Thoughts While Watching: Disney’s Animal Kingdom – The First Adventure (1998)

Disney's Animal Kingdom - The First Adventure

Welcome back to Thoughts While Watching, my long running series where I watch vintage-to-vintage-ish Disney parks media and react to it in real time. Sometimes it’s the values that take us aback, sometimes just the fashion, but it’s always a good time!

Last time I queued up the then-called MGM-Studios opening TV special, after which I polled my Instagram followers to find out which I should give the TWW treatment next. Results were unexpectedly split, so I made my own call. It being my favorite park, I had to go with Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

This one’s a bit of an oddball in the Disney parks opening special canon. Presumably thanks to a dearth of ready attractions on opening day, the production took a much more subdued angle. Even host Drew Carey is shockingly laid back about the whole thing. I mean, that’s his vibe, and I for one love it, but I’m surprised Disney didn’t go for someone more annoying upbeat. 😅

It’s also an uncharacteristically reasonable 41 minutes in length. Perfect for your lunch break, so click play now and we’ll see if we have any of the same Thoughts!


1 Ladysmith Black Mambazo! Jane Goodall! That makes so much sense! “Boy Meets World” actors less so, but I guess it was the ’90s.

2 This “Wonderful World of Disney” intro is so Disney Renaissance nostalgic it hurts.

3 Oh, Michael Eisner, you’re still here?

4 Walt just casually scooching a tiger off his desk is so hardcore.

Disney's Animal Kingdom - The First Adventure

5 In the modern parlance, The Lion King soundtrack still slaps. Singing from the base of the Tree of Life is pretty epic.

6 If this doesn’t turn into an episode of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” I will be very disappointed. Anyway I kind of love Drew Carey?

7 Did Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman spend a lot of time in Africa? I didn’t really watch a lot of that show. I thought it was an American prairie-type thing.

8 Wait, wait, is this mayor guy special for television or did DAK used to have walk around characters?!

9 Oh, right, remember when Kilimanjaro Safaris had special effects? I still kinda half expect some of them. I wonder if they’re going to mention the old poaching subplot.

10 They’re calling it Countdown to Extinction? A triceratops in front of the ride?! It really is a blast from the past!

11 This Todd Mowry kid might be the most convincing recent host a Disney TV special has ever had.

12 Wait, wait, wait – that one guy isn’t the dude from the official Disney blog, is he? He’s wearing sunglasses but his voice sounds familiar.

13 I’ve done A Bug’s Life once. It was okay.

14 The Tree of Life 100% holds up.

15 Oh man. We’re doing the safari twice in one TV special? Opening day really was low on attractions.

16 Hold on. That was a capybara. Where does DAK have a capybara? Bring back the capybara!

17 Jane Goodall! Now that’s a celebrity guest worth getting excited about!

18 LOL, Drew Carey asking Mickey “And you are…?” is some quality comedy.

19 Not that I don’t like Danielle Fishel, but I would’ve really gotten hype for William Daniels.

20 That reminds me, I haven’t been to Conservation Station in forever. I miss the petting zoo. And that one time I helped train a porcupine.

21 There are Niles and Maris Cranes? I’ve only met Frasier!

22 Hey, let Drew have a musical dance number! Everyone got one for the Studios opening.

23 I recognize a ton of Festival of the Lion King costumes, and even some choreography – but no mention of the show? Odd.

Disney's Animal Kingdom - The First Adventure


This may sound odd, but I think this was the most readily enjoyable Walt Disney World park opening TV special yet. Was it brimming with celebrities and chock a block with glitzy musical numbers? Was there a hyperbolically enthusiastic host and a ton of Disney marketing buzzwords? No! And therein lies its charm.

I assume this pared back approach was due to a lack of park attractions rather than anyone in Disney’s production company suddenly learning the value of restraint. However we arrived here, I’m glad we did. Disney’s Animal Kingdom really is my favorite park!

Only one WDW park opening special to go! Shall we travel to Epcot next? Or travel cross-country to Disneyland? Voting is happening now in my Instagram Stories!

Don’t forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall and on Instagram @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment or email fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

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