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Disney’s Animal Kingdom celebrates 25 Years showcasing the Magic of Nature - A look back at 25 Years

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.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom celebrates 25 Years

Today as Disney's Animal Kingdom celebrates it's 25th Anniversary we take a look back at the first remarkable 25 years of this one of a kind theme park.

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.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom celebrates 25 Years

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.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom celebrates 25 Years

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

– Roy E. Disney at the park’s official dedication ceremony on April 21, 1998

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.

Helping the Animals It Celebrates

Over the past 25 years, Disney has made significant contributions to the preservation and wellbeing of animals not only at the theme park, but also around the community, state and globe.

“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.

The Disney Conservation Fund

Disney’s Animal Kingdom and the Disney Conservation Fund are deeply rooted in Walt Disney’s passion and the respect he displayed for animals and nature throughout his life. Together, they are engaged in research and conservation efforts involving at-risk animal populations and species.

Through the generous support of Disney’s Animal Kingdom guests, the Disney Conservation Fund has worked with leading conservation organizations around the world to stabilize and increase populations of at-risk animals, including butterflies, corals, monkeys and sea turtles. Since its creation in 1995, the Disney Conservation Fund has directed $125 million and the expertise of dedicated Disney teams to support organizations working with communities to save wildlife, inspire action and protect the planet.

For more information on how Disney cares for animals and helps protect species in the wild, visit

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