Have you ever actually looked at the logo for Disney’s Animal Kingdom, man?
You’ve probably noticed that one of the animal silhouettes is a dragon.
But why is that when there aren’t any dragons in Animal Kingdom? Well, at one time there actually were going to be dragons. Thus the subject of today’s Toon Adjacent, Beastly Kingdom, the Disney World attraction that never was.
Beastly Kingdom was a section that was to be built in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Animal Kingdom’s original dedication plaque read like this:
The Animal Kingdom park was initially supposed to “pay tribute to all the animals that ever were, and those that never were…” in other words, it focuses on three types of animals:
Today’s existing animals…
…And animals that don’t exist.
The latter has not been featured in the park (with the exception of Expedition Everest), but plans for a section of their own were made during the creation of the park. The area was to feature such animals as dragons, unicorns and sea monsters.
The section was to feature realms surrounding “good” and “evil” creatures. (I personally find the ‘good and evil’ tropes to be kind of cliched and boring, but whatever.) The good realm would have been home to an attraction called Quest of the Unicorn, which would have been a mythological maze leading to the grotto where the unicorn lived.
The Unicorn would have been spotted hanging out at, surprise, surprise! Unicorn Lagoon.
The good realm would also have featured Fantasia Gardens, an attraction based on the movie Fantasia, that would have been a musical boat ride that takes you the animal scenes of the movie. The idea, similar to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, would have featured hippos and crocodiles from “Dance of the Hours” along with pegasi, fauns, and centaurs from “Pastoral”.
On the evil side would be feature an attraction called Dragon’s Tower ruled by a greedy fire-breathing dragon that housed a treasure in the tower’s chamber.
The attraction would also involve a group of bats threatening to take the dragon’s throne and riches. The bats would enlist the guests help and take them on a wild roller coaster to do so. The climax, similar to other Disney rides, would involve an encounter with the dragon himself, resulting in a near-charred train of guests.
The section never came to fruition mostly due to budget cuts.
It was soon replaced by Camp Minnie-Mickey, a section mostly filled with character meet-and-greet areas.
Remnants of the never-made land can still be found in the park. Though, as with Hidden Mickeys, you have to look close. For example, there is a section in the parking lot labeled “Unicorn”.
As previously stated, the Animal Kingdom logo also features a silhouette of a dragon. Inside the park, a dragon-shaped stone fountain can be found in Camp Minnie-Mickey.
A detailed dragon head statue is found atop one of the ticket booths at the park’s entrance. By far, the biggest examples of Remnants would be a cave in Camp Minnie-Mickey that exhorts blasts of fire. Guests are often told that a fire-breathing dragon lives there. Outside the cave, suits of armor are displayed.
Also, the Happy Meal toys which came out at the time of Animal Kingdom’s launch featured a dragon, a reference to the never made Beastly Kingdom.
The section that would’ve been Beastly Kingdom was later designated for the upcoming Pandora: The World of Avatar.
So let me get this straight: we could’ve gotten a cool fantasy land full of unicorns, dragons and stuff, but we can’t have that ’cause it’s not in the budget…yet it IS in the budget to throw away millions on an entire land based on a movie which no one’s talked about for years?
-Yeah, that makes perfect sense.