The Thing About Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom That Even Surprises The Park's Designer

Joe Rohde at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Disney knows a thing or two about theme parks. Around the world, there are no less than six theme parks that are essentially just variations on Disneyland. However, there are also a few locations that are special. There are some theme parks that take the concepts of the theme park and use them to immerse guests in worlds entirely unique and quite possibly the best of them is Disney's Animal Kingdom. It shares elements of the zoo or the animal sanctuary but presents them in a way that only Disney can, and everybody will be able to see just how special a place it is thanks to the upcoming Disney+ series, Magic of Disney's Animal Kingdom.

The new series is the first major collaboration between Disney and newly acquired National Geographic, the cable channel that came with Disney's purchase of 20th Century Fox. It will take guests behind the scenes of the theme park and spotlight both the animals that call Disney's Animal Kingdom home as well as the people who help care for them.

Disney's Animal Kingdom's lead designer was Walt Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde, who appears throughout the new series. At a press conference ahead of the Disney+ premiere of Magic of Disney's Animal Kingdom, I asked Rohde if there was anything that even surprised him about the park he helped design, while he was working on the new series. It seems Rohde is continually impressed to see the way that wild animals can be displayed in a way that allows them to connect with the guests, while still remaining mostly wild. As Rohde explained...

What is always surprising to see is the degree of precision with which these animals can participate and connect and behave, such that they can be cared for, such that they can remain as wild as they can be. It's really amazing to just watch this, like, is that gonna happen? Are they really gonna…? Is that gonna happen? And then there it is, some moment where an animal is brought to this point of interaction that is incredibly precise. And that's really astonishing to see.

If you've been to Disney's Animal Kingdom then you have an idea what Joe Rohde is talking about here. The live animal portions of the park feel like the animals truly are roaming wild, and within certain confines, they actually are. But it's the balance between the wild and the confining, the boundary between which guests rarely if ever see, that really makes Animal Kingdom special. It's one of the things that make the new NatGeo series interesting. In addition to learning about the animals, you'll also see elements of Animal Kingdom itself that are usually hidden from the guests.

Magic of Disney's Animal Kingdom will give guests a view of the park that they haven't seen before, and so Joe Rohde hopes it will make future visits to the park that much more special...

So simply by seeing the show, the next time you come to this place, your experience will be fuller, will be richer, will be more rewarding.

Magic of Disney's Animal Kingdom is narrated by Josh Gad and it debuts on Disney+ September 25.

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.