A Look Back At 20 Years of Amazing Animal Kingdom Milestones

AK 20 Years

As Animal Kingdom’s 20th Anniversary festivities officially kick off today, Disney is celebrating by highlighting some of the theme parks major milestones over the last few years. From incredible attractions to award-winning conservation efforts, join us on this walk down Memory Lane as we celebrate one of Disney’s most amazing theme parks.

Here’s a look back at a few of the milestone dates in the evolution of Disney’s adventure park at Walt Disney World Resort:

June 20, 1995 – Plans for “Wild Animal Kingdom” announced

August 4, 1995-  Groundbreaking for Disney’s Animal Kingdom

December 5, 1995- The first tree, an authentic African acacia xanthophloea, is planted

June 12, 1996 – Miles the giraffe is the first animal to arrive at Animal Kingdom

October 5, 1996- A baby kudu is the first animal to be born at the theme park

November 4, 1997 – Hope, a 14-year-old gorilla, gives birth to a male named Jabari

April 22, 1998 (Earth Day) – The Grand Opening of Animal Kingdom

January 1999- Animal Kingdom Earns Accreditation from Association of Zoos and Aquariums (formerly American Zoo and Aquarium Association)

March 1, 1999- Grand Opening of Asia, which includes Kali River Rapids and Maharajah Jungle Trek

July 1999 – The Tarzan Rocks! stage show debuts at Animal Kingdom. Do you remember this production?

May 2000 – A reproduction of Dino-Sue (the rare 65 million-year-old tyrannosaurus rex) goes on display in DinoLand U.S.A.

Rafiki's Planet Watch

October 2000-  Rafiki’s Planet Watch premieres

December 2000 – The Safari Village is renamed as Discovery Island

June 4, 2001 – Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail unveils a Colobus Monkey Habitat

October 2001- Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade makes its debut

November 2001 – Tricera Top Spin and midway games open as part of Chester & Hester’s Dino-Rama.

April 18, 2002- Primeval Whirl opens at Chester & Hester’s Dino-Rama

April 22, 2003 – Plans announced for Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain

May, 2005  – Lucky the Dinosaur, the first Audio-Animatronics figure capable of walking and moving independently, makes special appearances

Expedition Everest

April 7, 2006 – Expedition Everest opens to guests

April 2006 – Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund achieves $10 million milestone since its 1995 inception.

January 2007 – Grand opening performance of “Finding Nemo – the Musical”

April 22, 2007- Inaugural “Party for the Planet” event takes place on Earth Day

February 16, 2008 – Paws in the Park event. Disney’s Animal Kingdom/Animal Programs and Environmental Initiatives raises more than $13,000 for SPCA of Central Florida

April 22, 2008 –  Jane Goodall Global Youth Summit visits the park on Earth Day

Animal Kingdom

January 16, 2011 – Wild Africa Trek opens

June 1, 2013- Wilderness Explorers program debuts to guests

June 1, 2014 – Festival of the Lion King debuts in its new home, the brand new Harambe Theatre.


May 2015 – Harambe Market officially opens.

May 27, 2016 – Tiffins restaurant and Nomad Lounge open, nighttime experiences debut – Harambe Wildlife Parti, Discovery Island Carnivale, Tree of Life Awakenings and a nighttime version of Kilimanjaro Safaris

May 28, 2016 – The Jungle Book – Alive with Magic live show debuts

December 2016  – Lion-tailed Macaques debut

February 17, 2017 – Rivers of Light evening spectacular debuts

May 27, 2017  -Pandora – the World of Avatar opens

August 2017 – Sumatran tiger cubs, Jeda and Anala, are born,

January 2017- Augustus, a baby hippo, is born

March, 2018 – Contributions to Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund total $70 million since 1995

April 22, 2018 – 20th Anniversary milestone marked with Party for the Planet Earth Day Celebration, premiere of UP! A Great Bird Adventure and debut of the Pandora Utility Suit

We here at Chip and Co. wish Animal Kingdom a magical 20th birthday and look forward to another 20 years of incredible Disney milestones. Readers are encouraged to keep following along with Chip and Co. for the latest in news and updates regarding Animal Kingdom’s 20th Anniversary celebrations.


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Chip and Co Past Writers and Friends