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At Disney, it's a wild, wild world

April 23, 1998

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 guidelines again.

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 bearsand 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 disturbingbehavior 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 explanations.

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 lickingthose lions, I swear, they never give it a restJust remember: "Grooming" is the operative word.

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 i ,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 eatsbut 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 the mood.

Some of you heard what happened on Media Daya 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 understood?

Good. Now go out there and give these wonderful folks an authentic true-life jungle adventure, droppings and all!

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