1999 was a vital year for Walt Disney World preparing for the 21st century

25 years ago, Walt Disney World answered the challenges of Universal Studios and the 21st century with bold transformations to the entire resort!

USA, Florida, Orlando, Disney World, Epcot, Spaceship Earth...
USA, Florida, Orlando, Disney World, Epcot, Spaceship Earth... / Wolfgang Kaehler/GettyImages
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The Studios started to rock out

Joey Kramer
Aerosmith Drummer Joey Kramer Visits Aerosmith-Themed Roller Coaster At Disney World / Handout/GettyImages

After finally shedding the idea of actually movie-making, Disney-MGM Studios made a bold move to attract more guests. The biggest was opening the Rock n Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith, the first indoor coaster with inversions that blew away guests from day one. Instantly, the Studios became a must-visit park for thrill-ride fans. 

Fantasmic was another good addition as the park celebrated its 10th anniversary in a low-key but still great style to finally make it more than just visiting movie sets. 

Animal Kingdom began its expansion 

Animal Kingdom
Entry to Animal Kingdom. Photo Credit: Brian Miller /

Having opened the previous year, the Animal Kingdom was trying to boost itself up more. One effect of its opening was Disney closing the Discovery Island nature reserve in 1999. While the planned “fantasy” expansion never came off, the Animal Kingdom did make a move with its Asia section.

Highlighted by the Kali River Rapids ride and the Maharajah Jungle Trek, it was a much-needed spark for the new park. True, it could still be seen as a “half day” place yet the first expansion aided the Animal Kingdom immensely. 

The Millenium Celebration

Fireworks at Epcot
Fireworks explode above the lake around World Showcase at Epcot. Photo by Brian Miller /

Looking back, the Millennium Celebration really kicked up Disney’s run of marking various events and festivals. It was terrific with Epcot debuting the Illuminations: Reflections of Earth show, the Tapestry of Nations parade, Millennium Village and more to mark the occasion. That was one of the best Disney celebrations ever to be a standout.

This led to other touches in the parks, from opening All-Star Movies resort to DisneyQuest attempting “indoor theme parks” to plans for the Pop Resort, among others. It was fitting that this Celebration capped off a fantastic 1999, made Walt Disney World bigger than ever and proved they were ready for the 21st century.