challenge due to the existing turnaround route of the Wildlife Express, the size of the parcel once it expands in width holds the greatest potential for my idea.
A great strength of the park is its fictional yet believable immersion into an exotic world based on reality; although some of its attractions and shows are based on animated movie properties or humor, the overall setting is serious and earnest. While a few of the lands are more abstract in concept than the others, the majority of the park gives the visitor an impression of having traveled somewhere on the edge of civilization. I propose that a new land should continue that direction. Another great strength of the park is the inclusion and design of the live animal habitats. Non-zoo fans may not realize this, but many of the features of these habitats are the gold standard of their kind. While their size in some cases is not larger than those at other modern zoo exhibits, their attention to sightlines and detail and materials and maintenance is superior to many. Great effort (that looks effortless) has been made to design exhibits with a minimum of unattractive visual barriers, enhancing the believability of the immersive experience. When visual barriers or structures are necessary, they are folded into the theme so that they have a reason for being there. Theming is prevalent in the habitats; sometimes it is a recreation of the inhabitants’ natural environment, and other times it is a recreation of the cultural settings and artifacts that the inhabitant might experience on the edge of its range. Either way, I enjoy this feature immensely and propose that a new land should continue to showcase live animal habitats.
My preference for live animal habitats is to arrange them in complexes of geographic organization; the most satisfying existing live animal habitats at the park are those in the Africa and Asia lands, partially for this reason. Those in the other lands feature many animals that would never encounter one another in the wild, so have slightly less impact. It is important to note that the theming and animal display choices in Africa and Asia are actually tied to specific large regions of those continents and not representative of the whole continent. It is not stated, but by theme is implied, that the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Asia focuses on South and Southeast Asia; it does not pretend to also represent the Mongolian steppes with Przewalski’s wild horses in a pasture studded with yurts or the mountains of Japan with macaques swimming in a hot spring. Kilimanjaro Safaris in Africa represents the savannas of East and South Africa while Pangani Forest Exploration Trail represents the rainforests of Central West Africa. Similarly, I propose that a new geographic-themed land will focus on a region or regions of a continent. Looking at continents to continue the established direction, other candidates for a new land are Antarctica, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom and its associated Animal Kingdom Lodge and The Seas With Nemo And Friends at EPCOT are members of and accredited by the AZA, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Assuming that Disney wants to remain in this organization, it must play by the rules. The AZA forms various TAGs, or Taxon Advisory Groups, which focus on families of animal species and make recommendations to members of the species that should be displayed and/or bred to maintain viable captive genetic populations. In addition, members are encouraged to participate in SSPs, or Species Survival Plans, for certain endangered species that require management above-and-beyond the normal procedures. Participation requires cooperation with recommendations to move animals to other facilities for breeding, sometimes with none in return. Strict import and export laws between countries, which vary according to species as well, make it increasingly difficult for members (or non-accredited zoos too) to obtain many of the species they may desire, even non-endangered ones. For this reason, zoos in the same country are very dependent on one another’s existing species, especially when a majority of them are AZA members who are following the same recommendations. This results in a much smaller diversity of species in captive collections, and a daunting challenge for any member trying to create a unique collection. Therefore, I propose that the new land’s animal collection be composed of reasonably available species in United States zoo collections, with an emphasis on endangered species so that the extensive resources of the park are used to the best conservation advantage. The unique aspect of the animal habitats will come from their presentation rather than their rarely-displayed status. These factors will have a partial impact on choosing a continent for a new land.
Before considering other continents, the possibility of expanding the existing African and Asian themes should be considered. I feel that the sub-Saharan African animals are strongly represented, especially when combined with the nearby Animal Kingdom Lodge savannas; I would delight in even more areas for them, but it is not a priority. An area for Saharan African animals, and possibly connected to the Middle East as well, presents a great number of opportunities for environmental and cultural themes, but the available animal species to represent these areas are extremely limited. In addition, the nearby Busch Gardens Tampa has a primary theme of depicting many areas of Africa, including the Sahara; it is certainly not as well conceived or crafted as a Disney version would be, but it is not bad and it would be creative backpeddling to follow its example. As for Asia, the South is beautifully realized and romanticized at Animal Kingdom, and expanding this direction would be wonderful but not a priority. Himilayan Asia is also lovingly depicted with Expedition Everest and its village; it lacks animal displays, but Himilayan and associated animals from the steppes North of the mountains are mostly rare in zoo collections anyway. East Asia is a worthy area to expand upon, and many of the species are available, but I feel that culturally the EPCOT pavilions of China and Japan already form a sizable ode to that region’s theme. If it were to be done, theming would need to focus on rustic villages and wild landscapes rather than the groomed gardens and grand palaces and temples of these existing depictions. North Asia would certainly be a departure, as Russia is rarely depicted. The only complex I have seen with this theme is the excellent one at Minnesota Zoo called ‘Russia’s Grizzly Coast’. It focuses on the East coast and exhibits grizzlies and sea otters (also North American species) and wild boars (also European species) and Amur tigers and leopards (species unique to the area but similar to other species of their kind in other regions). A few regional-themed structures compliment the convincing naturalism of the complex, but I would rather see a Russian pavilion in EPCOT than attempt a whole land devoted to it here. There are certainly some possibilities for expanding these lands, but a different continent promises to introduce an added dimension to the mix.
Antarctica is easy to eliminate. It is only home to some species of seals and penguins and tiny invertebrates. The seal species are not available in US zoos. The penguin species are, but there is already a fantastic exhibit of them at the nearby SeaWorld Orlando. Other marine mammals are found in Antarctic waters, but not available ones. In addition, the captivity of marine mammals is increasingly a controversial issue and best left to the established facilities elsewhere. The invertebrates such as microscopic mites and nematodes and lice do not inspire an exhibit. Local fish and other sea life are generally not available; even if they are, the EPCOT pavilion is a better place for their display (this is the same reason that I do not think an ocean-themed land at the park would be unique enough to provide a new experience). Pelagic birds that feed off the continent could make a small collection for an aviary, but not a reason to create a land. Culturally, the continent only houses modern research compounds; the ‘Wild Arctic’ complexes at SeaWorld Orlando and San Diego already tackle this theme expertly, and they have the advantage of more animal choices for their recreated habitats of the Arctic.
Australia is an intriguing prospect. Although it is home to a great number of species, the variety of engaging large animals is limited, dominated by marsupial mammals. Although they are great, few are predators; in fact, the only large predators are some of the crocodile and lizard species, and the feral dog species known as the dingo. A lack of large predators with large prey tends to relax the engaging tension of predator and prey relationships featured in most successful zoo exhibit complexes. Putting this aside, and foregiving the continent its natural realities, the greatest impediment to animal exhibits based on this continent is the availability of more than a handful of commonly displayed mammals. Species of kangaroos, wallaroos, and wallabies are available and understandably popular; koalas are less common but Disney would have no problem obtaining them. The problem comes with others: tasmanian devils, wombats, echidnas, platypus, numbats, and most of the possums and gliders and other marsupials are rare even in Australian captivity, let alone here. A few large flightless birds, such as the emu and cassowary, and large reptiles, such as the saltwater crocodile, would help augment the larger habitats, and smaller ones could feature many of the available birds and reptiles. Another problem is the regional approach: many of the animals that are available come from different environments of the continent! Culturally, the possibility of including outback theming is attractive, and could translate to other attractions in the land. Australian areas are less common than African, Asian, North American, and South American areas in zoos, and thus worthy of more focus. Those that exist tend to be small limited areas, often short on the theming. However, there are some notable and/or extensive themed exhibit complexes I have seen: Cleveland Zoo, Henry Doorly Zoo, Indianapolis Zoo, and Kansas City Zoo are examples. None of these are in Florida, and Disney could easily outshine these examples, so if a land was created with this continent’s theme, I propose it would be on one of the smaller parcels of the park rather than the prime site I have in mind.
