April 22, 2018

Reflections on 20 Years of Disney's Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom's 20th Anniversary. Can it even be that long ago that its gates first opened to the public? It has certainly changed the face of Walt Disney World and the way tourists visit. 

From the beginning, the park's been one of contradictions: Beautifully designed and "value engineered", consistent in theme but with glaring exceptions, at the same time both exciting and boring. It's certainly been a park that has stagnated and then experienced incredible change over these twenty years!

I remember first visiting in 1999 with two main goals in mind: Seeing this new Disney park and visiting my beloved Epcot during the Millennial Celebration. One was hugely successful in my eyes, the other half-hearted in execution. And it's one park that will probably remain a Florida exclusive, making it all the more fascinating.

Harambe Market concept art by Imagineer Joe Warren.

Yet, it's a very fascinating park with an equally fascinating history that reflects the varied complexities found within the business and design halls of the Walt Disney Company. 

I was fully mesmerized by everything surrounding it and began finding everything I could about it. The end result is to date a seven part series full of great stories, concept art of both attractions that survived and those that didn't, part travelogue and part history lesson. If you love this park, you'll want to use the links below.

Just a few examples of what's to be found:

Beastly Kingdom(me)- a beautiful land that gave way to Pandora.

The stunning entrance to Dragon's Challenge, a high speed roller coaster.

A rare piece of concept art.

Full disclosure here: Having not been to Walt Disney World for almost a decade, I have not created Part Eight of the series... yet. After this summer's visit, the next segment will make its debut on the blog. I know there will be much to write about again, but I've got to see it myself to let the park's magic have its full effect. The last visit to Animal Kingdom was not so magical. Read about it here. There's also 150 plus more posts about this park, but I won't link to all of them. 

As I end this post, here's a parting gift. The top photograph of the park's Tree of Life icon is our friend, blogger, and photographer Len Yokoyama. Beautiful shot rich in detail! This gorgeous photo huge, and I left it full sized so it could be used as a desktop picture. Just click on it.

Here's to the park's next 20 years!


Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six
Part Seven
(All artwork copyright The Walt Disney Company. Photo by Len Yokoyama. All rights reserved.)

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