Skip to main content

Disney’s Animal Kingdom celebrates 20th anniversary

Disney Animal Kingdom 20th anniversary

Disney celebrated the 20th anniversary of Animal Kingdom park at Walt Disney World Resort yesterday.

Gathered at the Harambe Theatre in Animal Kingdom, drummers, dancers, stilt performers and Disney characters joined Disney executives in a ceremony observing the anniversary.

Joe Rohde, creative portfolio executive for Walt Disney Imagineering, led the creation of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

“We created this park out of a set of ideals that we believed were relevant and meaningful,” he said. “As the years have passed, those ideals have only become more relevant and more meaningful. Our lives are bound to the lives of all creatures.”

Animal Kingdom had its grand opening on 22 April 1998. The 230-hectare park is themed around the natural environment and conservation with more than 2,000 animals living there. It received 10.8 million human visitors in 2016.

Djuan Rivers, vice-president of Animal Kingdom, noted how it has grown over the last two decades.

“Since 1998, we have been extremely conscious that what we have here is a new species of theme park,” he said. “And while it has undergone an amazing transformation in the past few years, it will always be dedicated to helping our guests create a personal connection with the natural world.”

In May last year, Pandora – The World of Avatar debuted at the park. The new themed Avatar area is set a generation after the human-Na’vi conflict in the Oscar-winning 3D film from James Cameron.

The lush 5-hectare Pandoran landscape recreates a land 4.4 light years away from Earth. It features two main attractions, Avatar Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey.

Just this month, Disney introduced the Pandora Utility Suit, a mech suit from the Avatar film universe, to the area. A performer pilots the suit around the park, portraying a scientist explaining conservation and the flora and fauna of Pandora to guests.

Animal Kingdom timeline

June 1995                        

Plans for “Wild Animal Kingdom” announced.

August 1995

Groundbreaking for Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

April 1998                      

Grand opening for Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

January 1999

Accreditation from Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

March 1999

Grand opening of Asia, which includes Kali River Rapids and Maharajah Jungle Trek.

June 2001

Colobus Monkey Habitat opens on Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail.

November 2001                     

First phase of Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama opens with TriceraTop Spin attraction and midway games.

April 2002

Primeval Whirl opens at Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama.

May 2005                               

Lucky the Dinosaur, the first audio-animatronics figure capable of walking and moving independently, makes special appearances.

April 2006

Expedition Everest opens.

January 2007

Grand opening for Finding Nemo – the Musical.

January 2011

Wild Africa Trek opens.

June 2014

Festival of the Lion King debuts in its new home, the Harambe Theatre.

May 2015

Harambe Market opens.

May 2017

Pandora – the World of Avatar opens.

April 2018

Animal Kingdom celebrates 20th anniversary.

Share this

Sam McCaffrey

Journalist. Likes immersive entertainment experiences, museums, zoos and the odd go on a Waltzer.

More from this author

More from this author

Related content

Your web browser is out of date. Update your browser for more security, speed and the best experience on this site.

Find out how to update