The "Rules" for Tour Guides at Disney's Animal Kingdom
by Carl Hiaasen as appeared April 23, 1998, in the Miami Herald
At Disney, it's a wild, wild world
Good morning, bwanas! Today's the day we finally open Disney's new Animal
Kingdom theme park for the world.
As tour guides, it's your job to make sure all visitors have fun. Many of
you have never worked with real live critters, so let's go over the
Number one: If your safari bus should encounter our wild animals acting
like, well, wild animals, do not under any circumstances attempt to
disconnect them, deprogram them or try to locate the "off" button.
Remember, these are not the dancing country bears -- and they're probably
not just dancing, anyway.
I know it's a big adjustment for all of us here at Walt Disney World. In
the old days, when a jungle beast went haywire we'd just replace a
transistor. Not anymore.
The wildlife here at Animal Kingdom sometimes will engage in public
behavior that our guests might find puzzling or even disturbing -- behavior
for which (I'm ashamed to say) a few of our human "cast members" have
been occasionally reprimanded.
As tour guides, it's your duty not to let our visitors be distracted.
Turning to page 17 of the manual, you'll find a detailed list of
embarrassing animal antics, next to the officially scripted Disney
Scratching, for instance. As you've undoubtedly noticed, our primates can
be indiscreet in their personal scratching habits. Please try not to bring
this to the attention of your safari guests.
If, however, a guest observes this behavior and inquires, always refer to
it as "grooming." Same goes for the licking -- those lions, I swear, they
never give it a rest. . . . Just remember: "Grooming" is the operative
Several of you asked about the poop issue. I passed along your concerns
directly to Mr. Eisner's office, and I've been told there's not a darn
thing to be done. We've got 1,000 animals roaming here and unless the folks
in Imagineering come up with some amazing new gadget, there's going to be
lots of poop.
Hey, I'm on your side. Sixteen years I worked the Main Street Parade and we
never had this problem, except for that one really obnoxious Pluto.
And, yes, I'm well aware how much a full-grown elephant eats -- but try to
deal with it, OK? "Droppings." That's the approved Disney term, whether
it's from a hippo or a hummingbird.
The next item is, sadly, animal mortality. As you know, we've already lost
two rhinos, some rare birds, four cheetah cubs. It's made for a few
unpleasant headlines, to be sure.
But this is straight from the lawyers: Never use the terms "die" or
"dead" on your Disney safari. If the tour bus passes an animal that
appears not to be breathing, you may describe it as "lethargic,"
"inactive," "dormant," or (for the youngsters) "napping."
Finally, let's review the rules on animal sex. I don't know what genius
decided to open this park in the springtime, but our animals are in quite
Some of you heard what happened on Media Day -- a little problem with the
Barbara Walters crew and that horny pair of wildebeests in quadrant seven.
Without going into gory details, let's just say that ABC eventually was
"persuaded" to give up the videotape.
As safari guides, it's imperative to remember that this is a family
attraction. Animals do not mate here. They "wrestle." They "clench."
They "frolic." They "romp." They "nuzzle." And of course they
"groom" each other, sometimes intimately.
But they don't mate. They don't hump. They don't "do the nasty." Is that
Good. Now go out there and give these wonderful folks an authentic
true-life jungle adventure, droppings and all!