When Animal Kingdom first opened at Walt Disney World in 1998 the original theme was to introduce you to a wide variety of animals–From present day, to the far distant past and even ones teased in fantasy and mythology. Of course we have only two of those categories represented in the parks today, but why is that?
Why did we never see dragons, unicorns and griffins appear at the park? Let’s take a look back when and see what happened.
Animal Kingdom Logo with a Dragon amongst the other animals.
The Africa and Asian sections of Animal Kingdom were made to showcase the modern day animals.
From birds, to zebras, to lions, to elephants, to monkeys etc.
Dinoland U.S.A. served as the hub for Dinosaurs.
Giving guests a chance to see long extinct creatures from before any human first ever existed.
But the third big section was meant to be Beastly Kingdom.
The Beastly Kingdom secretion would have taken guests to an enchanted world filled with various fantasy creatures.
Dragon Head Statue that is at the entrance to the Park.
What was planned for the Beastly Kingdom?
There were three big attractions planned for this area.
The first of the three major attractions the area would have was a a walk through attraction called “Quest for the Unicorn”.
This was a giant maze guests would enter and they would have to navigate through various paths, encountering a number of different landmarks and creatures. At the end guests would come across a magical castle inhabited by an animatronic unicorn.
The second major attraction would have been based on the 1940 Disney film Fantasia.
Fantasia Gardens would be an enchanted musical boat ride similar to It’s A Small World. Guests would see many iconic characters and scenes from the film accompanied by the iconic music that went with each scene.
The third and final major attraction would have been Dragon Tower.
An inverted roller coaster where guests would enter an evil looking castle and would encounter a fire breathing dragon. At one point the dragon was going to be Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty. The ride would feature 30ft Dragon animatronic as guests would fly through the crumbling castle.
As Animal Kingdom was nearing completion the nearly $1 Billion park was getting way over budget. Many planned Day-1 attractions were delayed and certain plans, especially Beastly Kingdom, were put on hold. Whatever budget for Beastly Kingdom had was moved to Dinoland U.S.A. to speed up its completion. In its place was the temporary Camp Minnie-Mickey to take up the space until Beastly Kingdom could finally be built.
Beastly Kingdom was ultimately scrapped due to two major reasons.
The first reason was money.
Disney had recently taken a financial hit with Euro Disneyland not doing that well, as well as Animal Kingdom not bringing in the amount of guests originally expected in its first couple years.
The second major reason was that former Imagineers began working with Universal on the new Islands of Adventure theme park in Orlando.
Since they moved over there many of their attractions had a fantasy theme that resembled Beastly Kingdom’s original concept, which angered then CEO Michael Eisner.
Years later the land that would have been used for this fantasy world was taken up when Disney partnered with James Cameron to take guests to Pandora from his highly successful film Avatar. Instead of a fantasy world you could visit another planet and their ecosystem.
Sadly we never got to see what this land could have been. But you can consider Pandora to be a spiritual successor as it also has a boat ride with the Na’vi River Journey, as well as a ride that gives you a rollercoaster type experience with Flight of Passage. In some ways it seems Beastly Kingdom inspired Pandora, and the concepts didn’t go to waste.
What do you think of this story? Would you have liked to visit Magical Gardens, a Dragon Castle and Musical Creatures?
Pirates & Princesses (PNP) is an independent, opinionated fan-powered news blog that covers Disney and Universal Theme Parks, Themed Entertainment and related Pop Culture from a consumer's point of view. Opinions expressed by our contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of PNP, its editors, affiliates, sponsors or advertisers. PNP is an unofficial news source and has no connection to The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal or any other company that we may cover.