Walt Disney World to replace Audio-Animatronics with live animals in Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

in Disney, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Entertainment, Theme Parks, Walt Disney World

kilimanjaro-safaris

Rescuing “Little Red” the elephant will no longer be the climactic finale of Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom come spring 2012 as Walt Disney World has announced plans to change the attraction.

More live zebra will be added to the vast savannah, in the process removing the “Little Red” Audio-Animatronics, truck, and surrounding area. It will all become a new watering hole featuring live animals, instead of the one fake animal the ride has featured since its debut.

Though Little Red will be going away, Kilimanjaro Safaris will still have a story, though likely a different one. When I asked if the “scare off the poachers” story will still be intact, Disney Parks Blog author Jennifer Fickley-Baker replied that “the attraction will still have a very strong and prominent conservation message.” She did not (or could not) elaborate further.

The changes are said to be completed by fall 2012, with the ride remaining open throughout.

20 Comments

  1. I knew someone would use this headline! It is about time as well – I always thought that an AA animal as the finale was a bit of a disappointment given how amazing the ‘real’ animal experience is during the rest of the attraction.

    1. Ricky Brigante

      It’s a headline that makes you read it twice, just to be sure you didn’t get it backwards. :) And yes, I agree. Having a fake elephant at the end after seeing impressive live elephants just minutes before was never a great way to finish the ride… though the quick turns around the water spouts were always fun.

      1. andy

        yeah i had to read it 3 times. was concerned you meant jungle cruise.

  2. JungleSkip

    Great move. The current, neutered version of the story doesn’t offer the intensity and suspense the original did (with the plane and the poacher truck/gun fire).

    This is a very good change, and will offer new value for KS.

  3. I think the kids liked the “story” of the poachers and believing the baby elephant gets rescued. It also was a good lesson for kids and maybe some adults. I enjoyed it but I’m sure the new space will be fine too.

  4. andy

    like the tiki room… i think i’m the only one who loved it.

  5. Linda

    I will miss the story line too. Kind of makes it not so much fun not having a story line like that. Why not just get rid of the ride and put all live animals and then we could have two safari type rides. Or, we could just ride the safari ride and then not have to do this one at all.

    Maybe they could just leave it like it is and we could all enjoy it when we go back. Who asked them to change it ? I doubt they got complaints about it.

  6. Joe

    When was the AA put in place? The last time I was on Kilimanjaro was October of 2004 and don’t remember it.

  7. Jeff

    So does this mean the entire story-line will be eliminated and it will just be a ride-through looking at the animals?

    I have only been there once (November 2009). I liked the ride and the story but felt the ending was really flat because there is no actual conflict with the poachers after the big build-up. We didn’t see the baby being rescued but rather saw him after the fact– our jeep just rolled by a truck with the baby elephant’s nose sticking out from behind some canvas. Not very impressive. I wouldn’t even consider it a real AA.

    So based on what I experienced, I guess I agree it will be better to just enjoy the animal experience without the story layer.

  8. Alicia

    I always felt having even one fake animal was a detriment to the credibility of all the real animals. Last time I went I overheard a cast member tell a little girl that all the animals on this ride were real. But I knew that the baby elephant isn’t. Will the little girl see that and wonder if maybe the lions weren’t real too? They were kinda hard to see that day, after all.

    The ride will be better without any fake animals and I commend them for the decision. Now the tough part of finding ways to lure those zebras to the water hole for a perfect ride ending each time.

