New National Geographic show on Disney Plus explores Animal Kingdom and Epcot

By Kathleen Christiansen, Orlando Sentinel on

Published in Entertainment News

A new National Geographic show takes viewers behind the scenes of Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge and the Seas with Nemo and Friends at Epcot.

"Magic of Disney's Animal Kingdom," which debuts Friday on Disney Plus, provides a deeper look at Walt Disney World's more than 5,000 animals and their care, plus how these creatures inspired the park's design and what Disney is doing to protect animals in the wild.

"We wanted to tell our stories better, and that is what Disney is so famous for is telling our stories," said Dr. Mark Penning, Disney Parks' vice president for animals, science and environment. "And what we've got here is this very unique blend of all these components: great animal care, an amazing variety of animals and how we protect those in the wild. It just seemed like a great story that we needed to tell."

Disney veterinarian Dr. Dan Fredholm and Rachel Daneault, zoological manager at Disney's Animal Kingdom, said viewers can expect to learn about a variety of animals throughout the eight-part docuseries narrated by Josh Gad, who voiced Olaf in "Frozen" and "Frozen II."

"We've got some of the big guys in there, the rhinos, the gorillas, but I think some of the smaller guys are really going to capture a lot of people's hearts," Daneault said. "There is a story about a chicken in there that I feel like is really going to get a lot of people because it really tells the story about how all the animals are so important here."

Fredholm said he's most excited to show off backstage elements.


"You would be surprised about how much happens that most people are just simply not aware of," Fredholm said. "And first and foremost, for me, is just the level of care that we can provide to these animals that are in ... Animal Kingdom as well as Epcot."

Throughout the series, viewers will witness the relationships between keepers and animals as well as how the park's residents partake in their medical care, including a pregnant animal voluntarily participating in an ultrasound.

"I would love people to think about ... what it takes to look after a variety of animals like that, all the way from 8-ton elephants down to 2-gram frogs," Penning said. "We've got specialists in every field imaginable making sure that the animals here are not just OK, we make sure that our animals thrive. ... And that comes across very strongly in the series, and that's something that we're very proud of."

Walt Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde said the show also reveals the story behind the narratives portrayed throughout Animal Kingdom.


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