Europe is represented even less frequently than Australia in US zoos, especially in themed complexes. Availability of species is reasonable. However, I feel that the cultural elements that would compose the guest services and other attractions are well-represented elsewhere in the resort, at EPCOT’s World Showcase and Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland (and its current expansion). The exoticism of the existing park is better served by a new land that continues the established approach.
For the same reason, North America is a tougher fit with the park. Its wilder areas are also well-represented at the resort, with Magic Kingdom’s Frontierland and Liberty Square and Disney’s Wilderness and Fort Wilderness Resorts. In addition, the continent’s more developed or cultural areas are depicted in many other attractions and resorts here, lessening the unique factor that is desirable. North American themed exhibit complexes in zoos are probably the third most common type behind African and Asian ones, with notable examples I have seen at Oregon Zoo, Woodland Park Zoo, Brookfield Zoo, Columbus Zoo, Fort Worth Zoo, and Lowry Park Zoo among many others. Availability of a wide variety species is very high, but this alone is not reason enough to consider it here.
South America is probably represented in fourth place among US zoo themed complexes, yet there is frequent availability of many types of animals from there. The continent certainly holds many endangered species, and quite a few of them are in current collections; several of them represent types of large animals that the park does not currently showcase. There are a variety of environments and cultural influences that are rarely depicted in themed environments, and the possibilities are exciting. At Walt Disney World, the Magic Kingdom’s Jungle Cruise in Adventureland only depicts a few South American animals, and minor ones at that. The land itself is themed to a schizophrenic combination of African and Asian tropical areas and Middle Eastern marketplace and Polynesian islands, with the closest approach to South America in the form of the Caribbean fortress and town of Pirates of the Caribbean. Therefore, I propose that the new land have a South American theme not only for its possibilities but also to make up for its relative exclusion in Adventureland! Zoos with admirable groupings of South American animals that I have seen include Los Angeles Zoo and San Antonio Zoo; in addition, several zoos in climates with colder winters feature enclosed rainforest buildings that have smaller sections dedicated to South American rainforests, such as Henry Doorly Zoo and Minnesota Zoo. Another completely enclosed attraction focused on Central and South America is Dallas World Aquarium, with a combination of aquatic and land animal exhibits. It has extensive theming, including a mock-Mayan temple area for jaguars in its ‘Mundo Maya’ section. The most completely themed exhibit complexes are in the Southeast, which is a great argument against Disney attempting the same theme to compete with neighbors; that is why I propose that Disney focus on slightly different regions than the ones already depicted (and lavish more detail and unique elements on its creation). Miami Metrozoo’s excellent ‘Amazon and Beyond’ is strictly focused on South America with its collection, and includes sub-areas dedicated to the Amazon River and its seasonally flooded forest as well as the associated tropical regions near it. Its presentation is slightly less theme-driven, with structures and details finished with a more contemporary aesthetic. Palm Beach Zoo’s ‘Tropics of the Americas’ and Jacksonville Zoo’s ‘Range of the Jaguar’ are both excellent complexes, and their themes are dominated by the architectural details that imply Central America and its connection to Northern South America rather than a strictly South American depiction. In general, the recreations of Central American temples have now saturated the theme market. At Walt Disney World, the Mexico pavilion at EPCOT is an example, with its large exterior as well as atmospheric interior lobby and simulated nightscene of another temple in the distance. Also, Coronado Springs Resort has a central swimming pool and recreation center called The Dig Site, dominated by a temple with a slide. Speaking of temples with slides, Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas has one too, called ‘Mayan Temple’, which includes a lagoon full of sharks at its base. Knott’s Berry Farm has a rollercoaster named ‘Jaguar’ whose queue and boarding station is inside another temple. The two exhibits mentioned previously, ‘Tropics of the Americas’ and ‘Range of the Jaguar’, are also dominated by mock-Mayan temples. Therefore, this new land will need to steer away from this Central American motif.
Settling on a South American theme, a look at the South American species the park already showcases is useful. In Oasis, there is an exhibit for giant anteater, the only large animal represented from the continent. Oasis also has a few perch stands for a few species of macaw, and a lush pond backed by a waterfall for aquatic birds including black-necked swan, rosybill pochard, and chiloe wigeon. It also has an open yard for Patagonian cavy, a relatively large rodent. Discovery Island features an exhibit with Coscoroba swan, as well as several more perches for macaws. Rafiki’s Planet Watch begins with Habitat Habit, with 4 small cages for golden lion tamarin and cottontop tamarin, 2 very small species of monkey from Brazil’s Atlantic forests. The land also has Conservation Station, including terrariums for red-tailed boa constrictor and yellow-footed tortoise; some of the other smaller terrariums in the animal care rooms behind glass may have other small South American reptiles, amphibians, or invertebrates. Overall, these animals are a small collection and could find new homes within the new land, but it is not necessary to tailor it to fit them.
Since this is Disney, looking at existing entertainment properties with South American characters and locations should be considered. The earliest I can find is one of the first Mickey Mouse cartoons called ‘Gallopin’ Gaucho’, set in the pampas of Argentina. ‘Saludos Amigos’ features short segments: one set on the border of Peru and Bolivia with Donald Duck and a llama, one set in the Chilean Andes with an airplane named Pedro, one set in the pampas of Argentina with Goofy, and one set in Brazil with Donald Duck and Jose Carioca. From the same time period, ‘The Three Caballeros’ features short segments: one set in the pampas of Uruguay with the Flying Gauchito and his winged donkey, and several connected segments set in Brazil with Donald Duck and Jose Carioca. ‘Clown of the Jungle’ is a cartoon set in Brazil with Donald Duck and the Aracuan Bird. I believe there are several other cartoons from this 1940’s period that also are set in the continent. ‘Jungle Cat’ is a live-action documentary about the jaguar, set in the Amazon of Brazil. ‘In Search of the Castaways’ is partly set in South America, although I do not know where. Far more recently, ‘The Emperor’s New Groove’ and ‘Kronk’s New Groove’ and ‘The Emperor’s New School’ deal with characters in a setting and culture that implies the Andes of Peru and Bolivia. Much of ‘Up’ takes place in the unique landscapes of part of Venezuela. There may be a few others, but overall the depictions of South America in Disney films is not extensive; those that exist represent a wide variety of the regions of the continent and do not suggest a focus. In addition, my preference is for attractions and theming that do not depend on cartoon and movie tie-ins. Disney may seem to primarily rely on these, but recent attractions like Expedition Everest prove that original attraction storylines and more realistic theming and a serious tone can be successful.
A look at the types of attractions and facilities that the current park could benefit from is also useful. A major reality of the existing park that many guests complain about is its lack of nighttime operating hours and activities. In large part, this is due to the realities of humanely displaying live animals next to huge crowds. I feel that this issue is one to be addressed with conceptual changes and additions at the front of the park property; the chosen site for this land does not hold the solution. Additional live animal exhibits in the new land are not necessary, but are the focus of my own interest here, so naturally I will include them. I prefer viewing live animal exhibits at my own pace and without the noise and schedule of a moving vehicle, so the existing Kilimanjaro Safaris in Africa will remain the only ride-through animal exhibit complex in my proposal. A river ride that views live animal exhibits would be a reasonable proposal if an alternative to Kilimanjaro Safaris was desired, but this poses several problems: the concept is already covered (though for simulated live animals) with the Magic Kingdom’s Jungle Cruise in Adventureland, and the viewing distance and containment concealment of waterside habitats (especially for a continent with on-average smaller animals) might result in an underwhelming experience. However, a calm boat ride in general would be a good addition to the park, especially to replace the long-closed Discovery River Boats and in contrast to the existing Kali River Rapids (which is too wild and/or wet for many guests). A ride that travels above land, or one that simulates flight, is also a type that the park currently lacks. A large indoor ride would also be welcome, especially during uncomfortable weather; currently, DINOSAUR in DinoLand U.S.A. fulfills this purpose but could use a companion. Fortunately, several major shows are indoors. The major show types are represented by 2 stage shows, 1 film show, 1 live animal show, and 1 parade route; most obviously lacking is a special effects spectacle. With a major expansion, a second kid’s play area for expending energy and an associated kid’s ride for those small enough to be excluded from many others in the park will be beneficial. The proposed location is also good for this, far away from the existing Boneyard and TriceraTop Spin in DinoLand U.S.A. I propose that the new land will feature all these elements in several unique combinations.
