Thursday, July 26, 2012

Zoologist tribute in Naked Mole Rat room at Pangani Forest Trail (DAK)

DAK is full of ephemera, scribbled notes, artifacts both real and imagined, and tributes. Most of the backstories on display are fake (the paleontologist and students in Dinoland are invented, for instance), but occasionally real stories and/or real people are blended in. It's what gives DAK its unique flavor of being both artifice and authenticity. Sometimes it's the real thing with fakeness wrapped around it (such as the safari or the animal walks that have been outfitted with fake theming), and sometimes it's a fake encounter with realness wrapped around it (such as Expedition Everest, where metric tons of authentic props weigh down the queue, but the core yeti experience is fake).

On a whim, I photographed a "letter" pasted on the wall in the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail ranger station (where you can find bullfrogs, dung beetles, and naked mole rats) because it mentioned a first and last name of a person. Sometimes a quick google search turns up an Imagineer by that name, and that usually means I've located yet another Hidden History tribute (the core of my book on WDW Hidden History).

Here's the letter:

I quickly found out that there is a Laurence Frank (different spelling) associated with both Berkeley and African predators, so I emailed him out of the blue to see if he had consulted with Disney.

He wrote back:

I believe I sent them some hyena ID photos from my field work to put up in their 'Research Camp'.  I have never been there, and your photo is the first I have seen.
Laurence Frank

Since the letter references hyenas, that made this the perfect tribute to Dr. Frank! I'll have to go back soon to see if there are hyena pictures on these same walls.

Pretty neat!

Kevin Yee is the author of numerous independent Disney books, including the popular Walt Disney World Earbook series and Walt Disney World Hidden History.