  9. Alex

    Don’t mind those changes; I tend to agree with Alicia’s opening point. I will however miss the “SSSSSIMMMMMBBBAAAAA ONE!” audio…

  10. EricJ

    Having to keep the tour to a “schedule” of story interfered with the ride–
    I remember one time, going through the ostrich section, one trotted petulantly in front of our vehicle and wouldn’t pull over to give right of way…The “helicopter” was telling us over the “radio” to hurry up and find the poachers, but no, this one REAL ostrich couldn’t be bothered about fictional storylines. :)

  11. Justin

    I love the move, I think this allows Disney to create a new story and keep to a more safari theme. Everyone is always wanting change with Disney attractions to make them bigger and better. I think by adding more real animals to an experience with real animals is a great move. Leave the fake animals for the jungle cruise. Great move Disney

  12. I think this is a great idea. The past few times I’ve done the safari, I didn’t get the impression that many of the guests “cared” about the storyline of the ride and wanted to see the real animals. They are lovely on their own, and I would rather see more “real” safari then continue the way they have. I do help Wilson still plays a part somehow and they tune into the radio. Those two very small details are my favorites. Sometimes I think the cast member is also a huge reason why the attraction is so good for guests and sometimes having to transition to the storyline doesn’t always make sense, especially if the unexpected happens like someone commented about above. All in all, glad to see AK getting some attention like this. (And non-Avatar related.)

  13. otisney

    Looks like they’re finally getting rid of the entire Big Red and Little Red storyline. I remember during the Previews of the Park, they had the dead body of Big Red near the poacher’s camp toward the end of the ride. They quickly realized that was too morbid, so they just removed the body. Then, they changed the story so that she was only wounded.

    It’ll be nice for the ride to be entirely a collection of real animals. And, it’ll be nice for the return of the zebras, who tended to bully the smaller hoofed animals.

  14. Jonny

    I like this update. I feel like the newest park should reflect the expectations of today, ie real animals. Leave the AA to the nostalgia of the Jungle Cruise. The end of the story always seemed rushed anyway, like Jeff said. Maybe they’ll expand the idle, or “unexpected,” parts near animals so visitors can experience a modern day safari of shooting cameras rather than guns. That’s a true conservation message for today.

    Also, to give full credit, I came to your site from http://beastlykingdomme.blogspot.com/

  15. Jennie

    I finally stayed at AKV for the first time which was amazing and real animals are always better than AA (even tho Disney does great AA). I look forward to more zebras on the planes of the safari.

    Happy trails,
    Jennie

  16. JP McPhillips

    I worked at Safaris while on the Disney College program, a bit of insight in case you did not know, little red is not a part of the current attraction, if you follow the story line little red is never mentioned the AA baby elephant is what is left over from a much more elaborate story when the attraction first opend. there used to be quite a lot more envolvement of the poachers including a poacher truck that ran on a track as you went through the final scene, in the opening days of the attraction little reds mother was actually killed by the poachers and you drove past a large dead elephant(obviously fake) this was quickly removed not long after due to the graphic nature of this. one thing us safari drivers always laughed at was the fact that the poachers always got away at the end of the story, and that technically speaking we did not save little red because we picked her up safely and if you notice at the end of the attracting the AA baby elephant is in a truck with the Harambe Wildlife Reserve logo on the side of it. I will always miss chasing thoes poachers, and i hope that the new story line will be more cohesive this time around.
    -Kwah herini everybody!!

  17. I was also a Safari drive on my college program. By the time I got there it seemed like the poacher storyline was more of an afterthought than anything else. It’s been years since the Zebras have really been involved with the attraction. They were deemed to be too aggressive and were moved off the portion of the reserve thats open to the public. I think this will be a great improvement.

  18. Kasey Jamison

    They’ll do a good job of it. They’re great at covering the seams when they replace or upgrade something. IE: when the Tiki room burned and they lost the original tapes from the first show they called upon voice actor/singer Kurt Jelinek to mimic the originals, which he does so seamlessly- no one knew the difference (Disney insiders know Jelinek, as the voice of the “Tim Curry” type robot in the old Alien Encounter, and currently he provides the voice in the well in front of Indianna Jones, and the soon-to-be robot “Izzy” in EPCOT) So as far as Safari animals and their reactions, they’ll just train the animals better to respond to certain tones or something that will be sounded when the time is right.

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