One of the unexpected highlights of Disney+ has been its unstoppable documentary programming. From documentary features like Disneynature’s Dolphin Reef and biographies like Don Hahn’s recent (and totally wonderful) Howard, to the equally exceptional long-form documentary series like Into the Unknown and The Imagineering Story, Disney’s direct-to-consumer streaming platform has been totally unstoppable it when it comes to nonfiction content. And this hot streak looks like it’ll continue with National Geographic’s upcoming Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, announced today and set to premiere on September 25.
The eight-episode series promises to go behind-the-scenes of the genuinely mind-blowing Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park, the park’s accompanying hotel the Animal Kingdom Lodge and the super amazing EPCOT pavilion The Seas with Nemo & Friends (formerly The Living Seas). According to the press release, the documentary series, narrated by the always delightful Josh Gad, “is the ultimate tribute to the parks’ magnificent array of more than 300 species and 5,000-plus animals and the herculean tasks their animal care experts undertake to keep things running day and night.”
And it’s true – if you’ve ever been to Disney’s Animal Kingdom (and especially if you’ve been behind-the-scenes), it’s impossible not to be overwhelmed by just how much care and attention goes into taking care of these animals and giving them the best possible living conditions. There really isn’t a theme park on the planet quite like Animal Kingdom, and it’s so exciting that an entire documentary series will be devoted to the animals of this incredible place.
The structure of the episodes seems to give specific areas of the park their own emphasis. So for the Gorilla Falls Expedition trail section, we’ll get to meet baby Grace, the newest gorilla at the park. And for the Discovery Island section, you’ll be introduced to a pair of endangered vultures. (There will be another section devoted to the Seas pavilion, which at one point was the largest saltwater aquarium on earth. Also there used to be a very cute robot named Jason.) The segment of the new series I am most excited about has to do with Kilimanjaro Safaris and one of the zookeepers giving the hyenas a bath. Last time I was at Animal Kingdom I got to go backstage and see the hyenas and I was instantly obsessed. They are adorable and wild and huge. Bring on all of the hyena content.
This seems like the perfect series for Disney+, given Walt Disney’s obsession with animals, from Bambi to the original True-Life Adventures (the very first nature documentaries ever) to his work as a conservationist and early environmentalist. This ethos is still a huge part of the company, from the amount of animal-focused entertainment the company produces to the huge strides it makes as part of the Disney Conservation Fund and its continued educational efforts at EPCOT, Animal Kingdom, and around the world. (There is so much great animal-related content on Disney+ too.) So we are very excited about this new documentary series, which should tap into that deep well of history while also showing what is going on at Animal Kingdom now and where it’s headed in the future.