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Animal Kingdom

Everest to the Rescue

At an estimated cost of $100 million, Expedition Everest didn't come cheap. Disney officially opened the attraction in April of 2006 after months of park guest previews. The impact that the single mild thrill ride has had on the park is undeniable. The park is now staying open a little later and guests entering the park in the morning now have the welcome choice of following either the beeline to Kilimanjaro Safari in the back of the park or following the other herd to the right to get to Expedition Everest.

The queue is in the same understated style that one will find in Kali River Rapids. It's a rustic and culturally respectful trek through show pieces in the typical hot and humid setting that one would expect at the foothills of a snowy mountain peak. Exactly. And even though Kali's two-faced environmental impetus is hogtied to reality, here we're talking about an encounter with a fictional yeti.

There is a story to be told here. It just isn't being told very well. In one clever part of the queue you see snapshots of an ill-fated expedition that disappeared after coming across the yeti's huge snow tracks. It's a subtle touch with an air of Blair Witch Project as you see the developed film become grimmer and grimmer but that's pretty much it. Walk too fast and you will miss it entirely. There needs to be some kind of multi-sensory buildup here. Maybe a spooked out Sherpa can come on a monitor to explain why he refuses to accompany you on your Anandapur train ride. Maybe there can be news coverage of a mysterious creature seen lurking. The ride is begging for some elaboration because the queue is mostly nondescript and the ride itself is hollow.

Yes, despite the huge mountain structure, the ride itself isn't much of a thrill ride. It's on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad scale, despite a neat turntable trick that will find you going in reverse at one point. The problem for Disney is that 15 minutes down I-4, Universal's Mummy ride does a much better job of working a rotating turntable and reverse movement into a better themed ride.

Expedition Everest needs to have more show scenes. A shadowed glimpse of the track-disrupting yeti and his Muppet-like appearance later don't provide enough of a payoff for the rather dull ride. Getting off, not a single person in my party had the urge to ride it again. That's not a good sign. Everest will be effective enough in drawing in first-timers and give repeat visitors a breezy attraction to pass the time but it could have been -- and should have been -- so much better.

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