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This Week in Disney Parks Photos: Baby Animals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on February 21st, 2015 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


This week we shared the happy news that the Disney’s Animal Kingdom family recently expanded with the addition of several baby animals.

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Sable Antelope Calves at Disney's Animal Kingdom Sable Antelope Calves at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Disney Parks Blog author Steve Castillo shared the first photos of five baby sable antelopes that were recently born at the park.

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Disney’s Animal Kingdom Welcomes White Rhino Calf to the Herd Disney’s Animal Kingdom Welcomes White Rhino Calf to the Herd

Robyn Johnson also gave us a sneak peek at new white rhino that also made his debut at the park. Too cute!

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#DisneyKids: Height Requirements for Attractions at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on February 20th, 2015 by Jamie Langdon, Social Media Manager


There are so many attractions at Walt Disney World Resort, and sometimes as a parent it can be tough to determine which ones are a good fit for younger children. Once I had kids, I was pleasantly surprised at just how many rides and experiences are available for everyone, including the littlest members of the family. There are 25 attractions without any height requirements at Magic Kingdom Park alone! Once your baby grows into a preschooler, there is even more fun to be had on rides for slightly taller kiddos.

We rounded up height requirements from the most popular attractions in all four theme parks and put them into handy charts to help you plan ahead.

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For Disney’s Hollywood Studios, click here. For Epcot, click here. For Disney’s Animal Kingdom, click here.

Once in the parks, be sure to check out the My Disney Experience mobile app for height requirements, thrill levels, wait times and more, all while on the go. If you are dying to check out a thrill ride and your youngest isn’t quite there yet, your family may be able to utilize Rider Switch, which allows adults to take turns riding the attraction without waiting in line all over again. What are your favorite attractions to experience with your little ones?

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Filed: Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Epcot, Magic Kingdom, My Disney Experience, MyMagic+, Walt Disney World Resort

Wildlife Friday: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Welcomes White Rhino Calf to the Herd!

posted on February 20th, 2015 by Robyn Johnson, Zoological Manager, Disney’s Animal Kingdom


Our baby boom continues! Join us in saying, “Afya njema!” to wish the newest baby at Disney’s Animal Kingdom “good health” in Swahili. Earlier this month, a white rhino, also a first-time mom born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 2005, gave birth to a healthy baby boy! The new baby’s grandmother was also born at the park and regularly roams the savannahs of the Harambe Wildlife Reserve, making this new calf the third generation of white rhinos born here.

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The new mom is being appropriately protective of her son, but our animal care team has been keeping up with mother and child to assure that both are thriving!

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Welcomes White Rhino Calf to the Herd Disney’s Animal Kingdom Welcomes White Rhino Calf to the Herd

Despite their name, white rhinos are actually grey in color and sport two horns on their large head. These horns are made of fibrous keratin, just like our fingernails. While rhinos have good hearing and sense of smell, they have poor vision and cannot discern a motionless person at a distance of more than 100 feet.

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Native to central and southern Africa, the white rhino loves grassy areas and will graze several times a day. This mild-mannered animal usually keeps its family group small and tightly-knit. Rhinos are born weighing up to 143 pounds. (Talk about a big baby!) Fully grown females will grow to be anywhere from 3,000 to 4,000 pounds while adult males can be up to 5,000 pounds.

This new rhino calf is the ninth white rhino born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and we are happy to see our herd of rhinos continue to grow. Unfortunately, this has not been the case in the wild. Last year, rhinos faced the worst poaching in history, leaving the northern white rhino extinct in the wild. Its cousin in the south, appropriately named the southern white rhino, is severely endangered and without continued conservation efforts, will meet the same fate.

Several cast members at Disney’s Animal Kingdom are board members for the International Rhino Foundation (IRF) and work closely in efforts to help protect rhinos in the wild. The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) also contributes to rhino conservation, research and habitat protection projects for rhinos throughout the world. As a guest, there are plenty of ways you may have contributed—adding a dollar to your purchase, picking up a sponsored pin or merchandise item, enjoying the Wild Africa Trek excursion at Disney’s Animal Kingdom or snorkeling at The Seas with Nemo & Friends. Every donation, big or small, adds up and is combined with support from Disney, which in turn has given all of us something amazing to celebrate.

