Everything We Know So Far About Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s 25th Anniversary

Tree of Life
Credit: Disney

The Walt Disney World Resort is currently wrapping up its 50th anniversary, which kicked off on October 1, 2021, and runs through March 31, 2023. With “The World’s Most Magical Celebration” coming to an end after 18 months of special events and experiences at the Orlando Resort, we’re looking ahead to the next milestone for a Disney Park, Animal Kingdom’s 25th anniversary.

Disney World’s fourth theme park, Animal Kingdom, opened on April 22, 1998. The Earth Day opening date encompassed Animal Kingdom’s commitment to conservation, which is exhibited to this day through initiatives by the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund and the Park’s AZA (Association of Zoos & Aquarium) accreditation which has a major impact on the operation of nearly all areas of the theme park.

Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom

Credit: Disney

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Twenty-five years is a major milestone for any theme park, and perhaps even more so for one that fans routinely referred to as a “half-day Park,” at least until recent years with the opening of Pandora – The World of Avatar.

So how exactly is Animal Kingdom celebrating? Oddly enough, Disney has not shared that many details of the upcoming milestone, but there are some confirmed updates and a few others that we are expecting to hear about in the coming weeks. Here’s what we know so far.

Moana Disney's Animal Kingdom

Credit: Disney

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New character experience

Last year, during the D23 Expo, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products Josh D’Amaro shared with fans a very early look at some “blue sky” ideas that could potentially replace DinoLand U.S.A. in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. While the concepts shown have not been green-lit, and they may never come to be where they are in very early phases of development still, fans have been buzzing about the possibility of Zootopia (2016) and/or Moana (2016) coming to the theme park in a major way.

More recently, however, Disney did confirm that one new Moana experience is coming to the Park when the company announced that the iconic character would arrive with her own meet and greet to help kick off Animal Kingdom’s 25th anniversary. The character meet and greet will open to Guests on the date of the 25th anniversary, April 22, 2023, where she will meet Guests on Discovery Island.

Finding Nemo: The Big Blue...and Beyond

Credit: Disney

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What else is planned?

In a press release for upcoming experiences throughout 2023 across Walt Disney World, the company noted the milestone anniversary for Animal Kingdom saying:

2023 marks a special milestone as Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park celebrates its 25th anniversary. With the return of entertainment such as “Festival of the Lion King” and ”Finding Nemo: The Big Blue…and Beyond!,” there has never been a better time to explore this one-of-a-kind park. It is the place to encounter wild animals, take in high-speed thrills and even journey to a world beyond belief, Pandora – The World of Avatar. Make plans now to visit this special place that celebrates the magic of nature.

As you may have gathered, the only official announcement on the 25th anniversary of Animal Kingdom so far only mentions the Park’s current attractions that many Guests are surely already familiar with. In terms of what else will be new to the Park….Further updates remain to be seen.

Pandora - The World of Avatar

Credit: Disney

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At the very least, we can look back to the 20th anniversary of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which included a “Party for the Planet” theme, and largely featured new merchandise and limited (week-long) special events, like the opportunity to meet the former Imagineer who led the design of the theme park, Joe Rohde.

Nearly every Disney Park festivity comes with specialty eats, and a commemorative map, so while not “official” as of this writing, we are at least expecting some new sweets and treats and complimentary items like Park maps for the event.

Signage for DinoLand U.S.A.

Credit: Disney

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Beyond this, we have one brief moment of speculation to share with our readers….DinoLand was not mentioned in Disney’s latest press release, a note that might not be too striking where it is not one of the Park’s headliners to be sure, but an interesting distinction where so many other attractions and areas were mentioned. The release also announced Moana’s arrival at the Park, which follows last year’s “blue sky” discussion of a Moana replacement to DinoLand.

This is of course purely speculation until Disney confirms or denies otherwise, but it is not a stretch to wonder if a replacement for DinoLand, (with Moana specifically) could be coming on the Park’s anniversary.

We at Disney Tips will continue to monitor updates as we near Animal Kingdom’s 25th anniversary, and will share new information with our readers as we have it.

About Brittany DiCologero

Brittany is a New England-based writer focused on the history of the Walt Disney World Resort. She is the author of "Red, White, and Disney: The Myths and Reality of American History at the Walt Disney World Resort," and "Brittany Earns Her Ears."