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A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Kidani Village at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

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


By Jim Korkis

In 2009, Kidani Village opened near Disney’s Animal Kingdom as a Disney Vacation Club resort.

Kidani is the Swahili word for “necklace,” and was chosen because of the resort’s distinctive shape. It was designed as an African necklace with vacation villas forming the beads, walkways creating the knots in between, and the lobby representing the ornament or jewel at its center.

The lobby and the villas extend outwards and resemble the curlicue shape of a water buffalo’s horns.

With the opening of the resort, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge was renamed Jambo House, and the two resorts are now collectively know as Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Kidani Village offered it own unique savanna view of giraffes, elands, impalas, greater kudus, wildebeests, marabou storks, flamingos, waterbucks and more. There are two savannas, each with a different variety of animals, Sunset and Pembe, and guests are given a Wildlife Spotting Guide.

It has its own lobby and registration area as well as Samawati Springs pool, Uwanja (meaning “play area”) Camp water-play area, Survival of the Fittest fitness center, a table service restaurant Sanaa (“African inspired cuisine with an Indian touch”) and Johari Treasures merchandise shop.

Kidani Village was designed with three themes, Fabric, Proverbs, and Art from various African cultures. The art does not refer to just paintings hanging on the wall but also hand-carved masks, tribal symbols, sculptures and statuary in alcoves and on recessed shelves specifically designed for them.

The proverbs hold special significance due to their importance in African life. One of the most notable that is inscribed at the resort’s main entrance comes from the Asante people of Ghana: “Proverbs are like butterflies. Some are caught. Some fly away.”

Referencing this proverb’s philosophy a bronze-cast butterfly can be found next to each proverb located at the resort. Other proverbs include: “Truth keeps the hands cleaner than soap” (Nigera), “Life is like a ballet performance danced only once” (Mali) and “You must judge a person by the works of their hands.”

The “fabric” theme is very prominent in the lobby. The major patterns used throughout Kidani Village are from the fabrics of the kente cloths of Ghana and the kuba cloths of the Congo.

“Beyond the obvious natural beauty of Kidani Village, the story and attention to detail created by Walt Disney Imagineers is truly amazing,” said Kim Marinaccio who was the general manager of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and Villas. “The themes of art, fabric and proverbs play an important part in telling the story of the African people and Kidani Village.”

Kidani Village was designed by architect Peter Dominick Jr., who designed the original resort, and it is clear that the style is much the same. The towering ceiling, rich dark wood and grand windows are similar, but the artwork and smaller size of public spaces imparts a cozier feel.

Cultural representatives from Africa are the Lobby Greeters, Savanna Guides and Restaurant Greeters, and share information about life in their country and their personal journey to WDW. They also share African folk tales each night at the Arusha Rock firepit.

However, in addition to authentic African culture, images of Simba, Rafiki, Timon, Pumbaa and others from Disney’s animated classic The Lion King appear throughout the resort, especially in the rooms.

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Thanks, Jim!  There’s more on Kidani Village beginning here.

And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his new books Vault of Walt Volume 9: Halloween Edition, and Hidden Treasures of the Disney Cruise Line.


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