My earliest Disney memory that doesn’t have to do with the movies is of the Disney World Christmas Day Parade. That’s what I knew about Disney parks before I processed the whole theme park thing: I thought of parades featuring Disney characters. Of course now that I know more about Disney World I realize that my early assumptions about what the park meant weren’t so far off base; there are daily parades with various characters all over Disney World, and they’re not limited to the Magic Kingdom.
The Animal Kingdom has in fact two of its own parades: Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle and Mickey’s Jingle Jungle. However, the latter is just a holiday-themed parade, so it only runs from November to January. I have to say it’s a parade I’m rather interested in, if for nothing else than the live sight of Mickey’s outfit (seen above): a wide outback hat with a bent brim and safari gear bedecked with seasonal holly. If I ever make it to the Animal Kingdom late in the year, I’ll have to check this one out.
Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle is the parade that you can see daily, no matter the season, at the Animal Kingdom. It’s not too elaborate; it’s just a 15-minute loop through the parks. The smaller size of the parade, however, gives it a more fun, intimate atmosphere. Watchers, led by the Party Patrol (a group of 8-foot-tall party animals) can join in on the dancing and singing. You’ll see Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy led by Rafiki, but the large, elaborate animal puppets are the true draw of the parade.
If parades aren’t your thing, or if you’re looking for more live entertainment at the Animal Kingdom, have no fear: there are more options. “The Lion King” is the dominant theme at the Animal Kingdom, and while Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle parade is clearly influenced by the artwork and characters from the movie, the real draw is the Festival of the Lion King.
Think of the Festival as bringing a taste of the Broadway “Lion King” show to you in Orlando. It doesn’t actually borrow or condense scenes from the show, but it has all the music and atmosphere as a musical from the Great White Way. The Festival of the Lion King is mostly a dance show, using movement and music from “The Lion King” to tell Simba’s story. The show features Simba, Mufasa, Timon, Pumba, Zazu, and Rafiki, and it also features gymnastic dancing, puppetry, and fire juggling.
Not all of the entertainment at the Animal Kingdom has to do with “The Lion King.” There’s another musical on the Theater in the Wild Stage, and it takes place under the sea. No, it’s not “The Little Mermaid,” it’s “Finding Nemo.” Puppets, some as large as cars, are employed to bring the characters of the movie to life in this 30-minute musical.
I’m not sure if this quite counts as live entertainment, but just like you can around the other Disney parks, there are a couple places at the Animal Kingdom where you can have meet and greets with Disney characters. Sometimes you might run into a character at a random spot in the Animal Kingdom, but if you hang around the Camp Minnie-Mickey Greeting Trails you’re guaranteed an encounter. The titular mice will of course be there, but you can also find Winnie the Pooh, Pocahontas, Baloo, Timon, and more in these spots.
We still have more to cover at the Animal Kingdom. Next I’ll start looking at the dining, shopping, and accommodations the park has to offer.