Disney’s Animal Kingdom Was Supposed to Have Unicorns and Dragons

in Walt Disney World

sisu with brothers and sisters in raya and the last dragon

Credit: Disney

When you think of Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort, you probably think about real wildlife, like the dozens of species of animals that live on Disney’s Harambe Wildlife preserve, which Guests can experience on the popular Kilimanjaro Safaris ride.

kilimanjaro safaris elephants
Credit: Disney

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The Guest-favorite attraction is officially described as:

Explore the Harambe Wildlife Reserve, home to 34 species living in 110 acres of picturesque open plains, shady forest landscapes and rocky wetlands. Your rugged safari vehicle is driven by an expert guide, who helps point out animals and shares fascinating wildlife facts during this extraordinary 18-minute expedition.

Unique Animal Encounters
Spot a shy hippopotamus nestled in a still pond. Behold a regal lion sunbathing on a rocky perch. Drive past a gentle giraffe grazing on the tall trees or wave hello to a swinging baboon. Other amazing animals you may encounter include rhinos, cheetahs, crocodiles, elephants, hyenas and zebras—and so many more!

Since animals have minds of their own, every expedition is a unique and unforgettable experience. Be sure to keep your eyes open and have a camera ready—you never know what you’ll see on a Kilimanjaro Safaris outing.

kilimanjaro safaris
Credit: Disney

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As thrilling as the Disney World safari is, however, Disney’s Animal Kingdom was originally supposed to be very different! Instead of featuring various real lands like Africa and Asia — with the notable exception, of course, of Dinoland, U.S.A. — the theme park was supposed to be comprised of three sections based on animals that currently exist, animals that previously existed (this is where Dinoland comes into play today), and fantastical animals that never existed.

raya and sisu
Credit: Disney

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Yahoo! noted:

Did you ever wonder why there’s a mythical dragon on the logo for Disney’s Animal Kingdom? Originally, the plans for the park consisted of three themed areas: animals that exist, animals that are extinct, and animals that never existed. While live animals and dinosaurs made it to Animal Kingdom, the third themed area, Beastly Kingdom, never came to fruition. The area was supposed to feature unicorns, dragons, and a dark ride based on the Disney film “Fantasia.” Imaginary animals are now represented at Animal Kingdom through the yeti on Expedition: Everest and the “Avatar”-themed land Pandora.

yeti expedition everest
Credit: D23

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Athough it was ultimately vetoed by iconic Walt Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde and his team, Beastly Kingdom — which was ultimately turned into Camp Minnie-Mickey and, subsequently, Pandora: The World of Avatar — sounds like it would have been amazing.

beastly kingdom unicorn dark ride
Credit: Disney

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One description shares:

The section was to feature realms surrounding “good” and “evil” creatures. The good realm would have been home to an attraction called Quest of the Unicorn, which would have been a mythological maze leading to the grotto where the unicorn lived. The good realm would also have featured Fantasia Gardens, an attraction based on the movie Fantasia, that would have been a musical boat ride that takes you the animal scenes of the movie. The idea, similar to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, would have featured hippos and alligators from “Dance of the Hours” along with pegasi, fauns, and centaurs from “Pastoral”.

beastly kingdom concept art
Credit: Disney

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In addition, a restaurant called Loch Ness Landing was supposed to exist in the forgotten land.

Although Beastly Kingdom never came to fruition, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ movie, Raya and the Last Dragon (2021), offers all sorts of potential for dragons to finally make their way to Disney’s Animal Kingdom in the not-too-distant future.

Raya is gay - Kelly Marie Tran comments
Credit: Disney

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Some fans, for example, have speculated that the movie could eventually become the basis for a new nighttime spectacular at Disney’s Animal Kingdom now that Rivers of Light has officially ended.

There is also the potential for Dinoland, U.S.A. to morph into a Raya and Sisu-themed area, as a permit for construction on the former site of Primeval Whirl was recently filed — though no additional details have been shared at this time.

onward pixar fantasy movie
Credit: Pixar Animation Studios

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Nonetheless, as the Disney catalog continues to expand with films like Raya and the Last Dragon and Pixar’s Onward (2020) — both streaming on Disney+ — there is little doubt that bits and pieces of what would have been Beastly Kingdom will make their way back into Walt Disney World Resort in magical and mystical ways.

Did you know about Beastly Kingdom?

Let the expert team at Academy Travel help you plan your next magical vacation to Walt Disney World Resort’s four theme parks — Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios — and the Disney Springs shopping and dining district!

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