DAK’s 20th Anniversary Part 1: D23 Event Review

On Sunday, April 22nd, Disney’s Animal Kingdom celebrated a milestone. On that day, also known as Earth Day, the park celebrated its’ 20th Anniversary. Though the park has gone through a lot of changes over the years, its’ commitment to the education and conservation of animals and their habitats it what sets this part apart from any of the other parks at Walt Disney World.

As part of the special day, I attended a special array of things for members of D23. While I did not purchase the VIP tier ticket for the event, I did get entry level tickets for myself and my friend Adam so we could enjoy the day. I also dressed up special in my new Dapper Russell Disneybound, which was a hit to fellow guests and CMs alike.

The Wilderness must be explored!

Before we get into the ticket details, I wanted to share pics of the Tree of Life Hub, which was lowkey decorated for the event, with special banners and a stage installed, all with the 20th Anniversary logo.

 

Now that that’s out of the way, here is what the D23 ticket got us:

 

Special Seating for the Opening Ceremony

This ceremony was initially scheduled to take place out in front of the Tree of Life in the main hub of Discovery Island. However, because of the potential for there to be rain, the ceremony was moved inside to the Harambe Theater, home to The Festival of the Lion King. With that, there was very limited seating for guests, so not many “standby” guests got in beyond media, D23 members, and VIP guests. For the actual ceremony, we were treated to speeches from Djuan Rivers, VP of Disney’s Animal Kingdom; Maribeth Bisienere, Senior VP of Walt Disney World Parks; and Joe Rohde, the lead designer and Imagineer for Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Before the ceremony began, we were treated by a performance from the Tam Tam Drummers of Harambe, who are celebrating 13 years being a part of the park. Additionally, before and after the speeches, Disney characters and performers from around the park came together to sing, dance, and celebrate the park’s anniversary.

While the ceremony was visually fun, I would have loved to have seen this one in front of the Tree of Life. I feel like by being inside they had to hold back some with the spectacle of it all. That being said, I am happy that I got to be a part of it.

 

D23 Exclusive Photo Op

Located at Lower Stanley Falls in the walkway between Asia and Africa, this special photo-op for ticket holders was done by a professional Disney Events photographer. Additionally, the D23 team was there with different props that guests could use to enhance their photos. I chose one of the DAK 20th Anniversary logos. As I was dressed in my Dapper Russell Disneybound, I was excited to get this picture taken.

What was cool was that after my “official” photo was taken, one of the D23 social media members asked to take my picture special, which was a huge honor. A few days later, it appeared on Twitter. Woohoo!

VIP Reserved Seating to Rivers of Light

If you are going to see Rivers of Light, THIS is the location you want to see it from. It is by far the best area in the amphitheater, as I can attest from sitting in this location as part of my A Path Less Traveled tour, which I will be sharing a review of next week.

This time, however, since it was already a long day and crowded, I decided to leave the park mid-afternoon and head over to The Magic Kingdom for the evening hours there.

 

FastPass + Card

Every D23 guest also got a special FastPass + card loaded with three FP+s good for anytime that day, and good on any FP+ ride or attraction, which the exception of the two attractions in Pandora. Since I had no real need for my card, I gave it to Adam’s girlfriend Kaila so they could enjoy some of the rides together in the afternoon.

 

Goodie Bag

A look at part of the goodie bag.

Finally, each D23 guest got a special goodie bag when they checked in, which contained:

~ a DAK 20 drawstring bag

~ a LE 350 DAK 20 Postcard Set, featuring concept art of popular attractions

~ a D23 carabiner/ water bottle holder

and

~ a black Disney Conservation Fund Pin

 

Here is a closer look at the postcard set.

 

Now, while I didn’t do many rides on this day at DAK, I did visit with a couple of friends who were rumored to be leaving the park for Meet & Greets. Now, you might catch them from time to time in various places around the park, especially during crowded times. However, it appears that they are no longer on the schedule. Flik I met down by the Tree of Life near the exit to It’s Tough to be a Bug, while Ballo and King Louie were at the entrance to the park.

Additionally, it wouldn’t have been proper to be dressed up as Dapper Russell without paying him and Dug a visit on Discovery Island at their Clubhouse.

 

And, of course, getting a Dole Whip to celebrate this day was necessary.

The last thing I did on the way out was pose with the special 20th Anniversary frame at the entrance to the park. Not sure how long it will be there, but it was very popular any time I saw a PhotoPass photographer there.

Overall, it was a great day and a great event celebrating one of the Disney Parks. I was happy I could have been a part of it. I made amazing memories for sure.

 

And there’s Part 1 of my three part review for Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s 20th Anniversary. Next week I will take a look at The Path Less Traveled tour, created exclusively for this anniversary, as well as what went on for Party for the Planet, which ran through May 5th.

 

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Feature Editor for DisKingdom.com and PopVinyls.com.
Living in the NYC area, Travis has grown up loving a multitude of things, from Disney to Broadway to the fine arts… and beyond. He is the Press Reporter for such events like the NY Toy Fair and New York Comic Con. Additionally, he is also an amateur puppeteer, toy collector, avid movie goer, and carries his camera around wherever he goes.

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