The celebration of our newest baby birth will continue for months to come and be sure to look for both mom and baby to join the rest of the herd on the savannahs of Kilimanjaro Safaris over the next few months.

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Wildlife Thursday: Animals Celebrated Valentine’s Day with Festive and Delicious Treats at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on February 19th, 2015 by Katie Leighty, Ph.D., Science Operations Manager


Love was definitely in the air last weekend at the Walt Disney World Resort! While many of us spent quality time with the ones we love, our animal care teams did the same as they shared Valentine’s Day with the animals that call Disney’s Animal Kingdom home. The teams created unique holiday themed enrichment to highlight the animals’ natural behaviors.

Enrichment is a key part of the animal care program at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It enables animals to make choices about their environment and encourages natural behaviors. Enrichment also allows guests to see the cool adaptations that help the animals survive!

We wanted to share just a few of the many creative enrichment ideas these folks came up with!

At Rafiki’s Planet Watch, our Rabbit Received a Special Strawberry and Oatmeal Valentine Treat. + This Prehensile-Tailed Porcupine Received a Special Delivery Valentine Heart Filled with Edible Treats. At Rafiki’s Planet Watch, our Rabbit Received a Special Strawberry and Oatmeal Valentine Treat. + This Prehensile-Tailed Porcupine Received a Special Delivery Valentine Heart Filled with Edible Treats.

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Did you know…?

  • You can enrich the lives of wildlife and encourage natural behaviors in your own backyard by adding a bird bath, native plants, log piles and bird houses. Then, sit back and enjoy the fun of watching the wildlife up close!
  • To learn more about Disney conservation efforts, visit www.disney.com/conservation!

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Wildlife Thursday: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Welcomes 5 Sable Antelope Calves to the Herd!

posted on February 19th, 2015 by Steve Castillo, Animal Operations Manager, Disney’s Animal Kingdom


Hongera! That’s a Swahili word that means “Congratulations!” We are proud to announce that our sable antelope herd at Disney’s Animal Kingdom has nearly doubled in size as we welcome not one, not two, but five new sable antelope calves! Our team on the Savannah has been very busy caring for the family and closely monitoring the multiple births of three males and two females that all took place between December and January. Some of the sables are first-time mothers, so we now have three growing generations within our herd! (Congratulations to mothers and grandmothers alike!)

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Our animal care team at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is keeping up with the calves’ rapid growth by examining the baby sables’ progress with periodic weight check-ins and observations of nursing, while the adult male keeps a close watch. When the calves aren’t nursing, they love to sunbath and explore!

Sable Antelope Calves at Disney's Animal Kingdom Sable Antelope Calves at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Sables are born with a short, glossy and sandy brown coat that will darken with age. Sable antelopes have white markings on their faces, bellies and bottoms with a black mane and dark tail tuft. Once they start to grow horns, their horns will be long and curvy and can grow up to five feet in length! Sables love to graze for most of their day. In the wild, they are usually found in dry, open woodlands with lots of tall grass in the southern parts of Africa. While the sable antelope does not stand very tall (just over four and a half feet on average), they have strong, sturdy legs, a thick neck and adult males can weigh over 500 pounds!

Sable Antelope Calves at Disney's Animal Kingdom Sable Antelope Calves at Disney's Animal Kingdom Sable Antelope Calves at Disney's Animal Kingdom

In regards to their population and conservation status in the wild, sable antelopes are commonly labeled as “of least concern.” However, they are notably diminishing and are considered conservation dependent. This means the sable antelope population requires our conservation efforts for survival. Since we are responsible for protecting these beautiful animals, all breeding efforts are coordinated through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP). The SSP is meant to strengthen long-term species survival efforts by helping AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums manage species’ genetic diversity through detailed records of individual animals.

Since the sable antelope’s primary threats are loss of habitat and human encroachment conflicts, it’s our responsibility to help keep them safe in the wild. If we discontinue any efforts that affect them, their numbers will dwindle to extinction.

