25 Facts for 25 Years of Disney’s Animal Kingdom

To celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney has released 25 fun facts about the theme park. Here’s the announcement:

On April 22, 1998, the largest Disney theme park in the world opened its gates and welcomed Walt Disney World Guests to the magic of nature. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park had arrived! Since then, the park has continued to embrace the fascination Guests of every age have with our natural world, all while delivering thrilling experiences and magical storytelling moments centered around our environment. Follow us on a trip through time as we look back at 25 facts from 25 years of Disney’s Animal Kingdom!

1 – What’s in a Name?
The park was first announced on June 20, 1995—though at that point in time, it was referred to as “Wild Animal Kingdom.” Groundbreaking for the new project followed just a few months later.

2 – Trekking the Globe
In preparation for creating the park, a core group of Walt Disney Imagineers crisscrossed the globe in search of the essential look of life in the wild. The team traveled more than 500,000 miles—a distance equal to circling the planet 20 times!

3 – Planting International Roots
More than 400 million trees, plants, shrubs, vines, epiphytes, grasses, and ground coverings from around the world—representing every continent on Earth except Antarctica—were planted to bring the park vision to life.

4 – Celebrating All Creatures
Ten artists and three Imagineers worked full-time for 18 months to create the 337 animal carvings on the Tree of Life. Sculptors often had as little as six hours to create each finished animal image before the plaster hardened!

5 – First New Family Member
Arriving several months before the park had even opened, a baby kudu—a.k.a. a large African antelope—was the first animal to be born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

6 – Opening-Day Attractions
Though much has changed in 25 years, lots of attractions from opening day can still be found in the park—Festival of the Lion King, Kilimanjaro Safaris, DINOSAUR, It’s Tough to be a Bug! and Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail.

7 – Introducing A Bug’s Life
Believe it or not, when It’s Tough to be a Bug! debuted on Earth Day in 1998, it opened nearly six months before A Bug’s Life landed in theaters and helped introduce audiences to the newest cast of Disney-Pixar characters.

8 – The Ever-Expanding Park
On March 1, 1999, Asia made its debut as the first-ever Disney’s Animal Kingdom land expansion! It originally opened with a duo of marquee attractions—Kali River Rapids and Maharajah Jungle Trek.

9 – A Prehistoric Reproduction
Inspired by a legendary dinosaur discovery, Dino-Sue joined the park in early 2000, and introduced many Guests to an incredible replica of the largest and most complete T-Rex fossil ever found!

10 – Creating a Disney Mountain
Plans were first announced for Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain on April 22, 2003. Imagineers went to great lengths to create an attraction rich in storytelling, authenticity, and detail, even traveling to Nepal to research its architecture and culture.

11 – DinoLand U.S.A. Gets “Lucky”
In May of 2005, Lucky the Dinosaur—the first Audio-Animatronics figure capable of walking and moving independently—launched at the park, making special appearances throughout the summer.

12 – The “Legend” Joins the Park
On April 8, 2006, Expedition Everest made its legendary debut, taking Guests on a race through the Himalayan mountains on a speeding train. It’s one of more than 15 mountain attractions at Disney Parks worldwide!

13 – Fun with Finding Nemo
Only a few years after Nemo and pals first hit the big screen, Finding Nemo – The Musical opened at the Theater in the Wild. A spectacular show filled with puppets and singers, it’s since been re-imagined as Finding Nemo: The Big Blue… And Beyond!

14 – Walking on the Wild Side
Offering a more intimate animal experience, Wild Africa Trek began providing privately guided VIP expeditions in 2011—featuring a chance at close encounters with African species like giraffes, rhinos, hippos and crocodiles.

15 – The Wilderness Must Be Explored!
The Wilderness Explorers—inspired by the Disney-Pixar film Up—debuted in 2013. To this day, the popular program empowers Guests to complete dozens of nature-themed challenges and earn more than 25 adventure badges across the park!

16 – Harambe Market Flavors
Located near the entrance to the Wildlife Express Train, Harambe Market has been serving African-inspired flavors—often paired with lively personalities and performers—since the open-air market was introduced in 2015.

17 – Awakening the Nighttime
More than 15 years after opening, the park underwent a magical transformation and began featuring evening experiences for the first time—including the popular Tree of Life Awakenings, vibrant street parties and a nighttime version of Kilimanjaro Safaris!

18 – Discovery River Amphitheater
Since welcoming The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic to its “stage” in May 2016, this popular outdoor space has played host to several day-and-night features—from Rivers of Light to Disney KiteTails! What will it showcase next?

19 – Welcome to Pandora – The World of Avatar!
Perhaps no expansion to the park evolved its look and feel more than Pandora – The World of Avatar. Set in the Valley of Mo’ara, the land features 22 iconic floating mountains with a peak about 130 feet above the valley floor.

20 – Bringing the Valley to Life
It took some serious craft to turn the floating mountains of Pandora into reality! All told, more than 60 artisans from Peru, France, Portugal, Japan, Ireland, and the U.S. contributed to the art-scape of this interplanetary park landmark.

21 – A Prehistoric Disney Party
In 2018, Donald Duck learned his ancestors were dinosaurs, and in turn, he kicked off a party like no other that’s still going years later—complete with dino-inspired costumes for pals like Daisy, Goofy, Pluto and Chip ‘n’ Dale!

22 – The Kingdom Goes Streaming
Not long after the launch of Disney+, a new docuseries provided an all-access pass to the park and its majestic animals. Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom has since gone on to release a second season and continues to explore the magic of nature!

23 – Animal Care at Its Core
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park is currently home to one of the leading veterinary hospitals in North America—with an emphasis on advanced imaging, digital radiology, ultrasound, and endoscopy.

24 – The Conservation Continues…
Since 1995, the Disney Conservation Fund has directed more than $120 million to support nonprofit organizations working with communities to reverse the decline of wildlife in more than half the countries in the world.

As always, keep checking back with us here at BlogMickey.com as we continue to bring you the latest news, photos, and info from around the Disney Parks!

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