It’s not just concrete floating mountains, as impressive as they are, that make up the vast and sweeping changes to Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park at the Walt Disney World Resort. At the start to Discovery Island, when you just about get your first glance at the majestic Tree of Life you also see that Animal Kingdom’s version of Main Street USA is in the process of receiving a substantial facelift. It began with an expansion of the Tree of Life’s roots into this Animal Kingdom courtyard with a wondrous new photo spot and now a featured location for Winged Encounters – The Kingdom Takes Flight that shows off the power and beauty of a flock of Macaws as they soar around Disney’s Animal Kingdom and land right at its core at the start of Discovery Island. Now Disney Outfitters and Island Mercantile have gotten into the action that has already taken root at Discovery Island, namely a changing paint scheme that has seen earth tones replace the more bright and fancy free colors of Animal Kingdom’s past that while fun didn’t carry the gravitas of this new paint scheme. A paint scheme that has more going for it than just darker tones but actually has special reflective qualities that aim to enhance the night experience at Disney’s Animal Kingdom a major focal point during the park’s transition into a full-day Disney destination. But the changes don’t end there for Animal Kingdom’s main retail area, expansion is also afoot.
Disney Outfitters that may get a name change once the renovations are complete is getting quite a substantial footprint increase with an entirely new wing being added to its current structure. The new wing is adorned by a signature tower as its main visual draw that also adds to its weight within the land as you enter and exit the park. Its been hinted to us that this tower is in fact going to be a clock tower and if that comes to be it would join the Magic Kingdom that too features a signature clock on its Main Street. Another interesting change may come in the form of a dedicated stage this time on the opposite side of Disney Outfitters closer to the newly spruced up Flame Tree Barbecue. The stage would give the popular Viva Gaia Street Band! a more prominent home at Disney’s Animal Kingdom for their Caribbean infused street party.
Expanding retail at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is an obvious move for this Disney Park as it aims to capitalize on the growing demand this park will have in the coming years as new attractions and experiences open at the park and extend shopping hours long into the night. But the placemaking effort extends the importance of the project at the same time by adding a bit more structure to the park, bringing it closer in line with formulas that have worked so well for Disney parks in the past. The changes to Disney Outfitters and Island Mercantile are just the latest infrastructure projects at Disney’s Animal Kingdom that soon when seen together with all the major changes at the park will likely amount to a vastly different theme park than the one you new before. It will be more than nāhtāzū it will be Disney’s Animal Kingdom and those three words will mean more and more just like saying Magic Kingdom and Epcot do today.