PHOTOS: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park Celebrates 25th Anniversary

On April 22, 1998, Walt Disney World Resort invited guests to discover a one-of-a-kind theme park where they could be inspired by the magic of the natural world. The opening of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park introduced a whole new way to appreciate, enjoy and interact with animals while also delivering incredible new stories that celebrated our relationship with the environment.

The fourth Walt Disney World theme park was (and still is) also Disney’s largest, spreading over 500 acres and adding a new draw to Central Florida as a top tourist destination in the world.

An Entirely New Kind of Theme Park

Disney’s Animal Kingdom combined Walt Disney’s love of animals, both real and imaginary, with exciting attractions, spectacular stage shows, and entertaining characters.

True, there were – and are – breathtaking animal encounters, from an African safari adventure to a meandering, mystical trail that leads guests on an exciting search for tigers, to live shows highlighting animal behaviors and beauty – and so much more. But this park was also a way for Disney to inspire people with the spectacular breadth and beauty of nature and animals through the power of entertainment and attractions, including a hysterical 3D journey into the world of insects (It’s Tough to Be a Bug!), a larger-than-life musical celebrating the circle of life (Festival of the Lion King), and encounters with beloved characters.

Everything in Disney’s Animal Kingdom takes inspiration from nature and the animal world. For example, the park icon – the towering Tree of Life – features 337 sculpted animals in its trunk. Similarly, building architecture, light poles, benches and countless other elements feature animal designs that range from subtle to dramatic. Nowhere else are animals so richly and creatively celebrated.

Over the last 25 years, the park has continually evolved with new attractions, entertainment and even entirely new lands such as Asia and Pandora – The World of Avatar, giving guests new reasons to visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom and all of Central Florida again and again.

Expansions introduced new wild adventures that send guests swirling on a whirling white-water raft ride (Kali River Rapids), rocketing on a runaway-train adventure (Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain), diving into another stellar musical stage show (Finding Nemo: The Big Blue…and Beyond!), taking flight on a banshee (Avatar Flight of Passage) and exploring a bioluminescent rainforest (Na’vi River Journey).

More than 5,000 cast members at Disney’s Animal Kingdom continue the park’s mission today, from scientists and animal care experts, to critical frontline cast members who work in operations, entertainment, merchandise, food and beverage and guest services. They are among the 75,000 cast members who are the heart of Walt Disney World.

Celebrating the Park’s 25th Anniversary

In celebration of the park’s milestone anniversary, guests will have the opportunity to enjoy new limited-time sweet and savory treats, specialty merchandise and a character sighting over the next few weeks. Visitors can dig into tempting treats such as the Colossal Elephant Roll, a jumbo cinnamon bun with banana caramel, milk chocolate crispy pearls, and the 25th Anniversary Alive with Magic Cupcake Vanilla cake featuring chocolate toffee mousse, chocolate buttercream, white chocolate crispy pearls, and an Alive with Magic 25th anniversary chocolate logo.

Taking the magic of the celebration home is easy with commemorative items like the 25th anniversary mini Loungefly backpack, special pins, shirts, a tumbler and more. And, just in time for the festivities, Moana began greeting guests at Discovery Island Character Landing for the first time on April 22.

Helping the Animals It Celebrates

Over the past 25 years, Disney has made significant contributions to the preservation and wellbeing of animals and the environments around us – not only at the theme park, but also around the community, state and globe. Most recently, Disney announced a $500,000 donation to five conservation organizations in Florida to help make a happier, healthier planet possible for all: Conservation Florida, Florida Wildlife Corridor Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Trout Lake Nature Center and Wekiva Wilderness Trust.

With each organization receiving $100,000, these grants made a number of projects possible – from expanding land protection initiatives, to ensuring healthy tree canopy coverage in underserved communities, finding solutions to clean drinking water for those in need and funding educational opportunities for youth in our community.

“At Disney, we believe building a brighter, more sustainable future starts with imagining what’s possible. Through our conservation and sustainability programs, we take tangible actions to inspire change around the globe,” says Dr. Mark Penning, vice president, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks. “I’m proud of our animal care cast members who are the most passionate conservationists I know and who put their hearts into taking care of the animals at Walt Disney World every day.”

