The wilderness must be explored!

September 25, 2011

And recently at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we got to do just that…

On a beautiful Saturday morning, the Partial Harem (Mistress Sandra, Miss Bonnie, and Harem-Member-in-Training: Alex the Surly Teenager) and I made our way to Animal Kingdom with a couple of objectives in mind: to catch a glimpse of Jabali, the baby elephant born only a few weeks earlier (mission accomplished) and to allow Miss Bonnie to engage in her obsession with visiting Lilly the gorilla (well, one out of two ain’t bad).

The adorable Jabali

Along our travels that day we noticed several signs and symbols posted around that we hadn’t seen in our numerous prior visits…

As we exited the Pangani Trail after our unsuccessful efforts to eyeball Lilly, we inquired of a couple of front-line castmembers as to what the signs were for… we were told that for a few days there was testing going on in the park of a potential new interactive activity based on the Wilderness Explorer scouting group from the movie “Up”. When one of the castmembers told us that the experience was being aimed at guests between the ages of 5 and 12, we knew it was right up our alley! We were directed to the check-in area and eagerly made our way there.

We fought our way through several younger guests with minimal injuries and made our way to the front of the line.

We got some general info on the experience being tested: you are basically becoming Russell (or one of his fellow Wilderness Explorers) from “Up” and using the provided materials to help you explore the wilderness (in this case the Africa area of Animal Kingdom).


We were given our Wilderness Explorer notebooks (made of recycled materials, of course) in which had been placed several sheets to help us complete our assigned tasks and earn our badges.

At this time there are ten planned badges to be earned, and over the few days of testing they were giving out two sets of materials at a time.

Badge earning locations around Africa

We were given the opportunity to earn the Safari Badge and the Language Badge.

We began by filling out our Travel Card and made our way to the Safari ride to earn our badge. There were fill-in-the-blank type items we had to find the answers to in the early queue area…

Also along the queue were several new signs with interesting animal facts.

During the ride itself we were charged with finding and checking off as many animals as possible.

Afterwards we all noticed that we had actually spent much more time looking at the notebook and checking off the animals than actually looking at the real animals… when we were giving feedback to the castmembers at the end, we mentioned this and they said we were not the first to say this, so I’d expect that part of the experience to be tweaked a bit if we see this actually show up in the park.

As we finished the Safari section, we found our “Troop Leader” at a designated location who checked our pages and awarded us our badges (stickers attached to the pages we had filled out).

Next up was our Language Badge…

In what was basically a scavenger hunt, we were tasked with finding the English translations for several Swahili words on signs posted around the town of Harambe.

We all enjoyed this quite a bit as it made you look all around and perhaps see things you’d never seen or paid attention to before… between us we’ve made literally hundreds of visits to Animal Kingdom, and we always enjoy the details and take our time in the park, yet we all found a few things we’d never noticed before… exactly what an experience like this should do!

As we finished this part we met our Troop Leaders (three very personable and enthusiastic young castmembers from Africa) who asked us our favorite animal, and were, along with our badges, given our Swahili name, which was the name of the animal.

Our tasks for the day were done (and we would have gladly attempted more) and we returned to the check-in location to turn in our notebooks (we were given the completed sheets, and our richly deserved badges, to take with us). We were asked to fill out a survey on one of several laptops set up nearby, and we also gave quite a bit of verbal feedback to one of the castmembers in charge who was truly interested in our comments.

Were they just trying to tease us by re-purposing this piece and leaving the Taste of Africa Street Party poster on it?

We all agreed this could be a great addition to Animal Kingdom, and one that could easily be updated from time-to-time with differents sheets and questions to give it plenty of repeatability factor over multiple visits.

This could even provide Disney with some new merchandising avenues: I can see the Wilderness Explorer sashes now – with the opportunity to buy actual patches or pins of the badges (provided you complete your tasks of course!) to put on them. The castmember we spoke to most at length mentioned how surprised she was that almost all of the young guests actually knew who Russell was and was familiar with “Up” – perfect for future merchandising possibilities if this actually makes it’s way to the park.

With the more high-tech experiences like Kim Possible in Epcot and the upcoming Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, this decidedly low-tech interactive adventure seems perfectly suited to Animal Kingdom. You can have fun, explore, and actually (don’t say it too loudly) learn something at the same time. I hope this soon becomes a permanent part of Animal Kingdom as the wilderness must be explored!

3 Responses to “The wilderness must be explored!”

  1. Chris Says:

    Wow. That looks great. Here’s hoping it makes it out of Beta!

    Thanks for sharing.


  2. Jenn Says:

    The second one sounds crazy fun. I’m going to need to lie about my favorite animal, though; it seems the Swahili word for “shark” is “papa,” and I’m afraid that’s not gonna work for me…


  3. […] play-test this interactive experience over a year ago (and you can read all about that in the post “The wilderness must be explored!”), and I, for one, am really looking forward to this low-tech fun coming to […]


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