Mouse Trapped


Animal Kingdom

Eight years old and still going through teething pains, Disney's Animal Kingdom was an arguable flop through its first few years of operation. Maybe you already know this. Maybe you don't and your nostrils are starting to flare up because someone thinks that your beloved park is more than just a few coats shy of perfection. Either way, don't leave me now. Not yet. Wait until I've said my piece and then see how far off we really are.

Animal Kingdom is a lot like opera. It's something that the masses either avoid or fail to appreciate once exposed. There are those who feel that half a day is a generous allotment of time to devote to the bland park experience while others can spend hours admiring the finest etched details on the Tree of Life.

Animal Kingdom fans, like opera regulars, relish the fact that they are in the minority. They find it intellectually stimulating that their perspective is unique and embrace the false notion that engrossing themselves deeper into their appreciation will elevate them from the ranks of the brainless simpletons. They justify their fascination as artistic and one that requires a high caliber of intelligence to grasp. That would be fine except for one thing:

Opera has failed to attract a wider audience and so has Animal Kingdom. Since its first full year of operation in 1999 attendance fell every single year until a flat performance in 2003. Even though attendance began to trickle higher in recent years it's a park that has failed to catch up to its inital numbers. According to Amusement Business:

-- 1999 -- 8.6 million guests
-- 2000 -- 8.3 million guests (down 4%)
-- 2001 -- 7.7 million guests (down 7%)
-- 2002 -- 7.3 million guests (down 6%)
-- 2003 -- 7.3 million guests (flat)
-- 2004 -- 7.8 million guests (up 7%)
-- 2005 -- 8.2 million guests (up 5%)

Before you begin to blame the faltering economy and the global funk in tourism for the perpetual slide until 2004 consider two things. First, in 2000 every single Disney World park except Animal Kingdom grew its numbers. Two, in 2002 the area's other new park (Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure) managed to grow its turnstile clicks. Losing 15% of your audience over the course of your first five years is pitiful in an industry where word of mouth travels fast.

Animal Kingdom - Page 2



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