MY PROPOSAL FOR A NEW LAND:
The new land will be called South America. This name will match the spirit of the existing Africa and Asia lands on each side of it. Just like those two lands, this one will be composed of two adjoining sub-themed areas that generally represent two adjoining regions of the continent. The two sub-themes will be clearly separated, further strengthening their themes but also enabling the ambitious land to be built in two phases. The two sub-themes will represent two regions of Western South America, both located primarily in Peru: the Upper Amazon Rainforest and its headwaters and the central portion of the long spine of the Andes Mountains and it high-altitude valleys and slopes. The new land will not be called Peru, nor will its features specifically name political boundaries, in keeping with the established presentation of the park. Instead, both sub-themes will depict regions surrounding the focus of Peru: for the Amazon area, this includes portions of Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, and Brazil; for the Andes, it includes portions of Ecuador and Bolivia. Reasons for focusing on Peru are compelling; naturally, it contains some of the highest biodiversity in the world, geographically it is not well-represented in existing themed environments, and culturally it offers great opportunities for a unique and scenic presentation.
Geographic Focus Areas:
I will summarize the features of the new land now, but will describe them in more detail later. Note that the names for the features are currently generic; they are not the proposed final names. The final names will be dependent on a number of factors based on storylines and research. Names that are derived from local languages will add authenticity to the theming: in Amazon, Spanish or Amazonian linguistic groups, and in Andes, Spanish or Quechuan. Standard extensive fact-checking will be needed to avoid names that duplicate those of real places and those that have undesirable connotations (such as a fictitious name that sounds like a Quechuan place name but translates to ‘swamp where men spit on babies’ or similar!).
Amazon sub-theme: Phase 1
Research Station – food stand, restrooms, portal to attractions
Animal Exhibit Loop – live animal exhibits
Canopy Ride – large outdoor mild thrill ride on suspended rollercoaster
Kid’s Play Area and Ride – outdoor play activities and small-scale driving track ride
Ride and Show – large outdoor calm boat ride combined with large indoor special effects show
Andes sub-theme: Phase 2
Re-themed Wildlife Express Station
Village – shops, restaurants, restrooms, portal to attractions
Ride – large indoor mild thrill ride through sets and film segments in enhanced motion vehicles
Animal Exhibit Loop – live animal exhibits
Proposed Features Diagram:
Amazon will be the first sub-theme entered by pedestrians (Andes will be the second, but will be the first for guests arriving on the existing Wildlife Express from Africa). The existing walkway on the shore of Discovery River between Africa and Asia will be the point of departure for a new walkway to South America. Other than a simple rustic gateway and sign at its start, this walkway will establish the Amazon theme with a minimum of features along its long first stretch before reaching the core of the attractions. A lush jungle landscape will dominate the walkway, similar to the feeling of the paths in Oasis at the park’s entrance. This design approach is intended to provide a visual decompression and separation from the relative chaos that is experienced in the architectures of Harambe and Anandapur that guests experience on each side. There is also a practical reason for this arrangement; the existing tracks of the Wildlife Express and existing service roads that lead to some of the backstage areas of Africa and Asia limit the available space for new features in this first area. I propose that the service road to Africa be realigned next to the Wildlife Express Station in Africa to avoid crossing the new walkway. Also, the service road to Asia (that currently branches off from the one to Africa) be realigned to follow the perimeter of Maharajah Jungle Trek and reconnect to an existing animal holding and service area for the same reason. This solution leaves the train tracks intact as an obstacle to address. The tracks are on grade currently, and raising or lowering them would be impossible without moving the current station in Africa. In addition, the trains might not be designed to navigate elevation changes. If the walkway crossed the tracks at signals, it would need to do so twice because the tracks form a turn-around in this area. Even one crossing signal, with lights and moving arms and attendants, would be an impediment to crowd flow through the area (and another potential danger zone). Therefore, the walkway should change in elevation. I believe that tunnels beneath the tracks would flood, with the existing grade being just above the high water table of the area; therefore, the walkway should rise above the tracks. To do this, I propose that it rise on a gently curved berm with slopes disguised with thick vegetation. The berm will be arranged so that the elevation gain needed – about 15 feet? – will be spread out along its length so that the walkway will not exceed the maximum gradient for wheelchair accessibility. Once it has reached its full height at the edge of the tracks, the first crossing over the train route will be with a bridge made to look like the Amazon Research Station architecture described later. The lush berm will continue across the area contained by the track turn-around until it meets the tracks again and crosses them with a similar bridge. Then the berm will slowly descend along its course until it meets the existing grade and the bulk of the proposed site.
Amazon Research Station will be the first heavily themed area to be encountered, where the walkway will widen to access several attractions. It will be a cluster of structures and props, still dominated by more jungle rather than architecture. It will emulate a large scientific housing and study compound in the rainforest, formed by mismatched buildings and objects arranged in an ‘unplanned’ manner to add authenticity. The compound will supposedly be built in the remains of a small former strip-mining camp. Detailing will emphasize the ramshackle practical architecture and integration of derelict equipment alongside the recently-funded modern study labs and instruments that the detailed backstory will dictate. The tallest structures will be metal and wood scaffold platforms presumably to access simulated ziplines that will radiate from the compound for fictional researchers to explore the canopy. It will be set in the present, but scenic enough to evoke an exotic past. In spirit, it will be the lush equivalent of the Restaurantosaurus dining location in DinoLand USA. However, it will not have its own dining location, other than a few limited small window-service options; a large dining location will be located further in the land’s interior, where it will be needed. Amazon is too close to large dining locations Tusker House in Africa and Yak & Yeti in Asia to need its own. Other small buildings will house restrooms and a small shop, but the focus of this cluster will be as the access and stage for the attractions that follow.
