If there’s one obscure Disney Parks experience I hold dear to my heart, it’s Rafiki’s Planet Watch and the Conservation Station. For years, it was a quiet respite from the rest of the hustle and bustle of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but guests have been deprived of goat meet and greets and the Wildlife Express Train ever since the attraction temporarily closed on Saturday, October 20th, 2018. Thankfully, Rafiki’s Planet Watch has officially reopened, sporting a brand-new attraction known as The Animation Experience.
Showtimes are posted on a sign outside the attraction once you arrive at the Conservation Station.
The new experience has taken over what once was the Song of the Rainforest booths.
Various podiums show off some of the characters that will be on rotation for the experience, like Pua and Djali. For now until the premiere of The Lion King, the experience will solely rotate amongst various Lion King characters.
There’s a podium where you can check in for your FastPass+ time. (Many readers have already asked us and for now, we don’t really think FastPass is necessary as we’ve yet to see a show more than half full yet and all of stand-by seems to be getting in for each session.)
A stand-by queue is also available.
Photographs and diagrams along the walls tell the history of the True-Life Adventures nature documentary series, as well as various examples of when animators had live animals brought in for classic animated films such as Bambi.
Now guests can learn more about some of the animals who call this park home and have the chance to create a personalized piece of Disney art through an instructor-led animation class.
As you walk in, you’re handed a sheet that comes pre-set with drawing guidelines. There are clipboards available at each seat.
The animator then guides guests through the process of drawing the character.
As you can see, some of the beloved characters from “The Lion King” are the current stars of The Animation Experience. You can learn how to draw Simba, Zazu, Pumbaa, Timon, and more. Upon finishing the drawing, you’re handed a rubber band to roll up your drawing.
The exit is now over by where the old entrance used to be. At least it seems the funky billboard is staying. Once outside, the Affection Station is still there, so you’re free to go and pet the critters. The Rafiki and Doc McStuffins meet and greets are no longer.
You can buy this special frame to display your creation for just $39.99.
Each session at The Animation Experience will be different, so be sure to visit often to complete the collection. Overall, while the experience marks the return of a long-lost beloved attraction, Animation Academy (set to be a permanent addition to Epcot’s Play Pavilion as well,) it would be ridiculous to think that this overlay/refurbishment took nine months to do. It does further the narrative that the closure of Rafiki’s Planet Watch was mostly budgetary and the space is now being repurposed ahead of the expected crowds for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
There’s no end date for this attraction, so you’re free to enjoy it freely while it lasts. Me, I still miss Song of the Rainforest. (But at least you can still pet the goats outside.)
Check out our full video tour of the newly reopened Rafiki’s Planet Watch and The Animation Experience at Conservation Station below!