The History of Disney's Animal Kingdom

Walt Disney World’s fourth and (so far) final park opened on April 22, 1998 and was named Animal Kingdom. This park is centered around animal conservation and focuses greatly on nature and our environment. While it is the newest park and has only been opened for less than 20 years, it has seen its fair share of changes.
Today we take a look back at the history of Disney’s Animal Kingdom and how it has grown since it’s opening day in April of 1998.

Camp Minnie-Mickey: This rustic camp based section was a placeholder for what Imagineers once planned to be Beastly Kingdom. It held the Festival of the Lion King show as well as Pocahontas and Forest Friends (April 1998 to September 2008). It was also used as a place for meet and greets with various Disney characters. The plans for Beastly Kingdom fell through and the sections was closed in January 2014 to make way for another exciting addition.

Discovery Island: Discovery Island is the central hub of Animal Kingdom, home to the large, man-made Baobab tree known as the Tree of Life. Inside the tree of life is the 4D show, It’s Tough to be a Bug. Here guests could also find the Discovery River Boats, eventually renamed Discovery River Taxi in November 1998 and then Radio Disney River Cruise in March of 1999. This attraction, however, wound up closing in August of 1999 and left Discovery Island only containing It’s Tough to be a Bug inside the Tree of Life.

Africa: Branching off of Discovery Island is the Africa section of the park, home to one of Animal Kingdom’s most popular rides, Kilimanjaro Safari. Next to the Kilimanjaro Safari is the Pangani Forest Exploration trail. Both of these attractions give guests a closer look at African wildlife and their habitat. Branching off of Africa is Rafiki’s Planet Watch which contains three sections: Habitat Habit!, Conservation Station, and Affection Section, and the Wildlife Express Train which transports guests back and forth between Africa and Rafiki’s Planet Watch. Africa also holds Harambe Theater where guests can view the show Festival of the Lion King.

Asia: The Asia section of Animal Kingdom holds a live bird show called Flight of Wonder and the Maharajah Jungle Trek, which, like the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, provides a closer look at the wildlife of Asia and their habitats. Two of Animal Kingdom’s larger rides can also be found in this section: Kali River Rapids (opened 1999) and a Disney fan favorite, Expedition Everest (opened in 2006). The newest addition to Asia is the Rivers of Light show, which just opened in February of 2017.

DinoLand USA: While Animal Kingdom focuses on the animals of today, it also has a section dedicated to those that are extinct: the Dinosaurs. In the path between Asia and DinoLand USA is Finding Nemo - The Musical, which opened in early 2007. The theater in which you can see this show was once home to Journey into the Jungle Book and Tarzan Rocks. In 1999 there was the Dinosaur Jubilee, but this attraction as since been closed down. Today, DinoLand USA holds the Boneyard, a playground for younger children, and DinoRama. DinoRama holds the attractions TriceraTop Spin and Primeval Whirl, both added in 2002. Farther down the path in the thrill ride DINOSAUR, which was previously known as Countdown to Extinction until the Disney film Dinosaur was released.

Pandora - The World of Avatar: This newest section of Animal Kingdom opened in May of 2017, taking the place of what once was Camp Minnie-Mickey, and is based off of the 2009 film by James Cameron. In Pandora you can find two attractions: the Na’vi River Journey, a boat ride attraction, and Avatar: Flight of Passage, which simulates a ride on a mountain banshee. Here you can also find the Satu'li Canteen which provides a number of Pandora-themed dishes and drinks.

What is your favorite part about Disney’s Animal Kingdom? Anything you miss or would like to see added? Let us know below!