On Sunday, April 29th, the Little Red audio-animatronic became history and now guests riding Kilimanjaro Safaris over the Summer will have to stare at construction walls as the ride through the finale of the Animal Kingdom attraction. You may recall Disney announced changes to the ride a few months ago, stating that the poacher storyline would be replace with new savanna space to showcase Zebras.
All of the plants hazardous to the Zebras that will be moving in were removed prior to April 29th and many parts of the forest are already the grass fields where the animals will graze. The attraction’s pre-recorded spiels are gone, now you only hear background music and sound effects while traveling along the route. No more Mr. Wilson!
Imagineer Joe Rhode (“Mr. Animal Kingdom” as we refer to him around here) recently spoke to cast members at the attraction about the upcoming changes. While Wilson is gone for now, he may return to the ride or be replaced with a new character. For now, the Wilson and Dr. Jobson characters remain in the queue area in the pre-show film.
Disney is scheduled to be done with the basic changes this coming fall with larger changes to the Safari taking place over the next 3-4 years according to Rhode. Among the changes being discussed is the institution of permanent night-time Safari ride. From what we understand, the night safari will be completely different from the daytime version, adding a completely new experience for guests later in the day.
Imagineers recently tested lighting effects for night time safaris with a number of large video walls and intelligent moving headlights mounted on large lifts. Why use giant video screens? Well, it appears they mounted large video walls on the Wild Africa Trek trucks and tested using night vision and infrared technology to enhance the guest experience for the possible night-time version of the ride.
While it is uncertain if any of these changes will happen, it isn’t a far-fetched idea. In 3-4 years, Animal Kingdom will have an AVATAR-land and possibly a few other new offerings, so it is more than possible that the park will be open late on a regular basis.
We’ll keep you updated on this story as it develops. For now, we leave you with some immortal words from our now-gone friend… “TOMMIES!”