Sunday, December 15, 2019

Merry Menagerie: The Hidden Holiday Gem At Disney's Animal Kingdom


If you're a Disney fan, then odds are all you've been hearing from the parks lately is about the new Rise of the Resistance ride - which, believe me, is understandable. That thing looks AMAZEBALLS. Still, there's a new experience over at Animal Kingdom that's been flying under the radar, and it's pure Disney magic. I really think more folks should be talking about this, so here I am to fill the gap!

Hang on, first a quick shout-out to all the new holiday decorations at DAK, because I'm loving these owls!

The rooftops are lined with gorgeous animal cut-outs  - but again, I'm picking favorites:

OK, now on to the most magical part.

It's called The Merry Menagerie, and if all you've seen are a few photos, then I can understand why you'd be underwhelmed. Photos do NOT do this cast justice... so here come nearly five minutes of video that I guarantee will have you smiling and laughing right along with me:

I posted these to my Story on Friday, and I've been buried in sweet messages ever since. I love that these puppets and performers are making you all so happy! And to answer a FAQ: no, it's NOT weird to cry. Quite a few people who see them in person do, and honestly the only thing better than watching the puppets is watching people respond to them.

I know I said photos don't do them justice, but now that you've seen the Menagerie in action, here come a bunch anyway. :D

Surprisingly soft, since it looks like straw! And the head bobbles.

We were mostly there to see our friend Christie and her arctic fox, so I have the most photos and video of them. Here's the fox with his head on my leg:

The back story for the Menagerie is that the puppeteers are local artisans from Discovery Island, and they've made their own puppets to celebrate the season. I don't know if you can tell, but the fox is REALLY Christie's favorite:

Each puppeteer names their own puppets, btw, so be sure to ask! Christie's fox is Silver.

Christie tells us she comes home every day with new mystery bruises, but you'd never know it to watch her perform. I can't tell you how much I love seeing my friends do things they're passionate about. Gah. Does my heart so much good.

(I think the fox is distracted by the bird, lol.)

The big mama polar bear wasn't out this afternoon, but we got the two babies!

There are two sets of animals that alternate, and each set has different live musicians that come out to play with them. You might hear steel drums, guitar, or even the violin - and the animals will often interact or sway to the music.

The mama reindeer was an expert at gentle nose boops:

Fun Fact: did you know reindeer are the only deer that have females with antlers?

And her baby:

This kid is all of us:

One last look at everyone's favorite bobble-headed penguin:

The Merry Menagerie is only here for the holidays and will end January first, so go soon if you can!   I don't know if Disney will bring them back next year, so here's hoping we fans can show the puppets enough love that the execs will make them a yearly tradition.

And finally, for all of you plotting to make your own replica Menagerie puppets (it can't be just me, right?), check this out: Disney released a quick 2 minute video showing some of the puppets' construction!

I love seeing behind-the-scenes stuff like this.

And finally finally, if you're looking for a new phone background, here's that pretty Menagerie mural in two parts:

Disney is selling this art on souvenir popcorn buckets and travel mugs at DAK, though personally I don't think they do the art justice. I wish they sold it as prints, postcards, or even t-shirts.

Hope these made you smile right when you needed it most, my friends. How are you holding up this December? Are you taking time to breathe? If not, this is a perfect time to sit back, stretch, play your favorite song... and remember, somewhere out there is a bobble-headed penguin, making a grown woman cry. 

I find that helps.  


My mom pointed out that some of the Menagerie animals reminded her of the work of Jim Shore, who does a lot of Disney resin figurines. She's totally right! I looked it up, and he has so many sweet little animal figures:

 I better stop there, but you get the idea - and there are lots more!


  1. I've seen other videos of the Animals, but watching people I know interact takes it to a whole new level. DEAR LAWD, the level of creativity and imagineering that went into those is BREATHTAKING!!! Thank you both SO MUCH for sharing this, and Christie? You and your Arctic Fox are AMAZING.

  2. "Pshaw, why would I cry at a video of a bunch of puppets at Disney, fer cripes sake."
    *watches Arctic Fox lay it's head on John's knee, holds back tears*

  3. The polar bears took my breath away and made my day better. Thank you so much for sharing the pics and video. <3

  4. Disney never fails to impress! They are always pushing forward with innovative designs!

  5. I totally noticed the puppeteers kneeling on the cement and figured that must be killer on the knees! If only they were allowed to wear volleyball knee pads, or something...

    Another cool fact about reindeer that I learned a few years ago: most reindeer lose their horns by Christmas, but since the females loose theirs last, Santa probably has an all female crew! ;)

    1. Oooh, I love that fun fact!

      The performers do get to wear knee pads! I'm sure those only help so much, but at least it's something. :)

    2. Every time I saw Christie I was hoping she had some nice and thick knee pads on. I don't doubt she has mystery bruises every day! They were all absolutely amazing though!

  6. These are amazing and wonderful. I use (humble) puppets at storytimes at my library, and it's awesome how the kids completely do not look at me but directly at the puppet, and if I try to give the puppet a little voice of some kind, they don't seem to notice or care that my lips are moving. They're completely entranced by the puppet!

  7. Demz babiez penguiez! Sooooooooooooo cute! Love how they all interact with the guests.

  8. OH MY GOODNESS! You had an encounter with everything RIGHT about this world. Just pure sweetness and light that was. How special!

  9. They are all so cute but, Christie, I think your fox is my favorite! It's the wiggly tail. ;)

  10. Thanks for posting this. I love learning about these Disney tid bits. I'm headed there soon. I can't wait to see this.

  11. Those are SO sweet! I'm sorry I won't have a chance to make it to Disney while they're out, so thanks for sharing more on them to let me live vicariously.

  12. I LOVED your IG stories on DAKs Merry Menagerie! And thanks for posting pics - I just added it to my phone's homescreen :)

  13. I missed most of this on your story, so thank you for posting it here. IT'S SO MAGICAL!!! Sitting at my work desk eating lunch and I just had to stop and stare with a giddy grin as I watched the video.

  14. I loved the video! Thank you for sharing it with us. It's fascinating to see how people interact with the puppets as though they were real animals so quickly!

  15. Oh I'm so going to see if I can find a way to build a reindeer momma! So pretty. I love the fox, but that reindeer!

  16. I'm tearing up at my desk, and I have no doubt that I would full-on ugly cry in person. It remind me of being a teeny kid and being invited to pet Figment on the head. It was a little moment and my parents probably didn't even notice it, but it was pure magic for me. 100% the Disney content I'm here for.

  17. Even in the age of 3D and CGI, kids love the chance to touch and interact with these lovely creations; kids basically never change.

  18. Hey, my friend helped design those! The little bobble-headed penguins are the cutest thing ever, but watching the fox interact with people was my absolute favorite. And didn't even see the reindeer! I wish they could keep them year-round, but that wouldn't even make sense, haha. It adds so much energy to that entrance plaza though!

  19. These were amazing! I was there at the beginning of December, and fell in love with the whole menagerie! AK was a lot of fun this year with the new additions for the holiday.

  20. This is absolutely adorable! :-) I'm so glad I found this post; thank you very much for sharing.


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