Monday, July 30, 2018

D&M Exclusive : Disney's Animal Kingdom Beastly Kingdom Mythical Unicorn Found !

Disney and more will close for an August break in two days and i have two more great articles for you. The first one today is thanks to Graydon, faithful Disney and more reader who sent me this amazing story and pictures about Disney's Animal Kingdom Beastly Kingdom that never was and the mythical Unicorn! Here is the story as told by Graydon whom i thanks a lot for that amazing story and the great pictures!

"Hello Alain, I have been meaning to write you back for some time but, life gets in the way as I am sure you understand. I know you are getting ready to go on hiatus from your Disney and More Blog in August. First, let me say, I will miss your updates as I enjoy hearing all the news from the other Disney parks and I love your insight, especially in regard to Disneyland Paris. So you will be missed.

Anyway, I had written asking if you had any pictures from the Discovery River Boats and the items along the ride that were part of the opening of Disney's Animal Kingdom. I was trying to find pictures because we had purchased one of the items from the ride; the Unicorn that was in the Beastly Kingdom section.

This is a very brief story of what is arguably one of the rarest Disney artifacts from a Disney theme park. It needs a bit of introduction to get a sense of what its origins were to understand its uniqueness:

Original WDI rendering for Beastly Kingdom Unicorn scene.

Prior to the opening of Disney's Animal Kingdom there were several attractions and even a whole land hinted at in the original artwork for the park. Featured prominently in one of the most commonly used prints that showed many of the things guest would experience at the new park, was a large Dragon breathing fire as a boat of explorers passed by. The dragon was to be located in the area that was to become Beastly Kingdom and the boat was from the soon to be Discovery River Boats. Touted as a thrilling journey along the Discovery River, the Discovery River Boats was where guests would experience a peek at the many wonders Animal Kingdom had to offer.

                                 Original WDI rendering for Beastly Kingdom Unicorn scene.

Unfortunately, due to extreme budget cuts, Beastly Kingdom was put on hold along with many other items for the park. In place of the land the Imagineers designed Camp Minnie Mickey as a place holder that could be removed easily to make way once construction was green lighted. They were allowed to keep several items in the scope of the park on the Discovery River Boat attraction that would hint at the forthcoming land, but even those were done at a much lower cost and never reached their full promised potential.

The original plans for the Beastly Kingdom section was to give guests a glimpse of the fantastic and magical mythical creatures they would see in the land. Passing into a lush forest the first creature they would encounter was a beautiful unicorn on a hill that sat in a recessed cove. It would have lighting and fog effects that would give the illusion of the animal rearing up as the boats passed by. As the boat moved on it would be attacked by a Kraken lurking in the water below and the boat would shake and pitch. Surviving the attack, the boat would pass under a troll bridge with ruins and glyphs carved into the stone and small hut of rocks built into the side. Coming out the other side they would come upon the desolation of the dragons lair. The lush woods would give way to outcroppings of twisted charred rock formations. Ahead would be a dark cave mouth and burned and bent suits of armor, swords and shields would be scattered along the rivers edge and as the boat approached the dark cave opening a huge animatronic dragon would come out of the cave and roar then breathe fire at the boat The boat would dodge the flames and safely navigate out of the Beastly Kingdom area. It was promised as a thrilling adventure where guests would come face to, well, face with creatures of myth and legend.

What was actually installed was quite different and honestly lackluster. The Unicorn was on the hill and beautiful as it was, it was a static figure and had no lighting effects and fog that was intermittent. The Kraken was gone and though a few boats had the system installed to cause a vibrating effect, it was not used of talked about. The Troll bridge was completed, though most guests never noticed the details. On the other side was an added element, a stacking of rocks arranged to resemble a dragon laying on the river bank with water from a stream flowing out of its mouth. The desolation of the Dragon had craggy rock outcroppings, but the size was scaled down. The burnt suits of armor, dented shields, broken swords and remains of knight were there, but the Dragon was a no show. Instead all guests heard was a rumble then a roar from the rather small cave opening and then several bursts of flame. Then the boats would go on their way. Certainly not the thrilling adventure that was proposed.

