Sunday, June 11, 2017

Beastly Kingdom

Every time I have asked for suggestions on what to work on for future posts, I inevitably get the suggestion from multiple readers for Beastly Kingdom.

I always have said that I am putting it on the list, and I'll get to it when some inspiration comes to me. The truth is that I wasn't all that sure if I would ever really get to it because I was hesitant to make an attempt at something so iconic and frankly I wasn't sure how to do it and not seem like I was just copying the original design. I didn't have the mental strategy for how to design my own Beastly Kingdom instead of just redesigning the unbuilt plans. That was always a much less interesting challenge for me, so I wasn't sure how or if I would ever get to it.

But recently, I decided that this would be a good time for it now that Pandora is open, so I sat down to really think about what I wanted out of this land to see if I could make progress.

And, as you can see by this post, I figured something out. The key for me was when I thought about the hypothetical lands relationship to the core values of Animal Kingdom.

Animal Kingdom may be essentially a park about animals, but the deeper message is one of conservation by way of animals. This is emphasized in all the original lands and even more in Pandora, where they could have gone in a completely different direction but doubled down on what makes Animal Kingdom. That was something I knew I needed to do here as well.

So now I faced the question of how to make mythical creatures fit the idea of conservation. Its not a clear solution at first, but when looking at lists of mythical creatures, I realized there was a path by what animals I included. I decided to exclusively focus on mythical animals that were thought to be real but were actually based on misunderstandings of real animals. That way, the land can tie into how we understand and mythologize the animals we have, and how the animals we fail to protect become a part of legend.

That list of legendary creatures helped me figure out a design strategy that made sense to me, and the land quickly came together. Ironically, its still a little similar to the original design, but I reached that point by way of my own process, so I see that as ok, and maybe a sign that the original would have followed a similar concept.

The land developed into two halves, though not the light vs dark concept of the original, but a geographic split between Medieval Europe and Ancient Greece, two of the common mythical settings.

Some thoughts about the attraction mix before I start. Because of the huge variety of subjects I could use, I wanted to do multiple attractions for each area. I also wanted to include an animal trail to complement the existing ones in other lands. I don't know if they would still build new animal trails now, but I like them and wanted to try to make them work. And I also wanted to try to include an IP in the same way as Lion King in Africa: in theme and with realistic detail on the outside, and true to the IP on the inside. And most of all, I wanted to make sure I didn't just do exactly what the original plan had.

The land begins with the bridge crossing the river, the existing dragon rocks to the right, foreshadowing whats coming. Through the trees, we can see a medieval castle straight ahead, up on a rocky base. We walk along a raised stone pathway through the forest, and if we look down, there is a moat of crocodiles below to the left. As we come closer to the castle though, we notice that is it not intact. Sections are crumbling and burnt away and constantly smoking, and most startlingly, there is an occasional small blast of flame and smoke coming out of an upper cave opening below the castle. The stone castle walls continue beyond, built up into the mountain side, which grows to be a small range in the distance. This is the central icon of the land and the main element of the medieval area, which has the bulk of the attractions.

First, just after crossing the main bridge, on the right is the entrance to the animal trail. The path slopes down and runs along the river, down to a lower level below the main path. The idea for the animals in this trail is to focus on animals that were either once thought to be a myth, animals that were the inspiration for mythical creatures, or animals that are just bizarre. Each exhibit includes educational information about the history of the animal and its mythical relationship plus conservation information. First is a Reptile house, themed as a stone lodge in the forest, which has a collection of odd snakes and reptiles. Next is a small habitat for the Platypus, which was thought to be a myth for many years. Following that is a large pool for a small group of Manatees, the original mermaids, which spills over into the river beyond. The adjacent stone building is used for animal care for the Manatees. The path then leads under the main walkway of the land and finds the pool of Crocodiles, a possible dragon inspiration. Next is a small grove of Okapi, another once mythical real animal. Finally, there is a habitat for Komodo Dragons along the rocky cliff side by the castle. The path leads out at the base of the castle after passing through the dragons cave.

The entrance to the main ride of the land is also just next to this, and enters into the north side of the castle mountain. The queue leads through the dungeons and caves of the destroyed castle and leads to a castle dock where we board large boats for a trip through the forest and caves. This is the same system as Pirates in Shanghai. The large and long ride takes us through a dark and mysterious but magical forest, passing unicorns (inspired by rhinoceros horns), centaurs (based on horses), and griffins (inspired by dinosaur bones), and eventually leading back into the castle caves where we meet the huge dragon who has destroyed and then taken over the castle. This would be a large figure that would shoot flames at us for daring to approach it, sending us back over a waterfall drop and the conclusion of the ride.

