Cast Members get a surprise visit from the man who dreamed up the roles they play at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Credit: Disney

“A Wilderness Explorer is a friend to all, be it plants or fish or tiny mole.”

For many Cast Members show up to work each day at the Most Magical Place on Earth, the roles they play at Disney World might as well be the lead role in a blockbuster film. Many of them have dreamed of being a Disney Cast Member since the first time they visited the parks as children.

It’s got to be a very unique experience–and a magical one too–as Cast Members are the very backbone of every operation within the parks. They help to create, build and deliver the Magic to Guests every day of the year.

Credit: Disney

So it seems only fitting that Cast Members would get a taste of that magic too, and for a group of Cast Members at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, that’s exactly what happened when they got a surprise visit from PIXAR’s Chief Creative Officer, Pete Docter, during his recent trip to the parks to celebrate the 5oth anniversary of the opening of Walt Disney World.

Pete Doctor and Wilderness Explorer cast members at Disney's Animal Kingdom

PIXAR’s Pete Docter with the team of Wilderness Explorer Cast Members at Animal Kingdom/Credit: Disney

The Wilderness Explorers troop in PIXAR’s Up is based on an actual group that was founded in 1912. Wilderness Explorers were brought to Disney’s Animal Kingdom in an effort to spread awareness about Disney’s conservation efforts.

RELATED: This is the way to hear the music from PIXAR’s “Up”: New vinyl artwork just released!

“Walt Disney Imagineers and Cast Members in the Animals, Science and Environment program at Disney’s Animal Kingdom saw an opportunity to educate Guests on the park’s conservation mission by immersing them into Russell’s, one of the film characters, Wilderness Explorers program, which has quickly become a Guest favorite attraction. Through this interactive program, Guests can earn badges and become a senior Wilderness Explorer, as Russell would.” – Disney Parks Blog, November 11, 2021

During Pete Docter’s visit with the Wilderness Explorer Cast Members at Animal Kingdom, he posed for photos with a few Cast Members. They seem to have really enjoyed their time together!


Credit: Disney

Docter directed Up, which chronicles the story of an elderly gentleman, Carl Fredricksen, and his journey to realize a dream he shared with his late wife, Ellie. Along the way, he meets some interesting characters, like a Wilderness Explorer named Russell, a “talking” dog named Dug and a really strange bird named “Kevin.” Because Docter directed the film, he has been given the honorary title at Disney’s Animal Kingdom of Chief of the Wilderness Explorers.

RELATED: New PIXAR shorts series on Disney+ stars Dug the Dog from “Up,” and it is . . . SQUIRREL!

Have you and your little ones earned your badges at Disney’s Animal Kingdom when you’ve visited? Let us know about your experiences in the comments!

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!