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Fun Find Friday


May 27, 2011
Disney's Animal Kingdom

Lions and tigers and....dragons?

There are no dragons in the Animal Kingdom, right? Wrong! In fact, dragons are scattered throughout the park in some obvious, and not so obvious ways. But why are the dragons here? That's an easy question to answer. It's a reference to Beastly Kingdom! What is Beastly Kingdom? Well, that's a little more difficult to answer.

Back when Disney's Animal Kingdom was being developed the Imagineers had decided to focus on three different types of animals: animals that we can find today, animals that are extinct (Dinoland, USA), and animals that are born from the imagination (like dragons!). The last area listed there was intended for Beastly Kingdom, which would focus on the good side and bad side of make believe creatures. Let's introduce these two sides in an announcer type way.

Announcer: LADIES AND GENTLEMAN, BOYS AND GIRLS, it's time for the Beastly Kingdom Lineup! Coming from the land of butterflies and rainbows, it's the uniiiiiiicooooooooorns! And their rival, the baddest of the bad and the meanest of the mean, the fire breathing Draaaaaagooooons!

 Alright, for those of you who stuck with this article after that nonsense, let me go into a little more detail about this (what could be) amazing land. Like I said, the area would be divided into two lands that focused on the good (unicorns) and bad (dragons). The good side featured a Fantasia based attraction (it would be similar to "small world," but would take you through scenes of the film) and a Unicorn maze, while the bad side featured a rollercoaster (Disney's Animal Kingdom's first thrill ride) that would take you on an adventure as you attempted to slay the dragon.

Alright, so I know some of you out there are wondering when I'm going to get to the connection with the park today. Let's start with the most obvious one. Throughout Disney's Animal Kingdom you can find the "park logo" which features a lion, elephant, triceratops, antelope, and a dragon (right in the center). This is featured on the sign near the buses, the direction signs throughout the park (see picture below), and some of the benches in The Oasis (see picture below).

These signs can be found throughout most of Disney's Animal Kingdom

Park bench near my exit at Disney's Animal Kingdom

These logos show that in earlier stages dragons were definitely going to have a home here at Disney's Animal Kingdom. The big question is: How close did Disney get to actually putting this land into the park? There are three details found in the park that help us answer that question. The first one is at the tickets booths just before the turnstiles. Here you can find a different head on each of the three ticket booths. There's a dinosaur, elephant, and then this guy:

The fact that a dragon stands at the entrance to the park shows that the idea was still in the Imagineers minds right up to park opening. What really solidifies it though is Michael Eisner's opening speech which can be found in The Oasis:

Here he clearly states that the park is "ruled by lions, dinosaurs, and dragons." Even on opening day, the idea of dragons being present in the park was still a very real possibility. So what happened? Money! It takes a lot of money to build a brand new park (while still updating other parks around the World) so the idea of Beastly Kingdom was put on the backburner. To keep guests satisfied for the first year or two a temporary land was put in it's place: Camp Minnie-Mickey.

As time went by, Beastly Kingdom slowly faded away while The Festival of the Lion King and the Character Trails became more popular. However, part of Beastly Kingdom can still be found at Disney's Animal Kingdom (even though no rides are present). While approaching Camp Minnie-Mickey, stop on the bridge that takes you into the land. On your right hand side, near the water, you'll find this image:

Here lies a dragon, anxiously waiting the day for his home to be built. Will Beastly Kingdom ever become a reality? Who knows? I for one would love to see this land built, but not at the expense of The Festival of the Lion King. What are your thoughts? Share them over in the forums.

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