The Oasis
Discovery Island
Rafiki's Planet Watch
Dinoland USA
Camp Minnie
April 22, 1998 (Earth Day!)

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.

Disney's 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 savannah.

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.

UPDATES: Asia opened a few months after the official opening of the Animal Kingdom, (though the soon-to-be-opened attractions were visible on the opening day guide maps).

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