X Marks the Spot explores the history of Disney park maps. In today’s article, we will venture back to the year 1999 to explore Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Animal Kingdom was Walt Disney World’s fourth venture into theme parks, and opened on Earth Day in 1998. Being a collector of maps, it’s always exciting when a new theme park opens, because it gives you more materials to add to your collection.

Animal Kingdom has grown to become one of my favorite places to visit, not just because of the attractions, but for its atmosphere and attention to detail. It truly is a beautiful place to visit.

With that said, let’s take a look back to 1999 and explore Disney’s Animal Kingdom in its early years.

Tarzan Rocks!

The front cover of the “Adventurer’s Guide” features the now defunct Tarzan Rocks, which was replaced by Finding Nemo The Musical years later. However, Tarzan Rocks was, in my opinion, a very well done, high-energy show featuring Phil Collins’ great music from the film Tarzan. The show included many popular scenes from the movie, as well as live actors and singers performing stunts and tricks to the music.

Let’s continue our adventure and turn the page on our Adventurer’s Guide.

That round symbol at the top of this page is the Wildlife Conservation Fund.

The first section of our guide gives valuable park and resort information, as well as a section about Disney’s Wildlife Conservation Fund. This fund helps efforts to protect environments around the world and the animals who inhabit them. Throughout the resort, Disney sells buttons to help support the cause, with all proceeds going to the Wildlife Fund.

An example of one of many Wildlife Fund Buttons, this one from the Wild Africa Trek Tour within Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Some other Conservation Buttons around the resort are located in The Sea’s With Nemo and Friends, The Land Pavilion, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

As we explore the map of Disney’s Animal Kingdom from 1999, we can see that many of the opening day attractions are still in existence, such as It’s Tough to be a Bug, Dinosaur (then named Countdown to Extinction), Festival of the Lion King, and Kilimanjaro Safari. Kali River Rapids was new for this season and would open in March of 1999. Noticeably absent are the low budget additions, such as Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama, which would be added later. In 1999, the “Dinosaur Jubilee” still occupied the Dino-Rama Expansion plot. This huge tent gave guests hands-on experience with real dinosaur skeletons and fossils. Tours were given daily through the exhibits, offering something that personally I think is missing in today’s Dinoland U.S.A.

Animal Kingdom is home to one the best Theme Park icons in any park around the world: The Tree of Life. It is so detailed and lifelike that you can not help but stop and stare at it while the rest of your party may be hurrying in front of you to grab a fastpass. Sadly, the tree as we knew it back in 1999 has been partially obscured by safety structures and netting. Surely it deserves better treatment.

While Animal Kingdom has many flaws, and a lack of attractions compared to other parks, the future holds potential with the addition of Avatarland, coming to the Camp-Minnie Mickey Site in 2017.

Animal Kingdom is overlooked by many who don’t understand if it is a zoo, theme park, or both. I believe guests should be better trained to enjoy the non-traditional theme park elements of this park. I challenge you all next time you visit to stop and take your time throughout the park. Enjoy the attractions (and that includes the animals), food and culture that surrounds you in each and every step. Thanks for exploring the map with me this week folks. I leave you with a Trivia Question: What is done differently in Animal Kingdom that is not done in the other 3 Orlando Disney Theme Parks? (HINT: Think Something You Purchase)


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Frank Fiorinelli is from New York, but that has not held him back from his love of the Disney Parks. Frank has been visiting the parks since the age of 2 and has not looked back. His passion is collecting Theme Park Maps, since he is able to look them over when returning home. X Marks the Spot, Frank's biweekly Column for Micechat, unfolds from those very maps. A two time Disney College Program Alumni, Frank is currently in the midst of Graduating with a Business Management Degree.