Did you know that there are many behind the scenes tours available at each of the Walt Disney World Parks? Last week while part of a blogger press trip for Disneynature’s new movie that is now in theaters, Monkey Kingdom, I went on the Backstage Tales Tour at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. On the tour we had the opportunity to take a fascinating look at how Disney Cast Members tend to the 1,500-plus inhabitants of Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park. We toured the facilities where the animals are cared for and learned so much about the park, the animals, and even things about Walt Disney himself. During our tour we were given headsets to wear so we could easily hear our tour guides as we walked along the tour. Participants in this tour are given special Backstage Tales Tour water bottles as a keepsake and to use to bring water with them on the tour.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom park is a lushly landscaped oasis that’s home to more than 1,500 animals representing 250 species. During the Backstage Tales tour, you’ll learn all about the unique challenges involved in helping them thrive as you:
- Explore backstage animal-housing areas.
- Visit the Animal Nutrition Center and see how over 4 tons of food are prepared and distributed each day.
- Tour the state-of-the-art veterinary hospital, where you may even witness animals being treated.
- Stop by the Animal Programs Administration building and learn how Disney promotes global wildlife conservation and animal well-being.
Cameras aren’t allowed in the backstage areas so I don’t have many pictures to share but here are 10 things I learned on Disney’s Animal Kingdom Backstage Tales Tour.
- Walt Disney would go outside under a “dreaming” tree and sketch and dream as a child. He loved animals so he wanted to capture the true nature of animals in movies. He brought live animals into the studio for the artists to observe for movies like Bambi so they would be drawn more authentically. He wanted to connect people and animals.
- In parts of Animal Kingdom the ground rises so guests have to walk up a bit of an incline. This was done purposely to slow guests down so they could take in scenery.
- Disney conservationists work with the people of the lands where the animals are from to help in their home countries.
- Animal Kingdom was designed so guests would have to cross bridge to each new land. Each new land was given an authentic feel with authentic plants.
- In the aviary nest boxes simulates cavities in trees for birds to nest. Amazingly the birds are counted several times per day with binoculars. That’s A LOT of birds to count! They are banded for identification. A clicker is used to get the birds to come. They are trained to come for food with a click and this helps get them to come to be counted, too.
- Even the cell tower is themed and camouflaged as a tree .
- The Kilimanjaro Safari is bumpy on purpose. The designers wanted it to be more authentic so they brought a beverage cup filled with liquid with them when they tested it out. If the liquid spilled then it was bumpy enough.
- The animals that Disney works with aren’t forced to do anything. If they don’t want to come, they aren’t forced to. They are trained with food to do things such as come, walk back, go left, go right, be still, and other tasks. These trained tasks all help teach the animals to do things that they would need to do during a veterinary exam so they will willingly work with the trainers and vets. Another example of this is that the kimono dragons are taught to stand up and put their feet up on their cage from a young age. This way when the trainers, vets, etc. needs to check their feet or trim their nails the animal will willingly give their feet. The rhinos were even taught to urinate on command so they can get a sterile sample.
- All the animals are given different types of enrichment items like sticks, toys, etc. to keep them happy and entertained.
- There are 2.6 elephants at Animal Kingdom. That’s 2 male and 6 female in zoo shorthand.
- Some animals at Animal Kingdom are on birth control just like humans such as a patch or depo shot!
- Disney’s horticulturists help pollinate with feather dusters to grow gourds and other plants.
- Elephants eat about 30 bales of hay a day each!
- Animals at Animal Kingdom eat produce from the same high quality source as humans. If humans wouldn’t eat it they don’t serve it to the animals. It looked delish!
- Elephants are pregnant for almost 2 years at a time! I’m glad I’m not an elephant!
- No cameras, video equipment or cell phones may be used while backstage. However, photography is allowed and encouraged in non-backstage areas.
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Backstage Tales Tour is $90 per person (additional park admission required). A portion of the tour proceeds is donated to the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund.
Our Disney’s Animal Kingdom Backstage Tales Tour Guides
Disclosure- I was invited on an all expense paid trip to Orlando for the Monkey Kingdom Event. All opinions are 100% my own.