On Earth Day, April 22, Disney’s Animal Kingdom will celebrated its 25th anniversary at Walt Disney World. Disney’s Animal Kingdom embodies the concept of “Imagination Gone Wild.” Walt Disney World’s fourth park opened almost a quarter of a century ago, so it only seems fit to share some of the most interesting milestones from this one-of-a-kind theme park. Here are ten of our favorite moments in Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s history so far!
Disney’s Wild Animal Kingdom Announcement - June 20, 1995
The Walt Disney Company announces its plans for a fourth theme park in Orlando, Florida. Originally planned to be named “Disney’s Wild Animal Kingdom,” Disney CEO Michael Eisner shares that this will be the largest Disney theme park yet.
Initial plans for the park revealed that Disney’s Wild Animal Kingdom would be split into three major sections: the real, the mythological, and the extinct. “Disney’s Wild Animal Kingdom will be magical, fanciful and fun in the tradition of all of our theme parks, yet will incorporate a new dimension of reality with live animals in their natural habitats.” - Disney CEO Michael Eisner
DAK Groundbreaking - August 4, 1995
Although originally projected to begin construct on Disney’s Wild Animal Kingdom in September 1995, Disney breaks ground on the new theme park in early August. Four million cubic yards of dirt and almost 40,000 plants were added to Disney’s Animal Kingdom during construction. Although projected to cost between $600-800 million to construct, the park would end up costing Disney nearly $1 billion.
Opening Day at Animal Kingdom - April 22, 1998
Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened at Walt Disney World Resort on Earth Day in 1998. Primalogist Jane Goodall and Disney CEO Michael Eisner were in attendance at the Grand Opening Celebration on April 22, 1998. Disney’s Animal Kingdom spans 580 acres making it not only the largest park on Walt Disney World property, but among Disney Parks around the globe. The park opened with over twenty attractions and a land sponsored by McDonald’s, Dinoland U.S.A.
Asia Opens - March 1, 1999
Less than one year after its grand opening, Disney’s Animal Kingdom expanded by a new land, Asia. Here guests could experience Kali River Rapids and Maharajah Jungle Trek. Kali River Rapids was Disney’s first rapid river type attraction and Maharajah Jungle Trek gave guests a tour through Anandapur Royal Forest, which was filled with exotic animals not previously found at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
WDW’s First Fastpass - July 21, 1999
Did you know the very first FastPass was distributed on an attraction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom? On July 21, 1999, the first FastPass was given to a guest for Kilimanjaro Safaris. The popularity of this new service would eventually expand to Disneyland Park by November 1999.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Opens - April 16, 2001
The first Disney’s Animal Kingdom area resort opens. This Disney Vacation Club Resort offers guests a front-row view of wild side of Disney’s Animal Kingdom as it is themed around a lodge on an African wildlife refuge. Guests even receive night vision goggles in their rooms to view the nocturnal activities of the roaming wildlife.
Lucky the Dinosaur - May 6, 2005
As a part of Disneyland’s 50th Anniversary celebration, The Happiest Celebration on Earth, each of Walt Disney World’s four parks had special additions. Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s feature was Lucky the Dinosaur, the first audio-animatronic figure capable of walking and moving independently. For the celebration he would roam Dinoland U.S.A. interacting with guests.
Expedition Everest Opening - April 7, 2006
On Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s 5th anniversary, plans for a new rollercoaster were announced. Almost four years later, Expedition Everest - Legend of the Forbidden Mountain opened in the Asia area of the park. This coaster is the tallest attraction at Walt Disney World resort, standing at 199.5 feet tall.
Avatarland Construction Begins - January 10, 2014
Leaders from Walt Disney Parks & Resorts and Lightstorm Entertainment gathered at Disney’s Animal Kingdom for the ceremonial groundbreaking for a new AVATAR-inspired land. The group was photographed with large blue shovels and even Jake Sully from the film. This construction project likely costed Disney $500 million.
Pandora - World of Avatar Opening - May 27, 2017
A new AVATAR-inspired land opens at Disney’s Animal Kingdom where Camp Minnie-Mickey once stood. This area features two attractions, Navi River Journey and Flight of Passage, and a quick service restaurant, Satuli Canteen. Known for its floating mountains and bioluminescent plants, this new land brings a new type of animal to the park.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom celebrates twenty five years on April 22, 2023. If you’re visiting the Most Magical Place on Earth this year, be sure to stop by and celebrate this park’s newest milestone. With so many big ones over the years, we can’t wait to see what’s in store for the next twenty five years for this park!