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.