Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World is an incredible experience, immersing you in the exotic worlds of Asia and Africa, bringing you face to face with dinosaurs, and allowing you to swim with Nemo and his undersea friends. After a fun filled day escaping the Yeti, traveling the African savannah, and digging up fossils there’s no better way to commemorate your adventures then with a well chosen souvenir. Picking up a furry, plushy Yeti doll you head to the checkout counter where the cast member asks you if you’d like to donate to The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund. You say yes, after all it’s only a minimal monetary amount and you get a cool pin, but what exactly is The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund? Does it help fund Animal Kingdom park? Does the money collected go to some far off land to help endangered species? In celebration of Earth Day, we are going to take a closer look at this globally significant organization and the large amount of work it does to protect the Earth’s environment.
The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) was founded in 1995 to provide financial support for the study of wildlife, the protection of natural habitats, and to connect children to nature through education. Looking at The Walt Disney Company’s history during the early nineties, it is not surprising that a keen interest in environmental conservation was beginning to arise considering their fledgling plans for Animal Kingdom theme park. In fact, it was not until Animal Kingdom opened in 1998 that DWCF truly gained a large amount of popularity. The rise of DWCF’s popularity and public awareness was due greatly impart to the efforts of hard working theme park cast members who took time to discuss the conservation fund, it’s mission, and it’s goals with guests. To this day, you would be hard pressed to exit Animal Kingdom and not have heard or seen at least some information about DWCF.
Recognizing the importance of collaboration within The Walt Disney Company, it was not long before the DWCF branched out to other business entities within the Disney Company to help support their mission of protecting the planet through education and conservation. Most notably has been the creative collaboration between DWCF and Disney filmmakers to form Disneynature. Launched on April 2008 (Earth Day) Disney Nature’s mission is to “bring the world’s top nature filmmakers together to share a wide variety of wildlife stories on the big screen in order to engage, inspire, and educate theatrical audiences everywhere.” Since it’s inception, Disneynature has produced seven films; Earth, Oceans, African Cats, Chimpanzees, Crimson Wing, Wings, and Bears, five of which have topped the charts as the highest overall grossing feature length nature films to date. In addition to bringing quality edu-tainment nature films to the masses, Disneynature in cooperation with DWCF collects donations from opening week theater ticket sales to continue it’s mission of preservation and conservation. With the income grossed from these donations DWCF has been able to plant 3 million trees in Brazil, create 40,000 acres of protected marine environs in the Bahamas, protect 65,000 acres in Kenya, and protect and build 130,000 acres of wild chimpanzee habitat!
DWCF has also teamed up with The Walt Disney Company’s apps, games, and social media division to further increase public awareness of environmental conservation through education. DWCF collaborated to create two very popular media games, one of which is the Face Book social media game “Disney AK (Animal Kingdom) Explores” in which gamers create their own animal conservation, rescue animals in danger, and learn about endangered species. DWCF also assisted in the extremely popular “Where’s My Water 2” where gamers help Swampy obtain freshwater while learning freshwater facts and conservation tips. I would be remiss if I did not mention the newest app that has been released in conjunction with Disneynature’s latest film Bears out in theaters April 18th. Disney Nature Explore is a fun, family-friendly app, in which children are encouraged to participate with their parents and explore nature, take pictures, and discover the natural world around them.
This is just a relatively small scope of all that DWCF does in order to protect the Earth from the many environmental threats. DWCF is also extremely active in awarding over 150 grants yearly which provide an excess of $24 million of funding for programs throughout the world. In addition DWCF actively creates exciting programs and activities that reach out to even the youngest and smallest conservationists. I hope that after reading this, you have a better understanding and greater appreciation of all that The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund does and next time a cast member asks if you’d like to donate to the fund that you reply in the positive!