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Animal Kingdom

5 Ways to Save Animal Kingdom

It's not too late to save the place. Here are five ways to fix Animal Kingdom:

1. Beastly Kingdom. Build it. It's true that Islands of Adventure stole your thunder with Dueling Dragons but that's no reason to abandon the concept. Make your dragon coaster superior, incorporating many of the actual fire and water elements that will be used in the upcoming Tokyo DisneySea coaster. Yes, this would be in addition to Everest. Tampa Bay Busch Gardens keeps substantially longer operating hours thanks to its collection of six coasters. But always remember: Win over the thrillseeker but don't forget the young families who need a magical dark ride or two to really justify a visit to the park. A dark ride where guests board a horse-shaped vehicle that is transformed into a mythical unicorn (with the horn sprouting up from the front of the car) or magical castle ride would be a great accompaniment.

2. Fine dining. Why is every park in Animal Kingdom counter service? Yes, their offerings are decent but if you force folks through the turnstile to take a lunch break at Rainforest Café they won't come back. Every Disney park has a top-notch table service restaurant but Animal Kingdom. Change that. If you can find a way to situate the eatery with glass-walled observation areas leading into Maharajah Jungle Trek, Pangani Exploration Trail or even the Kilimanjaro Safaris animal viewing areas itself, do it. Giving a family an hour or more under an air-conditioned environment will refresh their batteries and keep them fresh enough to stay longer as opposed to a hurried half-hour experience at one of the counter-served meals. * And, yes, Disney is finally coming through on this one with Steven Schussler's Asia concept which will open in the summer of 2007. Still, Disney can afford to build out an upscale eatery with animal viewing perks somewhere else. 

3. Discovery Boats. Bring them back. Abandon the dock by the park's entrance as you don't want this to be the first attraction that guests see a queue for. Instead, rely on the Asia dock for round-trip excursions. But don't bank on the uninspiring vegetation to win guests over. In pockets of the river that aren't visible from the walking areas of the park add audioanimatronic scenes with characters from The Jungle Book and The Lion King and Tarzan. If you want to really ham it up you don't need something as divisive as music where tastes will always vary. Just name it Max & Goofy's Discovery Boats and alternate between the two characters to come on board with an amusing pre-recorded narrative alongside the boat's driver. Yes, two characters (if not more) so you can work shift transitions and you won't risk having the same character visible in two places at the same time.

4. Wild Wednesdays. While a lack of attractions has forced patrons out early, so has the park's mentality that there is nothing worth doing after 5pm or 6pm. Change it, one day at a time. Kick off Wild Wednesdays, where the park is open until night. Even if you have to close off certain areas of the park make it a festive affair with unique dinner menu items, merchandise specials and one-of-a-kind character, music and parade performances that will associate Animal Kingdom with a park that doesn't disappear before the sun does.

5. Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. You took some heat from Disney purists for removing the hokey Fantasyland attraction. Win them back. Camp Minnie-Mickey is dying for an actual family dark ride. This would be a void-filler. While it would work stylistically in Chester & Hester's Dinoland with its tongue-in-cheek carnival simplicity, where's the dinosaur? Sure, you can replace the hell ending with a time-hopping jaunt into prehistoric times. It would be Mr. Toad's wild ride, indeed.

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