Theme Park Bits: Animal Kingdom's Earth Day Celebration, A Monorail Book, And More

In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • Animal Kingdom prepares a multi-day Earth Day celebration.
  • The expansion of Disney monorails may soon pause.
  • And more!
  • Tree of Life at Disney's Animal Kingdom

    Every April means a new Earth Day celebration, but this year will be very special indeed. 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, and Disney's Animal Kingdom is going all-out, with a multi-day celebration from April 18 to April 22. If you're interested, there will be plenty of special events, such as discussions with conservation experts, a special dining experience with Imagineering legend Joe Rohde (he's responsible for both the overall design of the park and the Avatar-themed area), and a sneak peek at two new Disney documentaries, Elephants and Dolphin Reef, which will be premiering on Disney+ that month. (This is, from what I can tell, the first actual confirmation that both of those documentaries will show up in April on the streaming service.)

    It's rare that I link to a Bloomberg story here, but sometimes, extreme measures are required. Today, it's because Bloomberg reported the sale of the rail business of Bombardier, Inc. to the French train maker Alstom SA. You may well ask, "What on Earth does this have to do with theme parks?" Well, you see, Bombardier has been responsible for building the monorails at the Disney theme parks in the past. There's no guarantee that this sale will impact the creation and future expansion of Disney's monorails, but the sale no doubt may put a crimp in their plans. This is just the beginning of a potentially larger story, so let's keep an eye on it.

    I mentioned that Alston is a French train maker, which serves as a wonderful segue to our next story, focusing on Disneyland Paris. (Excuse me, it was a wonderful segue, and I'll hear no arguments on the matter.) Currently, Disneyland Paris boasts two theme parks, but that may change within the next 16 years. Or, more specifically, if Disney wants to build a third theme park there, they have literally 16 years to do so. Disney and the French government recently amended their agreement about how many parks the resort can have; this new amendment is contingent on the resort boasting 22 million visitors per year, which would be an increase of 7 million over what they have now. Disney must have something up their sleeve...or they're just kicking the can down the road, seeing as the previous agreement gave them until 2026.

    Now, let's talk about books. OK, let's talk about a book. Yes, this one has to do with the theme parks, and it even has to do tangentially with a story in today's column. On September 1, Disney will publish the book The Disney Monorail: Imagineering a Highway in the Sky, written by Jeff Kurtti, Vanessa Hunt, and Paul Wolski. The book will focus on the history of the Disney monorails and how they were first envisioned back in the late 1950s. I can't vouch for every Disney theme-park book, but a fond look back at the monorails seems like a guaranteed must-own for any theme-park aficionado.

    The 'Celebrity Mural'

    Time for one more wonderful segue in today's column, and this one's even better than the last one. Kurtti, when he's not writing books about Disney history, is writing blog posts about Disney history. Recently, he highlighted a fan-favorite mural at Epcot designed by Claudio Mazzoli. The mural focuses on how mankind has communicated throughout history, which fits in perfectly with the theme of the 16-minute Spaceship Earth attraction, the front of which boasts the mural. You can learn more about the history of the mural at the blog post linked above, and see some concept art of Mazzoli's that never saw the light of day.