Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Disney That Never Was: Beastly Kingdom

Of all of the lands of Animal Kingdom that were operational on opening day on April 22, 1998, the land that had everyone wondering and hoping for the immediate expansion that was planned. Sadly that expansion never came, and might now aspects of it may become a part of the Avatar themed expansion.
Beastly Kingdom was immediately a rock-solid plan in the minds of Disney executives. Animal Kingdom was supposed to feature animals of all types; those in real-life, those who walked the planet but have become extinct, and finally animals of the mystical realm. These plans would have placed Beastly Kingdom squarely in the area now inhabited by Camp Minnie-Mickey. What people do not know, is that Camp Minnie-Mickey has a remnant of the un-built Beastly Kingdom: A dragon shaped fountain within its boundaries. The plan of Beastly Kingdom was to create an area for all mythical and fantastical animals including Unicorns, Dragons, and sea monsters among others.

The land would have been broken up into two distinct areas: A good side and an evil side. Each side of Beastly Kingdom would have a “weenie” or landmark distinguishing itself from the other. The good side would feature an attraction called Quest of the Unicorn, as well as a Fantasia styled boat ride. The evil side of Beastly Kingdom would have featured Dragon Tower, an old castle in ruins inhabited by a fire breathing Dragon. As such the land would have been one of the focal points of the park, and likely would have kept Animal Kingdom from its initial failures. 

The area never came to be, and much to do with budgeting and finances. Rumor has it that Michael Eisner had to choose between the Beastly Kingdom area and the Dinoland area, as costs soared on construction. Seeing as Disney was real easing Dinosaur, the believed that would be the better land to create and promote (How did that film do?) As such Camp Minnie- Mickey was put in as a band aid replacement. Many of the Imagineers involved with the project eventually left the company in some sort of disgust at the failure of the construction amid the planning and man hours used in creation. Many of these Imagineers found their way to Universal, and were involved and used elements from Beastly Kingdom in the creation of The Lost Continent. Proof of this was found in Dueling Dragons (Now known as Dragon Challenge) as the concept of two dueling dragons within a ruined castle (sound familiar?)

Some elements of Beastly Kingdom are still evident in Animal Kingdom even today:
·       The Marquee of the park logo still includes a silhouette dragon among the animals walking behind the Animal Kingdom name.
·       One of the parking lots of the park was and still is titled Unicorn.
·       There is a statue of a Dragonhead above the ticket booths, though no Dragon exists in the park.
·       Fire blasts would fly from a cave within Camp Minnie-Mickey. There also included a suit of armor and an announcement on the now defunct Discovery River Boats that the cave housed a fire breathing dragon.

Beastly Kingdom was an enormous undertaking that the Disney Company decided was not cost-effective or feasible with the opening of the park. Though there were and still are elements  of the Beastly Kingdom concept included in the park (proving the seriousness of the creation of the land) it appears as though this has and will be permanently shelved with the announcement of the Avatar themed land within the park.

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