Through guest contributions to the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF), we have supported projects like ecosystem monitoring and human-wildlife conflict mitigation that can benefit sable antelope and maintain their numbers in the wild. At home, recycling and bringing awareness to your community that animals like sable antelopes need us to survive can help immensely! Learn more about what you can do at Disney.com/conservation.

Be sure to come welcome the new sables in early April when the whole herd will make their public debut on the spacious Kilimanjaro Safaris savannah!

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A ‘Wildly’ Delicious Meal at Tusker House Restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on February 17th, 2015 by Rachel Brent, Food & Beverage Marketing Communications Coordinator


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Take a walk on the wild side of dinner at Tusker House Restaurant. If you like the rich, African flavors of Boma – Flavors of Africa and Sanaa, you will love Tusker House Restaurant. This food safari is hosted by Donald and friends, all dressed in their safari-best, who stop at each table for photos and autographs.

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The food stations are set up in a beautiful market. Begin with a selection of breads and accompaniments like hummus and chutney, salads and fruit. I couldn’t get enough of the chickpea and cucumber salad!

A delicious medley of sweet and savory spiced meats, like the Kenyan Coffee BBQ Pork Loin and, my personal favorite, the Cape Malay Curry Chicken perfectly accompany delicious jollaf rice, orzo pasta and pearl couscous with sweet basil. There’s something for the whole family at this ‘wildly’ delicious buffet, including corn dog nuggets, macaroni and cheese and more.

Be sure to save room for dessert! There is an entire island filled with coconut macaroons, chocolate volcano cake, baklava, passion fruit tarts, banana-cinnamon bread pudding with vanilla sauce and even more sweet temptations.

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While Donald and friends enjoy visiting Tusker House Restaurant guests at breakfast and lunch, beginning March 8, they will make an appearance at dinner, too!

Reservations can be made by visiting DisneyWorld.com/dine or by calling 407-WDW-DINE.

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New ‘Cooking Safari With Mickey’ Cookbook Debuts This Spring at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on February 12th, 2015 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


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It was so much fun to work with the chefs at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge to put together “A Cooking Safari With Mickey,” a collection of recipes showcasing the flavorful cuisine of South Africa and India.

We know that our guests are well traveled and love exploring new tastes, and sharing these recipes is a treat. Here’s a sneak peek of the cookbook, with one of our favorite recipes from Sanaa in Kidani Village at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. We like it a little spicy, so add more jalapeños and chili powder. And cardamom pods can be found in Indian grocery stores – -some stores call them seeds, rather than pods. (Each pod is about the size of a dried cranberry and contains 17 to 20 tiny seeds.)

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Spicy Durban-Style Chicken
Serves 4

Dry Masala

  • 1 whole star anise
  • 1/2 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
  • 2 whole bay leaves
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Madras curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric powder

Chicken and Curry Sauce

  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Course salt, freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 3 cups canned crushed tomatoes with juice
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup minced cilantro
  • Basmati rice, for serving

For dry masala:

  1. Toast star anise, cumin seeds, bay leaves, and cardamom pods in a heavy, dry skillet over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring until spices begin to brown and are fragrant. Remove from heat and cool.
  2. Grind spices in a blender or coffee grinder into a fine powder.
  3. Combine spice mixture with cinnamon, chili powder, ancho chili powder, Madras curry powder, and turmeric powder. Toast in heavy, dry skillet over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring until fragrant. Remove from skillet and set aside to cool.

