Spread across 500 acres, Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the largest Disney theme park on Earth. With themed lands themed to the vast continents of Africa and Asia, there’s plenty to discover about all sorts of animals and the various places they call home. A great way for visitor, especially young ones, to have some fun in the park while learning new things along the way is to become a Wilderness Explorer.
If you can take your eyes off the magnificent Tree of Life as you enter Discovery Island from The Oasis, you’ll notice Wilderness Explorers Headquarters on the right. Here, guests are able to sign up to take part in an interactive adventure with the same scout-style organization that Russell took part in during Disney/Pixar’s “Up.” After receiving the Wilderness Explorer Handbook and obtaining their first sticker merit badge, it’s then time to explore the rest of Disney’s Animal Kingdom at your own pace. Along the way, there are over 30 additional places across the park marked with the Wilderness Explorer symbol where more badges can be earned, each teaching facts about the natural world.
While the adventures of Russell serve as the inspiration for Animal Kingdom’s “Wilderness Explorer,” the inspiration for Russell came from Pixar veteran Pete Sohn, who was a storyboard artist on “Up.” In addition to serving as the model for a Pixar character, Sohn has lent his voice to a few as well, most notably Emile from “Ratatouille” and Squishy from “Monsters University.” His latest challenge has been directing Pixar’s next feature film, “The Good Dinosaur,” which will be released in theaters later this month. That definitely sounds like it’s worth another merit badge to me!