Amazon Animal Exhibit Loop will be one of the attractions that branches from the Amazon Research Station. It will be a fantastic live animal complex, set away from the main walkway so that it will restrict crowds with no interest in seeing animals. Like Pangani Forest Exploration Trail and Maharajah Jungle Trek, it will be a one-way loop. In exhibit style, it will be closer to the natural detailing of Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, not dominated by the cultural theming showcased in Maharajah Jungle Trek. Its location will be adjacent to the back perimeter of Maharajah Jungle Trek so that the two complexes can share a relatively quiet common border and animal holding and service areas. Both the entrance and exit of the loop will originate in the Amazon Research Station; this thematic device will establish the purpose and detailing of the animal exhibits for species that require fully enclosed habitats to prevent escape, which will be clustered near the station and detailed in a similar style. The furthest part of the loop will feature the species that can be contained in the most convincing naturalistic exhibit style. All of these will be set in a lush rainforest, with frequent streams and ponds running through them to emulate a continuous small tributary of the Upper Amazon. Species exhibited will be chosen based on those that inhabit the regional theme of the exhibit; in addition, they will represent a variety of animal types reasonably available in US collections. Emphasis will be on species that are higher on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (or IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species; this is the standard for determining conservation status, and categories above ‘Least Concern’ status will be the focus. Some species may be chosen that are ‘Least Concern’ but help add variety or excitement to the exhibit loop. Habitats will be designed to hold alternates to the most-desired species because the reality of animal collection management will require it from time-to-time. Mixed-species habitats will also be used when possible. Along the exhibit path, informative graphics will be kept to a minimum to avoid clutter; however, small identification signs and graphics will be present and will be in the style of research notes left by the fictional biologists of the Amazon Research Station. The entrance to the loop will be through a building. Inside, a large glass window will look out to an outdoor exhibit contained with netting above and on all sides except the part that faces the glass. It will have live plants both inside and surrounding the netting, to make it appear less cage-y while its containment will be themed to a study area of the Amazon Research Station. This exhibit will have pacarana (IUCN ‘Vulnerable’, a large rodent) and yellow-footed tortoise (IUCN ‘Vulnerable’) on the ground; several small simulated tree trunks and branches will provide climbing areas for tamandua (IUCN "Least Concern’, a tree-climbing anteater) or prehensile-tailed porcupine (IUCN ‘Least Concern’) or both. Another large glass window will look out to a similar exhibit space, this time for margay (IUCN ‘Near Threatened’, a small spotted cat that prefers trees). Small felines are currently unrepresented at the park. The other side of the room will have a series of terrariums set in the wall, with small natural items in the habitats. Species highlighted will include leafcutter ant (unlisted in IUCN), mata mata (unlisted in IUCN, a unique freshwater turtle), goliath bird-eating spider (unlisted in IUCN, a large tarantula), and other small invertabrates and reptiles and amphibians. After exiting the building to the outdoor path, a large aviary composed of netting draped from tree trunks will be encountered; guests will either enter it through a double set of doors in a shelter, or walk alongside it, depending on their preference. Inside, a small winding path will penetrate the jungle, skirting a small stream. A network of simulated vines will form a network hanging above the pathway; this will be primarily for small monkeys, out of reach but unobstructed from view. Ideal species will be Goeldi’s monkey (IUCN ‘Vulnerable’) and pied tamarin (IUCN ‘Endangered’) if they can mix or adapt to this type of exhibitry; otherwise, the park’s existing golden lion tamarin (IUCN ‘Endangered’) or cotton-headed tamarin (IUCN ‘Critically Endangered’) species could substitute, although they are actually native to Brazil’s Atlantic Forest. Birds would be represented by a variety of ground and tree-dwelling species including wattled currasow (IUCN ‘Vulnerable’), yellow-headed amazon (IUCN ‘Vulnerable’), and many others. After exiting the aviary, the path and small stream will rejoin the outdoor path as it gradually climbs several feet in height. The stream will spill into a larger waterway next to the path; this waterway will actually be a water moat that surrounds a small lush island. The trees on the island will be for black-headed spider monkey (IUCN ‘Critically Endangered’, a species that bends the theme since they are native to the forests West of the Andes rather than East). Other large monkey species such as black howler (IUCN ‘Least Concern’) or brown capuchin (IUCN ‘Least Concern’) might be mixed with them, or substituted if needed. The island and the waterway will also be home to capybara (IUCN ‘Least Concern’, the largest rodent in the world and a good swimmer) as well as some aquatic birds such as wood stork (IUCN ‘Least Concern’), boat-billed heron (IUCN ‘Least Concern’), white-faced whistling duck (IUCN ‘Least Concern’), and others. The birds will have clipped flight feathers so they will not be able to fly out of the habitat. Nearby on the other side of the path, a small open habitat with low simulated riverbank walls and a pond will contain bush dog (IUCN ‘Near Threatened’, a small dog that has webbed feet for occasional swimming). Canines are currently unrepresented at the park. Next, a larger habitat contained with low simulated riverbank walls will be more open with heavier vegetation only on its sides; this will be for white-lipped peccary (IUCN ‘Near Threatened’, a pig relative) and red-rumped agouti (IUCN ‘Least Concern’, a large rodent that will add some interest to this exhibit if the species are compatible). Swine are currently unrepresented at the park. The reason that this habitat will be fairly open is that another exhibit will be behind it, separated by unseen moats. It will be a spacious habitat for jaguar (IUCN ‘Near Threatened’). There are currently very few zoos with uncaged or unnetted jaguar exhibits, so this will be unique. A simulated tree trunk and branches will be positioned in the habitat for jaguar perching, with hidden enrichment items to encourage the cat to spend time up there. At its best, guests will see a predator-and-prey relationship across the expanse of the peccary and agouti exhibit in the foreground to the cat behind. However, seeing the cat far away, if at all, creates the need for a second jaguar exhibit to follow. This one will be reached after a curve in the jungle path and small stream descends into a rocky overhang that forms a partial tunnel. Inside, a long viewing window imbedded in the rocky walls will look directly out to the second jaguar exhibit. This time, the habitat will come right up to the viewing area, contained with high simulated riverbank walls with lush plants spilling over their sides. One corner will have a pond for jaguar swimming, with live fish for catching; another window will have a partial underwater view of this pond. The path will then ascend back out of the rocky overhang, and an upper level view of a habitat for giant otter (IUCN ‘Endangered’, the largest otter species) will be seen. This habitat will be dominated by a stream spilling into a large pond, with only a portion of its simulated riverbank-contained area visible from here. The path will then descend back down into another rocky tunnel, this time actually entering an exhibit building, although it will not appear like one from the jungle outside; once inside, rocky walls will form this cave passage, supposedly next to the river. Most of the lighting will emanate from the exhibit windows inside, lit from natural light through unseen skylights above. The first stretch of the cave will have a long viewing window into the pond for giant otter. Around a bend, glass viewing into a shallower pond and simulated rainforest scene will house green anaconda (unlisted in IUCN), among the largest snakes in the world. To enhance the drama, the habitat will have a glass panel above the cave ceiling to a passageway to the second half of the habitat on the other side, or perhaps it will be two separate habitats that appear as one. Around another bend in the cave, it will open up to a larger chamber dominated by a long floor-to-ceiling viewing window into a flooded forest habitat for fish. Inside this large aquarium will be massive simulated tree trunks and a dimly lit back wall to emulate the murky waters of the rainy season and the river overflowing its banks. The largest fish species inside will be arapaima (IUCN ‘Data Deficient’ but probably vulnerable), a long fish among the largest freshwater species in the world. Others will include silver arowana (IUCN ‘Data Deficient’), tiger shovelnose catfish (unlisted in IUCN), giant freshwater stingray (IUCN ‘Data Deficient’), and others. Around another bend, another smaller aquatic habitat will surround the cave on both sides and above; this will be for red-bellied piranha (unlisted in IUCN). The path will then ascend and exit the cave back to the rainforest, where the Amazon Reasearch Station area will be within view. Several tent awnings will shade an area of simulated large cut tree trunks; imbedded in each will be small terrariums with bromeliads and various species of poison dart frogs. Upon return to the station area, the final exhibit will be two adjoining tall aviaries contained in netting draped from simulated tree trunks, similar to the large aviary seen earlier. These will be for harpy eagle (IUCN ‘Near Threatened’) and viewed from one side. A double door in a small shelter will also be located between the two; guests who enter it will have open-air views into each eagle aviary if possible. Raptors are currently not represented at the park. The path will then exit the exhibit loop through a shelter back out into the Amazon Research Station and main walkway.
