Entertainment Editor

Party for the Planet: Animal Kingdom to host 20th anniversary celebration

By Jennifer DiDomenico A&E Editor Disney’s Animal Kingdom is celebrating its 20th anniversary in a big way. While its anniversary date is April 22, that is just the beginning of this two-week extravaganza. Special events will run through May 5 in part of the theme park’s Party for the Planet celebration. To kick off the

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is celebrating its 20th anniversary in a big way. While its anniversary date is April 22, that is just the beginning of this two-week extravaganza. Special events will run through May 5 in part of the theme park’s Party for the Planet celebration.

To kick off the events, April 22 will mark the debut of a brand-new show.

NEWS-GAZETTE PHOTO / JENNIFER DIDOMENICO

“UP! A Great Bird Adventure” will feature Senior Wilderness Explorer Russell and his fuzzy friend Dug — two characters from the Disney Pixar animated comedy, “Up” — and share their adventure including encounters with exotic birds from around the world, like the marabou stork with a 10-foot wingspan.

The 25-minute show welcomes guests of all ages, and can be seen multiple times daily at the theater in the theme park’s Asia section.

Bet you didn’t know this: Not only is Animal Kingdom 500-acres in size and an Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited theme park, but it’s also home to more than 2,000 animals. Throughout the celebration, guests can attend conservation talks by animal-care experts, and even participate in enhanced interactions with some of the animals.

The talks will include six Tiffins Talks— themed dinners hosted by animal experts at Tiffins, the theme park’s signature, full-service restaurant. The restaurant hosts unique dinner menu items such as Charred Octopus, Spiced Chickpea Falafel, Pomegranate-Lacquered Chicken, Braised Berkshire Pork Belly Ramen, Pan-Seared Duck Breast, Snake River Farms Wagyu Eye of Rib-Eye, Aloo Ko Achar and Gobi Manchurian.

Rafiki’s Planet Watch, accessible by the Wildlife Express Train, will offer backstage experiences with experts where guests can learn about animal nutrition, visit the veterinary hospital and hear how Disney promotes global wildlife conservation. Guests may even get to visit with Rafiki, himself.

Unrelated to Party for the Planet — but a personal favorite, located at Rafiki’s Planet Watch — is the Affection Section. This open-air petting zoo will remain open during the celebration, and welcomes guests of all ages to enjoy some friendly, hands-on encounters with a variety of animals including goats and sheep. Other experiences at Rafiki’s Planet Watch will also remain open during the celebration.

With Disney theme park celebrations always come special photo opportunities. Guests are invited to step into an oversized picture frame, marking the park’s 20th anniversary. Other photo frames include “Reverse the Decline,” a Disney initiative created to help support and protect 10 threatened animal species.

While all of these activities invite the whole family to participate, Animal Kingdom is offering something special just for kids. Kid visitors have the chance to earn a limited-edition badge as part of the Wilderness Explorer program— a year-round program for kids, also inspired by the movie “Up.” This limited-edition badge is just one of more than 30 badges that can be earned, and it can be obtained by completing challenges and adventures as families work their way around Animal Kingdom.

The 20th anniversary celebration will offer limited-edition merchandise, including a special-edition print created by renowned Walt Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde. Rohde will be available to sign prints at Discovery Trading Company on April 22, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.

In other Animal Kingdom news, a “dino-tastic” celebration with Donald Duck and his friends will premier Memorial Day weekend in DinoLand, U.S.A. The dinosaur-themed party will celebrate Donald’s discovery that his bird ancestors were actually dinosaurs.

Donald’s dino party will feature meet-and-greets with rarely seen characters like Scrooge McDuck, Launchpad McQuack and more. New colorful decor will take over DinoLand U.S.A. for the party, plus a DJ-powered dance party will mix tunes from the truck-o-saurus stage at night.

This Memorial Day will also mark the one year anniversary of Animal Kingdom’s “Pandora— The World of Avatar.” This section of the park, inspired by the blockbuster film AVATAR, takes guests into a mystical world of floating mountains and bioluminescent rainforests. The area includes rides, entertainment, food and beverage, gift shops and more.

For more information on the Party for the Planet celebration, visit www.DisneyWorld.com/PartyforthePlanet.

For more information on Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park, visit www.DisneyWorld.com/AnimalKingdom.