Disney Techno-Nature Essay

This essay has a total of 1485 words and 8 pages.

Disney Techno-Nature

Disney Techno-Nature
Like most Disney material, nature themes were incorporated into the earliest parks,
including Adventureland, Frontierland, Nature's Wonderland, and the newest, Animal
Kingdom. Disney carefully edited these "natural" settings that show the less wild side of
the wilderness. However, how does the tourist comprehend the illusions? How are the plants
and animals adapting to reflect the illusion, and how are they accented by the
interactions with both human nature and Disney's technological nature? These questions and
more will be answered within the following sections: Definitions, Technological Nature,
Kilamanjaro Safari, and The Final Answer.

The Animal Kingdom is a modern exhibit designed to follow the "natural pattern" of an
African community. The most eye-popping attraction, the Kilamanjaro Safari, is an
open-air, nearly barrier-free animal reserve at Florida's Walt Disney World. It was a
major shift from a cow playground to a zone of care for other wise caged animals. Here,
African animals freely roam through acres of savanna, rivers, and rocky hills. The rider
is advised to be aware, "You never know what could happen in the wilderness" (Tate 1).

Before I can begin to consider the "nature" of the Animal Kingdom, the definitions of
nature and technology must be established. Webster's American College Dictionary lists
nature as "the natural world as it exists without human beings or civilization." In the
case of the Animal Kingdom, this definition is inappropriate because Disney itself is a
man-made civilization, with merchants, restaurants, and restroom facilities. Technology is
defined as that "branch of knowledge that deals with applied science, engineering and the
industrial arts." This definition of technology can be reworked to fit the Disney model of

What exactly does Disney do? Disney applies technology to the Florida area. Technology has
allowed for hundreds of acres of Florida land to be safely destroyed by means of
controlled burning. With the help of technology, Disney has transported lonely zoo animals
and put them in their "original" surroundings once again. Technology uprooted pieces of
Africa to better care for African animals in the United States, as well as to provide
adventure for those who cannot jet to Africa for a true safari, which includes some risk
of danger and insecurity. (Tate 2) In following the form of Heidegger's definition of
technology as a mediation of nature, it correctly fits the Disney technological nature
(qtd in Phillips 218).

Technological Nature
With these working definitions of nature and technological nature, we can move onto how
Disney's Animal Kingdom uses technological nature. In the newest theme park, Animal
Kingdom, Disney has recreated an African community and several other exotic lands, like
Dinoland and Asia. Disney engineers, called Imagineers, imported African trees, grasses,
and other plants, to provide the setting for the pseudo-savanna attraction, the
Kilamanjaro Safari Ride.

How does technology add to the realness of the park? "While theme parks are mostly
illusion, occasionally things that seem authentic really are. Thatched roofs on buildings
in the faux village [of Harambe] were hand woven by 13 Zulu thatchers brought over from
South Africa, using bundles of grass harvested by their wives, sisters, and mothers. Some
1500 hand-painted wooden animals were crafted in Bali, under Disney supervision." (Gunther
123) Ninety students from African countries were hired to "really validate the
experience." Disney has done a convincing makeover of the Florida acreage. When Franklin
Sonn, the African ambassador to the United States saw the new kingdom, he said "This is my
bush veldt. This is my home" (qtd in Shklyanoy 4).

Kilamanjaro Safari
Specifically, the Kilamanjaro Safari is the prime example of Disney's use of technological nature.
"Everyone, listen up! Climb aboard your open-aired safari vehicle for an exciting
expedition. African animals freely roam through acres of savanna, rivers, and rocky hills.
Look out for giraffes, gazelles, elephants, and lions. But beware, you never know what
could happen in the wilderness..." (Tate 1).

This greeting is just the beginning of the "wild" ride through the safari. Guests travel
in a 32-person vehicle driven by cast members (Disney employees) through an African
savanna featuring giraffes, gazelles, elephants and lions. The land is filled with native
African plants and trees. In preparing the park, Imagineers spent weeks in Africa, taking
notes and photographs of the savanna lands of Africa.

"The savanna where [the animals] roam was once drab [Florida] cow pasture, but every weed
and rut has been meticulously contoured to resemble an African plain" (Corliss 67). Walt
Disney himself would be thoroughly pleased with this transformation.

The Tourist
I briefly reproduce the setting of the Kilamanjaro Safari to place the reader inside the
park. Now take a look at the tourists around you. Sometimes the tourist falls into a
certain category, one particularly in the English sightseer. You've seen them; pale
skinned or sunburned from the glaring Florida sun, wearing "belly packs", nylon soccer
shorts, and black knee-high socks. He is carrying a seemingly expensive camera draped
around his neck with a theme park map in hand. Sound familiar? How do the tourists see the
Animal Kingdom, having never seen African animals up close nor met a native African? Of
course this is awe-inspiring, to even the most frequent visitor. "Oohs and ahhs"
invariably trickle out from the Safari vehicle while passing the sunning lions and the
bathing elephants, and crowds gather around the friendly native African students.
Continues for 4 more pages >>