BEFORE ITS FIRST VISITOR, KINGDOM EXEC PRIMES POOL: TRAVEL AGENTS, CROSS-PROMOTIONS, VIDEOS DRIVE NEW DISNEY PARK

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Entertainment perfectionist Walt Disney Co. took no chances with Animal Kingdom, its newest and biggest-ever theme park, five times the size of Disney's Magic Kingdom.

A project of this scope requires the right balance of traditional and nontraditional marketing, says Linda Warren, senior VP-marketing for the Animal Kingdom in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

To get visitors to include Animal Kingdom in their plans, Disney used every bullet in its marketing arsenal, she says.

Drawing on 20 years of experience as the head of marketing departments for both Walt Disney World and Epcot Center in Florida, Ms. Warren has overseen marketing efforts for the park beginning five years before it opened -- two years before Disney even broke ground on the project.

CAST OF THOUSANDS

To put the giant scale of the project in perspective: Animal Kingdom features more than 1,000 animals, 4 million plants and a "cast" of more than 2,000 employees. It will include five distinct environments when the fifth and final one, Asia, opens this spring.

Attractions inside the park include real-life safaris in Africa, up-close encounters with animals in Safari Village, games and rides for kids in Camp Minnie-Mickey, a time-travel ride into the past in DinoLand USA and a whitewater raft trip in Asia.

Winding trails and safari trucks lead travelers through landscaping so real that Franklin Sonn, the South African ambassador to the U.S. reportedly said, "This is the bush veldt. This is my home."

"The reason this launch was so successful was because we fully integrated marketing and communications plans. That's definitely where the future of marketing is going -- the whole is greater than the sum of its parts," Ms. Warren says.

BURNETT ADS PREPARED

Before the first potential visitor saw the first Leo Burnett USA-created TV and print advertising in the late fall of 1998, Ms. Warren had already primed the pool with one of the best marketing tools Disney has -- travel agents.

A Disney-produced video mixing rah-rah PR with informative travel facts is sent to any agents that "raise their hand," Ms. Warren says.

Cross-promotions with other Disney parks and McDonald's Corp. restaurants surrounding the movie "A Bug's Life" helped rope in kids.

By the time parents and grandparents -- an increasingly important target audience -- popped the video into their VCRs, or read one of the ads in a magazine, their little tykes were already convinced on their own level of the need to visit the park.

Three of the park's five areas feature characters from popular animated Disney films including "The Jungle Book" and "The Lion King."

MCDONALD'S VIDEO WALL

A key element in Animal Kingdom's marketing plan is a 10-year sponsorship deal with McDonald's, which includes a video wall in two McDonald's restaurants in Disney World in Orlando that show spots for the restaurants and clips from Disney movies.

McDonald's is the fast-food franchise sponsor of DinoLand USA. and has a restaurant in the park called Restaurantasaurus.

"Walt Disney is big on synergy," she says, "It has to work with all the businesses. It has to work for TV, video, consumer publications. McDonald's is a great way to extend the message. On the heels of our own promotion, it gives us a very broad reach."

Marketing will target consumers in 15 major cities this spring when Disney opens the new area of the park, Asia, on its one-year anniversary. Animal Kingdom plans a kind of traveling trade show, sort of like an Animal Kingdom camp.

"It's going to [have] hands-on entertainment and live stage shows," she says.

Disney has toured similar shows in the past, but never on such a large scale, Ms. Warren says. "This is the first time we've ever done anything this big -- it's very, very interactive."

In addition, the Internet has been an important piece in the marketing puzzle for Animal Kingdom, Ms. Warren says, starting with a virtual grand opening.

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING

But is this too much of a good thing?

Ms. Warren says there is no danger in overmarketing Animal Kingdom to the point where it cannibalizes patrons from other Disney parks. Having more parks to choose from is "causing people to stay longer," she says. "People who have been here before want to see what's new, and we find that guests who are brand

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