In search of your next family-friendly show to stream? A new National Geographic series takes viewers backstage at Walt Disney World to showcase the animals and their caretakers in action at the beloved theme parks that are home to more than 300 species and 5,000 animals. “Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom,” an eight-part docu-series narrated by Josh Gad, best known as the voice of Olaf in Disney’s “Frozen” and “Frozen 2,” premiered Sept. 25 on Disney+.
Each episode tells a new story of the care, conservation, and Walt Disney Imagineering that’s required to infuse an authentic look at nature into a visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and The Seas with Nemo & Friends at EPCOT.
It’s no surprise that Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the newest of Walt Disney World’s four theme parks—opened on Earth Day in 1998, is the main focus of the series. While the park may be home to some of Disney World’s best rides, what sets Animal Kingdom apart is the integration of live animals—in habitats that approximate nature far more closely than most zoos—into the guest experience at the park.
“The presence of animals defines the entirety of the experience of Animal Kingdom,” says Joe Rohde, portfolio creative executive at Walt Disney Imagineering and the park’s lead designer. “It doesn’t even stop at the areas where you see animals.”
This is where show comes in, introducing viewers to the animal care experts and other cast members (Disney speak for employees) behind the scenes whose days sometimes begin when the park gates close. Although Walt Disney World has been reopened since July, for those guests who don’t have plans to travel any time soon, the show gives guests a virtual visit to “the most magical place on earth.”
And, when viewers do return, Rohde says watching the show will enhance your next visit. Animal Kingdom, he says, “is a place where the more you know, the richer your experience of the place. So simply by seeing the show, the next time you come to this place, your experience will be fuller, will be richer, will be more rewarding.”
With many children at home engaging in e-learning, the show provides helpful teaching moments and messages about conservation, too. Disney animal manager Rachel Daneault says she hopes viewers be inspired by Disney’s conservation efforts, citing the Disney Conservation Fund, which has given $100 million dollars to nonprofits supporting wildlife and the environment.
“To be able to be part of that and support that is really important to me because,” Deneault says, “I’m working with these animals, but I am looking out for the greater good of all animals.”
“Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom” is streaming on Disney+ now.
A Few Ways to Help the Environment:
- Reduce your carbon footprint: waste less energy, unplug your devices and turn off lights, drive less, and eat local.
- Buy products that feature the “Rainforest Alliance Certified™” seal. Find certified products here!
- Support the Arbor Day Foundation and help replant the our forests.
More from Better:
- What It’s Really Like to Visit Walt Disney World Right Now
- How the Amazon Rainforest Fires Affect You
- Chicago Nonprofits That Protect the Planet
Brooke Geiger McDonald is a Chicago native who has worked for O, The Oprah Magazine and Shape magazine in New York and for various book publishers in London. Back home in Chicago, she’s outnumbered by her husband and two sons, and the four of them are certifiable Disney and Star Wars fanatics, always counting down the days to their next Disney vacation. Her favorite nonprofits to support include The Walt Disney Birthplace in Chicago and organizations focused on environmental conservation and combatting climate change, such as the Environmental Defense Fund and Shedd Aquarium. Follow her on Instagram @brookegmcdonald and Twitter @BrookeGMcDonald.