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Imagineer Joe Rohde discusses meaning of Disney’s Animal Kingdom

On the 20th Anniversary of Disney’s Animal Kingdom we had the chance to meet with Imagineer Joe Rohde. In the following video we have a recording of the speech he gave at the ceremony celebrating the anniversary and a short interview where he discusses where he finds meaning in the park, his favorite area of the park, and the impossible aspects of Pandora – The World of Avatar.

After the interview, we asked Joe to turn and lookout over the river toward Pandora – the world of Avatar and the park’s newest land, but also the old rock dragon that now symbolizes a forgotten path that the park will never go down.

Rodhe touched on a few milestones in the history of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, a park that exists as it does today largely due to his guidance, but there are many important dates throughout its 20 year history:

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

October 5, 1996                  A baby kudu is the first animal to be born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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

April 22, 1998 (Earth Day)  Grand Opening for Disney’s Animal Kingdom

January 1999                         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                                Tarzan Rocks! debuts

May 2000                                Reproduction of Dino-Sue, the rare 65 million-year-old tyrannosaurus rex, on display in DinoLand U.S.A.

October 2000                         Rafiki’s Planet Watch premieres

December 2000                     Safari Village renamed Discovery Island

June 4, 2001                           Colobus Monkey Habitat Opens on Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail (formerly Pangani Forest Trail)

October 2001                         Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade premieres

November 2001                     First phase of Chester & Hester’s Dino-Rama opens with TriceraTop Spin attraction and midway games

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

April 7, 2006                           Expedition Everest opens

April 2006                                Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund achieves $10 million milestone since its 1995 creation

January 2007                          Grand opening for “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

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 opens.

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

It’s been an amazing 20 years and we hope that there are 20 times 20 more ahead of it.