I remember the weeks and days leading up to the opening day of Disney’s fourth gate, Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I was working at Disney’s Multimedia Group at the time and we were developing the first-ever event site for Disney.com to celebrate the opening of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
I remember getting a personal tour of the park as it was being built, in the weeks prior to the Castmember Previews. It was amazing to watch the Tree of Life being scuplted by these amazing artisans. Driving by the soon to be Africa, you could see workers on tops of the thatched buildings, barefoot, as they finished off the roofing.
To get a glimpse at how Disney’s Imagineers develop and implement their amazing designs was a thrill that few have the opportunity to see.
I remember having to get up at about 3:00am that morning to get to the hotel and pick up one of our team members from California and head over to our offices. We did not have the luxury of being on property that day, since we were launching mutliple items on the website throughout the day. The site was going to be online for only 24 hours and mirror events at the park that occurred throughout the opening day.
In 1998 delivering live and near-live video was not as easy as today and we had to insure the video segments were compelling and met with Disney’s strict legal guidelines before releasing them online. The day was a flurry of activity for every castmember associated with its opening and quite a memorable experience.
The Disney’s Animal Kingdom Virtual Grand Opening website went on to be a huge success for Disney.com. The traffic for that day was 650% above the average day and set the stage for Disney releasing event sites for future projects; a practice that continues to this day. The success of that site allowed our team to develop Disney Cruise Line’s inaugural website as well.
Wrapping it up
Disney’s Animal Kingdom has grown wonderfully over the years since it first opened. It has set the standard for wildlife parks in this new century and allows guests the opportunity to get up close and personal with the other inhabitants of this small blue planet.