Disney’s Animal Kingdom park was an immediate hit when it opened in 1998, but it probably would have been even more successful if it included Beastly Kingdom. If you have never heard of Beastly Kingdom, you are in for a treat!

At first, there were supposed to be three different themed sections of Animal Kingdom: animals that exist today (live animals), animals that existed yesterday (Dinosaurs), and animals that are imaginary (mythical creatures such as unicorns, dragons, etc.). The section on imaginary animals was going to be called Beastly Kingdom, but it never happened. Even though some argue that it is being lived out today through the new Pandora—The World of Avatar.

Beastly Kingdom was not built by opening day, but the promotional material for Animal Kingdom still featured the mythical creatures that were supposed to reside in there. This was done because the original plan was to build and open Beastly Kingdom later in phase two of the park’s expansion. We will explain that in more detail later.

During a guest survey before the announcement and construction of Animal Kingdom, it was revealed that Beastly Kingdom was the most anticipated land of Animal Kingdom. Yet, it was still scratched. In the summer of 1993, guests from all three Walt Disney World parks at the time were selected to partake in a backstage survey. They were shown a video taking them through a conceptual tour of what would later become Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park. Of all the lands and elements of the park, Beastly Kingdom had the highest level of interest from guests. With that information, it is pretty shocking that it never became a reality.

Unfortunately, once construction on the park began, Disney accountants realised they had extremely underestimated the necessary budget for Animal Kingdom. One of the three original sections of the park had to be put on hold. Real wildlife was an essential element of Animal Kingdom park, and DinoLand U.S.A. had to be built to coincide with the release of the Disney film, DINOSAUR, two years later. So, Beastly Kingdom had to wait to be built.

However, a year after Animal Kingdom’s opening, Universal Studios Islands of Adventure opened. President of The Walt Disney Company at the time, Michael Eisner visited Islands of Adventure shortly after its opening. He saw that Islands of Adventure had its own mythical creature land a lot like the plans Disney had for Beastly Kingdom. How did this happen? Unfortunately, some of Disney’s Imagineers were laid off a few years after the park’s opening. Many of them were then hired at Universal Studios, where they brought this very similar land to life at the rival park. So, Beastly Kingdom was officially thrown out.

Beastly Kingdom was going to be divided into two sections: good and evil. Both sides of the land would feature imaginary, mythical creatures.

The “Good Side”

On the good side of Beastly Kingdom, would be two main attractions. One of the attractions would be called Fantasia Gardens and the other was Quest of the Unicorn. Fantasia Gardens would have been a boat ride based on the movie Fantasia, and would have featured iconic characters and musical numbers from the film. Quest of the Unicorn was supposed to be a large hedge maze inhabited by mythological creatures. The maze would lead to a castle with the unicorn’s secret lair, featuring an animatronic unicorn and a water filled grotto.

The “Bad Side”

The evil side of Beastly Kingdom would feature a medieval, partially burned castle with a crooked tower ominously blowing smoke from the top. A roller coaster inside the castle, called Dragon Tower, was supposed to be Animal Kingdom’s signature E-ticket thrill attraction. Dragon Tower would have been Disney’s first use of an inverted roller coaster design, meaning the tracks are above riders and their feet dangle from under their seats. The Dragon Tower roller coaster was supposed to be a high-speed journey through treasure chambers and abandoned corridors. Dragon Tower riders would encounter a 30-foot-tall dragon animatronic. It would have been the largest animatronic at a Disney theme park at the time. Imagineers even built a full-scale model of the animatronic dragon that they never got to use. There was also supposed to be a sea monster themed restaurant called “Lochness Landing.”

On some the Animal Kingdom signs around the resort and park itself, there are still mythical creatures. They represent the abandoned land idea, even though most guests would never realize it. Camp Minnie-Mickey was originally just a temporary placeholder until Beastly Kingdom could be built. When that idea was destroyed, Camp Minnie-Mickey remained.

It did not seem like Disney had plans to change it for a while. But then, Universal Studios opened The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. “Harry Potter World,” as some guests call it, was the first new element at a rival park that actually Disney a real run for their money. Something needed to be done. But what? Shortly after this, Disney decided to partner with famous director James Cameron to create a new land based on Cameron’s film, Avatar. Pandora–The World of Avatar opened to the public on May 25, 2017. It was a big success and started to even out the competition again between Universal and Disney Parks in Orlando.

Even though we know Beastly Kingdom would have been super cool to experience, we cannot imagine a world without Flight of Passage.  Plus, the healthy competition between Universal Studios and Disney only serves us guests. As long as they continue to try to grab our attention with new and exciting attractions, we continue to benefit. So, it is sad that Beastly Kingdom never became a reality, but looking back now, we are grateful to see what has become of it instead.