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The Walt Disney World that Never Was: Dragon Tower

by Josh Taylor

Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year. It’s a chance to be terrified by haunted houses, scary movies, or seeing your grandmother without her makeup on.  So, when I get a chance like this to talk about Disney during Halloween, my mind immediately heads towards something a bit scary and height restrictions are usually required. (Sorry, Lou Mongello!) This year for Halloween, I’ve decided to focus in on one of the familiar lost areas of Animal Kingdom, but the not-so-familiar details of one particular attraction. I’m talking about Dragon Tower.

Dragon Tower was to be part of Animal Kingdom’s lost land, Beastly Kingdom. Due to budget cuts, Beastly Kingdom was put on the shelf and planned for phase two of Walt Disney World’s fourth gate. Unfortunately, phase two eventually got nixed as well and efforts were put into other parts of the park. Despite all of that, the plans for Dragon Tower were exciting and a bit scary so its legacy will be carried on like a myth through articles like this.

So, if Dragon Tower was to be built, what would it look like? Picture a black or grey looming building towering just beyond lush green land. As guests travel towards the building, they’ll notice it seems to be crumbling and barely standing on its own. This dark castle would have a courtyard before it where guests would enter into the queue. All around the outside of the castle would be leftover armor and weaponry from brave warriors who had lost to the dragon. Upon entering the castle walls, through a hole not a door might I add, you would find a dark cavernous area filled with cobwebs and left over items. (Think of this being similar to the entrance of the Hollywood Hotel at the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.) As guests walk the queue, they start to hear whispers from above them. Getting closer to the end of the queue, guests would discover a group of bats. The bats would lend a cartoonish-lighter note to the foreboding environment.

The bats lend a hand at telling the story of the Dragon Tower. They will also update guests on what this attraction will be, telling them that they will be boarding cauldrons that are carried by their bat friends as they search for treasure through the castle. Passing by the bats, boarding begins as guests climb into their cauldrons, which are a suspended roller coaster, what would have been a first for a U.S. Disney theme park. After leaving the boarding area, guests make their way through the grand banquet hall and the throne room before beginning the race out onto the track.

As guests begin to race faster aboard the coaster, they are greeted by bats cheering them on through the halls and caverns of the castle. After racing past several bat friends, guests enter the treasure room with a thirty foot sleeping audio-animatronic dragon. The dragon awakens and bursts out a real flame of fire warning the guests off. The coaster picks up speed and bursts out of the castle walls and dives down towards the forest area outside. Guests would loop through forest and head back into the castle where they make their final stop with the bats thanking them for their help.

This sounds like an adventurous scary attraction. From beginning to end, the theme was well thought out, giving a dark tone to an attraction, while still keeping it upbeat thanks to the humorous bat characters and the opportunity to “find treasure” with them. A possible bonus with this attraction was the request by the general public to have more thrilling rides for older children and adults. This attraction would have delivered that in spades. Despite not getting Dragon Tower or Beastly Kingdom as a whole, the park did luckily receive it’s E-ticket roller coaster in Expedition Everest in 2006. Is Expedition Everest as dark and looming as Dragon Tower? Not really, but I personally think that is a good thing. Taking something so dark to a family friendly resort could have been a turn off and in the end, Expedition Everest is more than likely the better and more popular choice.

Josh Taylor is a 26-year-old fan of Disney Parks. He has become a travel agent for friend and family looking to go to a Disney Resort.