For those unaware, Disney had planned an area for their Animal Kingdom park long before it’s announcement. Animal Kingdom is notorious for being themed towards animals from all over the world, Dinosaurs, but at one point planned towards creatures that only exist within fantasy. This forgotten land was known as Beastly Kingdom, a land split in half by good and evil.
This fantasy land was burdened by budget cuts, and though it had never existed, it appeared in early advertising and what’s left of it is still seen in the park today. Multiple attractions were planned, including a hedge maze full of mythical creatures that would lead up to a stunning castle housing a unicorn, a Fantasia themed musical boat ride, and perhaps the most intriguing piece, a dragon themed inverted roller coaster. Seems familiar right? Here’s where Universal makes its connection.
Beastly Kingdom, was burdened with budget cuts from Animal Kingdom’s early construction. During construction, they had a choice, either they go with dinosaurs or fantasy animals. Walt Disney World’s executive, Michael Eisner, made the choice to build dinosaurs first, and hold off Beastly Kingdom as a phase two project. Animal Kingdom had it’s grand opening with Beastly Kingdom’s spot held by Camp Minnie-Mickey, a quickly constructed and easily demolishable land themed to meet-n’-greets. During this time, however, Islands of Adventure was still being constructed as Universal Orlando’s second park.
Holding off Beastly Kingdom came at a cost, and that meant laying off some imagineers. Looking for work, Imagineers supposedly gave some of these ideas to Universal, resulting in a medieval themed area in Islands of Adventure’s Lost Continent. The striking similarities between Islands of Adventure’s reality and Disney’s concepts seems no mistake. Dueling Dragons seems to have taken the “inverted dragon coaster” theme straight down to it’s queue, which was also planned to have a derelict castle. Flight of the Unicorn seems to have also taken the unicorn theme into perspective, but instead of being a walk-through attraction, it is a family-children’s roller coaster.
The medieval themed area in Lost Continent had its play for a solid 11 years before being rethemed towards Harry Potter. Though the generic medieval theme no longer exists, the attractions are still there, renamed and rethemed. Dueling Dragons is now branded as Dragon Challenge, and Flight of the Unicorn was rethemed to Flight of the Hippogriff. Dueling Dragons was originally planned for demolishment, but popular demand kept it playing.
Disney’s vision for all this wasn’t too different. Dragon’s Tower would’ve been taller than Dueling Dragons, as well as housing Disney’s largest audio animatronic (before Expedition Everest’s Yeti) and being Disney’s first inverted roller coaster, well planned a year before Rock n’ Roller Coaster. Quest of the Unicorn would be the walk-through attraction, encountering creatures such as a griffin, and finally an encounter with a unicorn. Fantasia Gardens would be the boat ride, which would be themed to the Dance of the Hours and Pastoral segments.
Though Beastly Kingdom seemed to only somehow existed in Islands of Adventure, it’s legacy was never forgotten throughout Animal Kingdom. Perhaps the most prominent relic is the dragon silhouette in the logo. There is also:
- A “Unicorn” named parking lot.
- A dragon head at one of the front info kiosks
- Various mythological creatures are still seen carved into walls
- A dragon-like rock formation and fire-spewing cavern at the former Discovery River Boats (The rock is still there!)
- A dragon animatronic at Disneyland Paris’s castle, that was likely intended for Beastly Kingdom.
Beastly Kingdom’s reserved spot is now being taken up by Pandora: World of Avatar, being themed to James Cameron’s Avatar. Though Beastly Kingdom is now most likely gone for good, the legacy it left is still there.