Thursday, 19 January 2012

Avatar expansion paving the way for Beastly Kingdom?





When Disney make an announcement, be it a new ride build, a new resort or the opening of a new restaurant, we, in the Disney community, usually have a little idea about it before the big news breaks. Through forums, blogs, podcasts, speculation of rumours and news, we are usually pretty good at finding out what will be coming next. So, when the Walt Disney World company announced a partnership with James Cameron and his Avatar film(s) that will lead to the creation of an Avatar Land expansion at Animal Kingdom, I think it’s safe to say we were all thinking, ‘Gawrsh’ and scratching our heads.

When Animal Kingdom was originally imagined, it was designed to be a park where creatures, great, small, extinct and mythical would come together. From ants to dinosaurs, dragons and unicorns, guests would be immerged into a fascinating world of reality, history and fantasy. If you look at the original logo for the park, you can clearly see a dragon in the middle of the animal parade, a sign of things to come.




Well, we got the ants and dinosaurs, but what happened to the mythical creatures? The section of the park to play host to these creatures was originally called Beastly Kingdom. Through differences of opinion, budget cuts and a tight deadline, Beastly Kingdom was dropped, along with all of its myth and magic.

Did you know – Runaway Unicorn (now Flight of the Hippogriff) and Duelling Dragons (now Dragon Challenge) at Universals Island of Adventures, where originally designed by Disney ImaginEars for the Beastly Kingdom? After the idea was dropped, Universal managed to get the designers on board for their IOA project and had the then redundant ride ideas brought to life in IOA!

The original concept for the park and the eventual outcome became two very different things. The fourth WDW park opened on April 22nd, 1998, and what was to be Beastly Kingdom became Camp Minnie Mickey. Looking closely around the park, from the ticket booths to areas around Camp Minnie Mickey, there was evidence to show the planning and preparation for the Beastly Kingdom section. A section of the parking lot called, ‘Unicorn’, a dragon shaped fountain near Camp Minnie Mickey, and a detailed dragon head above the one of the booths at the park entrance are just some of the signs of the forgotten land.

Did you know – If you take the Keys to the Kingdom Tour at Magic Kingdom, you will see some of the original concept art for Beastly Kingdom when you venture through the Utilidoors.

On April 7th, 2006, Expedition Everest opened at Animal Kingdom. A thrilling train ride through Everest where you encounter the beastly Yeti who lives there. The Yeti, I would say, is a mythical creature as we don’t know if it actually exists, or once did. Could Beastly Kingdom be back on the cards for Animal Kingdom?

Avatar is based in Pandora, home of the Na’vi, filled with mythical creatures. Does anyone else see something…I want to say suspicious, about this announcement? First the Yeti, now the Na’vi? To me, these are the type of things I would expect in Beastly Kingdom! I admit, I’m still not entirely sold on the Disney-Avatar partnership, though seeing Goofy dressed up as a Na’vi could be fun. After the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened, I had an inkling Disney would not stay quiet for long, expecting a similar movie tie in expansion. My money was on Hollywood Studios and possible something involving The Muppets. Will Avatar withstand the test of time? The Muppets is a brand with some longevity already to its name, and after the latest film release, the brand is on the rise once more. If not this, then I expected them to push forward on the work in the Pixar area of the park, remember the Monsters Inc ride they were talking about?

Looking at the world James Cameron has created, I know those Disney ImaginEars will create something amazing, they always do. But do they need the Avatar backdrop to do that? Or is it the only way they can go ahead with the Beastly Kingdom project by giving it a very blue guise? I’m really excited about seeing some of the original plans for Animal Kingdom coming to fruition but I’m still a little worried that they have latched onto the wrong brand to do so!

I’m always excited about park renovations and expansions, and this one will be no exception. Perhaps I just want Beastly Kingdom to be given a chance, and if this is how it gets the green light, I’m all for it. But will the Avatar sign stay above the entrance way in 10, maybe 20 years time?

Thoughts?

Until next time,
Sarah

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