The ride exits on the south side of the castle, where there is also an entrance to an interior counter service restaurant, set in the burnt away great hall of the castle. Logically, this should serve grilled and roasted meats, right?

Next to the castle is a second walking trail attraction, but without real animals. This would be pretty similar to the unicorn trail from the original plan, just not as a maze. The idea is a exploration area where guests can learn about and find some real mythical creatures. The path includes a look into the show building forest, a close up encounter with a unicorn that you can greet and touch, a herd of centaurs in a clearing, and a finale exploration of the cave of a pair of griffins.

The next area and attraction is a bit of a transition between the two stylistic areas. From the path by the castle and the bridge over the lagoon, guests attention is drawn to a focal waterfall along he opposite side of the water. In front of this waterfall is an occasional eruption of splashes and bubbles, as if something large is swimming just underneath. The entrance to the attraction is just by the castle, by a small boathouse, and leads down to the waters edge and behind the waterfall. The attraction inside is a dry for wet suspended dark ride through the world of the sea, just like the attraction at Tokyo Disney Sea. Guests board primitive submersible vehicles, made of wood and leather, and journey underwater, passing mermaids (based on manatees), a fleet of hippocampuses (literally seahorses), many other exotic plants and fish, and finally the kraken (based on the giant squid). The ride exits on the Greek side of the lagoon.

The Ancient Greece area is smaller and has two attractions. Standing at the base of the castle and looking west, the most visible thing is two large stone feet, ruins of a an even larger statue that has fallen away. Behind is a low range of rock, water flowing down to a small pool that feeds into the main lagoon and river. But more iconically, right behind is the huge head of the statue, crashed into the stone. This is the home of Philoctetes, the trainer of Hercules, and the entrance to a Hercules dark ride. Like I said, the exterior and queue is fully real and in theme to this mythic world while the actual attraction has the more lighthearted cartoon style. This would be a classic dark ride through the trials of the hero, narrated by the Muses, and focusing on his interactions with mythical creatures, such as Pegasus, Phil, and the Hydra.

The rest of the area holds one final original attraction. This is a coaster on the scale of Big Thunder Mountain that explores a mountain inhabited by a cyclops group (which were inspired by dwarf elephant skulls). Very loosely based on the story of the Greek Hero Odysseus and his encounter with a cyclops, the coaster winds through the Greek hills before first encountering and then escaping from the huge creature. After an interior portion where this happens, the cars are launched straight out of the cave towards the river beyond and then wind their way back through the rockwork.

Beyond the attraction, along the river, is a large Greek boat, docked along the path. Also nearby is a Greek ruins shack that is a snack and drink location.

As for retail overall in the land, the main location is at the exit of the castle ride, plus a very small area in the caves of the underwater attraction and fully themed retail carts outside of the exits for Hercules and the Cyclops coaster.

The land would be able to transform a bit at night, focusing on the ruined castle. At night, by way of special lighting and other effects, it could be permanently ignited, glowing from the remaining embers of the fire created by the dragon inside. The water effects in the lagoon could also be joined by a variety of moving light sources under the water, showing creatures moving about.

This version of Beastly Kingdom is definitely different that what we know of the original, but I hope it has the same spirit and style plus a compatible tone with the rest of the park. After a year of not thinking I would be able to make something that I was happy with, this quite suddenly came to being and I think it is a success. 

That's not to say that what we got instead isn't also great for the park. Can't wait to see Pandora as it looks incredible and appears to fit in the park so well. So either way, I think Animal Kingdom is doing all right. 

So. Let me know your thoughts about Beastly Kingdom, this version and the original. What attractions from the original do you still wish I had included? Leave a comment and lets discuss what could have been great about the original, what you like about this concept, and even your thoughts about the land we got instead. 


  1. Yes! Finally we get Beastly Kingdom from you, and it is absolutely wonderful! 😄

    Some comments, first I was quite surprised you made your version of a Dragon Castle ride and made it a riverboat ride instead. I was not expecting that at all and it was a pleasant surprise. Would love to either see a 3D Sketchup video of this ride or a post dedicated to it, though I would love the same for your Cyclops ride.

    Overall a very impressive plan, and while I would like to to say more, right now I'm typing this on my iPhone and it'll be easier to type this on my computer later. So I'll probably post another reply soon. Still excellent plan! Well done! 👍😁

    1. Thanks.

      Yeah I intentionally wanted to do something different, but the main ride featuring a dragon is such an obviously great idea, so I had to adapt it. Plus the Shanghai Pirates system seems super cool, so I thought it could work well. I'll think about it for a future post.