Amazon Canopy Ride will also be an attraction that branches from the Amazon Research Station. It will be a mildly thrilling suspended track ride that will explore the upper branches of the lush jungle and will fulfill the niche of a ride that travels above land for the park. It will appeal to most ages and be easily ridden by most. In theme, it will emulate the various simple open-air gondolas used in rainforest exploration and sightseeing, which are usually attached to cranes or cable systems rigged between trees and towers. In practical terms, it will be a suspended rollercoaster running below a monorail, a ride system that has been used in a handful of locations previously. This will not be the intense fast looping track strung between a panorama of ugly steel supports that the term ‘suspended rollercoaster’ brings to mind. Instead, it will be a gradually descending route devoid of drops that moves along briskly and lightly sways around curves. Steel supports will be themed with a combination: some will be disguised as tree trunks, others will look like rustic research towers, and others with limited visibility will be painted to blend with the jungle. Similar ride systems include Pteranadon Flyers at Universal’s Island of Adventure; this and the others have incredibly low capacities, with 2 or 4 riders. Amazon Canopy Ride will be a larger version of this system, with double tracks and higher capacity vehicles. Instead of sitting in open chairs, guests will sit in seats on a small platform, perhaps for 8 or 10 riders. They will be contained with locking seatbelts to assure safety. The queue and load station will continue the architecture of the adjacent Amazon Research Station, and the loading area will be a double-sided one for each track to guarantee maximum capacity on the route. Each track will have a tall vertical tower, dressed as research scaffolding, that will be a mechanical elevator for the ride vehicles to be deposited at the highest elevation of the monorail rather than a lift hill. Vehicles will remain horizontal as they ascend this conveyor, and a few existing ride systems prove that this is mechanically practical. During the ascent, speakers in the vehicle will introduce a named but unseen narrator who is a biomedical researcher at the station. The narration will not be constant but will highlight some of the features seen along the way. At the top, the vehicle will transfer to the monorail, whose highest point will not provide a panorama of the nearby backstage areas to ruin the theme; the tops of the thick stands of trees will hide them. The first part of the route will cross over the walkway that approaches the Amazon Research Station, adding kinetic energy to the area, and will circle around the compound and entrance to the Amazon Animal Exhibit Loop. It will also make several curves around the Amazon Kid’s Play Area and Ride described later, before continuing into the area reserved only for this ride in the thick jungle. After the track curves several times, it will approach a large simulated tree and circle it. At this time the narrator will explain that the platform and tent seen in the crook of the tree is one of her study sites; the bromeliads growing on the large horizontal branches high above the ground are visited by poison dart frogs, and she is studying the alkaloids secreted by them to develop medicines. The route will continue around more leafy curves, and depending on its length, may need to be lifted up again in another tower. The ride might also be viewed from the existing Wildlife Express ride that faces its site and runs along here as well. Either way, it will circle a cluster of rubber trees with tapping bowls on their trunks and the narrator will explain that local residents are encouraged to practice this kind of sustainable agriculture with existing plants of the forest in order to preserve it for the native fauna. A few other similar features may be passed that further illustrate modern understanding and respect of this environment, but the last one will illustrate a problematic issue. In Africa, Kilimanjaro Safaris dramatizes one: poachers in the reserve, and the capture of a baby elephant. In Asia, Kali River Rapids dramatizes another: deforestation and a fire and erosion that result from its activities. Here in South America, the issue will be mining, specifically for gold. In reality, Peru has many mines, and is the 3rd largest copper producer in the world. Silver and gold are abundant too; one of the largest for the latter is Rio Huaypetue, an open-pit monstrosity that has ruined over 100 square kilometers in the Amazon Basin. Gold mining here often takes the form of destructive strip-mining, and gold extraction involves large amounts of cyanide and mercury contamination in the tributaries that lead to the Amazon. To convey this, the ride will circle a clearing in the forest composed of a small simulated strip mine, an ugly feature. The narrator will explain what it is and why it is destructive, as the vehicles go through the most thrilling (but still mild) stretch of curves and slope before ending back at the station, where guests exit back to the research station area.
Amazon Kid’s Play Area and Ride will be another attraction accessed from the Amazon Research Station, and will have a similar aesthetic to it. It will have a single entrance/exit, aiding parents in keeping track of their children, similar to some of the other play areas at the resort. Like the others, it will be a thematic wonderland full of a variety of activities. To contrast with the sunny and dry Boneyard in DinoLand USA, this one will be shady and wet; it will not be a full-on water park but several features will have spray elements. An outdoor shower area for the researchers will have small spray heads and buckets to receive water. A model of the local waterways will be on a low table with devices for diverting the waterflow in channels for play. Dry play elements will include a tent with fixed microscopes for looking at specimens. Massive fallen tree trunks will form slides. A maze of trapping crates for tagging animals for tracking will provide a scenic crawl space. A research scaffolding structure will provide climbing courses, with a few short simulated ziplines strung below for gliding above a rubberized surface. In summary, these and other possible play elements will be tailored to the theme of life at the fictional station. The kinetic energy of the area will be augmented by the Amazon Canopy Ride curving overhead, and a small ride aimed at young kids will have its queue and loading area connected to the play area rather than being entered from the main walkway. This ride will be an open-air circuit track for small ATV’s, supposedly for the scientists to drive between research sites. They can be ‘driven’ by kids but large enough for an adult to join them. They will circle a twisting route, not far out of view from the station, with a slightly bumpy surface of a simulated dirt road through the forest to provide the mildest of thrills. Drivers will not be able to adjust speed, but will be able to steer enough to make the vehicle adjust course. It will not be the loud cacophony of engine noises like the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland Indy Speedway, nor will it be the same scale. Although not particularly creative, its detailing will be convincing and its experience will be just right for little ones excluded from larger rides.
Amazon Ride and Show will be the final and most ambitious attraction in this sub-theme. It will not be seen or entered directly from the Amazon Research Station; instead, it will be encountered a little further along the main walkway, after leaving the most concentrated part of that compound. This attraction will be a hybrid that fulfills a few features that the park could use: a calm boat ride, a special effects show, and an indoor ride (the last one is only partially addressed by this concept). A flotilla of boats will be boarded at the same time; then one by one they will navigate the river (guided by underwater tracks) to enter the show building, where they will stop and gather together in a similar arrangement to the vehicle paths of Universe of Energy at EPCOT. After the show, they will depart the show building one by one to gather again at the loading docks where they started. The docks and queue area will be on the edge of a bend in a river, larger in width than the Magic Kingdom’s Jungle Cruise in Adventureland but smaller than the Rivers of America in Frontierland or Discovery River in this park. This river will reinforce the Amazon theme, and emulate the upper reaches of one of its tributaries, such as the Ucayali. Along the edge of the main walkway, small buildings on the edge of the riverbank will form a queue; it will need to be extensive to handle the line that will only move in periods of loading. The thatched peaked buildings will be reminiscent of those in real places like Belen, designed to rise and fall with the seasonal floods of the river. The loading area will be several parallel docks, connected by overhead walkways to the queue. This will enable high capacity loading and unloading for the flotilla at the same time. The boats will be designed in two or three different configurations and sizes, so that when they are gathered they will look like an authentic group of mismatched river traffic rather than a fleet. In style, they will feature different faded and neglected finishes and be decorated with various props such as small hauling crates. These are not the boats of the fictional scientists back at the Amazon Research Station; they are the transport boats of this small modern but rustic village, and its link to others. Seating on the boats will be several rows facing port rather than the bow; this will be a practical arrangement for viewing the show later, and a similar arrangement to some of the rolling stock of the Disneyland Railroad. Guests will be loaded on all the boats at the same time; then they will depart in several batches, as the unseen tracks that guide the boats converge into a single track. The backstory of the ride will be that guests have chartered a tour upriver with some anthropologists to reach a small native village that has had little modern contact and retains much of its traditional culture. The anthropologists have arranged for the village to share their creation stories in relation to the animals of the rainforest. Each boat will have cast members who are supposedly anthropologists; they will narrate the tour. As each boat departs and joins the single track, the river will narrow slightly as it turns a bend and disappears from view of the loading docks and main walkway. The narrator will establish the backstory, and around the thickly forested bend a group of Audio-Animatronic Amazon river dolphins will briefly pop their heads out of the water nearby. This is an endangered species, and is unavailable to be showcased in captivity, so faking their presence here will be an appropriate and educational theming detail (as well as foreshadowing for the show to come). After another bend, a traditional village will be seen on the riverbank. In style, the group of traditional structures will not be meant as a representation of one specific tribe or culture, but as a stand-in story device to represent the region. The narrator will announce it as the intended destination, but will be perplexed that no one is out to greet and that several firepits are smoldering with no one present. A quick decision will be made to continue a little further upriver ‘beyond the established route’. After another bend, and the river narrowing, the river will flow into a rocky cave and the narrator will decide it looks navigable although unfamiliar. Of course, this is actually the entrance to the massive show building where the main attraction will take place. After a short dark