LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (Friday, May 6, 2005) -- Disney today announced Expedition Everest: Mission Himalayas -- an extraordinary expedition to the mountains of the Himalayas to explore the legendary "realm of the yeti." Conservation International and Discovery Networks will join Disney in the search for new species and ancient legends on this scientific and cultural journey to China and the eastern Himalayas.
"This extraordinary expedition, in collaboration with Conservation International and Discovery Networks, is another example of the lengths to which Walt Disney Imagineering will go to research subject matter in developing our story lines," said Walt Disney Parks and Resorts President Jay Rasulo. "Our passion for bringing great stories to life has taken Walt Disney Parks and Resorts to amazing places over the past 50 years. Over the next 50 years, we will continue to scale new heights in our ongoing quest to create great experiences for our guests."
Scientists from global conservation leader Conservation International and Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park will search for undiscovered species likely to live in these remote regions known as biodiversity hot spots, the Earth's biologically richest and most threatened places. The team of internationally renowned biologists, botanists and technical experts will conduct a scientific inventory of plant and animal species in areas that are little-known but potentially important conservation sites. "Due to the fact that this region has gone largely unexplored, we believe that, in all likelihood, new species of plants and animals not yet known to science will be discovered," according to Dr. Russell Mittermeier, the world's foremost primatologist and President of Conservation International.
Imagineers are joining the unique journey to investigate the powerful legend of the yeti, bringing a new level of authenticity to Expedition Everest, the massive attraction under development at Disney's Animal Kingdom. "Imagineers are renowned for our passionate approach to creating the legendary experiences guests have come to expect from Disney," said Imagineering Creative Executive Joe Rohde. "We are going to incredible lengths to tell this story to our guests. The creators of Disney parks will research cultural and spiritual legends through local people who have reported sightings of the yeti, and governments who preserve pristine lands in the name of the creature known as "protector of the mountains."
Discovery Networks, renowned for compelling, real-world storytelling, will track the expedition to share the unique adventure story with audiences throughout the globe. "The unusual exploration for new species and ancient legends is the kind of story that both Disney and Discovery can create and tell so well," said Clark Bunting, executive vice president, Discovery U.S. Networks Group. "We look forward to collaborating with Conservation International and Walt Disney Imagineering to inspire, educate and entertain millions around the world about all things Everest."
The expedition furthers the commitment to wildlife conservation that is a hallmark of Disney's Animal Kingdom and its longtime relationship with Conservation International. Established in 1995 with the opening of Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney's Wildlife Conservation Fund sponsors global programs for the study and protection of the world's wildlife and ecosystems, including a number of significant projects led by Conservation International. The Fund has awarded more than $8 million to non-profit conservation projects in global areas rich in plant and animal life at risk of imminent destruction.
Expedition Everest: Mission Himalayas is planned for August through October 2005 in regions of China and the eastern Himalayas that harbor a wealth of biological, cultural and spiritual treasures. Findings and results of the expedition -- including any new species discoveries -- will be shared with the scientific and conservation community as well as be incorporated into Expedition Everest.
Expedition Everest, the attraction, is a high-speed adventure that combines coaster-like thrills with the folklore of the yeti. Guests will depart from a Tibetan village on a train journey into the snowy heights of the vast Himalayan peak. Yet a run-in with the yeti -- the guardian of the mountain -- will send travelers on a forward and backward hair-raising escape. At nearly 200 feet high, Expedition Everest will open in 2006 in the Asia section of Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
As construction on the mountain-themed roller coaster continues behind him, Joe Rohde (second from left), executive designer for Walt Disney Imagineering and lead designer of Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., talks about the newest thrill ride roller coaster to be added to the park -- Expedition Everest. Joining Rohde on the tour are (L-R): Jay Rasulo, president of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts; Dr. Leeanne Alonso, vice president for Conservation International, and Clark Bunting, executive vice president of Discovery U.S Networks Group.