VIDEO: 1998 Time Capsule with Floppy Discs, VHS Training Tapes, and Opening Day Relics Unearthed for 25th Anniversary of Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Jonathan D

VIDEO: 1998 Time Capsule with Floppy Discs, VHS Training Tapes, and Opening Day Relics Unearthed for 25th Anniversary of Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Cast members dug up a time capsule buried beneath Disney’s Animal Kingdom 25 years ago, in a video shared on TikTok by the Disney Parks. Upon opening this historic relic for the park’s special anniversary celebration, various interesting opening day items, trinkets, and technologies were discovered.

Among the lot were two floppy discs entitled “DAK Base (Maintenance) Opening Team Photo” and “Animal Kingdom Pro Forma 1996.” Three VHS tapes appeared, containing different orientation videos regarding park construction and conservation.

Gino, Animal Kingdom’s silverback gorilla, left a gift of his own behind: his very first toothbrush.

Additionally, a variety of opening day merchandise and memorabilia was retrieved from the capsule, including key chains, pins, vanity plates, figurines, mugs, physical tickets, and maps.

The final item shown was a t-shirt emblazoned with “’98” on the back, signed by some of the park’s original Cast and featuring Mickey Mouse in safari gear.

The History of Animal Kingdom

joe rohde retirement

Disney’s Animal Kingdom owes its creative direction and existence to the eight years and $800 million of meticulous planning and construction led by Imagineer Joe Rohde. An eccentric Disney personality known for his commitment to authenticity, nature, and immersive detail, Rohde took creative lead as a younger and more outspoken individual than the company was accustomed to. While most corporate leaders wrote off the idea of a “Disney zoo” as tacky or redundant, he envisioned a living, breathing zoological experience that incorporated a realistic depiction of global cultures as much as it incorporated a realistic habitat for its animals. In a 1998 feature from Fortune Magazine, Rohde’s divergent style clashing with skeptical executives was surmised in one incident:

When Eisner wondered whether the mere sight of animals would excite visitors, Rohde brought a 400-pound Bengal tiger into a meeting where the big cat brushed up against the CEO. That objection evaporated.

An early preview of the Maharajah Jungle Trek, one could argue?

Jungle trek tiger

This sheer determination to convince all doubters with dramatic finesse helped push construction of the ambitious park despite high costs and unprecedented ideas. The emphasis on detail was an early sign this Kingdom would be slightly different than the one made of Magic:

While theme parks are mostly illusion, occasionally things that seem authentic really are. Thatched roofs on buildings in a faux African village were hand-woven by 13 Zulu thatchers brought over from South Africa, using bundles of grass harvested back home by their wives, sisters, and mothers. Some 1,500 hand-painted wooden animals were crafted in Bali, under Disney supervision.

Much of the park’s atmosphere and design was painstakingly handcrafted with authenticity in mind, and Imagineers took several informational trips around the world to inspire their art.

tree of life construction
Source: Disney Parks

Upon opening Earth Day 1998, Disney’s Animal Kingdom had 40,000 mature trees, 60 miles of underground utilities serving its over 500-acre span, seeds from 37 countries, and a 140-foot Tree of Life centerpiece adorned with intricate animal artwork. It was, and remains, the largest Disney park on Earth. Succeed or fail, this gargantuan investment wasn’t going anywhere.

animal kingdom construction
Source: Disney Parks

Luckily, the park has endured, and while The Walt Disney Company has certainly seen a share of difficult moments in the last quarter-century, its Animal Kingdom stands tall as the most visited zoo globally. Here’s a map from the park’s opening year for some added visual understanding of this park’s modifications over time:

animal kingdom 1998 map
Source: Magic Castle Travel

Since its grand opening, three major expansions have occurred:

  • The opening of Asia in 1999, which introduced guests to Anandapur and Kali River Rapids for the first time.
  • Expedition Everest: Legend of the Forbidden Mountain in 2006. The most expensive roller coaster ever created until Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure Debuted at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
  • Pandora — The World of Avatar, which introduced Flight of Passage and the Na’vi River Journey in 2017.
DAK Moana Zootopia Concept Art scaled 1

It’s been a momentous journey, dotted with major changes and additions; and while this occasion celebrates the past, a continually-evolving future may be on the horizon, as Parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro teased the replacement of Dinoland U.S.A. with a new area based on “Zootopia” and “Moana.”

Did you go to Animal Kingdom in 1998? What are some of your favorite forgotten trinkets from decades past? Let us know in the comments.

For the latest Disney Parks news and info, follow WDW News Today on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.