In any case, after several attempts to make the attraction more exciting for guests that I wont go into here, it was finally closed permanently just a year after Disney's Animal Kingdom opened. The Discovery River was allowed to become overgrown and many elements were removed or just left sitting. The suits of armor and weapons were taken out during the soft opening and disposed of. The rock outcroppings and water fall dragon still sit on the rivers edge though they are overgrown. The fire effect was removed and the troll bridge has been rethemed to fit the new land that went in the place of Beastly Kingdom - Pandora the World of Avatar.

But what about the Unicorn. Conflicting reports state that the unicorn was removed several years ago and was left laying backstage out of the way. Another states it was removed prior to park opening, though I rode the attraction as part of Animal Kingdoms opening crew both before opening and after that and remember seeing it. I also had a good friend that worked the attraction who stated it was in place the day the attraction closed. In any case it ended up sitting backstage and needed to be cleared to make way for construction of Pandora. It was sent to Walt Disney Worlds property control, which is a cast member surplus warehouse were they sell overstock merchandise and damaged items to cast members. Through there they also run a cast auction on the Disney Cast Hub. Sometimes they list old unused items from the parks. Usually furniture from the resorts and items like that. They had listed a unicorn statue on it. All the description read was that "this unicorn is sure to put a smile on your face. Measures 5' (feet) tall 12" (inches) wide, made of plaster". Though the dimensions seemed wrong but knowing the only place a unicorn had been at Disney World was Animal Kingdom, we placed a bid and ended up winning it.

The day we went to pick it up I asked a friend with a truck to come with us to get it home. My husband arrived at property control ahead of us to pay for it and we pulled the truck into the fenced area where it was stored. When I walked over to it, I realized how wrong their measurements had been. It actually stands 12 feet tall and is 5 and a half feet from hoof to tail. They had used hash marks ( ' " ) rather then spelling out inches and feet. Luckily it is not plaster but rather heavy fiberglass. It was painted look like marble but had been aged after installation. It has 3 mounting brackets that are attached to the tail and two back hooves. To get it in the truck we had to swivel it around and we backed the truck up to it, lifted the head, and rested it in the truck bed, then slide it into the truck on a blanket. Its entire backside was sticking out the back of the truck and its hooves stuck up in the air it was so large. We drove home with the unicorn hanging out. We passed through Walt Disney World and past its old home at Animal Kingdom all the while guests in other cars snapped pictures. When we got it home we backed the truck up and slide it out into the garage and that is were it sat for 8 months while I planned out how to mount it out in the backyard. We also had to repair damage from when it was removed from the rivers edge. Apparently they had used chains and a crane to lift it out and had damaged the painted finish.

The day finally came and we called a group of friends to come help lift it and carry it out to the backyard. It took 6 of us to actually lift it and move it out. Because it had mounting brackets with predrilled holes, I had to make sure that the bolts it was going onto were placed correctly into the cement foundations I had to pour in preparation for mounting it. We brought it out and laid it down. This was the moment of truth and all I kept thinking was that I hope I had done it right. We lifted it and sat it on the bolts and all but 2 slipped right into the holes. With a little tap from a hammer on the 2 bolts that didn't line up, the unicorn settled right into place. We bolted him down, and there it sits in the backyard.

Since putting him in place he has been cleaned I have mounded a small hill underneath him to hide the mounting brackets and planted it with flowers. He has lights that illuminate him at night that change color and each holiday he gets dressed up to celebrate. He can be seen from the back of our house, even with a fence around the property his head rises up. He even has his own camera surveillance. He is a beautifully crafted piece, grand in its details and appears very regal the way he rears up.

The first question our friends asked was, what is it's name. Fittingly we had decided he is a boy and his name is "Beastly the Unicorn" in honor of his long lost home. He also has his own Facebook profile listed as B.T. Uni HERE , a Facebook group Beastly The Unicorn HERE , and an Instagram page HERE.

As far as Disney artifacts go, Beastly is a one of a kind piece representing a Disney theme park land that will never be built but almost was. He is a truly unique piece of Disney history, and we love having him. Feel free to join him on Facebook and Instagram.

Pictures: copyright Disney, Graydon whom i thanks again a lot!

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