The Vacation Kingdom of the World: Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Paradeby Tom Richards, contributing writer
Despite Disney's best efforts to promote Disney's Animal Kingdom as a full-day experience, we typically visit very early in the morning and leave after lunch or, on nights when the park is open for Extra-Magic Hours, we visit the park for an evening. As a result, we have rarely seen Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade which is typically performed daily at 4:45.
I did see it once, in October of 2001, during the 100 Years of Magic celebration that took place throughout the Walt Disney World Resort in an awkward celebration of what would have been Walt Disney's 100th birthday. I found the parade to be engaging, original, and a whole lot of fun. My family and I continue to enjoy the soundtrack, released on a wonderful disc entitled Disney's Magic in the Streets. This gem of a disc features parade music from the Magic Kingdom's Share a Dream Come True Parade, Disney Stars and Motor Cars from the Disney-MGM Studios, Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade from the Animal Kingdom, and four instrumental suites dedicated to each of Disney World's four theme parks. The disc ends with a vocal rendition of "Share a Dream Come True," the official theme song for the entire celebration.
This spring break, we made a special effort to share this fun parade as a family, especially since Disney announced earlier this year that the parade will be leaving Animal Kingdom soon. According to Dewayne Bevil of The Orlando Sentinel, Mickey's Jammin Jungle is scheduled to end sometime in June of 2014. According to his article from this past February 13, "Work on an expansion of Animal Kingdom, which will include a Pandora section based on the film Avatar, will soon impede the parade path and viewing areas for guests." That's too bad, because this parade is a solid addition to the Animal Kingdom's entertainment line-up.
Like the daily parades featured at the Magic Kingdom, Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade features brightly colored floats, lots of familiar Disney characters, stilt walkers, dancers, and tumblers. The overall theme is a salute to animals; Disney designers outdid themselves creating original, kinetic, abstract representations of animals and incorporating familiar Disney characters and a variety of engaging, toe-tapping music.
The parade begins with an audio transmission from Rafiki (from The Lion King) contacting Mickey Mouse, informing him that the parade is approaching. A dispatcher with a British accent advices "fellow adventurers" to "prepare accordingly" as the music for the parade begins to pump though the park.
The first vehicle, dubbed an "Adventure Rover," is a yellow, orange, and red safari truck that transports Rafiki himself as the official host of the parade. Rafiki waves to guests and sings one of the parade's more memorable tunes: "The Rhythm of One." The lyrics emphasize the oneness of all Earth's creatures, as various animals "grunt and growl and squeak and moan" along with the brightly costumed dancers and Rafiki himself. This song sets the tone for the entire parade, and aptly captures the spirit of Disney's Animal Kingdom. Riding along with Rafiki is a family of lucky guests chosen daily as "grand marshals" and encouraged to wave to guests along the parade route. From the smiles on the faces of the family we saw, this was a memorable experience for them.
Following Rafiki, a safari jeep adorned with a red bow and painted with red and white polka dots features Minnie Mouse. She leads the crowd in a spirited version of "Pata Pata," encouraging guests to sing along, clap along, and stomp along. Minnie is always appealing, and her appearance here is no exception. Part of the charm is her vehicle's bright colors and clever theming to all things Minnie.
Donald Duck's jeep is up next. Like Donald himself, his jeep is really crazy and unpredictable, covered with sports paraphernalia and all sorts of nautical references. My kids laughed the hardest at this float; water squirting out here and there, things hanging and dangling everywhere, all sorts of life preservers, and even a bathtub complete with a rubber duckie. Donald leads the crowd and the singer/dancers in a rousing rendition of "Iko Iko" that encourages, almost requires, call and response. Lots of fun.
The lovable Goofy follows, and his safari vehicle was, well, goofy. Various random items, attached in a helter-skelter way, covered the jeep: everything from snowshoes to a kitchen sink to Goofy's pajamas can be found aboard his vehicle. As expected, Goofy had a song to sing as well—"Mas Que Nada"—that he performs in his own Goofy way. Goofy was a bit hit with everyone the day we saw this parade.
The last parade unit, the "Bon Voyage Caravan," transports the Big Cheese himself, Mickey Mouse, and pulls a series of safari-themed units. Pluto, Mickey's faithful pup, also appears in this segment of the parade, waving gleefully to the enthusiastic crowd. Chip and Dale also work the crowd as Mickey's jeep passes by. The appearance of Mickey is a fitting climax to the parade; after all, we heard him at the beginning of the parade talking with the dispatcher and with Rafiki. As his jeep drives past, Mickey reprises the parade's signature song, "The Rhythm of One," and reinforces the theme of the show when he sums up at the end, "Remember that life's an adventure, and that, my friend, is a reason to celebrate!"
In the final section of the parade, characters from several animal-centered feature films appear, specifically The Jungle Book, Song of the South, and The Lion King. It was a true pleasure to have the chance to interact with favorite characters like Baloo the Bear and King Louie from The Jungle Book, Brer Rabbit, Brer Bear, and Brer Fox from Song of the South, Timon from The Lion King, and Terk from Tarzan.
In addition to the traditional parade "floats"—or in this case, vehicles—there are several rickshaws (two- or three-wheeled passenger carts) carrying guests who wave and smile for the crowds as they pass.
Because this was my sons' first visit to Disney's Animal Kingdom, and because we knew this might be our last chance to see Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade, we put this experience on the top of our "to do" list. We enjoyed it. It was an intimate experience, partly because of the narrow pathways through which it wound and also because the characters and performers are very up-close and personal. It was spring break, so the weather was lovely (compared to the scorching heat and humidity of Central Florida in the summer when we typically visit). With the help of a friendly family of visitors we met in line for the Finding Nemo: The Musical, we choose a quiet shady corner where we were able to sit and wait for the parade. During the performance, the kids were able stand on the little wall to get a great view of the characters as they went by.
While we will miss this delightful parade and energetic musical soundtrack, we do look forward to the new plans—as reported in the Orlando Sentinel—for new entertainment at Disney's Animal Kingdom, including a rumored nighttime water show. If you haven't had an opportunity to expereince Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade, try to see this enjoyable parade before it winds its way into Walt Disney World history.