BREAKING: Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom to Close in October

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Cast members at Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom were informed this morning that the area will close permanently next month. Disney has yet to announce the closure.

Rafiki’s Planet Watch, along with all of its meet and greets (which will actually end earlier on 9/29), exhibits and more (as well as the Wildlife Express Train) will close forever on October 21st, 2018. Reportedly, some experiences from Planet Watch will find a new home elsewhere in the park. As for the veterinary facilities, they will be remaining in service and the animals that call Planet Watch home will not be leaving Disney World just yet.

It is unclear if the closure is a budgetary decision or making way for future expansion of the park.


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About the author

Tom Corless

Tom has been regularly visiting the Walt Disney World® Resort from the time he was 4 months old. While he has made countless visits in the last 28 years, he did not become a truly active member in the Disney fan community until the summer of 2007, when he decided to launch the WDW News Today website and podcast. Tom has since become an Orlando-local and is a published author on Walt Disney World.
Contact Tom at [email protected]


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  • It’s all budget. We heard about this recently. Disney’s demand has gone down. They don’t realize, it’s because they’re cheapening out their product. But…the executives keep cutting. Many Disney guests will go no matter how horrible it is. They keep a smile on the face while we cast members laugh behind their backs. They’d pay to stand in a long line to be flogged and thank us for it. Them cutting areas creates more demand for other areas of the park. Plus Rafikki didn’t sell anything to speak of. A no no in modern Disney. Any attraction that doesn’t sell something in way of merchandise MUST GO. Sad, but true.

    • Disneys demand has not gone down in a long time. Its continuing to go up. The only reason they are making these budgetary decisions are due to budgetary strain in the 3rd quarter with many new projects in the works. They are only doing it to meet projections in 3rd quarter 2018. Nothing is stopping them from bringing them back or replacing them with new things in 4th quarter 2018 and beyond.

    • Their demand has not gone down, it continues to go up. They only made these budget cuts to meet 3rd quarter 2018 projections as a result of budgetary strain from numerous experience improvements and projects across all of their parks. Nothing is stopping them from replacing them with something better, refurbishing them, or bringing them back in 4th quarter 2018 and beyond.

      • I absolutely agree with you. There are attractions that work & there are some that do not. I visited this attraction many times and compared to most Rafiki’s Planet Watch is not as interesting. I think by Disney adding Pandora to AK, they’ve created a smooth transition. Disney is doing great & continues to improve!

        • Amelia I agree with you in regards to it not being as interesting. We have gone the last two years and each year my 4 kids ages 8-13 all voted to NOT do the wildlife train ride, they rather ride more thrilling rides and quite honestly the entire attraction we can get at our local zoo in Houston so they do that stuff several times a year anyways including the train and petting animals.

    • God I hope so.

      I never liked Rafiki’s Planet Watch anyways. Who wants to touch a bunch of dirty animals and then eat a meal afterwards. There’s enough germs in the park as it is, with all the kids and adults that sneeze without covering their mouths.

      Besides people can just go to a petting zoo in many of Americas rinky dink towns.

    • I hope so

      Good riddance to Rafiki’s petting zoo.

      I don’t understand who would want to pet a dirty animal and then go eat lunch. The parks are already unsanitary as it is with all of the kids and adults sneezing and not washing their hands.

  • I love how everyone just goes negative saying this is a terrible decision.
    Disney has not made an official announcement about it.
    and it says in the article that it is unclear why it’s closing. The whole place could just be getting a major refurbishment, keeping some of the same themes just not called Rafiki’s Planet watch.

  • I love the overreaction from some comments already. Just cause it’s closing doesn’t mean nothing will go there. It might be expansion. These people are probably the same people who overreacted when Camp Minnie Mickey was rumored to close. How did that turn out? How about we just wait and see here

  • When I worked at DAK we were encouraged to tell guests about Rafiki’s. It was never very popular, but visiting there and seeing all DAK does to help animals is what really made me fall in love with the park. I personally don’t think Disney should be building anything new in its place until they can stop with all the budget cuts, but I’m not educated in business so…

    • Black Panther might not be allowed due to the Universal “East of the Mississippi” Marvel rights. They are having to do some clever rewording with the GotG coaster at Epcot just so they can use the IP.

