Today marked the reopening of Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The location had plans to be permanently closed back in October 2018 before Disney reversed their decision and stated that it would be reopening in Spring 2019. Fast forward to today, and the Wildlife Express is up and running again, taking guests back to Rafiki’s Planet Watch in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
On the way out, you’ll see new signage for the CGI remake of The Lion King. Also new on the train out is a new pre-recorded spiel that talks about Walt Disney’s history of both animation and conservation. Cast members were excited to see the first train arrive in the station.
We made it out on the first train back to Planet Watch to check out the new Animation Experience. Surprisingly, it’s taken up nearly all of the Planet Watch building, seating up to 175 guests at a time. FastPass+ and standby are available, with guests passing through a small holding area before being seated for the Animation Academy. In this holding area, there’s a really cool opportunity to see a live animal perform certain actions just like animators would have seen for the production of The Lion King. A trainer works with the animal to show off a variety of movements that the animators would study relentlessly to ensure the accuracy of the animals in a movie.
The seating area takes over half of the building, with the most notable loss the loss of the Song of the Rainforest area, which now sits behind planters.
Here’s a look at the huge Animation Experience area. The first show was about half-full, but there are obvious limitations of the amount of guests who can get on a train at one time.
The Animation Experience is basically the same as animation classes of years past, most recently the Animation Academy at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Some notable changes include a short video showcasing the animal that you’re going to draw. In our case, it was a meerkat, and Disney put together a short video following a newborn meerkat found on the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail. Another upgrade to the experience was that the paper already had guidelines printed on it. This gives the guest a much better starting point than a completely blank piece of paper.
Beyond the Animation Experience, the operating rooms and reptile displays remain. Also, the Affection Section is still available for the petting zoo experience.
If want to take a trip back in time, here’s a photo tour of Rafiki’s Planet Watch before it closed last year.
The Animation Experience runs multiple times daily and opens at 10am.