For chicken and curry sauce:

  1. Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Trim fat from chicken and cut into 1-inch cubes. Season with salt and pepper. Place chicken in skillet and brown for 8 to 10 minutes, turning to evenly cook. Remove from skillet and set aside.
  2. Add onions and jalapeños to skillet and cook 4 to 5 minutes, or until onions are translucent. Add ginger and garlic, stirring to combine. Cook for 1 minute. Mix in dry masala mixture with a rubber spatula and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Stir in tomatoes and increase heat to high for 3 to 4 minutes.
  4. Return chicken to skillet, add water, and stir to combine. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, or until sauce slightly thickens. Stir in cilantro. Serve immediately over basmati rice.
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Filed: Disney Dining, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Hotels & Resorts, Walt Disney World Resort

Sweet Valentine’s Day Offerings at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on February 9th, 2015 by Rachel Brent, Food & Beverage Marketing Communications Coordinator


Princess Tiana said it best: “My mom always said that the quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” If that’s the case, love is all around at Walt Disney World Resort! This week, you’ll find specialty sweets throughout the resort; here are some of our favorites:

Red Velvet Waffle Sundae with Cream Cheese Icing and Sprinkles at Sleepy Hollow Chocolate-Raspberry Cupcake at Main Street Bakery

Magic Kingdom Park

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Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Epcot

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Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

  • Valentine’s Day heart-shaped cheesecakes, fondue for two, and chocolate covered strawberries at The Mara
  • Heart-shaped puff pastry filled with a Champagne mousse and wild strawberry sauce at Jiko – The Cooking Place

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Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resort

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Disney’s BoardWalk

Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

  • Valentine Trinity Dessert featuring petite double-ganache chocolate cake, Champagne sabayon and raspberry turnover at Artist Point
  • Strawberry-dipped chocolate cupcake at Roaring Fork

Disney’s Contemporary Resort

  • Sweetheart pancakes and Valentine’s-themed dessert buffet at Chef Mickey’s
  • Red velvet pancakes, red velvet cupcake, strawberry-chocolate crème brûlée, and flourless chocolate cake at The Wave … of American Flavors
  • Double-chocolate specialty cupcake at Contempo Café

Which treats will you share with your sweetie with on Valentine’s Day?

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Filed: Disney Dining, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Epcot, Hotels & Resorts, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort

Behind the Scenes: ‘Monkeying Out’ with the Tumble Monkeys at ‘Festival of the Lion King’

posted on February 9th, 2015 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


One of my favorite parts of my job with the Disney Parks Blog is that I occasionally get to go behind the scenes and try out something that is really amazing, like stunt car driving at “Lights! Motors! Action! Extreme Stunt Show,” or learning stage combat at the “Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular.”

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My most recent adventure took me to “Festival of the Lion King” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, where I was lucky enough to spend some time with a few stars from the show – the fan-favorite Tumble Monkeys.

Behind the Scenes: 'Monkeying Out' With The Tumble Monkeys at ‘Festival of the Lion King’ Behind the Scenes: 'Monkeying Out' With The Tumble Monkeys at ‘Festival of the Lion King’

In case you haven’t seen “Festival of the Lion King,” the show celebrates the story of Simba the lion cub through live music, dance, puppetry, fireknife, and more. The Tumble Monkey scene adds humor into the story when a group of monkeys bounce, climb, flip, jump and swing in a hilarious gymnastics routine.

In reality, the Tumble Monkeys are a group of highly trained gymnasts who studied the sport up through their college years. In reality, I have not done a cartwheel since about age 7. This made it a pretty interesting challenge to go backstage and learn some of their (beginner) stunts. They also shared with me a team secret, which they call “Monkeying Out.” Check it all out below.

You can see “Festival of the Lion King” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom several times each day. Check your My Disney Experience app for showtimes during your visit.


For more behind-the-scenes looks, check out the videos below:

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Tree of Life Grows New Roots at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on February 7th, 2015 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the park’s iconic Tree of Life has been growing some new roots.

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Tree of Life Grows New Roots at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Tree of Life Grows New Roots at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Construction walls were just removed early this morning to reveal how the tree’s roots have expanded into the central hub area. Within those roots, guests will discover carvings of new animals that make up the circle of life, from tiny bugs to large crocodiles and more. In addition to offering guests a wonderful view of The Tree of Life, the expanded roots will also offer a widened walkway for guests visiting Discovery Island.

The Tree of Life originally debuted as the park’s icon at the park’s opening in 1998, after 12 months of construction. The 145-foot tall structure is covered in more than 103,000 leaves and originally featured more than 325 animal carvings.

What do you think of the enhancements? Tell us in the comments section below!

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