Disney’s Animal Kingdom Celebrates 25 Years and Earth Day

giant tree tree of life animal kingdom

Disney’s Animal Kingdom celebrated its 25th Anniversary and Earth Day! Park visitors were in for a fun-filled day, starting with festivities at the Tree of Life in the morning and meeting Moana upon her arrival on the island.

Tree of Life Celebration

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The Tree of Life Celebration at Animal Kindom kicked off the 25th Anniversary

The celebrations at the Tree of Life kicked off the day with a musical performance from the Tam Tam Drummers of Harambe. Guests could even participate and dance with the group!

Guest speakers made an appearance as well. Animal Kingdom Vice President Sarah Riles commemorated the park for 25 years and spoke on its legacy, 

“The original vision of this park was to celebrate wildlife, wild places, and the emotional connection people have with them,” Riles said at the event. “Our founder, Walt Disney, had a deep love of animals and their innate connections to people, so much so that he brought it to life through storytelling.” 

Riles also quoted Walt Disney and his love for animals, stating his knowledge of wildlife and planet Earth. 

“What I have learned from the animal world is a new sense of kinship with the Earth and all of its inhabitants.” 

Riles said while every park at Disney World has a unique culture, Animal Kingdom celebrates the magic of animals, conservation, and the environment. 

Dr. Penning, the vice president of Disney’s animal science and environment team, also spoke at the Tree of Life Ceremony. Penning said it is stunning to see how far Animal Kingdom has come in the 25 years. 

“Over the past 25 years, we have cared for thousands of animals. From the tiniest spider to the mightiest elephant, each animal here receives extraordinary care,” Penning said.

Penning also said that the impact of Animal Kingdom extends way beyond the parks and that the park has significantly contributed to the body of knowledge about animals. 

“We were among the first to pioneer cardiac ultrasounds on gorillas. We’ve assisted with the births of hundreds of animals,” Penning said. “It’s been an incredible 25 years.”  

Penning said Animal Kingdom’s impact extends around the globe as well. The park helped develop the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center, or GRACE, in Africa to rehabilitate orphan gorillas.  

Penning also said that locally, Disney granted half a million dollars to help five local conservation organizations in Central Florida to help protect natural habitats, support clean water, educate local children, preserve state parks, and increase awareness about conservation. 

Penning said one of the grand keys to bringing awareness to conservation is the Nature Conservancy, the curator of the Disney Wilderness Preserve. Penning also said the Disney Conservation Fund has helped donate and raise money to help protect wildlife and planet Earth.

“Yesterday, The Disney Conservation Fund awarded $2.5 million to 25 conservation organizations,” Penning said. “With your contributions to the Disney Conservation Fund, you have helped us to invest $125 million into conservation efforts to save wildlife, inspire action, and protect the planet.”

After the guest speakers highlighted the importance of the park, the ceremony closed with a musical number from all your favorite Disney friends from “UP,” “Finding Nemo,” “Pocahontas,” and Mickey and Minnie!

Meet and Greet with Moana

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Moana can be found at Animal Kingdom’s Character Landing.

A new guest also arrived at the island in time for the festivities. Moana is now at Discovery Island to help kick off Earth Day and the park’s 25th Anniversary. 

Mark Renfrow, park show director at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, was one of the opening cast members who helped bring entertainment to Animal Kingdom 25 years ago. 

Renfrow helped welcome Moana to Discovery Island. You may see her during specific meet-and-greet times at Character Landing.  

Tasty Treats 

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The Flamingo Cupcake at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Specialty treats were available for April and the 25th anniversary. One of the treats is the 25th Anniversary Live with Magic Cupcake, a vanilla cake with chocolate toffee mousse, chocolate buttercream, white chocolate pearls, and an Alive with Magic 25th Anniversary Chocolate Logo. 

Another fan-favorite Earth Month treat is the Flamingo Cupcake. Get ready to experience some deliciously tropical flavors with a strawberry cupcake filled with strawberry compote, topped with guava icing, white chocolate wings, strawberry pearls, and a sugar flamingo.

Limited Merch

Merchandise to commemorate Animal Kingdom’s 25th anniversary was released for guests to purchase. There is a limited availability of bags, tumblers, pins, jerseys, and shirts at gift shops in the park. 

Earth Day and Animal Kingdom’s Message

In addition to all the fun and treats, Animal Kingdom also wants to spread positive messages to parkgoers and inspire them to become involved in the environment. 

Dr. Zak Gezon, a conservation manager with Disney Conservation, said with 25 years, the park can make transformative memories and experiences every single today for kids and families and turn that into inspiration.

“What I do now, which is working as a biologist to save species around the world, I was inspired because my sister’s first job was driving the train at the local zoo where I grew up. Going there and being inspired set me on a trajectory for everything that I do,” Gezon said, “There are probably kids now that are in college or graduating that have had a transformative experience here as a kid and has gone and set them on their trajectory, and that just means so much to me.”


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Written by Ellie Nas

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