As an accredited institution of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), Disney’s Animal Kingdom has also collaborated with other AZA members to help increase populations of endangered and extinct in the wild species, such as the Guam rail and Guam kingfisher birds. Following AZA Species Survival Plans, the park has welcomed a variety of animals from endangered species into the world, including Sumatran tigers, western lowland gorillas, African elephants, cotton-top tamarins and okapi to name just a few. In fact, Disney’s Animal Nutrition Center has served as a model kitchen for a number of other AZA-accredited facilities who have adopted many of the nutritional diets developed specifically for the animals here at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Today, 45 animals that have been at Disney’s Animal Kingdom since opening day or before still reside at the park.

Here is a look back at 25 milestone moments in the park’s 25-year history:

April 22, 1995
The Disney Conservation Fund was established to start supporting the protection of wildlife and wild places around the world.

June 20, 1995
Plans for Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park are announced. The new park will feature a combination of thrilling rides, exotic landscapes and close encounters with wild animals and promises an entirely new kind of guest experience.

August 4, 1995
Groundbreaking takes place for Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

April 26, 1997
Two two-year-old reticulated giraffes, Miles and Zari, are the first animals to arrive at the park.

October 5, 1997
A baby kudu is the first animal born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

April 21, 1998
Roy E. Disney joins Disney Chairman and CEO Michael Eisner at the park’s dedication ceremony, which features a musical salute to animals.

April 22, 1998
Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened its doors with a colorful ceremony celebrating animals real, ancient and imagined.

September 1998
The park receives accreditation from Association of Zoos and Aquariums (formerly American Zoo and Aquarium Association).

March 1, 1999
Grand Opening of Asia, which includes Kali River Rapids and Maharajah Jungle Trek, takes place.

May 17, 2000
Dino-Sue, an exact replica of the largest and most complete and Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil found up to that time, goes on display in DinoLand U.S.A.

October 2000
Conservation Station becomes Rafiki’s Planet Watch and continues to share with guests an in-depth look at animal habitats around the globe and the expert veterinary care animals receive at the park.

April 7, 2006
Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain opens, thrilling guests with a high-speed journey through the Himalayan Mountains while avoiding the clutches of the mythic Yeti.

June 1, 2013
Wilderness Explorers program debuts, letting guests follow in the footsteps of Russell from the Disney Pixar film “Up” to earn adventure badges around the park.

May 27, 2016
Tiffins Restaurant and Nomad Lounge open, offering immersive dining experiences inspired by the world travels of the park’s creators.

May 27, 2017
Pandora – The World of Avatar opens as the largest addition in the history of the park. This award-winning land, which features Pandora’s trademark floating mountains and glowing bioluminescence, lets guests step into the world of James Cameron’s “Avatar.”

April 22, 2018
The park’s 20th Anniversary is marked with the “Party for the Planet” event.

July 11, 2020
Character flotillas arrive along Discovery River, giving guests an opportunity to view and interact with beloved characters.

September 25, 2020
“Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom” debuts on Disney+. The eight-part docuseries gives viewers an all-access backstage pass to meet the animal care experts who have formed bonds with the park’s thousands of animals.

October 26, 2020
Ranger is born, the first of three white rhino calves born at the park in a 13-month period.

September 15, 2021
Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment begins participation in American Institute of Rhinoceros Science multi-year research project designed to ensure that rhinos thrive in managed care.

June 10, 2022
The updated musical stage production “Finding Nemo: The Big Blue… and Beyond!” debuts.

January 1, 2023
Season 2 of “Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom” debuts on National Geographic, followed by all episodes streaming on Disney+ Jan. 4.

April 22, 2023
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Celebrates 25 Years of Magic and Moana starts meeting Guests on Discovery Island.

Looking to plan and book an Orlando-area vacation? Contact Destinations with Character Travel Services, LLC., specialists in all things Orlando, including Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, and SeaWorld! Destinations with Characters is a Disney EarMarked agency and the official travel agency of Orlando Theme Park News!

PHOTOS: © Walt Disney World Resort. All Rights Reserved.

No comments

Powered by Blogger.