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The World that Never Was: Beastly Kingdom

by Josh Taylor

In celebration of the Animal Kingdom’s anniversary and Earth Day, which just passed us, I figured now would be a better time than ever to talk about the Animal Kingdom that never was, specifically an entire “land” that went to the wayside. When Disney’s Animal Kingdom was built, it was the largest theme park outing for Disney and at a cost of nearly $1 billion to create, was a leap of faith for the company. On top of that, Disney also had plans for a grand scale luxury hotel right off to the side of the Animal Kingdom park, so the project in whole was a large stretch for Disney, but as it turns out, a good one.

One of the original plans for the $1 billion Animal Kingdom park and lodge project was a section of the park called Beastly Kingdom, or “Beastley Kingdomme” as some concept art spells it. This part of the park would have, without a doubt, been very popular and crowded had it come to fruition. The Beastly Kingdom would have dealt with the animals and creatures of mythology and folklore and would have had three major attractions in the area.

The Dragon Tower was to be a major thrill ride experience. As in most fairy tales, there are good and evil sides to the section of the park. The Dragon Tower would be a part of the darker side of the land taking guests on a roller coaster ride around the tower and past a deadly dragon. The detail going into the Tower itself would be incredible, as the castle would look half ruined and burnt down by the dragon, still in tact enough for guests to go inside.

On the good side of Beastly Kingdom would be Fantasia Gardens, a boat ride based on Fantasia, a movie that doesn’t get enough recognition in my opinion. This slow moving boat ride, similar to Pirates of the Caribbean or It’s a Small World, would take you past several scenes from the film including the “Dance of the Hours” scenes with the hippos and crocodiles and Beethoven’s “Pastoral” which features more centaurs, fauns, and Pegasus.

Beastly Kingdom’s good side would also feature a maze that leads to a secret grotto called Quest of the Unicorn. As guests would travel through the maze, they would run into several medieval and mythological creatures before finding the Unicorn in his grotto either in the middle of the maze or at the end of the maze.

So why did the Beastly Kingdom never get built? It’s simple economics my Dear Watson! (sorry, random non-sensicle Sherlock Holmes reference) With the rest of the park already over budget, it would be difficult to cut out Africa, Asia, or even Dinoland U.S.A. from the park to fit in the Beastly Kingdom. Truthfully, it makes the least sense of all the lands to be there. Can you imagine Animal Kingdom without a safari ride, jungle trek, or bone yard? IT would definitely be a wonderful addition to add in mythological creatures, but not a necessary component to the story of conservation and the history and beauty of animals.

Be sure to follow Josh Taylor on Twitter at @kidredo. You can read more from Josh at www.disneyparkhistory.wordpress.com