Beastly Kingdom: the Animal Kingdom Park That Never Came to Be

Lions, and elephants, and…dragons? Oh, my! Looking at the classic Animal Kingdom logo, you’ve probably wondered what in the world a dragon is doing among the line up of creatures that you would otherwise find within the Disney Park.

Animal Kingdom Logo ©Disney

Believe it or not, dragons actually were a part of the original Animal Kingdom concept! The mythical creature was planned to be front and center in a long-since forgotten part of the park: Beastly Kingdom.

What is (or was) Beastly Kingdom?

So what exactly was Beastly Kingdom? This part of the park was meant to be the star of the second phase of Animal Kingdom, located in the part of the park that is now home to a lil’ land called Pandora!

Pandora: World of Avatar

The original plan of Animal Kingdom was to incorporate three different types of animals: real, extinct, and imaginary. When Animal Kingdom first opened on on April 22, 1998, it included representations of those first two types and fully planned on bringing in the third group later. 

Animal Kingdom Opening Day Guide

At the dedication of Animal Kingdom, Michael Eisner, then-CEO of The Walt Disney Company, even stated: “Welcome to a kingdom of animals… real, ancient, and imagined: a kingdom ruled by lions, dinosaurs, and dragons; a kingdom of balance, harmony, and survival; a kingdom we enter to share in the wonder, gaze at the beauty, thrill at the drama, and learn.'”

What Would Have Been In Beastly Kingdom

The original concept for Beastly Kingdom was to add a land to Animal Kingdom that focused on mythical creatures ranging from dragons to unicorns. When you crossed the bridge over to Beastly Kingdom, you would be met with an area that divided into “Nice, Beautiful, and Dangerous”. Nice would have appealed to a younger crowd, featuring creatures such as unicorns. Beautiful was more of a middle-ground, while Dangerous would lead you to dragons.

Beastly Kingdom Concept Art ©Disney

One of the attraction concepts for Beastly Kingdom was a ride called “Quest of the Unicorn”, which would have been an interactive walk-through maze where guests would find and awaken five golden idols, wandering through an area where they would be surrounded by magical mythical creatures. As they found each idol, the plan was for guests to unlock a section of the maze where they would have come face-to-face with an audio-animatronic unicorn in a beautiful secluded grotto.

“Quest of the Unicorn” Concept Art ©Disney

Other rides planned included Fantasia Gardens, which would have been a musical boat ride inspired the animated Disney film Fantasia. The big thrill ride of the land, though, was to be Dragon’s Tower, which would have been the big icon of Beastly Kingdom. Planned to be a thrilling roller coaster, the ride was planned to take you through a land that had been taken over by a massive dragon who guarded a vast collection of treasures. At the time, the dragon was planned to be the largest audio-animatronic creature that Imagineers would have built up until that point, as you would have come face-to-face with it at the climax of the attraction. This dragon is the creature that, to this day, you can spot as a part of Animal Kingdom’s logo!

what remains of beastly kingdom?

Ultimately, the original concept for Beastly Kingdom was scrapped due to budget cuts. As Animal Kingdom got closer and closer to opening, the overall cost of caring for the real animals in the park caused the budget to rise far past what was expected. These budget cuts eliminated a large part of the Africa section at the park and also forced Eisner to decide between Dinoland or Beastly Kingdom. As we obviously know, he chose to proceed with Dinoland, which left Beastly Kingdom on the cutting room floor.

Dinoland in Animal Kingdom

While Beastly Kingdom never came to be, there are still small remnants of the concept in the park today — think of them like Hidden Mickeys but beastlier. One that we’ve already mentioned is the logo, where you can still find a dragon among the line of creatures. Additionally, there is also a “Unicorn” section in the Animal Kingdom parking lot that remains. Look closely and you’ll also be able to spot a carved dragon above one of the ticket booths at the front of the park!

Animal Kingdom Booth

While we would have loved to see what Beastly Kingdom could have become, we’d be lying if we said we didn’t love the land that ended up in the spot earmarked for the mythical land. Pandora has been a welcome addition to Animal Kingdom, adding a creative “imaginary” element that somehow fits in perfectly with a park that focuses on real animals and the environment. While we will always wonder “what could have been?”, we’re pretty satisfied with the most recent addition to Animal Kingdom and love the park as a whole!

What do you think of the concept for Beastly Kingdom? Do you wish Animal Kingdom had kept the land, or are you glad we got Pandora instead? Let us know in the comments below!

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2 Replies to “Beastly Kingdom: the Animal Kingdom Park That Never Came to Be”

  1. Dinoland does seem kinda dated but I do like the main attraction better than Universals river park adventure. There are a lot more actual dinosaurs to be seen. Leave it to Eisner to go on the cheap. Walt would have rolled over in his grave.

  2. It’s time to also scrap Dinoland USA. It’s just so tacky (by design, I guess) and doesn’t fit in with the otherwise lush and beautiful park.