Like most Disney material, nature themes were incorporated into the earliest parks, including Adventureland, Frontierland, Nature's Wonderland, and the newest, Animal Kingdom. Disney carefully edited these "natural" settings that show the less wild side of the wilderness. However, how does the tourist comprehend the illusions? How are the plants and animals adapting to reflect the illusion, and how are they accented by the interactions with both human nature and Disney's technological nature? These questions and more will be answered within the following sections: Definitions, Technological Nature, Kilamanjaro Safari, and The Final Answer.
The Animal Kingdom is a modern exhibit designed to follow the "natural pattern" of an African community. The most eye-popping attraction, the Kilamanjaro Safari, is an open-air, nearly barrier-free animal reserve at Florida's Walt Disney World. It was a major shift from a cow playground to a zone of care for other wise caged animals. Here, African animals freely roam through acres of savanna, rivers, and rocky hills. The rider is advised to be aware, "You never know what could happen in the wilderness" (Tate 1).
Before I can begin to consider the "nature" of the Animal Kingdom, the definitions of nature and technology must be established. Webster's American College Dictionary lists nature as "the natural world as it exists without human beings or civilization." In the case of the Animal Kingdom, this definition is inappropriate because Disney itself is a man-made civilization, with merchants, restaurants, and restroom facilities. Technology is defined as that "branch of knowledge that deals with applied science, engineering and the industrial arts." This definition of technology can be reworked to fit the Disney model of nature.
What exactly does Disney do? Disney applies technology to the Florida area. Technology has allowed for hundreds of acres of Florida land to be safely destroyed by means of controlled burning. With the help of technology, Disney has transported lonely zoo animals and put them in their "original" surroundings once again. Technology uprooted pieces of Africa to better care for African animals in the United States, as well as to provide adventure for those who cannot jet to Africa for a true safari, which includes some risk of danger and insecurity. (Tate 2) In following the form of Heidegger's definition of technology as a mediation of nature, it correctly fits the Disney technological nature (qtd in Phillips 218).
With these working definitions of nature and technological nature, we can move onto how Disney's Animal Kingdom uses technological nature. In the newest theme park, Animal Kingdom, Disney has recreated an African community and several other exotic lands, like Dinoland and Asia. Disney engineers, called Imagineers, imported African trees, grasses, and other plants, to provide the setting for the pseudo-savanna attraction, the Kilamanjaro Safari Ride.
How does technology add to the realness of the park? "While theme parks are mostly illusion, occasionally things that seem authentic really are. Thatched roofs on buildings in the faux village [of Harambe] were hand woven by 13 Zulu thatchers brought over from South Africa, using bundles of grass harvested by their wives, sisters, and mothers. Some 1500 hand-painted wooden animals were crafted in Bali, under Disney supervision." (Gunther 123) Ninety students from African countries were hired to "really validate the experience." Disney has done a convincing makeover of the Florida acreage. When Franklin Sonn, the African ambassador to the United States saw the new kingdom, he said "This is my bush veldt. This is my home" (qtd in Shklyanoy 4).
Specifically, the Kilamanjaro Safari is the prime example of Disney's use of technological nature....