The 25 Biggest Milestone Moments of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park

Happy Earth Day, and Happy 25th Anniversary to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park! On Earth Day, 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 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 also Disney’s largest, spreading over 500 acres and adding a new draw to Central Florida as a top tourist destination in the world.

Roy E. Disney, at the park’s official dedication ceremony, shared his vision for the Park:

“Disney’s Animal Kingdom, like the world itself, will evolve and grow. It’s truly a living thing.” 

Roy E. Disney, April 21, 1998

These words spoken by Roy E. Disney could not be more true. In fact, we continue to see Animal Kingdom Park respond to the world around us. The park continues to grow and evolve to suit the needs of guests while keeping its core values of conservation front and center.

The growth of Animal Kingdom Park has truly been a joy to guests and Cast Members alike. When we think about Disney’s Animal Park moving into the future with blue sky ideas abundant, it’s important to look back and reflect. The past 25 years have been filled with accomplishments which should be celebrated on this special occasion!

Here is a look back at 25 milestone moments in the park’s 25-year history. How many of these moments do you remember? Take a look:

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

  • On Earth Day, 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.

April 22, 2007

  • Inaugural “Party for the Planet,” the park’s annual Earth Day celebration, takes place.

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 “Party for the Planet” event on Earth Day.

November 18, 2019

  • New holiday offerings, including the whimsical Merry Menagerie artisan-made puppets on Discovery Island, debut.

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 on Earth Day.

Looking into the future, it remains to be seen what changes arrive to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park. One thing is for certain, the Park will continue to remain focused on its core values of conservation, while providing a memorable guest experience for those visiting Walt Disney World.

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