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A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Camp Minnie-Mickey



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 yourfirstvisit.net.

CAMP MINNIE-MICKEY

By Jim Korkis

Although Camp Minnie-Mickey in Disney’s Animal Kingdom was meant to be a temporary placeholder, it lasted from 1998 to 2014, almost 16 years, when it was replaced by Pandora: The World of Avatar.

During final planning and construction, Disney’s Animal Kingdom faced unexpected budget overruns, so cuts had to be made including an entire land called Beastly Kingdom. Realizing there would be not enough shows and attractions on opening day, CEO Michael Eisner recalled Mickey’s Birthdayland, a temporary location built in only ninety days in 1988 at the Magic Kingdom. Eisner felt that something similar devoted to Disney characters could mimic that success.

The Disney’s Animal Kingdom design team was appalled that the Beastly Kingdom had been cut and told Eisner they were too busy with the other areas of the park to work on the placeholder, so Entertainment and some outside developers took over the assignment. There was no time or money to build attractions, so they concentrated on shows and meet-and-greet opportunities.

It was hoped that once the new park was a success that there would be an influx of revenue to build Beastly Kingdom and Camp Minnie-Mickey would disappear. That didn’t happen.

Camp Minnie-Mickey was themed to be a rural summer fishing camp in the woodlands of the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York, where the characters were on vacation. This theme was echoed in the landscape, architecture, and street furniture that provided a homemade feeling.

At the Greeting Trails guests could usually find Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy. In random places throughout the land other characters like Chip, Dale, Koda, Pocahontas, Meeko, Baloo, an King Louie, among others, appeared.

(c) Disney

Along the river were three-dimensional fiberglass figures of Donald Duck fishing and catching a rubber boot; Mickey, Pluto and Goofy fishing; and Huey, Dewey, and Louie hiking with Daisy Duck.

The camp’s assembly hall seating 1,375 guests was the original home for the half hour The Festival of the Lion King musicial show. This show did not tell an abbreviated version of the famous animated feature’s plot, but rather was a tune-filled tribal celebration with audience participation and some unexpected surprises.

Hosted by four human performers with Swahili names and attired as traditional African tribal leaders, they prompted the guests on how to participate with the performers several times during the show.

The impressive floats that served as intriguing set pieces were actually recycled and modified from The Lion King Celebration parade that ran at Disneyland from 1994-1997.

The other show in Camp Minnie-Mickey was the twelve minute Pocahontas and Her Forest Friends, in Grandma Willow’s Grove. The genesis of the show came from the animal education cast at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It was meant to be similar to animal meet-and-greet shows at zoos and other animal parks, where a trainer or two brings out one animal at a time and talks about the animal’s characteristics to the audience.

In the Disney’s Animal Kingdom version, Pocahontas is worried that the forest is being cut down indiscriminately and runs to Grandma Willow for advice. She reminds Pocahontas of a prophecy that one creature has a special gift to protect the forest but that Pocahontas herself must discover the identity of that creature giving her the opportunity to interact with several different animals including a raccoon, a snake, rabbits, opossums, a skunk, and a porcupine–and in the process educate the audience about them.

This show was the only part of Disney’s Animal Kingdom that showcased animals from North America.

While there was no restaurant in the land, guests could get cookies and ice cream sandwiches at Camp Soft Serve (also known as Chip and Dale’s Cookie Cabin) and at Campfire Treats (also known as Campside Funnel Cakes) get funnel cakes, corn dogs and beverages.

The main reminder of Camp Minnie-Mickey is Festival of the Lion King, now in its own space in Africa.

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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, Disney Never Lands, and about planned but unbuilt concepts, and 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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