Picture a theme park created by the imaginative masterminds at Disney dedicated to all the magnificent creatures of the earth. The park would be home to a menagerie of different animals for the guests to see and admire. It would be the magic of Disney gone wild.
But what if lions and dinosaurs weren't the only residents in this park? What if the park was home to a beautiful unicorn and an evil dragon? This would have been the Beastly Kingdom. What happened to this brilliant realm of fantasy creatures? Find out as we uncover the secrets behind Animal Kingdom's biggest secret.
10 Land of the Lost
In the days of the park's conception, there were originally three lands. One land was for animals of the earth, one land was for dinosaurs from the past, and the third was for creatures of the imagination. This third land was what garnered the most interest and anticipation.
The Beastly Kingdom was to be a medieval fantasy-themed realm that played host to a cast of mythological creatures. Its very concept got the Imagineers and test audiences talking and shivering with anticipation. Unfortunately, this creation was not to be. What would have been arguably one of Disney's greatest feats was cast aside in favor of other, less popular park elements.
9 War of the Worlds
Two forces were at war in the Beastly Kingdom. One side was led by a majestic white unicorn who welcomed all visitors to her land, the other was a horrifying dragon who stole himself away in the ruins of a burning tower. These two areas were divided by a river guarded by a friendly sea-monster and were certainly incredible in concept and design.
The unicorn's kingdom would have included an enchanted hedge-maze, a Fantasia-inspired boat ride, and a Loch Ness themed restaurant. Likewise, the dragon's realm would have been the remains of a charred castle with a hidden treasure trove and even Disney's first inverted rollercoaster.
8 Unicorn's Domain
The unicorn's kingdom's main attraction would have been Quest of the Unicorn, a hedge maze inspired by Alice's Curious Labyrinth in Disneyland Paris. The maze would have been populated by various mythological characters like griffins and gargoyles and concluded in a shining castle where the unicorn dwelled and greeted guests with kind words.
The realm would have also featured Fantasia Gardens, a charming boat ride through certain sequences of Fantasia, mainly the Pastoral Symphony, Dance of the Hours, and the Sorcerer's Apprentice. If this side was too much of a light-hearted affair, you could always visit the other side.
7 Dragon's Tower
The dragon's lair would have been composed of a ruined medieval castle, surrounded by the crispy remains of knights and warriors all scattered beneath an ominous-looking tower that would regularly belch smoke and flame. This would be the landmark for the Beastly Kingdom and inside lived the main attraction.
Dragon's Tower would have been Disney's first inverted rollercoaster. The story was that a team of bats was planning to take the dragon's treasure and throne. The coaster would run through the dragon's tower where an animatronic dragon of Expedition Everest proportions would try to singe the guests with real flames. Unfortunately, other interests kept us from seeing either realm.
6 Blown Budget
The beastly Kingdom was supposed to be the last area completed before the park's official opening in 1998. It was promoted along with the other lands in the park's marketing and advertising but never came to be. There's even a dragon in the park's logo. What happened?
One of the biggest reasons is that the park, one of the most invested Disney projects at the time, went severely over budget with the care of its animal castmembers. This resulted in the Beastly Kingdom moving from phase 1 of the park's plan to phase 2 until it was finally put in the grave.
5 Make Room for the Dinos
The meteor might have killed the dinosaurs, but the dinosaurs killed Beastly Kingdom. Due to previously mentioned budgetary issues, Disney CEO Michael Eisner was left with a choice: Which area to build, Beastly Kingdom or Dinoland USA? You know the answer, but the reason will surprise you.
The decision came down to Eisner, but the creative teams and test-audiences were more interested in the Beastly Kingdom than Dinoland. Can you blame them? Eventually, Isner came down in favor of the dinosaur-themed area thanks to one hugely miscalculated project. Disney's first computer-animated film without Pixar, Dinosaur.
4 Countdown to Extinction
Dinoland's biggest attraction is Dinosaur, a dark ride through the Cretaceous period aboard a time rover vehicle where guests encounter prehistoric life, including some jumpscare-loving predators. This ride was meant to tie into the film of the same name, and hopefully increase visitation to secure the funds to include the Beastly Kingdom in phase 2 of construction.
Thanks to this decision, the land used for the unmade kingdom was converted into different things like Camp Minnie-Mickey and a reusable stage. Due to budget conflicts, some Imagineers from the project were laid off. But that's not the end of the story.
3 Switching Sides
While Disney's Animal Kingdom was being built, work was being done on Universal's Islands of Adventure. One of the park's most iconic features was the Lost Continent park, a land inhabited by mythical creatures, a medieval castle, and a dragon rollercoaster. Starting to sound familiar?
We can't confirm how much truth there is to the claim, but stories say that the laid-off Imagineers were hired by Universal to build their fantasy-themed park area. One has to admit, there are some similarities between Universal's Dueling Dragons and Disney's Dragon Tower concept. Isner himself visited the park and made a change in direction for the Animal Kingdom shortly after. Coincidence? We will let our readers decide.
2 Another World
Though we missed out on a mythology-inspired kingdom, we did get an impressive consolation prize where the Beastly Kingdom would have stood. We even still got our dragon ride. But Instead of a kingdom, Disney gave us an entire planet. Of course, We're talking about the world of Pandora.
James Camaron's Avatar was one of the biggest and most visually stunning blockbusters the world of movies had ever seen. Of course, it deserved its own theme park attraction, and with Disney, anything can happen. It might lack a few unicorns, but the world of Pandora does give our creatures of the imagination their own park in the Animal Kingdom.
1 Ancient Remains
We can only imagine what the wonderful Beastly Kingdom might have been like. However, there are still a handful of remains from this nearly forgotten idea sprinkled throughout the park. If one knows where to look, they can easily find the shadow of Beastly Kingdom still lurking on the grounds of the Animal Kingdom Park.
If the dragon in the park's logo didn't catch one's eye, then the massive dragon head on the park's entrance might. There's also a unicorn parking sign, and a sea monster shaped rock arrangement that was once hidden in Camp Minnie-Mickey. Aside from these remnants, the Beastly Kingdom, like its residents, will remain in our imaginations.