From Jennifer-Fickley Baker on the Disney Parks Blog:
Today I’m happy to give you an update on one of my favorite attractions – Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
I’ve always loved Kilimanjaro Safaris because you see so many amazing animals, but even more so, I love hearing the reactions of the first-timers around me; guests who can’t believe they’re seeing so many beautiful animals together in one place!
Beginning this spring, the Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction will undergo some changes to give guests an additional opportunity to see more of their favorite animals, specifically zebra. To do so, Walt Disney Imagineering will make some creative changes to the last scene in the attraction by removing the Audio-Animatronics “Little Red” elephant and related set pieces. This area will then be reconstructed as savannah space and feature a new watering hole for live animals.
This enhancement is scheduled to begin this spring, and be completed by fall 2012. And don’t worry, the attraction will remain operational during the adjustment.
I wish I could say this announcement is surprising, but the story-line at Kilimanjaro Safaris has been weak since changes were made just before the opening of the park in 1998. Early test audiences did not like to see the “dead body” of elephant Big Red that was to have been killed by the poachers and sent a very strong message to guests, so it was removed. The finale scene has never been too exciting and the payoff of seeing a fake baby elephant in a truck wasn’t nearly enough to justify it. Various characters and narration changes have also been made over the years as the attraction could never really find an identity after the poacher story collapsed.
Despite losing the original story, this is probably a positive. More animals to see and a more relaxed atmosphere through the entire ride sounds nice. Who needs something to go wrong in a park that already has killer dinosaurs, yetis, and bugs? Stay tuned to WDW News Today as we track this transformation into the Fall.