Disney's Animal Kingdom tiny planet featuring the Tree of Life and Expedition Everest

The celebration of Earth Day is always a special time for me, as it is also the anniversary of the opening of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park at The Walt Disney World Resort; a park where I played a small part in the opening day festivities.

Disney's Animal Kingdom Virtual Grand Opening teaser page

At the time, I was a cast member with the Disney Multimedia Group working as an artist on a multitude of projects. To celebrate the opening of this new park, the company wanted to do something special and I was brought into the team that was responsible for the design and delivery of the first-ever event site for The Disney Co. 

The idea was to tease the opening of the website on Disney.com leading up to the opening. At the time this was somewhat unheard of for a company like Disney and our team had to pitch to a lot of the executives in the company and continue to defend the project up until it launched – on the opening day of the park.

Disney's Animal Kingdom Virtual Grand Opening landing page

A theme park opening for the Disney Company is a huge party and the desire of this project was to allow a little of that Disney Magic to be delivered to fans around the world who could not be at the park on the day of opening. 

Throughout the day, on the hour to coincide with events in the park, we would release new content about the park, the animals, attractions, and people who brough this new concept to life through videos on the site; which was a new concept.

Originally, the plan was live-video, but to ensure everything went smoothly the team ended up using pre-recorded video segments  relating to the park’s opening. 

Disney's Animal Kingdom Virtual Grand Opening Screen Saver page

No park experience would be complete without a little swag, so there was even some giveaways for those that participated in the day.

That project set a standard for the company that continues to this day. The project delivered over 650% increase in traffic to Disney.com on the day and more the following day; however, the event was only live for one-day to coincide with opening day at the park.

This garnered some disappointment from guests to the site and the next site we created, for the new Disney Cruise Line, was up for an extended period of time but that is another story.

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