In 1998, McDonald's Happy Meals featured the newest Walt Disney World theme park in Florida, Disney's Animal Kingdom. The "New Species of Theme Park" was imagined as a celebration of all animals living, extinct and imaginary. Disney's Animal Kingdom is the largest Disney park in the world. The park's biggest attraction is the Kilimanjaro Safaris, which covers about 100 acres (the size of The Magic Kingdom Park).
When the park opened, the DinoLand U.S.A. section was sponsored by McDonald's. One of the eateries, Restaurantosaurus, featured a McDonald's menu.
There were even special Happy Meal toys sold (kind of) exclusively at Restaurantosaurus in Walt Disney World.
The Happy Meal toys sold at Restaurantosaurus were dinosaur water pistols.
These are actually "generic" dinosaur toy water guns.
However, the Disney ones do have the Disney's Animal Kingdom logo on them, so they are collector's items.
The Restaurantosaurus Happy Meal toys were available in different colors.
The T-Rex, Stegosaurus, Pterodactyl, and Triceratops water guns were not exclusive to Disney. They were also featured in International McDonald's Happy Meal promotions.
The big attraction in DinoLand was an attraction called "Countdown to Extinction." This featured dinosaurs from the 2000 Disney film "Dinosaur," and when the movie debuted, the name of the ride changed to "Dinosaur" (none of the characters ever spoke).
Disney's Animal Kindom Happy Meal featured 12 animal toys. There was a Triceratops, Toucan, Gorilla (with her baby), Elephant, Lemur, Dragon, Iguanodon, Zebra, Lion, Cheetah, Crocodile and Rhino. They all had different functions. The Elephant, for example, was a squirt gun, and the Zebra was a wind-up toy.
Wait a minute! There was one animal you could only get at McDonald's restaurants found inside Walmart stores. I only knew to look for the Tortoise because I had read about it online (this was way back in 1998, when the Internet was fairly new to me). So I made sure to visit a Walmart McDonalds to get one!
Disney's Animal Kingdom is famous for its ferocious fire-breathing dragon!
Well, it is famous because it does not exist at the park, yet it is featured in the Animal Kingdom logo. The park's Discovery River had a boat ride that floated past the park's "lands." Beastly Kingdomme was to be the home of mythical animals like dragons and unicorns. The land was supposed to feature a dragon-themed roller coaster, a unicorn-themed labyrinth, and a Fantasia-themed boat ride.
McDonald's promoted the Dragon on collectible Disney's Animal Kingdom plastic cups.
As part of a hint of the future, Disney Imagineers positioned a cave along the river, with fire shooting out at guests in the boats.
The dragon itself was never actually seen. The boat ride closed many years ago.
Here's a closer view of the Animal Kingdom Dragon toy.
It's 2010 and the park still doesn't have a dragon. Instead of the dragon roller coaster, the park got "Expedition Everest," a wonderful coaster featuring the Yeti, in 2006. This great attraction can be found in the Asia section of Disney's Animal Kingdom (Asia opened in 1999).
The dragon is still featured on Animal Kingdom's logo and front gate, and Disney character-based Animal Kingdom merchandise sold in the park features dragons Elliott and Madam Mim.
*UPDATE on March 27, 2013:
It's time to take a closer look at all the animals in the set. Each toy has a special feature. Up first is the Triceratops, representing Extinct Animals in the logo for Disney's Animal Kingdom. This figure makes a "stomping" noise when you move him around.
Dinoland has a ride called the TriceraTop Spin (it's a dinosaur version of Dumbo).
Follow your nose to Animal Kingdom's Froot Loops cereal-loving Toucan.
This colorful bird has a chip that makes him chirp.
Gorillas were once portrayed as scary monsters (like King Kong). Animal Kingdom's Gorilla and her Baby are friendly.
Squeeze the Gorilla's legs and she'll take her child for a spin.
The Elephant represents Real (Living) Animals in the logo for Disney's Animal Kingdom.
The Elephant is a water squirt toy. He won't let you forget that this is my favorite toy in this set.
Did you ever see the movie "Fierce Creatures" (1997) starring John Cleese and Jamie Lee Curtis? It had a cute Ring Tail Lemur like this guy. "Fierce Creatures" took place in a zoo, but the slogan for Disney's Animal Kingdom was "Nahtazu" for years.
This Lemur is a Clip-On and would like to hang out with you wherever you go.
The Dragon represents Fantasy Animals in the logo for Disney's Animal Kingdom, and is easily the most popular and elusive and legendary animal that cannot be found at the park.
The Dragon's wings flap when you press a button on his chest.
The Iguanodon starred in Dinoland's "Countdown to Extinction" attraction, which was later renamed "Dinosaur" after the 2000 Disney film debuted. An animatronic Iguanodon could also be seen on the Discovery River Boats.
The Iguanodon's mouth opens and closes when you move his tail.
The Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction at Disney's Animal Kingdom got a new finale with Zebras in 2012.
The Zebra gallops when you wind him up.
In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight. And chances are good that the Lion will be sleeping in the day at Kilimanjaro Safaris.
The Lion's mouth opens and closes when you move his paw.
If you taped your Grandma to a Cheetah's back, she'd get to experience one of the fastest rides at Walt Disney World.
Naturally, this Cheetah toy is a pull-back racer.
Oh, snap! Florida's gators better watch out for the Crocodile!
The Crocodile's mouth opens when you push on the back of his head.
One of the funniest stories I've heard about Disney's Animal Kingdom involves the Rhino at Kilimanjaro Safaris. Apparently, when a four year old girl spotted the Rhino, she said "Look Mommy, it's a dinosaur!" You can't make stuff like that up.
The Rhino is a pull back racer toy.
The shy Tortoise can be found near the Tree of Life at Disney's Animal Kingdom.
The Tortoise toy (he pops his head out of his shell a little) could only be found at McDonald's restaurants inside Walmart stores.
The McDonald's Animal Kingdom toys are fairly easy to find on eBay these days.
In Japan and other countries, a very different Disney's Animal Kingdom McDonald's Happy Meal was sold.
Each set featured a Disney character, an accessory, and a cardboard backdrop.
As with the American promotion, this set features Living, Extinct and Imaginary animals.
Minnie Mouse has a Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail friend. Mickey Mouse drives a Kilimanjaro Safaris vehicle.
Goofy digs in the Boneyard with an Iguanodon at Dinoland U.S.A. (it would have been cuter to have Pluto here, I think).
Donald Duck encounters a fire-breathing cardboard dragon while piloting a Discovery River Boat.
The cardboard backdrops are pretty interesting. The Dragon looks a bit like a crazed version of Figment from EPCOT.
This quirky Disney's Animal Kingdom McDonald's Happy Meal is simple, but fun.
UPDATE 9/24/11: The future inhabitants of Disney's Animal Kingdom are out of this world! Check out Disney's Animal Kingdom Thinks Outside Pandora's Box: James Cameron's AVATAR Land.
For more Animal Kingdom McDonald's Happy Meal fun, check out Disney's Animal Kingdom Pandora AVATAR McDonald's Happy Meal.
Pandora features a jungle full of colorful fantasy creatures.
At night, you can find some seriously dangerous party animals in the electric, illuminated jungles of Pandora.
Pandora, the World of Avatar at Disney's Animal Kingdom will be sponsored by Pandora Internet Radio (my suggestion).