Disney's Animal KIngdom Virtual Grand Opening

Today we celebrate Earth Day and the 17th birthday for Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It is the fourth Walt Disney World theme park and celebrates one amazing adventure after another with wild animals, exciting attractions, lavish stage shows and lovable characters! Highlights include a runaway train adventure, an authentic African safari, a whirling white-water raft ride, a thrilling race back in time to prehistoric worlds, and two Broadway-style musical stage shows based on hit Disney films.

Size: More than 400 acres|
Project Announced: June 5, 1995
Construction Began: August 1995
Grand Opening: April 22, 1998
Employees: More than 4,500 cast members to date
Animals: About 1,500, representing 250 species — most acquired from zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums.
Landscaping: More than 4 million (3,000 species) trees, plants, shrubs, vines, grasses, ferns, etc.
Entry Garden: The Oasis — A lush botanical garden designed for guests to explore habitats of fascinating creatures including iguanas, a giant anteater, several species of colorful birds and other animals.


Opening a major park is a big deal for The Walt Disney Company and Disney’s Animal Kingdom was no different…except it was because it was the first time a park had been opened since the internet had become a marketing tool. For this park opening Disney created a virtual grand opening web site for the park that was online for only 24-hours to coincide with the physical park’s opening day celebrations.

Every hour-on-the-hour, something happened on the site that mimicked all the activities that were happening inside the park. From videos to screensavers, this site was Disney’s first-ever event site.

Major Lands of Disney’s Animal Kingdom


Africa — Journey through the “wild” savanna on Kilimanjaro Safaris that seems to put you in the heart of Africa with lions, zebra, giraffes and other magnificent animals roaming freely. An authentic African village is filled with sights and sounds of the mysterious continent. The Wildlife Express steam train travels from Africa to Rafiki’s Planet Watch, an interactive conservation center where guests enter a world of discovery about animals and their environments. Several animal interaction experiences are offered.

DinoLand U.S.A. — Here’s where the world’s fascination with dinosaurs comes to life: race back in time to save the last dinosaur on the thrill ride DINOSAUR; enjoy time-warp adventures on the Primeval Whirl coaster and a whimsical twirl on TriceraTop Spin; let kids dig, swing and giggle through The Boneyard dig site and prehistoric playground. At Theater in the Wild, a stage show with original songs and larger-than-life puppets, “Finding Nemo-The Musical,” transports guests into the magical ocean world of the Disney•Pixar Academy Award-winning animated film, “Finding Nemo.”

Discovery Island — The park hub and home of the towering icon, The Tree of Life, which houses within its trunk “It’s Tough to be a Bug,” a humorous 3-D and special-effects show in The Tree of Life Theater. Discovery Island also features gifts and food emporiums and the bright tropical colors of hand-carved animal architecture.

Asia — Home of Expedition Everest, a runaway train adventure that combines coaster thrills with the excitement of a close encounter with the mysterious yeti; Kali River Rapids, a white-water raft adventure through a threatened rainforest; Maharajah Jungle Trek, a surprising walking journey past Asian ruins and live exotic animals including tigers and giant fruit bats; and the thrilling “Flights of Wonder” exotic bird show.

Wrapping it Up

© Copyright Disney |  WDI's Joe Rohde (right) shares highlights of the project model with Cameron (left) and Walt Disney Parks & Resort Chairman Tom Staggs. Scheduled to open in 2017, the AVATAR-inspired land will be part of the largest expansion in Disney's Animal Kingdom history.

© Copyright Disney | WDI’s Joe Rohde (right) shares highlights of the project model with Cameron (left) and Walt Disney Parks & Resort Chairman Tom Staggs. Scheduled to open in 2017, the AVATAR-inspired land will be part of the largest expansion in Disney’s Animal Kingdom history.

The park has become another must-see destination for anyone traveling to the Walt Disney World Resort and continues to look toward the future. In the upcoming years we will see that expansion with the new Avatar-land, currently under construction today.