Like most Disney material, nature themes were incorporated into the earliest parks, including Adventureland, Frontierland, Nature’s Wonderland, and the newest, Animal Kingdom. Disney carefully edited these “natural” settings that show the less wild side of the wilderness. However, how does the tourist comprehend the illusions? How are the plants and animals adapting to reflect the illusion, and how are they accented by the interactions with both human nature and Disney’s technological nature? These questions and more will be answered within the following sections: Definitions, Technological Nature, Kilamanjaro Safari, and The Final Answer.
The Animal Kingdom is a modern exhibit designed to follow the “natural pattern” of an African community. The most eye-popping attraction, the Kilamanjaro Safari, is an open-air, nearly barrier-free animal reserve at Florida’s Walt Disney World. It was a major shift from a cow playground to a zone of care for other wise caged animals. Here, African animals freely roam through acres of savanna, rivers, and rocky hills. The rider is advised to be aware, “You never know what could happen in the wilderness” (Tate 1).
Before I can begin to consider the “nature” of the Animal Kingdom, the definitions of nature and technology must be established. Webster’s American College Dictionary lists nature as “the natural world as it exists without human beings or civilization.” In the case of the Animal Kingdom, this definition is inappropriate because Disney itself is a man-made civilization, with merchants, restaurants, and restroom facilities. Technology is defined as that “branch of knowledge that deals with applied science, engineering and the industrial arts.” This definition of technology can be reworked to fit the Disney model of nature.
What exactly does Disney do? Disney applies technology to the Florida area. Technology has allowed for hundreds of acres of Florida land to be safely destroyed by means of controlled burning. With the help of technology, Disney has transported lonely zoo animals and put them in their “original” surroundings once again. Technology uprooted pieces of Africa to better care for African anim...
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...hat make it real and separate it from the dangerous possibilities of nature. It is not to say that Disney’s Kilamanjaro Safari is naturalistically correct or incorrect; it is a representation, and not a reproduction of the true African savanna. How can nature be surpassed, you ask? Disney. That’s how.
Corliss, Richard. “Beauty and the Beasts.” Time Magazine; 20 April 1998:
Gunther, Marc. “Disney’s Call of the Wild.” Fortune Magazine; 13 April 1998:
King, Margaret J. “The Audience in the Wilderness: The Disney Nature Films.”
Journal of Popular Film and Television 24.4 (1996): 60-68.
Phillips, Dana. “Is Nature Necessary?” The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks
In Literary Ecology. Eds. Cheryl Glotfelty and Harold Fromm.
Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1996. 204-22.
Mongeau, Lionel, former Disney Imagineer. Telephone interview.
19 March 2000.
Shklyanoy, Polina. “Out of the Bottle.” Advertising Age; 1 February 1999: 4.
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