Disney's Animal Kingdom focuses on three broad classifications of animals: those that exist in today's reality; those that did exist, but are now extinct (i.e., dinosaurs); and those that only exist in the realm of fantasy.
In the original design for the park, the animals of legend were to have their own section.
The original design for Animal Kingdom included a section called the Beastly Kingdom (possibly spelled as "Beastly Kingdomme"). It was a land devoted to creatures of legend and mythology. Due to budget constraints, Beastly Kingdom never came to fruition and Camp Minnie-Mickey was built as a temporary tenant of the Beastly Kingdom land.
Beastly Kingdom was to have featured mythical animals such as unicorns, dragons, and sea monsters. The land would feature realms of both good and evil creatures. The evil side would be dominated by Dragon Tower,
a ruined castle home to a greedy fire-breathing dragon
who horded a fabulous treasure in the tower chamber. The castle would also be inhabited by bats
who planned to rob the dragon of his riches. They would enlist the guests' help in their scheme and whisk them off on a thrilling roller coaster ride through the castle ruins. The climax of the ride would be an encounter with the evil dragon himself, resulting in a nearly-barbecued train of guests.
The good side of this land would be home to Quest of the Unicorn
, an adventure which sent guests through a maze of medieval mythological creatures to seek the hidden grotto where the unicorn lived. Finally, the Fantasia Gardens attraction would be a musical boat ride through animal scenes from Disney's animated classic, Fantasia
. The ride would feature both the crocodiles and hippos from "Dance of the Hours" and the Pegasus
, and centaurs
from Beethoven's "Pastoral."
Remnants of this planned area were visible when the park opened or are still visible today:
- The parking lot contains a section named "Unicorn."
- The silhouette of a dragon appears in the Animal Kingdom logo.
- There is a dragon-shaped stone fountain near Camp Minnie-Mickey.
- A detailed dragonhead statue sits atop one of the ticket booths at the park's entrance. (The other two booths are topped by an elephant head and a triceratops head)
- Blasts of fire would be spewed from a cave at the edge of the water, in Camp Minnie-Mickey. Burnt suits of armor were just outside the cave entrance, and when boats passed this scene in the now-closed Discovery River Boats attraction, guests were told by the boat's captain that the fire was created by a fire-breathing dragon inside the cave. This scene was visible from Discovery River Boats attraction and the Camp Minnie-Mickey bridge for several years.
- One of the McDonald's Animal Kingdom-themed Happy Meal toys was a winged purple dragon.
As Expedition Everest features the mythological yeti, a creature that may or may not exist, the park now features at least one attraction based on each type of animal (living, extinct and legendary). As to Beastly Kingdom's future, Walt Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde
said in 2000: "We had a vision and now it's become a place holder. We have all kinds of ideas and not all of them fit with the theme of Beastly Kingdom. I'm not even convinced there will be a Beastly Kingdom.".