Monday, April 23, 2007

Blue Sky Department: Dragonshire

The Beastly Kingdom is yet another of the many legendary lost Imagineering concepts from the 1990s. Originally intended for the space currently occupied by Camp Minnie-Mickey in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, it unfortunately fell victim to budget cuts and the whims of Michael Eisner.

While I’m certainly disappointed that Beastly Kingdom went unrealized, I was never completely impressed with the blue sky designs that were being considered for DAK’s proposed land centered on fantasy and mythological creatures. Taken individually, the ideas for Dragon’s Tower, The Quest for the Unicorn and the Fantasia Gardens boat ride seemed imaginative and intriguing, but collectively I’ve wondered just how they would have ”meshed” and under what central concept they would have been unified to ultimately form the Beastly Kingdom. Each of DAK’s various lands are very distinct in their physical settings. Even the much maligned and controversial DinoLand stays true to a specific geographical context.

In revisiting these lost concepts, I was inspired to create a blue sky concept of my own for DAK’s long abandoned fantasyland. One that has a very distinct setting and also shares the themes of conservation and animal preservation that are strongly associated with just about every other aspect of Walt Disney World’s fourth gate.

My blue sky remains true to the Beastly Kingdom’s original theme, and even reinforces the notion of a signature thrill ride centered on dragons, but adds a strong element of story and background history to bring about a truly immersive environment. Thus the land of Dragonshire is born.

Dragonshire exists in a time when magical creatures are fast disappearing from the world. The small village of Wyrmvale sits at the edge of the land’s Old Forest, where these endangered animals have found refuge from a world that threatens to extinguish them. Protecting them is a mysterious group of Forest Wardens who live in a small, yet still imposing castle. Working closely with the Forest Wardens are the Rangers who search the world for threatened creatures and relocate them to the safe haven of the Old Forest.

Dragonshire is essentially medieval in atmosphere and architecture, yet certainly state-of-the-art high tech in almost all other regards. Rising high above the village of Wyrmvale is DragonSpire Mountain. Deep within the mountain’s labyrinth of catacombs is DragonSpire Quest, the centerpiece attraction of Dragonshire. Guests descend deep below the surface of the mountain in search of adventure, only to come face to face with the last surviving red dragon. The only means of escape are mine cars from a long abandoned mining colony which take riders on a high speed journey through caverns and tunnels that reveal secrets long hidden beneath the mountain.

Disney’s current Living Character Initiative would play a crucial part in the land of Dragonshire. Expanding on the technology that brought Lucky the dinosaur to life, Dragonshire would feature numerous mythological creatures realized in the same manner, as the Rangers constantly transport captured creatures through Wyrmvale on their way to relocating them to the Old Forest. Guests would see and interact with griffins, unicorns, wyverns, and numerous other fantastic creatures as the creatures are escorted by the Rangers to their new home.

The village of Wyrmvale would also include a number of shops themed to its fantasy setting, and a large full service restaurant.

Finally, Dragonshire would be instrumental in turning DAK into an evening park by introducing a spectacular nighttime entertainment extravaganza-- Fire Mountain. Employing fireworks, pyrotechnics, and next generation animatronics, Dragonspire Mountain would become the nightly setting of an elaborate battle between good and evil dragons.


Dale Baker said...

I love the idea and your concept drawings. I think something like this would have great potential at DAK. Btw, I love your blog!

Anonymous said...

It's funny, I've generally thought much the same as you....I like the basic idea of Beastly Kingdom, but it seemed to be lacking cohesiveness.

This is an absolutely terrific proposal. Having just visited some areas of Europe with Medieval architecture, I can say that a fully realized Medieval theme would be specatacular. Great use of the living character initiative too!

Another thought I have had for that area would be a different take on "Dragon Mountain" following from the old Geyser Mountain concepts. The idea with Geyser Mountain would be to use the Tower of Terror technology in reverse to shoot people up the inside of a mountain. In my thinking, instead of riding a geyser, the guest would be riding a wave of lava. The idea is that the guest travels into the bowels of the mountain looking for a dragon....they find it, the dragon gets mad, breathes out fire and ignites the lava-filled surface around you shooting you up and out of the mountain.

In any case, I'd love to see your ideas become a reality.

David Recchione said...

This is really good and well thoughout! Great job Jeff.

Jeffrey Pepper said...

Thanks all. I appreciate your interest and kind words. The Blue Sky posts are a lot of fun to do.

Unknown said...


Great post with great graphics (it looks like Second Life--maybe you could make a Second Life theme park).

Since AK is already heavy in Africa and Asian areas, maybe a European 'land' would make sense. Don't forget, though, we do need a kiddie friendly ride for the little ones.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic idea. However, I thought that fireworks weren't allowed in DAK because of the animals...(?).

There's a zoo in Singapore that has a nighttime safari, kind of like kilamanjaro safaris but only with nocternal animals that come out after dark, and is hugely popular. Perhaps Disney could do something similar to keep people there in the evenings?

Anonymous said...

Good job i think your idea is cool and like that one guy said they should make like a European 'land' because i think therewould be roombetween africa andcamp minnie-mickey.