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Discovery River Boats was an opening day attraction at Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort. During it's brief lifespan, it would also be known as the Discovery River Taxi and the Radio Disney River Cruise.

Development

The Discovery River Boats were initially planned to have a more ambitious show experience, but the attraction received budget cuts to focus more resources on more important parts of the park. Some of these proposed scenes were to serve as a preview for Beastly Kingdom and included an encounter with a Kraken, a Unicorn on a distant shore hidden in mist, and an animatronic figure for the Dragon Cave scene utilizing molds from La Tanière du Dragon. This scaling down of the experience would contribute to the attraction's downfall.

Summary

The Discovery River Boats served as a means of transportation around the park with docks located at Safari Village (Discovery Island) and Asia. There were seven boats named Manatee Maiden, Leaping Lizard, Scarlet Flamingo, Otter Nonsense, Hasty Hippo, Crocodile Belle, and Darting Dragonfly.  Traveling on the Discovery River around the Tree of Life, the boats would encounter a handful of creatures and experiences along the way. These included:

  • A series of geysers along the shores of Africa
  • Whimsical animal water sculptures at the Discovery Lagoon
  • The escaped Iguanodon from Countdown to Extinction playing in the waters near DinoLand U.S.A.
  • Before passing under a bridge, a static figure of a Unicorn rearing up on the shoreline would appear. This was removed early in the attraction's lifespan.
  • Near Camp Minnie Mickey, a dragon-shaped rock formation streaming water from its mouth
  • Past the Dragon Rock, a dragon's cave where an unseen resting dragon shoots streams of fire from. When the park opened, the cave area was littered with the melted armors of knights who failed to slay the dragon.

With very little interesting to see outside these sites, a Cast Member accompanied with a small animal would usually be stationed on the boats to provide on-board animal education as entertainment. 

Closure

After attempts to salvage the attraction by emphasizing it's transport function to lower expectations and add a tie-in with the Radio Disney station with audio of DJs broadcasting from the Tree of Life, the attraction closed on August 21, 1999

The two loading docks remained as a character greeting spot and a guest rest area. The boats were later used as a floating bandstand for musical entertainment for a brief period of time and are still docked in a backstage marina area, though some have moved to the Seven Seas Lagoon to provide resort transportation to the Magic Kingdom. This backstage area is also home to the water sculptures. The Iguanodon animatronic was stripped of its skin and sent to Walt Disney Studios Park at the Disneyland Paris Resort to serve as a prop at the boneyard of Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic.

Gallery

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