passage, an enormous flooded cave will be entered, and the boat will stop at the far end, seemingly a dead end, where the decision is made to wait for the other boats to follow and gather in this wonderful but dark discovery. One by one, the other boats enter, and the unseen track underwater splits into several branches to allow the boats to gather in a flotilla. Hopefully unnoticed by guests, each boat is actually docked along minimal docks on one side of the flooded cave that allow for emergency exit if the need arises during the 15-or-so minutes of the presentation. The narrators sit during the show, as the show soundtrack replaces their narration, and they become available for supervision and emergencies only. In theme, the show will represent nature presenting itself rather than the people of the village doing it; this story device will avoid the cultural differences and possible controversies of depicting specific religious beliefs. The show will be a special effects tour-de-force focusing on abstract depictions of the wildlife of the Amazon River and Rainforest. Short segments will highlight unique animals, and the effects will emphasize their qualities. It will not be a theater of flat screens, although irregular screens and projection surfaces will be abundant. Surrounding the dark watery cave will be moving setpieces, water curtains, mist screens, and the like; theatrical lighting and projectors will mostly be located behind the boats to conceal their locations. Lights and fountains will be located below the water surface as well. Fire and small-scale indoor fireworks will also be featured. The concentration of effects and effort will be the reason that it should be experienced by large groups of guests, thus the flotilla of boats to reach the showplace; it will offer a unique combination of themed ride and show. The soundtrack of the show will be filled with mysterious sound effects and regional music, but devoid of a narrator; instead, brief film images of the real animals depicted will establish the subject of each atmospheric segment. A very effective transition from the boat narrator to the show would be the sounds of bats in the dark cave becoming increasingly louder. Then moving spotlight projections of them flying around the cave walls would start the show visually. As this fades, low mist across the water surface would have projections of Amazon river dolphins, which would then rise onto the cave walls as water curtains of green emulate the murky underwater. Images of Amazonian manatees would follow, and the boats would be ‘bumped’ underwater to simulate their proximity. Next, huge freshwater river fish like the arapaima would be seen as projections of their fishscales fill the room. The water curtains would then cease and filtered lights from above would take over for the underwater simulation; the quiet would be disrupted by images of red-bellied piranhas becoming agitated. Their frenzy would be puntuated by quick bursts of small flames around the room, red lights flashing, and the boats being rocked underwater from violently bubbling fountains nearby. The calm following this would be punctuated by projections of the playful fluid forms of giant otters, while green fountains emerge around the room to mimic their flow. The green underwater theme would then give way to abstract projections of snake scales, as brief flowing images of the anaconda slither around the room and scrims of hanging leaves descend down to establish the lush forest theme. This would lead to the most colorful segments, focused on the riotous colors of poison dart frogs and birds such as the quetzal and toucan, with the full application of lights above and below water, projections, and wind to emulate swirling flocks of macaws. Another dark segment would follow, but a very playful one; this would be focused on projections of the acrobatics of monkeys such as capuchins and howlers, and their calls. Next, glowing eyes from the darkness would emerge and move before the spots of the jaguar would fill the room; a suspenseful hunt would be recreated in sound while increasingly thrilling effects of yellow fountain bursts and lights punctuated by flames would end with the crackles of indoor fireworks over the water. I intend these descriptions to only hint at the full scope of the show. Once it is over, the narrators of each boat will resume their posts as boat drivers as one by one they navigate out of a short dark cave passage and into the exterior forest stretch of the river that connects back to the loading docks. The flotillas of boats might number two or three, so that one group of guests can be loading and traveling while another is viewing the show. It will truly be a spectacle that celebrates the love for animals that is the core of the park’s theme.
The main walkway will curve after leaving the Amazon Ride and Show riverbank loading area, and the vegetation on both sides will transition to a drier and sparser palette of plants to lead to the Andes sub-theme area around the bend. It will begin as the main walkway reaches the existing Wildlife Express station that currently serves Rafiki’s Planet Watch. This station will be re-themed to match the architecture and environment of the new sub-theme, serving as the gateway to the Andes for guests arriving from the Africa station of the train. (Admittedly, traveling from Africa to South America by train is a thematic leap-of-faith.) However, the existing path to Rafiki’s Planet Watch will remain intact as a side branch walkway from the Andes area. The first section of Habitat Habit will probably be altered or removed to make room for this new transition. I considered re-theming Rafiki’s Planet Watch to fit the adjacent South America theme but decided against it, mostly because Conservation Station works best as a modern behind-the-scenes animal care and conservation facility with no regional focus. Inside, guests view animals from around the world (including domestics), live camera views of animal exhibits in the park including Africa and Asia, and ‘backstage’ husbandry facilities; slapping regional theming on top of all this would be inappropriate, even though the current design details are flimsy. The entrance to the walkway to Rafiki’s Planet Watch will remain fairly close to the Wildlife Express station so that it does not encroach on the scenic Andes area; guests seeking the older land will still have a direct route to it.
Andean Village will be the core of the Andes sub-theme area, anchored at its beginning by the re-themed Wildlife Express station, which will have a clear view of the unfolding immersive panorama. The village will be a large open area compared to the Amazon Research Station, and its features will radiate from a long plaza. It will have a greater architectural presence, and will focus on the cultural heritage of the region more than the Amazon sub-theme will. It will also contain a larger amount of guest services in a location that will require them; these will serve the new land as a whole, in a location further from the existing villages of Harambe in Africa and Anandapur in Asia. The restaurants and shops will also easily serve Rafiki’s Planet Watch nearby. The design of the village will be inspired by those found in the Interandean Valles, the high altitude dry valleys between the peaks of the tropical Andes. These valleys include grasslands known as puna, high plains like the region known as the Altiplano, and saline lakes such as the famous Lake Titicaca in the Altiplano. Villages set in the valleys are often surrounded by agriculture, especially crops native to the region such as potatoes and grains such as quinoa. Therefore, the surrounding landscape will be a lower height and drier aesthetic than the lush Amazon area previously described. The architecture of the concentration of closely-set or attached buildings will mostly be small in scale and will recall the most historic parts of real cities in the valles such as Cusco, which features many Spanish colonial buildings set on foundations of the skillful unmortared massive rockwork of the Incas (which were often built over the constructions of the Killke culture before them). The village will not be intended to be a recreation of an Incan village or a Spanish colonial one; instead, it will reflect the continuing use of these heritage structures in the present day in remote locations, just as Harambe in Africa or Anandapur in Asia do. The village will not be arranged in a simple plan; instead it will reflect the seemingly-unplanned growth over centuries, and even its central plaza will be irregularly-shaped and a bit chaotic. For comparison, the building scale and arrangement and complexity will most closely resemble Harambe in this park’s Africa, or the Caribbean Plaza area of the Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland, or the exteriors of pavilions at EPCOT’s World Showcase such as Norway and Morocco. Of course, in style it will be much different from these. Sightlines across the length of the village will be focused on its East end; rising above that end of the village will be a series of Andean peaks in the distance to make the scenario convincing. In reality, the peaks will be three-dimensional facades mounted on the face and roof of a massive show building for the Andean Ride described later; techniques of forced perspective and distance will render them as a believable backdrop but they will probably approach only half the height of the park’s existing Expedition Everest in Asia. In general, the architecture will appear to be the most rustic upon entry to the sub-theme; as the village is encountered, buildings will become more refined, with some of the relatively ornate Baroque style of later Spanish colonial influence at the far end of the plaza. The train station itself will be similar to small crude depots along the real rail line that connects the coast to the Andes. The long plaza will begin in front of it. At the junction of the start of the plaza and the pathway to Rafiki’s Planet Watch will be several agrarian facades enveloping a barn. Outside these facades, several small agricultural plots will demonstrate crops native to the Andes (that can be grown in Florida). Some of the crops will create a narrow buffer zone between the paved plaza area and a roomy corral for live alpacas. The view of this herd of traditional domestic animals backed by the scene of the village and peaks beyond will be evocative and instantly immersive. A small walled outdoor exhibit viewed behind a railing will feature the other of the area’s most important native domestic animals, the guinea pig. Guests will be able to enter the barn to see displays about alpaca wool and weaving; very occasional alpaca shearing demonstrations will be presented in the barn. Supervised brief animal contact sessions will be held, with alpacas in a fenced stall or guinea pigs in a low fenced pen. This will be a nice feature for theming, that will also help lead more gracefully to the activities of Rafiki’s Planet Watch down the pathway branching from here. Further in the village past the alpaca barn, the entry gate to the Andean Animal Exhibit Loop described later will lead to wild animals of the region in more naturalistic habitats than these domestics. On the other side of the long narrow plaza across from the alpacas, beginning the enclosure of the village, will be a series of shop facades. Inside, several connected rooms will compose the main shopping area of the land. The first will feature the most authentic merchandise from the Andes, such as alpaca textiles; it will be themed to an artisanal weavers workshop and will have loom and dyeing props throughout. Another room will be themed to a goldsmith shop and will have props such as workbenches for fashioning jewelry and will sell jewelry (even if most of it is costume). Several other themes will be reached behind