When looking ahead to my family trip to Disney World, I was probably the most excited and nervous to visit the Animal Kingdom. I was excited to see the animals but nervous that it would be a big zoo with caged and neurotic creatures. And then I wouldn't know how to feel (well, I'd feel sad and angry that money was spent there). I have to say, I'm still pretty conflicted about what I saw. Although the animals are allowed to technically live side by side and the enclosures are "natural enclosures," there's still a ton of visible metal fencing and some of the spaces looked quite small. I was told from a few of the staff members (or cast members or whatever the hell they want to be called) that the animals in the park were injured or rejected and couldn't live alone in the wild. In that case, I'm pretty on board with their conservation efforts, but I still think that the enclosures need to be a lot larger. Some of the animals' behavior reminded me of what I saw in local zoos, and it wasn't reassuring.
I was also worried about how Disney would treat the "lands" of Asia and Africa -- the two main continents represented in the Animal Kingdom. On that front, I actually think they did a pretty good job. It appeared to me that a research team took the time to photograph details like posters, bikes, and even laundry and recreated them in a painstaking manner. "Africa" was mainly East Africa (I assumed based on the Swahili translations all around and the cast members from Kenya and Uganda). "Asia" seemed a mix of Thailand, Nepal, and India -- a creative mix of countries that led to a pretty beautiful setting. The last place we visited was Dinoland, which caters mainly to young kids, so it didn't have a ton to offer except for a rollercoaster/tea cup combo ride where I swore I shit my pants. But of course that was nothing like my ride on Expedition Everest.
The Lion King show was fine, nothing to write home about. I was expecting more Cirque du Soleil and less animatronics. Lunch (as with all of our meals) was top notch AND over the top.
Overall, I liked the Animal Kingdom. The safari had its share of cool moments (like a flock of ostriches waddling up to the car and a pack of wildebeests run in front of us), but I still have reservations (no pun intended) about it.