By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

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A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Disney’s Animal Kingdom is “Nahtazu”

By Dave Shute

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on


Back in 2002, to try to get the general public to understand that Disney’s Animal Kingdom was not like the typical zoo a person might visit, but rather a new type of theme park, in 2002 WDW through its Yellow Shoes Creative Marketing division brought on Mark Simon to storyboard a thirty-second commercial spot.

The final commercial was produced by Jim Derusha of Alpha Wolf Productions and consisted of various DAK cast members declaring “Nahtazu”, a fictional word that when pronounced sounded like “not a zoo”.

The commercial ended with the tag line: “Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It’s many, many things but remember, it’s Nahtazu!”

Disney stopped using the term in 2006 as it strengthened its connections with the AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums).

The idea of it not being a zoo came from Imagineer Joe Rohde, executive designer and senior vice president, Creative for Walt Disney Imagineering. In a presentation to DAK cast members on June 14, 1998, roughly a week before the park opened to the public, he stated:

“When I became involved in Disney’s Animal Kingdom it was late 1989, Disney sent a group of MBAs out across the country visiting and researching zoos around the nation and they came back with a terrifically negative report that basically said, “Look. There’s a zoo in every city, in every town in this country. They’re all subsidized by the city, by the state, by the federal government. People pay a third of what they pay to get into our parks to come in…they stay for two hours…they buy a drink…they can go whenever they want…why would we ever do a zoo?” End of question, right?

“We the Disney Company simply cannot do what is out there to be done if for no other reason than we’re gonna charge you $50 or more to do it. So it has to be different, it has to be new, it has to be unlike anything else you can do or we simply cannot pursue it as a line of business because we can’t make our per cap.

“There’s still people in the company who will refer to this as a ‘zoo’ and I mean, by no means, any disrespect or disdain to what a zoo is. [A zoo] is a thing that exists in the world and is loved and valued, obviously, by their presence around the country and the world, by gazillions of people.

“It serves a purpose, it occupies a niche and it does it really rather well. That’s the point. That job’s done. The world doesn’t need another big, expensive zoo with a bunch of immersion exhibits in it. That is not a real pressing need on the planet.

“A zoo sits in a category of places within a community that is sort of comparable to the museum, to the library, in that it’s regarded with a kind of respectful awe. It represents a scientific stance. It is a place you go for a kind of edification. There’s always a secondary use of a zoo as a garden, as a place to just go stroll with kids in the sunlight when the weather is good. There’s clearly a recognition that this is a place of edification.

“Now, on the other hand, what we are trying to do is profoundly subjective, even in ways that I think many education professionals would consider to be almost dangerous. A theme park is all about you in a very specific context. Nothing happens to you…nothing is said to you…nothing is seen by you…that isn’t governed by the overarching narrative umbrella that holds you in that place. When you move through a space, the space is crafted to specific narrative impact on you. That’s what Disney’s Animal Kingdom is. It is not a zoo.”

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Thanks, Jim! And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest,  The Vault of Walt Volume 7: Christmas Edition, and his Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, all published by Theme Park Press.


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