corresponding facades of a pottery and a dollmaker, and these will sell souvenirs of the park and more general Disney merchandise. Next door, one of the two sets of restrooms in the area will be reached by entering a façade themed to a small hot spring hotel like those near Machu Picchu in Aguas Calientes. Next to this, facades dominated by large stone foundations of Incan origin will form the front of an indoor table-service restaurant. This will be an atmospheric setting for an upscale experience, while casual dining will be provided separately across the plaza. The interior will be divided into a main expansive room and several intimate alcoves adjoining it. Thematically, it will be inside the dark walls of an Incan stone complex that is mostly intact except for the adobe upper walls and ceilings that were added by Spanish settlers. To fund ongoing restoration, the fictitious Ministry of Culture entertains visitors here, even though some scaffolding and carbon dating equipment is present in some areas for ongoing research. Simulated candle and lantern lighting will contribute to the dim setting, which will be like dining in an archaeological site. A few occasional special effects will enhance the space, like unseen flashlights illuminating a passage. A small central stage will feature musicians who will play Andean music, dominated by panpipes such as the siku and antara and the stringed charango. They will accompany a few dancers in traditional dress as they perform the marinera. A simulated demonstration cooking area will feature a traditional stone oven. Dishes served will focus on the Andes – including pachamanca, a popular method of preparing meat with tubers and beans – and products of the Andes in preparations geared to the less adventurous palette. Therefore, dishes involving corn, potato, sweet potato, peanut, and certain beans and chilis will be featured in most entrees. The unique cultural setting, periodic entertainment, semi-authentic cuisine, and cool interior will make this a dining attraction. Back outside across the plaza from the restaurant will be the casual dining option. Its extensive outdoor seating area will be set within the shade of the awnings above the food market of the village, surrounding a small outdoor stage for periodic performances by the Peruvian entertainers also featured in the restaurant (or, begrudgingly, meet-and-greets with characters from The Emperor’s New Groove and The Three Caballeros). Window-service counters will be set in the facades behind the seating area, and at least one will feature take-away potato dishes (even fries) to reinforce the theme, set in a potato market stall. Another will be a corn market stall and sell popcorn, including flavored ones. Next, another set of restrooms will adjoin the facades that house the queue for the Andean Ride, described next.
Andean Ride will be the most ambitious attraction in this sub-theme and will fulfill a feature that the park could use: another major indoor ride. It will be experienced in enhanced motion vehicles guided along a floor track that follows a route with many turns and gentle elevation changes; the additional movement simulation of the vehicle platform will make it a more intense experience at times. The vehicles will follow the route through a series of rooms; some will be three-dimensional sets while others will be projection surfaces for films. Some of the films will be special effects composites, others will be live-action footage; all will be altered with computer graphics to emulate shifting first-person viewpoints to synchronize with the story. Each room will feature a short stop of the vehicle to experience its show elements, and each section of vehicle movement between the rooms will be short. In total, the ride will be about 12 minutes, with about as many short stops (or slow pauses). In ride concept, this will be very similar to The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman at Universal’s Islands of Adventure or Curse of DarKastle at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, but with slightly fewer film segments. It will also be similar to DINOSAUR at this park and Indiana Jones and The Temple of the Forbidden Eye at Disneyland, but will feature film segments and more frequent and longer stops than they do; its ride vehicles will also differ from those two. This ride’s thematic tone will be serious, as is the rest of this proposed land (and the adjoining Africa and Asia lands), but it will have more of a cultural and mystical focus than the heavily animal-focused attractions of the rest of the land. The queue entry and exit of the ride will be in the more refined building facades that form the far end of the Andean Village. These will be dominated by a formal Spanish colonial structure that will be themed as the seat of government for the small region, and will contain the museum of the fictitious Ministry of Culture described previously in the nearby restaurant. The queue area will be indoors, in a smaller ‘neck’ building leading to the main show building. The massive main show building will have a series of three-dimensional Andean peaks on its exterior, mounted on the front face and roof; its setback location will make these seemingly distant features more believable when viewed from the village, but will not be visible once inside the interior queue. The queue will fill several rooms themed as the formal halls of the complex, leading to the main hall of the museum where the loading and unloading area for the ride will be located. The halls will be a bit tattered, devoid of polished marble floors and gleaming displays, in keeping with the more rustic intent of the area’s theme. The open-top ride vehicles will be rectangular platforms with belt-locked seats for about 8 or 12 guests with low sides for containment and a higher backside for directing views forward. They will not be themed to real-world vehicles (such as a rover), nor abstract pods (such as an omnimover); instead, they will appear to be fixtures of the museum, perhaps a cluster of crates or display cases. This admittedly simple design device will only be noticeable within the beginning of the ride because the unfolding experience will cause riders to forget the vehicles as a transport device. Supposedly, guests are touring the cultural displays of the museum and have stepped on to a temporary platform. The ride will begin with the vehicle smoothly exiting the main hall around a corner, with no enhanced motion through the first scene. The first stop will be in another hall of the museum; three displays among the others will be highlighted briefly with narration emanating from onboard speakers from an unseen museum curator character. The first display will be aerial images of the Nazca Lines, the famous large geoglyphs shaped like animals in Peru. Another display will detail Machu Picchu, the famous Incan ruins in the Andes. The third will focus on images of the Andean peaks and local beliefs that the peaks are inhabited by Apus, the spirits of the mountains. The vehicle will then enter another museum hall; suddenly a simulated earthquake will cause cultural displays to shake and tumble while the enhanced motion of the vehicle will begin to operate for the duration of the ride and the thrill element will take over. Earthquakes are a common occurrence in the region represented here. The vehicle will then proceed down a dark ‘sinkhole’ in a ruined wall at the end of the room and into the first of the short film segment scenes: this one will simulate a mystical underground journey, propelled by a mysterious force that the anthropologist will surmise is the disturbance of an Apu. It will be dark, fast, and disorienting. Next, the vehicle will leave its mystical journey and arrive in a fantastic volcanic cavern, filled with steam vents and shifting magma. Many of the peaks of the Andes are volcanoes. Inside this one, mysterious voices will begin to fill the air, causing the steam vents to pulse until a blast of steam sends the vehicle into another dark cavern. At this stop, a film segment will feature visible shifting shapes of Apus, seemingly spinning and bumping the vehicle. The effect will be thrilling and sinister, but the narrator will gain confidence toward the end, sensing that they are playing rather than threatening because they are protectors of travelers in the highlands. The conceptions of the Apus will not be based on any one culture’s ideas, but rather an imaginative amalgamation of characteristics. This will be followed by another stop in a film segment room, this time with the effect of being jettisoned out of the cavern into the air; the vehicle’s enhanced motion will become smoother as it synchronizes with the film’s aerial view of soaring over some Andean peaks, then ‘stalling’ and free-falling down toward them. The next stop will be another film segment of the freefall slowing down and the vehicle regaining control to soar over the scenery of Machu Picchu and its stunning site of Incan terraces and buildings perched on a plateau above a narrow river valley and dominated by dramatic steep hills. The transition between the two segments will be fast, so that the vehicle faces one screen, then pivots to face the next since the two are linked so closely. Next, the vehicle will seemingly come to rest within the compound of Machu Picchu, surrounded by the detailed massive stonework of its architecture. Around a bend in the same set, sounds and projections of mysterious man-like shapes will start to emerge out of the mortar joints of the stonework and the narrator will surmise that they are manifestations of Pishtacos, the legendary flesh-eating monsters of Peru. Again, this will be a sinister foreshadowing of the next scene, where the vehicle will rush into a dark opening in the stone walls and experience another film segment filled with images and movements of the Pichtacos attempting to extract guests from their seats. The vehicle will lurch and spin, and blasts of air will enhance the seemingly tactile menace, ending with a mysterious salvation through a disorienting fast blurry journey, presumably the Apus safeguarding the guests. This will be followed by a quick transition to the confusion ending and the vehicle gaining control as it seemingly soars over the Nazca Desert, another film segment. Although Nazca is not in the Andes, it is close enough to be believable as part of this adventure, and a very remarkable cultural icon from 1500 years ago. Many of its lines, which are made from arrangements of rocks on the desert floor and only appreciated from the air, are in the shapes of animals; thus it is a fitting inclusion at the park, and conceived to be a fitting conclusion for this ride to tie back to the overall theme. After the film segment, a large set will be entered that recreates the same desert landscape; the vehicle will be near the top of the room, and angled down for an aerial view of a few of the Nazca Lines, including the Monkey and the Llama. Projections on the ground will seemingly grow out of them and across the desert as the sounds of these animals fill the air and they ‘come to life’. The vehicle will then move to another view of the same set, where the Nazca Lines of the Hummingbird and Condor will be seen, with the same effects bringing them to life. The condor images will float up to the vehicle, their wingbeats causing turbulence, until the vehicle is sent spinning into another film segment room. Another disorienting mystical journey will end with the vehicle returning to a small nook of the earthquake-damaged museum, the narrator breathing a sigh of relief, and the vehicle turning a corner to emerge back in the main hall of the museum and the unload area. The exit will adjoin a shop that connects outdoors to the plaza; the shop will be themed to the museum’s gift shop and stock an assortment of souvenirs of the land and park.
