The original concept for Disney's Animal
Kingdom was presented on January 1990 by
Imagineering Concept Designer Joe Rohde
(who would later head up the project's
worldwide research efforts). Disney's newest
Florida theme park was to be an ambitious
project, providing guests with the opportunity
to experience the wonders of the natural
world in ways never before seen.
Wild Animal Kingdom Project (as it was
then called) was going to be home to hundreds
and hundreds of animals, some familiar,
some exotic. But unlike a traditional zoo,
the animals would live in large open areas
specially designed to recreate their natural
habitats. And unlike other drive-through
safari parks, guests would be able to wander
through lush trails and authentically detailed
villages to fully experience the wonder
and beauty of the natural world. One of
the highlights of the new park was the
opportunity for guests to experience an
actual safari through the exotic African
Disney's Wild Animal Kingdom
Project was announced June 5, 1995 and
ground was broken in August 1995. As the
park neared completion the name was changed
to Disney's Animal Kingdom (in part to
avoid confusion with Mutual of Omaha's
Wild Kingdom) and the new park formally
opened its gates on April 22, 1998.
Originally, the park was intended to have
three distinct sections: live animals,
extinct animals (dinosaurs, etc.), and
mythical animals (dragons, unicorns, etc.).
During the course of the design process
the plans were modified to include several "live
animal" areas (Africa, the Conservation
Station and the various nature trails),
and one for extinct animals (Dinoland USA).
A greeting area called Camp Minnie Mickey
was created in the section of the park
originally intended for the mythical animals.
However, the mythical animals weren't totally
forgotten. For a while the Animal Kingdom
logo included a dragon, and the roar of
an unseen dragon can still be heard occasionally
in Camp Minnie Mickey. When Expedition
Everest opened in early 2006, the mythical
Yeti arrived to complete the original trio
of animal groups.
The Animal Kingdom opened
with 5 attractions, 9 exhibits, 12 live
entertainment shows, 8 food locations,
and 11 merchandise locations.