      • East of the Mississippi most likely wouldnt apply since Universal doesnt use Black Panther. They cant called it Marvel, but Black Panther (and Big Hero Six, and Dr. Strange, and Graudians of the Galaxy) can be using in “attractions” (like the movie show at Hollywood studios and various meet and greats)

        • Actually Universal does have a picture of Black Panther which is why he did no meet and greets at WDW like Dr Stange and Guardens which are not in Marvel Superhero Island at all. Disney is really going to hate that Simpsons mural with every character in Universal after they close on Fox

          • I’m is not sure the murals would stop Disney from using Black Panther or Wakanda. Although its been a few years since I was there, I recall seeing Dr. Strange on one of the murals ( I think w the 1940s Cap.) And he is still used. The question would be is a mere picture in two places enough of a use to deny Disney access to the character. And if not BP himself, that wouldn’t stop Wakanda or Shuri being used…. I am not sure would want to litigate that
            A better argument for Universal would be that he is part of the Avenger family of characters.
            As for Simpsons, I haven’t ever read Fox’s contract w universal re those characters. But I don’t see Disney trying to add Simpsons to their land, just to their streaming service…

    • My family and I always like Rafiki’s – but it was out of place. Thematically it was jarring … going from Africa to seeing the back stage just felt wrong.
      Zootopia would make little since (but neither does Avatar really) since we are dealing with “real” animals. However, a re-themeing to Wakanda would make sense. You wouldnt have to do much on the back lot; it would synergize with the Marvel phenomen (a movie with a billion dollars), would fit in with Africa, meet Black Panther and other characters and the train ride could be converted to something like the Hogwarts express (but with Wakanda not London).
      Heck, you can even keep the farm animals as local example of sustainable farming.

  • Out of all the WDW news, this is legitimately the only thing that’s ever pissed me off. For us, it is the most enjoyable part of DAK…it’s quiet and there was a lot to do. Hell even the train ride was a lot of fun. Really hoping they keep it around in some form. Retheme as a Zootopia area could be cool. I’m calling dibs on the “scoop on poop” bathroom signs.

  • It would be nice if the It All Started With A Mouse show could expand a little and even replace the Up birds show. We just watched your old video of that show from RPW and it’s better than the Flights of Wonder replacement.

  • Zootopia would be perfect for Animal Kingdom. And some attraction with Zootopia Characters. I would like Zootopia land to be announced at Destination D in November. Because I love Zootopia. I hope it will be official.

  • Planet watch is my job! I’m sure that Disney is closing this giant empty air conditioned building with not one solar panel that you can only get to by riding an ineffient fossil fuel train because they care so much about the planet. First straws and plastic lids are removed but not bags then freeing goats and not dolphins. I’m super impressed or really sarcasic.. The power is yours

  • Since the facility is also their vet hospital and research facility, nothing will become of it. Most likely, it’s getting transformed into something more marketable. If not, they’re closing the only educational area of the park and just turning it into Hollywood studios 2.

    Rumor from cleaning crews is that they are not locking down bathrooms after closing. Which is done when construction workers come in. There have also already been workers doing things in the buildings.

    The rarity here is that none of the management group knew of this before it was announced. It was just dropped on the team and nothing was given as an idea for the future. Literally everyone is guessing what’s happening. So as it stands, dozens of professionals are thinking they’re losing their jobs and many will no doubt move on soon if nothing is announced. It’s a very poor morale decision on the part of Disney.

    • All the parks should strive to be like Magic Kingdom. It is the most popular park in the world and its attendance dwarfs all of the others in Florida.

      If a person wants to be educated they should go to school or a museum. If I’m on vacation I want to go to a theme park, ride rides and eat like a pig.

  • Budget strain ??? Maybe a 2 yr old believes that but not anyone who has paid those OUTRAGEOUS park admission, food and merchandise prices !!!! They could charge 80% less and see be quasi trillionaires !

  • Here is my idea. Zootopia section replaces Rafiki’s Planet Watch and Conservation Station at Animal Kingdom. The train that takes you there becomes the monorail, and they do something like Hogwarts express at Universal where through screens in train you see the city of Zootopia as you approach it. There, a permanent meet and greet with Nick, Judy, and other characters. As for the ride, I am thinking something like the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey where its a rollercoaster with on screen characters (4D) And you are solving a case, and it’s different every time (possibility of 5 cases). The script would be different each time, 5 different films and plots.

    Food — Big Donut, Jerry Jumbeaux’s Cafe, Judy’s Salad Bowl (for the vegetarians) and Nick’s WildeTimes (for the meat eaters).

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