Andean Animal Exhibit Loop will be the other attraction that branches from the Andean Village. It will be a fantastic live animal complex, set away from the main walkway so that it will restrict crowds with no interest in seeing animals. Like Pangani Forest Exploration Trail and Maharajah Jungle Trek, it will be a one-way loop. Its location will be adjacent to the back perimeter of Conservation Station so that the two complexes can share a relatively quiet common border and animal holding and service areas. Both the entrance and exit of the loop will originate in the Andean Village, with the entry beginning next to the alpaca corral and barn. The furthest part of the loop will feature the species that can be contained in the most convincing naturalistic exhibit style. Species exhibited will be chosen based on those that inhabit the regional theme of the exhibit; in addition, they will represent a variety of animal types reasonably available in US collections. Emphasis will be on species that are higher on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (or IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species; this is the standard for determining conservation status, and categories above ‘Least Concern’ status will be the focus. Some species may be chosen that are ‘Least Concern’ but help add variety or excitement to the exhibit loop. Habitats will be designed to hold alternates to the most-desired species because the reality of animal collection management will require it from time-to-time. Along the exhibit path, informative graphics will be kept to a minimum to avoid clutter; however, small identification signs and graphics will be present and will be in the style of notes left by fictional hikers whose footsteps guests follow. The entrance to the loop will be through a small building, one of the facades of the village, themed to be a trailhead outpost and high-elevation hikers outfitter. The winding path will be made of large flat stones, covered with simulated dried earth in spots, to emulate the ancient Inca road system. It will travel through several distinct environments along the journey to approximate a hike from the Altiplano over a pass in the Andes peaks and down to the mid elevations of the range’s slopes. After exiting the small entry building, a scenic outdoor exhibit will be visible immediately. Themed to Lake Titicaca, this large shallow pond will be viewed from behind a low railing, with a muddy shoreline adjacent to the path with simulated mudmound nests. The feature species will be Chilean flamingo (IUCN ‘Near Threatened’). With three other African flamingo exhibits in Africa, Discovery Island, and Animal Kingdom Lodge, an additional flamingo exhibit is certainly not needed; however, as an iconic species of this region and a threatened one too, their inclusion is justified. Sharing the exhibit will be waterfowl, managed with pinioned primary feathers to prevent escape: Andean goose (IUCN ‘Least Concern’) and Puna teal (IUCN ‘Least Concern’) among others. Several simulated floating islands will be located toward the back of the pond, and its far shore will match the style of the floating islands and appear to be a larger one. On Lake Titicaca, the Uros culture builds floating islands made of totora reeds, and builds mats of reeds into small rectangular houses on the islands. A few of these houses, and a surrounding shoreline of reeds, will make a fascinating backdrop for the waterbirds, and a fitting transition from the urbanity of the village to the naturalism of the further exhibits. After leaving this scene, the path will curve sharply and descend into a dry rocky passageway, with openings on one side. Behind a small hidden moat, the cave view to an open-air rocky talus slope of the Andes will be viewed. This sheltered but natural-appearing exhibit will be for short-tailed chinchilla (IUCN ‘Critically Endangered’) and will offer close views of the colony perching on the rocks and taking dust baths at the foot of the slope. Design of the exhibit will attempt to use ‘borrowed scenery’: hopefully, the simulated Andean peaks on the Andean Ride show building in the background will be visible rising above the rocky slope of this exhibit. The path will ascend out of the rocky passageway and into a rocky landscape scattered with low dry scrub and grasses to arrive at a small conservation shed perched on rocks. Guests will either pass this, or enter its small interior. Guests who enter it will have open-air views into two adjoining Andean condor (IUCN ‘Near Threatened’) aviaries if possible. Raptors are currently not represented at the park. These flight enclosures will be large, contained with netting draped from large timber poles, constructed as a ‘nesting study area’. Both will have steep rocky backdrops with ledges and overhangs for perching and shade. A few additional dry branches will provide perches in the lower landscape, matching the exterior landscape. Next, the path will turn a corner and a large open habitat composed of a dry and rocky slope slowly rising above the eye-level of guests will be encountered. This will be for guanaco (IUCN ‘Least Concern’), wild relatives of the alpacas previously seen. Camelids are currently not represented at the park. Shade will be provided by arid trees at the sides of the exhibit, but the main expanse will be kept clear so that the view will again take advantage of the ‘borrowed scenery’ of the Andean peaks in the background. Feeding troughs at the crest of the slope, hidden in a few simulated Incan stone terrace ruins, will be placed to encourage the guanacos to frequently inhabit the scenic ‘sweet spot’ of the exhibit. In addition, a few scattered steam vents in the rocks will simulate the volcanic activity of regions of the Andes, such as Arequipa. Another curve in the path will lead into a shadier part of the exhibit loop, planted to simulate the high-altitude wet forests of the East slopes of the Andes, known as yungas. The first exhibit will be a medium-sized walkthrough aviary, hidden in the forest. It will feature Peruvian pigeon (IUCN ‘Vulnerable’), green jay (IUCN ‘Least Concern), Andean ****-of-the-rock (IUCN ‘Least Concern’), Andean tinamou (IUCN ‘Least Concern’), Peruvian Thick-knee (IUCN ‘Least Concern’) and others including various tanagers. After leaving the birds, the path will again descend into a cave passage, this time darker and enclosed on each side. Inside, a few terrariums set in the rocky walls will feature invertebrates and Andean milk snake (unlisted in IUCN). Then an exhibit behind a large glass viewing window will be seen, simulating the forest at night. This will be for one of the only nocturnal (and high-altitude) monkey species, the grey-legged douroucouli or owl monkey (IUCN ‘Vulnerable’). The path will then exit the cave and ascend back outside and around a low forested bend to view one of two adjacent open habitats contained by rocky walls and shaded with scattered trees for Andean bear (IUCN ‘Vulnerable’), the only bear species from South America. Bears are currently not represented at the park. Their habitats will be full of rocky outcrops, simulated tree stumps and branches for climbing, grassy clearings, and slopes for maximum naturalism and enrichment. They will be located closest to the Andean Ride show building, separated by a forested barrier from it; guest viewing areas will look across hidden moats to the habitats with the simulated peaks forming a dramatic background. The path will then make another curve and arrive at a similar small building to the entry, which will serve as the exit back into the village.