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  6. Can you do an Second gate for Hong Kong Disneyland i think for Disney's Adventure Kingdom and this park is similar to Islands of Adventure & Tokyo DisneySea, This park is themed to Disney stories and is also home to the S.E.A. known as Society of Explorers and Adventurers. So i make-up some lands called Ports of Call. The Park will had 9 themed lands of Adventure, Stories & Legends of Disney's Favorite Stories from their movies like Pirates of the Caribbean, Moana & other Disney movies. The Ports: -One enters the park through Adventure Harbour, Past the gates you will find a small street which is build up similarly to Port of Entry at Islands of Adventure & Mediterranean Harbor at Tokyo DisneySea. The street will have shops and restaurants but no attractions or Vehicles in this land but it will have a water show similar to the one in Tokyo DisneySea.

    -Across the Lagoon, Blackbeard's Castle, marking the land of Buccaneer Bay. A massive battle between the Spanish Navy and the Pirates, incorporating tall ships and the Castle, takes place on the lagoon. An original, hi-tech Pirates of the Caribbean dark boat ride, along with interactive exploration trails, a Mack water-gun spinner and an island attraction, The main Ships here is very large and fully explorable: a 3-masted War Galleon (multiple gun decks), much bigger and similar tallships in DLP or TDS.

    -Enchanted Forest, This land is the second land of Fantasyland, featuring kid-friendly attractions & an thrilling roller coaster for the thrill ones & one or two major dark rides.

    -Vulcania, This land is similar to Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea with a new set of attractions and dining & other experiences. within Mount Prometheus, the giant volcano that is the park's centerpiece and most prominent feature. It relies heavily on the storytelling of Jules Verne and, specifically, the mythology of the volcano fortress mentioned several times in the books called "Vulcania".

    -Adventure Isle is the substitute for Lost River Valley to the beautiful and relaxing lands of Africa, South America, Mexico and Polynesia & is a second land of Adventureland, and this land will also Includes a stunt theater, a boat ride of Moana similar to Frozen Ever After & Pirates, A EMV attraction based on Indiana Jones and other major attractions.

    -Mythos, Mythos revolves around some of the greatest myths of our time: the myths of Ancient Greece and Rome, and what is perhaps the greatest myth of all time: Atlantis.

    - Tianxia, Welcome to the Ancient Asian Kingdom, Tianxia. This area is from Laura Polo. Laura is a descendant of Marco Polo and now travels to the Asian Kingdom again to discover new things and this land is also themed to the story of Mulan.

    -Port Discovery, This land is similar to the one in Tokyo DisneySea & Discoveryland at Disneyland Paris filled with a steampunkish airships and anchored by a Soarin'-style attraction, Aquatopia, a boat ride that uses LPS tracking (the 'trackless' technology similar to the one Tokyo DisneySea) and the land will also become home to Nemo & Friends SeaRider based on Finding Nemo/Finding Dory which will be an simulator.

    -The final port is Arabian Coast: This is themed after Aladdin & Sindbad the Sailor. It recreates an Arabian harbor combined with an "enchanted world from 1001 Arabian Nights". Similar land from Tokyo DisneySea.

    Can you make the second gate park what i type on please Imaginnerland maybe Next year or in the summer & another Disney Park please & thank you.

  7. Love your concept of Beastly Kingdom. I'll admit that after seeing the Pandora videos pop up, I pondered the question of conservation and how it would've been incorporated into Beastly Kingdom, and I think you've done a fabulous job of answering that question. Beastly Kingdom is an incredibly rich concept for a land (or larger!), so the biggest wish is that there could be more, more, more!

    Not to toot my own Imagineering horn at all, but it seems with Pandora opening, you're not the only one who's been looking back at Beastly Kingdom for inspiration. I've just moments ago premiered a whole park concept elsewhere called Monstrous Realms, which is a sort of Beastly Kingdom done at a full park scale. Even with like 30+ attractions, and 7 lands, there are whole monstrous mythologies I had to edit out. No matter, you might find another approach to the topic to be interesting.

    1. Thanks! Yeah its kind of crazy how many mythical creatures there are. Could have gone in a hundred different directions with this. Definitely could make a larger area or whole park.

      I've just never done it before because there's so much research to do to understand it and get it right! Maybe one day.

      Wow, yours looks cool, and a lot of info in it. Impressive. I really need to be reading those competitions. Good stuff there.

  8. I really would've preferred Beastly Kingdom over Pandora - The World of Avatar, but it's what we got so I need to get over it. I feel like your concept is great, but the Greek part was a little far-fetched and kind of left the theme of the rest of the park. I feel like the dragon coaster is a ride they had planned to do with Beastly Kingdom is one you should've included in your concept, but your concept was very interesting and neat! Defiantly seems realistic.